Our Good Fortune

Richard Connor

HOW DO WE MEASURE societal wealth? And what triggered this thought?

I started pondering the issue early last year. I had a total left knee joint replacement in January 2023. Not long after, I was sitting in my living room with an ice pack on my knee, having just completed a strenuous set of stretches and exercises.

The room was being warmed by a modern gas fireplace, lit by a remote control. No wood to split, no kindling to gather, no smoke to worry about. It was leading up to St. Patrick’s Day, so I was listening to a specially curated playlist of Irish music on a smart device. There was no need to get up and flip the album or change the tape.

I was sitting in a motorized leather recliner with multiple controls and a USB charging port. This came in handy during my recovery, as I needed to elevate my knee to reduce the swelling.

On the wall was a 10-year-old, 55-inch flat panel TV. This is ancient technology today, but it still worked quite well. Instead of watching TV, I was reading on my laptop. If I needed groceries, books, clothing, wine or other essentials, I could have ordered them on my laptop and had the items delivered to my doorstep.

Perhaps the most remarkable advance was buried in my knee. I went to a modern outpatient surgery center in Egg Harbor, New Jersey. The staff was friendly, professional and efficient. I entered at 9:30 a.m. and was on my way home by 4 p.m. In between, I acquired a new Stryker Triathlon Total Knee System with a 25-year life span. That will get me to age 90, at which point I assume they’ll be able to replace the plastic pad as easily as a mechanic replaces the pads on my car’s disc brakes.

Four years ago, I had the same surgery on my right knee. I spent one night in the hospital. I had physical therapy at my home for about two weeks, and then went to a local physical therapy facility for another four weeks. Physical therapy was tough, but it worked. This time around, I went to physical therapy two days after surgery. It was still hard work, but I was significantly ahead of the previous schedule.

The advances in medical technology that are available today would have been unthinkable not long ago. Knee, hip and shoulder replacements have become commonplace. My latest knee replacement was largely covered by Medicare, and only cost me the $226 Part B deductible.

I’ve had conversations about this topic with a friend who’s one of the more financially savvy people I know. He’s often commented about the spectacular amount of wealth we share. It’s easy to focus on our society’s challenges and failures. It would be folly to dispute that they exist. But I think it’s worth taking a step back and thinking about the spectacular wealth available to us. I don’t include it when I calculate our family’s net worth, but it would swamp anything we’ve acquired.

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