MBP Mid 2009 HD Cable Failure...Thank God!
The last backup for the drive itself was on 7/11/11. An HD failure at this point would have been bad bad bad. Doing the basic HD swap trick and finding out there was another issue was great. The complete details posted at iFixit made it almost certain that the HD cable was it.
The 1.5 mm screws that hold the cable to the body were a BZ to get out. Ending up destroying the old cable and using the remaining chunk to coerce one screw to move.
Put it back together without the two smallest screws - much to the chagrin of a friend that is an Apple engineer. Put an extra piece of tape in that area.
MBP works like a champ again.