Hip Replacement Come Back — 5 Months Later

 

I’m getting a great deal on one of the best elliptical trainers there is. I can’t wait! It will help me achieve “no restrictions,” and I’m very happy about it. It was advertised on the community facebook garage sale page more than a week ago at an incredible price. The price was more than fair, but even that was too much for me so I sighed, “Oh well,” and gave up on the idea.

I never expected NO ONE but me would want it.

spin_prod_228171601

Comebacks can be slow — I don’t think mine has been particularly slow. Fast or slow — it depends on how far a person has to go.

I have a ways to go still, but I can walk at a decent clip now and swing my leg over my bike. There are lots of other things I can do — very small, daily life things — that I haven’t been able to do for a long, long time. Some so long that I forgot about them and then, BAM suddenly, the abilities had come back.

There are some things, though…

For years I’ve walked slowly. I still took my dogs out into nature, and in our slow rambles, I began experiencing a different walk and a different, slower world. It was sweet, and the beauty of nature and the events taking place — wind, a random bird, the sky — were as effective as meds in relieving my physical pain. Back in the day, I rushed through the world, still saw it, but was proud of my physical prowess, my ability to cover 12 mountain miles in 3 hours. Stuff like that. I don’t think that mentality will make a comeback, not because I don’t think I”ll be able, but because, well…

Here’s the kicker.

I’m nearly 70. What that literally means is I’m closer to the last scene than I was at 40 (presumably — though we never know. My dad died at 45.). I don’t want a rushed goodbye to this place. I want one that is slow and lingering, that pays attention to clouds, birds, wind, and trees. I want to savor all of it as I learned to do during the — I’d say decade — of pain and awkwardness.  Maybe that was the point.

“Look, Sweet Cheeks, you’re missing something here, like the main idea. I’m going to slow you down until you get it.”

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/10/03/wednesday-rdp-comeback/

“No Restrictions!!”

I’m in Colorado Springs. It’s my 3 month or something visit to my orthorpedic surgeon, Dr. Szuszczewiz. Maybe six month. Time has lost meaning.

Beautiful drive over La Veta Pass, uneventful drive the rest of the way, arrived at my friend’s house a little early, drove to the doc. On the way I heard my anthem, “Running Up that Hill” by Kate Bush.

He took three X-rays, one in a position I thought I wasn’t supposed to take. I waited for him in a cold little room wearing a pair of PT shorts (PT — Physical Therapy). He arrived, came in, said, “Go run up that mountain. Go ski. Where are you going to ski?”

“Where there’s snow.”

Colorado girl.

I’m so happy. In my initial exam he said, “You might be able to run, I think so, but no skiing.” Today, “No restrictions. Maybe I’ll see you on the slopes.”

I don’t have words, I’m beyond happy.

Titans

Where I live, you can find yourself in heart-to-heart talks with perfect strangers pretty easily. Today it was at the supermarket. The woman behind the counter was talking to the woman in front of me about how quickly time passes and how did they get old? I arrived at my turn and said, “Don’t even talk about it.”

“Right?” she said. “I feel thirty.”

“I know,” I said. “My mom used to say that all the time. I shoulda’ listened.” I paused, and gave my mom a thought, “Never mind. Maybe not.”

“I don’t FEEL different,” she said. “That’s the thing.”

“I have two titanium hips,” I said. “I know how old I am.”

“Does the surgery work? Do you really feel better?”

“I can’t even describe how much better it is.” I felt tears starting, but I’m trying to be less weepy on this subject. “It’s amazing.”

“Both my hips hurt,” she said. “It’s arthritis, right?”

“Probably,” I said. “I got it early. I used to be a runner.” I don’t think I’ve used the term “used to be” in that context before, but now I’m OK with it.

“I have runner’s knee,” said the bag boy, a kid about 17 with a tiny gold stud in one nostril. Very cute, very innocent. “I have water under my knee cap.”

“Take care of your knee,” I said.

“I’m trying to.”

I paid my $$$ and left.

Yesterday I was thinking about the book review I wrote and the times that my former professor mentioned William Butler Yeats in the book. Yeats wrote about old age in a way that I understood in my twenties but see even better now. I don’t agree that I’m a “tattered coat upon a stick” and that schoolchildren laugh at me. At worst, I don’t exist in the eyes of younger people, but even that, I’ve learned, is kind of up to me.

And I don’t care that much.

It’s disability that’s my fear and nemesis.

As I walked out of City Market I thought of “Sailing to Byzantium,” the poem Dr. Richardson referenced in his book. I thought of my titanium hips and the future they have afforded me. I thought of the golden bird upon the bough… here

Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

 

And I thought it uncanny that I am partly metal now, not hammered gold, but something less expensive and more durable, safer for its purpose, stainless steel, titanium, chromium, cobalt or some combination of these.

I’m so grateful.

  • Fun Titanium Facts
  • The word titanium originated from the Greek Mythological Titans, the first sons of Earth.
  • Titanium alloys are used in situations where lightweight strength and ability to withstand temperature extremes are required.
  • The metal is frequently used for components which must be exposed to seawater.
  • The complex process of converting titanium ore into metal has only been commercially viable for a little more than 50 years.

Results

I’ve had more physical therapy than ever imagined possible, but I can walk 3 mph (on pavement) and I’m using my hip joint like a legit walker. I’m standing up straighter and dreaming about X-country skiing.

I’ve also faced some realities. My therapist is applying to Medicare for an extension on my therapy. Even though I’ve achieved the stated goals of a person after hip replacement, I have not yet achieved MY goals in rehabilitation. It’s a win-win thing. They need my business and I’m very happy to have a personal trainer (who is also a person I like) and an almost private gym.

I’m the ideal physical therapy patient. I WANT to improve. I understand physical activity, I’m movitated to follow instructions and try things. I went into it with certain goals (and a few dreams) but my recent physical therapy induced existential meltdown a couple weeks ago led me to the place where I am now.

I’m probably not going to run again or do lots of severe hills. Somewhere in my mind and heart this has been working itself out in the realization that for the past few years, in severe pain, I’ve had a good time walking my dogs 1 mile an hour around a small loop trail in one little place. I had enormous pleasure just in that small “hike” (not the pain part). As all that was going on, I was being taught by my own self things I had not begun to be aware of.

Our bodies ARE our minds.

So today I had a sit-down with my therapist. “We need to talk,” I said. Half-joking. I’d been reticent about asking what we are doing now and thought we might actually BE breaking up. He explained how the Medicare thing would work, and I explained my realizations about the objective reality of my age-related physical limitations. We both agreed that I’ve done incredibly well, but I want (and can achieve) more in terms of flexibility and strength for the purpose of being safer on an uneven mountain trail. Pain creates a little “being” of its own in our mind/body and the main drive of that “being” is fear as a self-protection tool. Fear stiffens us where we’re weak. It’s human nature. It’s the same thing as a kid not wanting to try learning something new for fear of failing, or a guy not wanting to ask out a pretty girl for fear of rejection, in a way. I’m fighting that and physical therapy helps me fight it. Not all the limitations are purely physical. As I said, our bodies ARE our minds.

So we spent my session today moving forward, literally.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/08/19/rdp80-reticent/

A Painless Hike and a Kind of Prayer

Thinking back over the past several months, all the kindness that’s come my way, finding the best possible doctor, having a hospital stay that was comforting and healing with wonderful, caring nurses, being surrounded by friends, and cared for in the most intimate ways by a friend who was willing to give up ten days of her life to see that I was ready to be on my own, finding out that shopping with a friend is fun, having a friend fix me food that might make me want to eat something, being joined in walks in my hood by people I like, knowing that my dogs weren’t just being cared for but actually LOVED, well — the list is way, way, way too long.

I’m not a church person. I don’t think God is in a building — well, he is, but not only — and at the end of this day I looked at Dusty and Bear and thought, “I have to say thank you somehow for this miraculous moment of my life, but what?” Of course, they had the answer.

So out we went. I walked the entire mile loop — it took 45 minutes but that’s fine. I was there expressing and feeling gratitude plus it was my first walk on uneven ground, though very familiar ground. The wind blew, it was dinner time so no one was out there and Dusty was free, the dogs walked carefully and slowly beside me, the light was beautiful, meadowlarks sang, a redtail hawk swooped. I saw that the the wild iris HAD bloomed there after all and I was happy, even though I missed them. I love that nature is going to do its thing whether I’m there to see it or not. I thought for a moment about how inconsistent my parents were and realized one of the reasons I grew to love nature so much is that it is not inconsistent. It can surprise you, but the reason behind it will make perfect scientific sense and can be understood. It’s not just drunk or in a bad mood.

About 3/4 of the way, I began to feel tired and we went more slowly. Bear pulled a little but a gentle “No” brought her back to my side. It was paradise and in the midst of it I realized that there is no way I will ever be able to express my gratitude, but these months have changed me and not just the first pain-free “hike” I’ve had in years, but in other ways that I will learn as time goes by.

What Happened…Hip Replacement Update

I slept pretty well last night in my beautiful B&B four poster bed.

IMG_8044

Got up, dressed kind of and went out for a delicious breakfast and good coffee. The hour neared — it was a 30 minute drive to the doc in a part of town that — when I lived here — were inscrutable boondocks where you went four wheeling but times change.

They called me right away, took X-rays, put me in the doc’s room, doc came in, said “It’s beautiful. You’re free to bend 110 degrees, pretty much everything. Do you have any question?”

I didn’t. I should but I don’t. I showed him that I can walk pretty well without my cane. He smiled a huge smile and put his arms out for a hug. I said, “Thanks for everything. Thanks for everything. Thanks for listening to me. Thanks for saying fuck. Thanks for explaining, And thanks for this.”

I sat down and I told him something that I completely surprised me. I explained that while I don’t know about other people, but that for me without the ability to move freely in nature I really didn’t know what my life would be. I told him about my dad having had MS and dying young. He said, “So you know exactly what it means to lose the ability.”

“Yes.”

In the room — unsaid — was, “So that’s why you’ve been so frightened, so emotional and so desperate.” I hadn’t realized it before. I told him about taking my dad out to see Pikes Peak with a storm coming over it just a few months before he died and how soon after, my dad go pneumonia. I said, “I think it was the kindest act of my life.” The doc nodded. “It was,” he said.

So that moment passed and he told me I am able to to anything I want that’s low impact for the next three months. I can hike anywhere, anything, ride a real bike, whatever I’m fit and ready for. I go back on September 20 — that’s the fourth anniversary of my return to Colorado. And if all is well at that point he said I can run and I can ski (X-country).

I am not sure anyone else can know completely what this has meant to me — maybe. But today I got my life back. I have a lot of work to do and I’m not young any more but I won’t get any younger and I have nothing I’d really rather do motr than the work. I have a good team of allies and my dogs will be home tomorrow.

Thank you everyone for all the encouragement and moral support. I know I’ve been a cry baby sometimes and pretty self-indulgent other times. Forgive me for that. I’m just a little lady after all.

Tomorrow Lois will join me for breakfast, then I’ll leave this place which has been a little haven and a little dream come true and return to Heaven where I will work toward a more active life with my two best buds.

IMG_8049

Dreams DO Come True

Yesterday I drove to Colorado Springs and checked into my beautiful B&B — the Crescent Lily Inn. This is my “summer vacation” so to speak. It’s beautiful. Colorado Springs has many gorgeous Victorian homes and when I was a kid I dreamed of living in one someday when I grew up — well, I get to live in one for two nights. My room even has a four poster bed, another thing I dreamed of as a little kid.

If you just wait long enough and have a couple hundred bucks your dreams might come true.

 

image_551201610464428

Of course there’s my reacher and computer case because it’s NOT the 19th century…

Along with the fufillment of childhood dreams, comes breakfast. 🙂

Today’s the big day when I go see my surgeon for my 6 week exam. I’m going to make his life easy and mine less embarrassing by just wearing shorts. Sure, my legs look like proof of the evolution of humans from apes, but I was able to mitigate that to a limited extent yesterday by using a rubber band to fasten my razor to the end of my shower brush, again setting the humans apart from other animals (except ravens) as the masters of tools. And considering that THAT man has seen me start naked, unconscious, and cut open, really what’s there to hide?

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/06/20/rdp-20-check/

 

Feelings, Nothing More than Feelings

During this period of hip surgery and rehabilitation, I admit it. I’m not the most emotionally stable person in the world. My feelings are easily shaken. A little research online has shown me that’s pretty normal for people after joint replacements. They give a lot of reasons from the anesthesia, to the pain, to being dependent on others, to the one that struck me most was the most ineffable, most difficult to describe but it’s that for months I lived with pain. Months leading up to that I lived with a deteriorating ability to walk. And then, in something like an hour, some guy cut me open, did a repair job, sewed me up and turned me loose. After that I’m supposed to believe that it’s going to be a WHOLE LOT BETTER. But it doesn’t feel better — not initially — it’s weird. You find yourself in a kind of surreal world with shots and drugs and peculiar S&M devices you’re supposed to wear at night.

How is this better?

Meanwhile your brain tries to eliminate the weird shit that was pumped into it so your body wouldn’t notice the guy going at it with a hack saw.

“Because of all these factors, depression,” said all the articles, “is common among joint replacement patients.” I’d add that many of us are already depressed from pain and immobility before the hacking even begins.

When I met with my physical therapist and told him my goal to take a two mile walk along the Rio Grande with my dogs, he smiled and said, “You’ll do it. You’ll definitely be able to do that.” I cried. He said, “You’re an emotional person anyway, but the anesthesia makes lots of people more emotional.”

“It’s good tears,” I said, “not bad ones.”

And they kept flowing. Triggered by almost anything.

Yesterday I drove to the Big City (Alamosa) to buy groceries and dog food because Lori had let me know Dusty and Bear were out of food. Another weird thing of anesthesia is time is negligible. I thought it was only a couple days before that I’d sent 30 pounds to the kennel but it wasn’t. It was WEEKS!

When I got to the kennel yesterday with enough dog food for three day, I asked Lori if I could see the dogs. There’s a sofa in the front office. I said, “I can sit here and they can come in, can we do that?”

She was worried they’d knock me over and sitting on the sofa solved that problem. First came Dusty T. Dog, talking and looking around, sniffing the air. Then he RAN to me for loving and talked some more. “You can let Bear out too,” I said.

“Are you sure?” Lori asked.

“Yeah. If I can’t be with them now, I won’t be able to bring them home Thursday, right?”

Bear came out, saw me, gave me a half smile and was all over me. I haven’t been able to hug my dogs in 43 days. I was so happy, they were so happy, but I didn’t cry. I guess the anesthesia is finally out of my system.

Today I drive up to Colorado Springs. Tomorrow I see the surgeon. Thursday I come home and so do Dusty and Bear.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/06/19/rdp-19-shaken/

PT Poetry

“Did I tell you about my skis?”

“No. Here, now do some bridges, engage that core and keep squeezing the basketball between your knees.”

“That’s four things!”

“You can do it, Martha. The anesthesia is about gone by now. Your brain can maybe manage it.”

I laughed.

“Now what about your skis?”

“Oh I was at that flea market on the 285 with some friends. We went into the back room part there and I was looking around and there was a pair of skis exactly like the ones I had when I moved to California from Colorado in the 80s. Back country skis.”

“They called to you, didn’t they?”

“They did. My friends looked at me with pity, so I just put them back, but later on, I went back by myself. I looked them over, and the left one, you know like this?” I pointed to my recently repaired hip, “it’s pretty badly delaminated. That’s why I bought them. They are like me.”

“Like you were delaminated.”

“Yeah.”

“So it just needs to be fixed, some epoxy, stuff.”

“Yeah.”

“Did you get it repaired yet?”

“No. I’m waiting until…”

“I’ll fix them for you.”

“You fix skis?”

“Yeah. I’m a ski guy.”

I kept bridging, “The tips are kind of messed up, too.”

“Probably need a rivet.”

“Yeah.” Then he handed me a Theraband. “OK now very gently move your knees outward. Not too far. All we’re doing is teaching that new joint how it works.”

“You see the poetry in that?” I knew he would.

“Your left hip and your left ski?”

“Yeah, but you’re helping me learn to walk well again and make this new joint work so I can do what I want and you’re fixing my skis.”

I told him about my plans to hike the San Franscisco Creek Trail, too. Around here people call it “Frisco Creek” but I can’t do that. No one in California calls San Francisco “Frisco” — it seems like an abomination. I’ll get over it, maybe, but I kind of like St. Francis.

 

1

San Francisco Creek Trail (upper part)

 

“Maybe next year,” he said.

“Yeah but…”

“You can do the lower part, though.”

“I’m thinking November to give it a try.”

“That’ll be possible, a couple of miles, I think. It’s kind of like this,” he moved his hand to show up hill and down hill. “But nothing too steep those first couple of miles. You’ll be able to do that.”

“I’m good with it taking time. When I first lived in California I was in terrible shape. I didn’t know where to go, what to do, how to live there, then I found a place. At first — well it was me and a five-month old puppy — I could only go half a mile. But then, I kept going and, yeah. I love that. I love the whole thing of becoming better at something, able to go farther, being stronger. Anyway, however long it takes, at the top is an alpine lake and some peaks.”

“We’ll get you there,” he said.

And I believe him.

Are You Thinking of Having a Hip Replacement???

Lots of my readers have followed my progress through my struggles deciding to have hip replacement, having it and recovering. This post is for anyone who might be thinking about it and would like to know one person’s experience in somewhat visually graphic detail (photos below)

I’m approaching (tomorrow!) my fifth week post op from anterior hip replacement, also known as “minimally invasive” hip replacement.  Minimally invasive hip replacement involves a 4-5 inch incision in the front of the hip vs. the 12 inch incision of the traditional hip replacement in the back of the hip. Minimally invasive hip replacement does not involve cutting any muscles whereas the traditional method does involve cutting apart muscles to insert the prosthesis. I strongly recommend doing as much research as you can on the two operations, talking to more than one surgeon and finding a very skilled doctor with whom you feel comfortable.

So, a brief recap of how it’s gone.

Surgery — you’re unconscious. Not your problem. That very day you will get up and walk around. It will feel like a miracle (because it is). You might go home that day; you might go home the next day (with minimally invasive surgery) or a few days later depending. I went home the day after my surgery.

Week One — The first few days, I was on oxygen, very weak, easily tired and mentally confused. I was on a bunch of pain meds (Tramadol and Percocet) for the first few days but backed off slightly toward the end of the week. I also began suffering excruciating muscle spasms and was prescribed Valium. I was unable to get into my tub/shower, took old fashioned sink baths. With a cane, I walked 1/2 mile or more (if I could) every day in a couple of sessions. I wore the TED hose like a good girl. Food was disgusting (still not my favorite). I had some pain in my groin and in the muscles at the top of my thigh in front. I was visited by home health care who took my vital signs twice a week and did exercises or took a walk with me. Used the walker for the first few days, then switched to the cane except in the bathroom and getting into bed. One bad side-effect from the standpoint of personal misery is thrush from the intense antibiotics given me during the surgery. That has been slow to clear up and doesn’t help the nutrition challenge, even though my doc quickly ordered a fungicide for my mouth. I also had a lot of swelling on my operated leg, from my waist down to my toes.

For two weeks, I gave myself a daily shot in the stomach of a blood thinner called Lovenox.

Also, be ready for constipation. They will give you stool softeners in the hospital but your whole body is numb and it still takes a while..

Sleeping can be a challenge because you will have to sleep on your back with your legs in a fixed position for the first several weeks.

 

I would never have made it at home without the loving kindness of my friend, Lois, who brought me home to the back of beyond from Colorado Springs and stayed for 10 days. ❤

Week Two — Got off the oxygen, got my staples out, food was still disgusting, walked about the same distance, went to the grocery store with my friend, got in and out of my car, drove a tiny bit, muscle spasms continued at night, but in general pain remained about the same. In terms of morale, I felt like crap because all my online research said it should be over by the second week. Everyone is different. Began taking pain meds only at night. Finished the Lovenox.

My wonderful friends and neighbors saw that I had treats, a ride to the doctor when I needed it, company on shopping trips, help in the yard. ❤

Week Three — Food was still disgusting, walked as much as I could stand (boring unless a friend came along), drove more. Got a shower with help from the occupational therapist. Pain began to diminish but the muscle spasms didn’t. Asked for meds for that and kinda sorta got what I asked for. Still took pain meds at night. Home health care ended at the end of the first month

Week Four — Began out-patent physical therapy which was great and helped with the muscle spasms. Managed to get on and ride my own stationary bike, also great. Muscle spasms began to go away though they can return, but with less intensity. Walk around the house from time to time without my cane. I take pain meds at night, but fewer, and the spasms are rare and not very painful. I was able to stop wearing the surgical stockings.

I’m now experiencing the benefits from having worked out for months (years?) ahead of time and developing good physical strength in my legs and core. My ONE challenge is the new joint and all it needs to learn to work as it should and will. I’m not stuck having to build strength too. This past week my big progress was getting back on my own stationary bicycle — an Airdyne from the 1970s — and riding it. Today I rode four “miles” and it felt very good. Physical therapy is teaching me how to teach my hip how to work like it’s supposed to. It really has NO idea but it seems willing enough to learn. My new hip and I practice at home as well as at the “gym.”

At the moment, the residual down side is that I’m still not really able to concentrate 100% and I’m not up to creative work of any kind. That’s disappointing because I’d hoped to work on the Schneebelungenlied during this convalescent period.

Important Note: If you’re in this situation and know you’ll need a hip replacement, start exercises, seriously, work out. Get a prescription for physical therapy and do it with your whole heart. I walked at least a mile four days a week and rode my stationary bike between 8 and 12 miles three times a week as well as doing crunches and other exercises for my core. I also did six weeks of intensive physical therapy ahead of time. If it hurts,  work through the pain. You’re very unlikely to make it worse than it already is. Your joints need strong muscles. Do low impact exercises, swim if you like it (I don’t). Build your stamina, in short, train for your sport which is recovering from major surgery. I’ve heard so many stories now of people who have the surgery and never reap the benefits because they’re physically unfit. I feel so sad for them. 😦

 

 

 

Healing happens quickly. I had some discomfort around the incision in week two, but mostly just stinging and dryness until the staples came out,

Because so many people are having joint surgery now, there’s a racket of (crappy) devices to help in recovery. When you’re still in the hospital someone will teach you about them. Some of them are a total rip off. But I could not have managed without these:

Reacher-grabber. You need two in case you drop one and need to pick it up. You will not be allowed to bend over after your surgery so you will need this.

31MyYxyIr9L._AC_US400_QL65_.jpg

Sock-putter-onner. I know it’s a crazy looking thing, but I could even put my TED hose on with it.

31ZcnrteSNL._AC_US320_QL65_

Walker and cane. Your doc might recommend crutches (mine did not). A long shoe horn is also useful.

A week from this coming Wednesday (6 weeks post op) I will be in Colorado Springs to see my surgeon. His job will be to give me the all clear to move in the various ways that have been forbidden. Honestly, nothing onerous compared to the restrictions with traditional hip replacement. The danger is always that you break a restriction without knowing it.

This was my second hip surgery — I had hip resurfacing in my other hip 11 years ago. I know from my experience that it has the power to give you back your life if you are prepared for it. ❤