The family joke was, ‘What do Boris Johnson, Donald Trump and mum have in common?’ The answer – ‘They have the same hairstyle.’ – humph!
I have a new riddle for them -‘What do Eamon Holmes, The Duke of Edinburgh and mum have in common?’ The answer – ‘We have all had hip replacements!’
What follows are a few of my thoughts and muses about the operation and my initial week of recovery …
Day one – Operation Total Hip Replacement
The Place – Leeds Nuffield Hospital. (This operation has been arranged privately. It has been the first use of a policy that started decades ago. I am so grateful that I can use it. From the decision to go for surgery to the operation has been just three weeks; had I not had this care my operation would have been in December if under the wonderful, overstretched NHS.)
The Time – Admission at 7am. Operation at noon.
The Patient – I felt an enormous range of physical and emotional sensations. What if I was the one that made the statistics seem more pessimistic? Determination, terror, calm, anxiety, confidence, excitement, teariness, wonder and relief all had their moment. The slow walk to the anaesthetist’s room prior to the operation in a hospital gown, bathrobe, disposable slippers and paper knickers was a striking moment of absolute loneliness. Being totally devoid of all the material items that define and serve every moment of my days made me feel very vulnerable – no wedding rings or watch, no phone with my links to the outside world, no notebook and pen and no ‘Pearly shine’! I felt very alone and fragile.
For about 19000 days my hip joint and I have been everywhere together and it was being taken away. Can you feel bereaved about losing a bit of bone? Right now I don’t know as all sorts of emotions are still fusing; as I hope is my new ceramic hip joint- the new, pain-free, non-arthritic one. And what hopes and plans are being made possible! Goodbye limp; hello again undisturbed nights and waking up feeling refreshed. Goodbye fear of sitting down with the often accompanying pain; hello again comfortable driving! I could go on!
The anaesthetist, a friendly (and obviously excellent) chap did his job and I woke up at 3.20pm in Recovery with a dry throat, assurances that all had gone to plan and a desperation for a cup of tea. I was numb from the waist down.
Wheeled back to the ward and to ‘waiting’ G, I was checked, watered and slept. My last emotions were relief and security – it was done.
Only a few hours later, monitored and peaceful, I was visited by a beautiful physiotherapist called Laura, who on my confirmation of leg sensation, brought a Zimmer frame into the room – and – four hours after having a total hip replacement- I was shuffling around. I was euphoric – and nauseous.
Please note that I had no pain for many hours following the operation. For the first time in weeks and weeks, I lay in bed that night pain-free! Joy!!
My son calls me ‘Robocop’ now! Part of the reason may be that my surgery involved the use of a robotic arm that helped to position my hip with absolute, bespoke position. This innovation was performed in Leeds by Mr Jon Conroy who created this technique and designed the robot too. And what an amazing man and team have supported me through the process.
My anticipated good night sleep was harder to achieve. The ward was so hot, the bells, alerts, monitoring and conversations regular. I listened to my audiobook (Stephen Fry reading Sherlock Holmes – just cracking) and drifted in and out of sleep.
Sleep had been rather intermittent. I put that down to continued euphoria, a hot unfamiliar room, my slow pulsing leg squeezers to reduce the risk of postoperative clotting, and the necessary noises of a busy, efficient ward. I dozed a little and ate a little.
My only pain was felt during the following afternoon when I had been walking on crutches, learning how to ascend and descend stairs and my meditation was in need of a top up. The ache was a reminder of just what trauma had occurred in my hip only 24 hours previously. Before the operation I didn’t want to read too much about a total hip replacement – I trusted the professionals and wanted to return to an active pain-free life. Now I was keen to know more, especially how I could help myself to recover through exercise and diet, so I began some research – I’ll share more of that in future blogs I’m sure!
I can say that I enjoyed the hospital food, though I had to compromise on my vegan intake. A vegan menu was available but no-one seemed to be able to produce it for the first few meals.
The physiotherapists were thorough and encouraging. I know that diligently following their advice is the key to recovery and I can’t tell you how much I’ve been dreaming about riding my bike along the country roads!
I had slept for many daylight hours and through most of the night.
The pain was held at bay. I was managing to wee again (that had been an issue in the first 36 hours). I did my morning daily challenges – Duolingo (I’m so keen to learn French) and a Sudoku (I’m keen to maintain my small daily challenge to the dreaded family-feared disease, Vascular Dementia) and had even done a crossword by breakfast at 7am. I was feeling good. I had a shower – tricky but a wonderful cleanse. Then I slept – until noon! Awoken for monitoring and lunch I then slept again – until 4.30, like a baby! Whatever the medications I’ve been given – they have worked to reduce pain to a minimum and have allowed Dr Sleep to do his thing!
I was discharged with a veritable selection of useful items. I have a super high toilet seat, a yellow sponge on a long stick sink can clean my feet, the longest shoehorn I have ever seen, a canny invention for easing socks on, my crutches and, the piece de resistance, a pair of long grabbers for retrieving all sorts of low level items from the floor or just beyond my permitted bending angle. What family fun we are all going to have with those!!
The care I’ve received at home has been first class when they’ve heard my shouts or answered my calls and texts. It is very hard to make yourself someone else’s responsibility, both for them but for me also. I have felt like a toddler who knows she can climb the stairs but doesn’t want to end up on the ‘naughty step’ for having a go! The amount of sleeping I have done has been unbelievable!
Pain? A little but nothing like the levels I was experiencing pre-op.
My scar? I haven’t seen the incision sites (I have two; one where the hip was removed/ replaced and a smaller one through which the robot did it precise manoeuvres). They were covered up in theatre under sterile conditions and will remain so for 10 days without dressing change. Isn’t that remarkable? What’s more, once they are removed after that 10 days no further dressing is required! I have been supplied with further dressing if needed but I avoid the area when I shower and baths, which might soak them off, are out of the question as I am unable to get in or out of the bath at present. I don’t care what my scar looks like. It represents relief and new chances to live a full active life.
Post-op care? I have helplines for immediate support, clinic appointments and the first of six Physiotherapy Out-patient Clinics in a week or two. I was sent home with a bag of medication, including much-needed laxatives.
Home life? I’m still sleeping for 14-16 hours per day. Moving around is good. I feel confident in my environment with my selection of useful gadgets. There have been a few moments of terror, like when I’ve twisted my hip out of bed without thinking and feared I’d dislocated my new hip. It is very difficult to sit or lie while someone does everything for me. It is hard to watch them do everything in a different way to my order/ actions of choice but, I’m learning to shut up and be grateful for the support of a wonderful, caring family.
Exercise? The physios showed me a series of exercises which I do diligently and there are more to check out on YouTube (I like ‘Ask Doctor Jo’) if you want a little variety ( but not too much more challenge – it is early days!) I miss being outside but, again, it’s early days and you can’t have everything. Besides ‘thoughtful’ G has hired a wheelchair for a week! I can feel another blog coming on!
It is day 6 …
I am in the early days in my journey but right now my advice to anyone suffering from arthritis in their hips (and life is diminishing as pain spreads, even into your sleeping moment) have a conversation with your doctor about total hip replacement surgery. You think are too young, or the pain is not that bad….. talk to your doctor about hip replacement surgery. I found out that I have ‘unusual ‘ very shallow hip cups and that is probably why the bone damage has been so extensive over the years even though I’m relatively young. I let my ‘youth’ prevent me from considering this action months ago – that’s quality of life that has been so dominated by discomfort and pain. The painkillers I am taking now are temporary. Before the replacement I could not have considered functioning without painkillers on a regular daily basis – and that would have been for life … before I mention the more and more pronounced limp!
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