Ths is
        the home page    <- press the button to go to    home page

This page is about Eunice's broken hip and related events of March and April 2013.
The newest material gets added at the bottom.  (June 7)
Material about her Aortic Dissection in 2011 is  at

There is a lot of background here, written at the request of the Society For Values in Higher Education,
which may do an article in its newsletter on how come a retired physics/computer science professor
found herself in Marrakesh, Morocco, just before her 89th birthday.

April 15 report:

Another Eunice Ordman Medical Adventure.   By Edward (and Eunice) Ordman.  [Provide any title you like].

While  many of you know us (Eunice and Chip Ordman), it still may make sense to give a bit of background before I tell of our adventures after Eunice, a few weeks before her 89th birthday, fell and broke her hip in front of the principal mosque in Marrakesh, Morocco.

We were incredibly lucky in our academic careers. Eunice began teaching college physics in 1946. She never finished her Ph.D. at Rutgers since a critical exam was scheduled for the day her first child was born: they refused to let her take the exam early since "no one ever gave that reason before."   My 1969 Ph.D. was in mathematics, and we met in 1976 when we were teaching computer science from experimental microcomputers built in garages by hobbyists, at a small college in New Hampshire that could not afford a "real" computer.  When IBM produced its first consumer PC in 1981, we were suddenly among the experts on small computers. The University of Memphis hired us both away from our small college and if I wanted to lecture in Budapest or Shanghai, there was somebody to invite me. When a college in the Faeroe Islands, with 56 students, wanted her to come help start a  Computer Science major in 1988, they hired me too to get her to come. One of our freshmen there went on to a Ph.D. in computer science from Copenhagen, and came to give a lecture in Memphis to visit us and celebrate.

Late in 2000, Eunice commented that we had not yet visited monasteries in the Himalayas. I realized it was not the time to say "let's wait six or eight years until I retire." I gave the University of Memphis adequate notice, retired at 57 (she was 77) and we headed for Bhutan. Her notion of travel in recent years has  included visiting a Palestinian refugee camp, Cuba,  French medical missionaries in Malawi, teaching English in a children's summer camp in rural eastern Poland, and spending time in teacher's colleges in the Ukraine so that prospective English teachers could practice English with us. We have  traveled with groups when medical care or politics seemed to present special problems, but have not been constrained by the groups: some of our best adventures were in the Soviet Union. More than once, when the Intourist guide told our group to turn right, we turned left. Once we simply got on the wrong riverboat, going the wrong direction on the Dnieper. Being lost in a strange place is a wonderful way to make interesting friends.

We often travel with charitable groups.  For example, the microlending program Freedom From Hunger has a local affiliate in Bolivia. When the group in Bolivia there has its annual meeting, someone from the New York office must attend. If that person can bring 12 to 20 donors or prospective donors who pay her way as tour guide, it keeps staff overhead expenses low and thus improves the ratings given by the agencies that rate charities. You are traveling with someone who knows local problems, introduces you to local people - and, by the way, wants to keep you happy so you will donate in the future. Yes, we got to Lake Titicaca and Machu Picchu after visiting Bolivian hill tribes. One of the strangest trips of this kind was in northern Thailand and Cambodia with American Jewish World Service: the New York staff was visiting charities with unusual funding problems.  One example out of perhaps a dozen:  If you are smuggling medical supplies to the rebellious Burmese hill tribes, you get good receipts for the medicine, fuel for the truck, and some other expenses. You don't get a receipt for the $5 to bribe the border guard to let you across. And if he doesn't take the bribe and you are arrested, it takes $100 or so to spring your courier from jail.  If that shows up on the books most funding agencies have fits. How should such a charity keep its books to be eligible for foreign charitable funding?  Many of these travel pictures and stories are at our website

In 2007 we were visiting Israeli and Palestinian peace activists in Israel and the West Bank. We had no problems in the places normally considered too dangerous to visit, but Eunice was mugged and badly injured in Jerusalem (upper humerus in three pieces, badly dislocated.)  The first emergency room doctor said "She's 83. She may have limited use of her right arm."  I pulled out a small picture book showing her rowing a rowboat in the ocean and white-water rafting. "She's not that kind of 83-year-old."  We got the full two-week tour of Hadassah Hospital - Ein Kerem, surgery there and a second surgery after return to the United States. A few months later the physical therapist said "you have more flexibility and strength in that shoulder than most women twenty years younger who have never been injured."
But we didn't take another major trip for another 8 months.  (The Israel and Palestinian material is at

In 2011 she had a major aortic dissection: the lining of her aorta tore loose, from the arch above the heart down to the crotch.
Death was expected momentarily, for hours, but blood clotted to anchor the lining with the aorta 2/3 blocked. The dislocated lining blocked many side arteries. She lost one kidney.

Some days later the doctors said: "We think your small intestine has died from lack of blood. How soon can the kids get here to say goodby?" 

Eunice replied: "I've had a full life, life doesn't owe me anything. But I'm having too much fun to leave. What will you try tomorrow?"

The next day they found a way to put a stent in her superior mesenteric artery. A half hour later she farted, and the doctors and nurses cheered.  (The orthodox Jewish prayer book has a great prayer for this situation, beginning - "Blessed art Thou.  Lord our God, King of the Universe, who in Thy wisdom has created the human body with many orifices and vessels...")

We added to the little picture book we carry when traveling a  language-independent medical history, including 4x6 prints of select x-rays and CT-scan slices to show the critical issues in her insides. And she decided our traveling should be more conservative.  She experienced running out of breath when walking any distance (a few years earlier, in the Bolivian Andes, she had suggested carrying an oxygen bottle when climbing hills above 15,000 feet.)

We took a brief cruise from Florida to Freeport (Bahamas) and back to see how that would work. She found that walking to keep up with a tour group was difficult, and that long lines made it a good idea to have a wheelchair to get through customs.   With that warmup we took a two-week tour of Alaska, visiting my foster sister in Fairbanks and then her stepbrother in Olympia,Washington.  With those try-outs, she was again ready for a  trip overseas. 

Realizing that her traveling days might end someday, she made a list: she wanted to see the Alhambra in southern Spain, some museums in Madrid, Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, visit an "honorary" daughter who teaches in the US military dependents' school near Frankfurt, and the family in Denmark of an exchange student who lived with us twenty years ago.  And if we were to start in southern Spain, why not start with a few days in Marrakesh?  (We spend a lot of our time as interfaith activists,
with significant local and modest national recognition. We are active and well-respected in our church, synagogue and mosque. See our website at http://MemphisIRG.orgMorocco is very religiously tolerant with a very interesting religious history: for centuries the Berbers were devout Jews.
The second day in Marrakesh,
Wednesday March 27, in a very attractive plaza, Eunice was looking up instead of down and missed a 14 inch high step where she didn't expect one.  She went down and could not get back up.  We are reluctant to be emergency room patients or hospital inpatients where there is a large language barrier.  Passersby lifted Eunice into a chair and carried her to a taxi, which got as close as it could to the small hotel where we were staying on a narrow walking street in the old souk. Hotel staff carried her in on a chair and called a French-speaking doctor.  He went with us by ambulance to the hospital for x-ray and diagnosis of an undisplaced hip fracture, then back to our hotel and asked medical history. When he saw the photos of her heart and arteries, his face fell.  "The hip surgery is easy. But if we give her anesthesia in Morocco, we will probably kill her.Two days of conversations with him and others, in French, left us believing him, if not fully understanding his reasoning. There was a lot we could not understand even when we called in a translator.

He helped us set up a hospital room inside a hotel room, with multiple daily visits by the doctor, the orthopedic consultant to keep the hipbone from shifting, and a night nurse when I got exhausted.  Our travel insurance company denied air evacuation: "Hip surgery is routine in Morocco."  We decided to fly home first and fight with the insurance company later. You can't fly commercially unless you can sit upright, and the doctors said no to that. It took days to arrange an air ambulance. Cost roughly $70,000: luckily one of our credit card companies agreed to a very large increase in our credit limit. After coming from Hamilton Ontario and a night's sleep, the crew loaded Eunice into a private two-engine jet late Tuesday morning April 2. The tiny plane held two pilots, Eunice on a stretcher, and two nurses. I curled up in the baggage space; our suitcases were left in Morocco. No room for a toilet, and fuel for four hours in the air. Refuel and go to the john in Horto (Azores), St. John (Newfoundland), Hamilton,Ontario (change pilots), Memphis just before midnight about 17 hours after leaving Marrakesh.

We arrived in Memphis, TN at Germantown Methodist Hospital. Emergency room late Tuesday night April 2. Surgical prep. Pre-surgery tests. More tests. More tests. Postpone surgery a day. More tests. Thursday morning as she was being wheeled into surgery: "No surgery, the anesthesia would probably kill her." The more explanations we got, the more I understood the French explanations from Morocco - the doctor there was exactly correct, even had predicted the outcome of tests they had not performed in Morocco.  Once they had a heart catheter in to look, the blood pressure difference between the left ventricle and aorta was measured at 88 mmHg.  (You have an idea of what a blood pressure 88 too high would mean. In this case, the normal difference is zero; 50 is when you consider valve replacement). There was no leeway for the changes in blood pressure that occur with anesthesia or major surgery.  What could be done without anesthesia?  After long discussions of percentage chances of various disasters in several scenarios, we decided. On Friday evening, they ran in a balloon to temporarily stretch the aortic valve. They brought the pressure down by 38 mm, and it was stable for the next 36 hours. Sunday April 7 they did the hip surgery - metal rod in the femur, screws to hold it in place, a long screw to hold the ball to the femur.

Then we could address complications. Eunice had been on her back over 14 days before they could sit her up for the first time. The muscles in her arms and good leg are therefore weak, impeding exercise and movement needed for the bad hip. At her age and with several abdominal arteries blocked, she eats slowly and the muscles in her esophagus don't work very well. This is no problem when she is upright, but in this case some fluids that should have gone down her esophagus had been going down her windpipe and producing symptoms like pneumonia, which have largely cleared up since she has been able to sit partway up to eat. So on April 15 the visitors in her hospital room included the cardiologist, the orthopedic surgeon, the pulmonologist, the gastroenterologist, the speech pathologist (for swallowing problems), the physical therapists, and several others I haven't learned to identify yet.
We do hope to get her to a rehab place for physical therapy within the next couple of days; I think everyone has agreed except the gastroenterologist who may request more tests. Home in two more weeks or so, insh'allah (God willing).

 Interspersed are visitors from the various groups we are involved with  - the church, synagogue, mosque (the traditionally dressed Muslim women visitors intrigue the hospital staff), the Catholic peace group, the local gay/lesbian support group (Memphis may have the only Catholic Bishop who sponsors a monthly dinner in the cathedral for gays and lesbians), and assorted others. We are told that few visitors have Protestant, Catholic, Jewish and Muslim clergy all turn up in the same hour or two. The visitor rate is holding up well even on our 13th day in the hospital,

Through all this Eunice has remained her usual affirmative, enthusiastic, confident self, swapping colorful stories with anyone who will listen. We've had one of her daughters and a grandson and my daughter in town in series, to alternate nights with me in the hospital room. For those who remember Jilana Ordman, she finally completed her Ph.D. on the same day Eunice broke her hip: The dissertation, "Feeling Like a Holy Warrior", is on the emotional lives of the crusaders and the connections between emotions, violence, and theology.  Anyone knowing an appropriate academic vacancy, please let us know.

Another side issue: The doctor in Morocco, who both was incredibly accurate in his diagnoses and prognoses and made Eunice remarkably comfortable in a hotel room instead of a hospital, paid for the nurse, x-rays, orthopedic man, etc., out of his own pocket. He wanted to be repaid in cash under-the-table (whether for tax or contract purposes, I did not ask.)  While we were in Morocco we could not get anyone to send us large sums of cash - for fear we had been kidnapped. We discussed options and he agreed to let us return to the US without paying him and work on the problem from here: he said he decided to trust me after I asked if we could solve the problem by making a large contribution to a charity in his name, and gave him a detailed description of St. Jude Hospital in Memphis as a possible example.  He says I can't just wire money to him, it would attract the attention of his government. After a number of calls to cell phones in Morocco at 3 AM US time, I am beginning to learn the niceties of transferring money by wire between numbered accounts.  A bank in Casablanca has told an intermediary that the wire has arrived and that the money should be there in a day or three.  I'm not sure the doctor and the intermediary actually trust each other, and with conversations in broken English with one and broken French with the other it is becoming quite a colorful tale. The doctor clearly was trying to overcharge us egregiously but by American standards it was cheap for the care Eunice received.  How the insurance companies will deal with his hand-written bill, and with some of the very strange entries on the hotel bill, is an experience we are postponing for the future.  

Chip Ordman, with contributions from Eunice   (Written late on April 15)

April 18, noon:

      On Wednesday afternoon Eunice Ordman finally left Germantown Methodist Hospital after two weeks and a day there.
She is now at the Memphis Jewish Home and Rehab, 36 Bazeberry Rd, Cordova, TN 38018.  It is very near the corner of Walnut Grove Rd and Forest Hill Irene Rd.   It is far enough out east that cell phone coverage is weak or zero in the room, but we do have a room phone at (outdated) and can make (domestic) long distance calls on it.  I will not be staying overnight here; they want to motivate Eunice to exercise hard, lots of physical therapy, motive to get home as soon as she can.  It is too soon to estimate how long that will be but I'd take a stab at two or three weeks. She is visibly getting stronger now but after three weeks in bed she has a long way to go.
     We have (jokingly) warned the front desk not to be startled at a sudden increase in the number of Muslim visitors.  ( the patient population here is not predominantly Jewish, by the way, although the meals are kosher.)

       She arrived in a hospital gown and they took all her clothing to get name tags put on, so her clothing has just arrived here at noon Thursday so this afternoon they can start physical therapy.  The speech therapist/swallowing expert here says she can start eating and drinkling normally (she has been on thickened fluids and small bites) once she is sitting upright, probably later today.
     3 PM -she has been dressed and used a wheelchair briefly.
     5 PM - we have received word that money actually reached the people in Morocco, that the doctor and hotel have been paid. Now that we know we can get money to Morocco, we can start work on the problem of how to get our baggage back.

April 28.  While I (Chip) spend a lot of time here at the Jewish Home, the physical therapists seem to have completely unpredictable hours and I sometimes miss them.  A few days ago I saw Eunice slowly walk about 17 feet on a walker, with a helper on each side to be sure she didn't topple. But her arm strength and flexibility is returning quite strikingly - she can now maneuver her own wheelchair for short distances, and do most of the  work of pulling herself into a standing position with a grab bar.  Considering how much muscle she lost in three weeks flat on her back, the progress is pretty striking. I hope in the next few days that they will let me transfer her between wheelchair and car so we can go for drives or go out to eat at a drive-in.
    The hip surgeon sees Eunice next on May 7  (Eunice's 89th birthday is May 3).  If all is healing well, at that point she should be able to start putting some weight on the hip. I'll be out of town May 8-9-10 going to daughter Jilana's Ph.D. graduation in Chicago, but we very much hope that shortly after our return we'll be able to take Eunice home.  We are planning a major open house / 30th anniversary party for May 18, if at all possible. (If you haven't been invited, e-mail me at

    The longer term is still highly unpredictable.  Once she can put weight on the left foot, will the nerve damaged in surgery recover or will she need an ankle brace?  Will she need a heart valve replaced?  (And several other questions we can't really raise until she is on her feet again.)  But she is intellectually as bright as ever, and we expect that she'll get back to a state in which we can very much enjoy life, as we have in the past.

May 1.
  Major progress continues. Eunice has now passed 25 feet on a walker, still slow and with a helper's hand ready to grabher if needed. Yesterday I loaded her from a wheelchair into our car and ook her home for lunch!  She stayed in the wheelchair at home this time. We surveyed the first floor and moved some furniture slightly to create routes to get around in the whhelchair.  Not a long visit, but one that cheered us both up immesnsely. Emotionally, we are ready to have her home, and we'll have a conference with the rehab home people tomorrow - but our present imprssion is that the medical people still want her in the rehab home unil about May 11 - 14, (depending in part on the result of the x-rays planned for May 7) and we'll live with that  but now ought to be able to have visits home at least occasionally.  I'm hoping that by May 11 she'll be good enough on a walker that I won't have to wrestle the wheelchair up our front steps (counting the curb and doorsill, I have to go up four steps but with planty of landing space between). If it turns out we will need to use a wheelshair to get her to therapy for a few weeks, as we did with her broken foot a few years ago, we can put a ramp over the steps but that would need a carpenter as we've put in a handrail, narrowing the steps, since the ramp was built.

May 7.  At the one-month checkup and x-ray, the surgeon said that healing was doing fine. Restrictions on putting weight on the foot have been removed and this morning she started walking on a walker with weight on both feet alternately.  The therapists express confidence that by the time she comes home (now set for the 14th) she'll be able to do our front steps on a walker and I won't need a wheelchair ramp.  We'll get therapy at home for a week and then decide whether to shift to outpatient therapy.
Back in February Eunice had invited many of our Memphis friends to a party May 18, to celebrate our 30th anniversary (which is actually July 3) before people scattered for the summer.  That party is still on, as a pretty much all day open house to celebrate her homecoming, her 89th birthday, and our anniversary.  By doing it as an open house all day we hope people will spread out over the day so she can talk to more of them.  If you read this and haven't been invited, call or e-mail us for an invitation.

May 16.  On May 8 Chip was in Chicago for his daughter Jilana's Ph.D. commencement, then returned to Memphis the next day.  On Sunday May 12 we took a few hours off from the Memphis Jewish Home and Rehab, went out to dinner with Eunice walking from the car into a restaurant on her walker, then put in a brief appearance at a friend's home for a law school commencement celebration, with Eunice remaining in her wheelchair during the party.  On May 14 she was released from the Jewish Home, went to a church book club meeting (in a wheelchair), then came home for the first night at home since we left for Morocco on March 25.  On May 15 she started physical therapy at home, which may go on for as ling as four weeks.  She is now walking 50 feet on the walker at least twice a day plus shorter walks.  In addition, one of the two involved insurance companies has agreed to pay somewhat over half of the medical and transportation costs in and from Morocco; we now get to start negotiating with the second company.  We are thrilled to be home together again, and while there is a long way to go, things are looking up.  We are having a an open house Saturday, as a combined welcome home and 30-th anniversary celebration.  Consider yourself invited.

I have a picture of the air ambulance (airplane) on Facebook at
and will organize more pictures in a few days.

June 7. 
Eunice has now climbed a flight of stairs (once) and is getting off a standard height toilet seat without assistance. The physical therapists are impressed! She is exercising very conscientiously, getting everywhere on the walker and  refusing a wheelchair when offered, and is getting pretty exhausted most days.  She is looking forward to leaving for New London on June 23rd (although the cardiologist is still doing tests - there was a doppler sonogram of the aortic valve today) , getting to Jenny's wedding on July 5, and having our own 30th anniversary party in New London on July 13 (all readers of this invited!).
     By now the insurance companies have come through with about 95% of the cost of the air ambulance. We are still working on the medical costs in Morocco and ancillary expenses, but the air ambulance was by far the biggest item so we are out of the woods financially. And today (June 7) our clothes etc. finally arrived from Morocco! The hotel lady there got tired of exploring other options, none of which seemed workable, so she packed all the contents of our suitcases in a single large FedEx box (the "25 KG international" box) and sent them FedEx - still absurdly expensive, but much cheaper than shipping the two suitcases. The cases themselves we'll abandon in Morocco, as not expensive enough to worry about.  Eunice is very happy to have back her favorite fall coat!