Two Years and It Still Works!

Two years ago about now I was getting a bleary-eyed view of the “theater” in which my hip would be replaced. It was amazing. Star Trekky, beautiful. They were putting tubes into me and onto me and chatting. “What do you think? That’s the operating table.”

“THAT???”

It wasn’t a table at all. It was more like a comfy-vice that would hold me in the ideal position for Dr. Ed to work his hip-replacement magic while making it easy for the anesthetist to keep me under. I loved my doctor. In another reality, we would have been friends.

When I woke up, I was in a recovery room and Lois, my friend, was there — I think. In some respects this is fuzzier in my mind than is the actual surgery. I can’t explain that, other than to say I think we know what’s going on even when we’re anesthetized. We just don’t feel the pain. I have a distinct memory of it going well, laughter and a faint memory of the sound of a bone saw. But, I could be confusing this with some episode of House.

The whole thing was pretty great, actually. Afterward was challenging for a while, but here I am today. Sure, I walk with a limp and am somewhat lopsided, but it’s not Dr. Ed’s fault.

When I was wheeled into my room I was met by a tiny version of Polar Bear Yeti T. Dog whom I dubbed “Little Bear” and soon Little Bear had a dragon I named Francis (after the hospital) to keep her company. I do not know what it is about these effigies of animals that delights humans, but they made me feel better.

The nurses in the orthopedic wing were amazing. Apparently they liked me because they sent me a card with notes thanking me for being so easy to help and fun to be around. “I wish every patient were like you.” Seriously? NOT hurting any more should put EVERYONE in a good mood. One of the best things about joint replacement surgery is that immediately after your joint doesn’t hurt any more.

For the past two years — since the surgery — I — who usually wakes up between 8 and 8:30 — on May 7 I wake up at 5:30 ready to go. I suppose it’s some kind of physical commemoration of that day.

~~~

I promised my Scarlet Emperor Bean, Li Ho, the opportunity to share one of his poems. I think this is a good moment for that. It’s a different kind of poem than that written by his contemporaries, Li Bai and Tu Fu. This poem struck me really hard when I first read it back in my 20s when I knew I was a writer but I didn’t know what I had to say or would have to say. At that time I just wrote. I “raged at the wall” as I “carved my questions to Heaven.” The final image is still, to me, a profound paradox. Without the wall, there would be nothing on which to carve the questions and yet the wall is a barrier.

Don’t Go Out of that Door

Heaven is dark
Earth is secret,
The nine-headed monster eats our souls,
Frosts and snows snap our bones.
Incited dogs snarl, sniff around us,
And lick their paws, partial to the smell of the virtuous,
‘Till the end of all afflictions, when God sends his chariot to fetch us,
And the sword starred with jewels and the yoke of yellow gold.

I straddle my horse, but there is no way back,
On the lake which swamped Li-yang the waves are huge as mountains

Deadly dragons stare at me, jostle the metal wheels,
Lions and chimaeras spit from slavering mouths.
Pao Chiao parted the ferns and forever closed his eyes,
Yen Hui at twenty-nine was white at the temples;
Not that Yen Hui had thinning blood,
Nor that Pao Chiao had offended heaven.
Heaven dreaded the time when teeth would rend and gnaw them,
For this and no other reason made it so.

Plain though it is, I fear that still you doubt me.
Witness the man who raged at the wall as he carved his questions to Heaven!

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2020/05/07/rdp-thursday-limp/

Fear is Information

A few days ago a friend stopped by between here and there. When she got out of her car, I saw she was bent over by at least 30 degrees and walking stiff-legged. I hadn’t seen her in a few months and I was a little stunned. As it happened, she’s also the friend that argued with me about my hip surgery insisting that I hadn’t had my mobility restored but “augmented.” That made me furious and I don’t get angry all that easily. I was ready to set her straight on that when she arrived, but when I saw her I thought, “We have a bigger problem now.”

She’s a very controlling person with strong opinions. I don’t like confrontation (she does), but I have confronted her before back when I was negotiating for my house and she was my agent. I also, frankly, think she’s kind of an idiot. Many of her opinions about things have been refuted for once and for all by solid scientific research, but I just let it roll away into the twilight zone of illusion. I’m not a person who has to be right, even when I am.

So, instead of telling her not to argue with me about stuff I know (like my own hip surgery and repair) I talked to her about her mobility. She was very defensive and attempted denial. “It doesn’t matter what you think,” I said. “Just get X-rays so you know what you’re dealing with. If it’s something, you need to know.”

“So I know what my options are?”

“We don’t always have options,” I said. A person with bone-on-bone osteoarthritis has the option to have surgery or ride around in a wheelchair. I know she’s not a person who “believes” in objective reality, but it’s there, nonetheless.

Even then she’s (allegedly) going to get the X-rays and show them to her sister, a chiropractor, rather than let the doctor read them. I just figure “Whatever.” Then I tried to explain what long-term pain and challenged mobility do materially to our brain, the organ, not our mind the ephemeral entity.

Either that got her attention or she decided that agreeing with me would get me to shut up.

But, if you’re curious, what pain and being crippled do to our brain is this:

People with unrelenting pain are often depressed, anxious and have difficulty making simple decisions. Researchers have identified a clue that may explain how suffering long-term pain could trigger these other pain-related symptoms. Researchers found that in people with chronic pain, a front region of the cortex associated with emotion fails to deactivate when it should. It’s stuck on full throttle, wearing out neurons and altering their connections.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080205171755.htm


What’s more, a person in this situation — because it evolves slowly — has a tendency to accept the unacceptable — like my friend walking like that, and excusing it by saying, “I just drove 3 hours.”

No.

I said straight out, “That doesn’t wash in real life. These are not symptoms of driving. They’re symptoms of a physical problem.”

I think that whether she does anything or not (it’s her life, her body) she knows I care about her. There’s not much more I can do.

I’m still fighting the brain changes every day. I was essentially handicapped and in pain for a decade. Sometimes I’m amazed by what I’m able to do now that I couldn’t do for a long, long time, like figure out a solution so my back storm door doesn’t keep breaking, like cutting back an unwelcome elm tree, like basically figuring out anything.

Today I filled the tires on my real bike which I haven’t ridden in more than 2 years. I was determined to ride it. The whole scenario reminded me of taking out my new Cross Country skis the first, second, third, fourth, fifth times. I felt a nagging apprehension, fear, that threatened to hold me back from doing something I wanted to do. As with Cross Country skiing, I didn’t know if I could ride, but I have no rational reason not to.

My fears are about getting on and stopping at a stop sign. I have to figure out a way to get on when I’m afraid? unable? to lift my leg over the bike. For now I lay the bike on the ground, straddle it and pull it up, but that isn’t what I want to do. So, as I wheeled it out of my yard onto the driveway and laid it down to get on, I felt real terror. What if I fell? Could I get up? Would I be hurt? Then my X-country ski voice said, “Don’t fall. Just ride. Just try. See what it’s like. See what you remember. Stop while you’re still having fun. Get on. Who cares how?”

It was a fresh and lovely morning. I rode a couple of miles where I wouldn’t have to deal with stopping. I thought of how nice it would be ride where I walked Bear in winter. I appreciated how much faster and more exhilarating is than walking. I tested out the gears since it had been so long since I’ve shifted bike gears. I think the seat’s too low, but? I don’t know. I decided to take it to Kristi Mountain Sports in Alamosa and get it fitted to me. It’s a small bike for a small person — maybe too small? I don’t know. Then I turned into the alley and felt the clutch of fear at the rough curb, the rutted dirt and without thinking I was in a solid mountain biking position on my bike. I felt a little spring of joy in my heart.

I might get this. “Keep trying, every day,” said my Cross Country ski voice. “It’s almost as good as snow, remember? Remember how you rode on all those dirt trails in California imagining you were skiing? It will get you through the summer. Don’t give up.”

I came in the house and cried. Fighting fear is very emotional. You hold it back until you can release it. It’s a very good feeling.

Another Small Step

Today I took Bear out for a ramble where we’ve been going lately — along one side of the golf course, along the main ditch, into the Big Empty. To one side nice houses and yards; to the other an empty field beloved by deer. I’ve seen this thing before. If anything EVER happens to make Monte Vista a place where people want to live, the field will be gone, but meantime it’s a borderland between town and farm.

We got to our turnaround point (a mile) and turned around. We’d gone only a few yard when a large black dog came barreling through the neighborhood to the wire fence along the ditch bank. There was nothing to keep him on “his” side, so we turned around. This meant going home ‘the long way.’

Most important, the long way isn’t a lot longer than our original plan, just 2/3 of a mile or so. I just have our walks timed so I can do other things (like langlauf) if I want to. We walked along a small ditch on a muddy path to a familiar road where we’ve often walked to watch the deer hang out under the tank cars. Neither the tank cars nor the deer are there.

When we were done, I had taken the longest walk I’ve taken in years. The big deal about it is that it was no big deal. I didn’t even think about the distance. Nothing hurt. We walked through snow, mud and on nice dirt pathways. It is the first time in a long, long, long time that walking has been easy, has been transportation, has been a way out of a bad situation. It also didn’t take a lot longer than the walk I’d set out to do.

The featured photo is from about a year ago, Dusty, me, Bear and my cane walking on part of the route I walked today. I notice (besides no cane) my recently operated left leg is longer now, closer to the length of my right leg than it was before my surgery.

I know this doesn’t seem like much of a story, but if you’ve had a joint go bad and you’ve had it replaced, there are (I think) stages in recovery and I think I just crossed another one, an important one. It bodes well for the coming summer, I think, and I’m happy.


That Time of Year

Today I took down my 2018 calendar and put up my 2019 calendar. I’m ready for a new year. Before I tossed the old calendar into my recycling bin, I looked through it to see the main events.


At the end of March, my sweet Australian Shepherd, Mindy T. Dog, suffered a severe stroke and I had to have her put down. It was difficult to feel sad because she was suffering incredibly. She was a miraculous creature who had the magical ability to make people feel better just by looking at her. She moved out here with me from California and loved every bit of the journey and her new home.

The main event of the year was my hip replacement surgery. Most of the year was made up of activities leading to and away from that moment — physical therapy, slow, painful dog walks and rides on the Bike-to-Nowhere.

I tracked distance and calories on my wall calendar most of the year. Not because I cared so much about either, but because I wanted to see that I was getting somewhere. On the calendar are the days after my surgery when I walked in the neighborhood with my walker and then with my cane.

Lois came down to get me and take me to Colorado Springs then spent 10 days making sure I was “viable” 😀

The dogs were kenneled because there was no way I could take them on walks with me. I missed them, but I knew they were being loved and I could visit them.

Bear and Dusty being loved on by Lori on my first visit to them after my surgery.

I’ve recently realized (duh!) that I don’t have to track all this on my calendar or do the math. I’ve used a couple of apps for years to track my walks, but a couple weeks ago, I realized I can use one for my bike rides, too, so now it all goes on Map My Walk. I still need to see that I’m getting somewhere, even when there isn’t anywhere to go, really, but it doesn’t matter. Just GOING without pain is absolutely wonderful. Walking without thinking about it is absolutely wonderful. Parking FAR from the front door of the store is absolutely wonderful. Regaining my balance without fear of falling, absolutely wonderful.

December, 2018

I’ve written often about the hip replacement because I know that a lot of people in my age group (I call that 50 to 80, since I had my first hip surgery when I was 54 and my neighbor had his two years ago at 83) might be looking at a similar procedure. I’m grateful for the help, care and moral support I received from my friends here in Colorado, in Italy and online. I’m exceedingly grateful for my doctor’s skill and sense of humor.

Bionic me. On the left, facing, my hip resurfacing prosthesis from 2006. On the right, facing, my hip replacement from 2018.

In October, my surgeon pronounced that I had no restrictions on anything I wanted to do. “Run up a mountain. Maybe I’ll see you on the slopes.” I do not remember ever being more unequivocally happy.

One of the high points, besides the surgery (actually, almost everything was related to the surgery) was my first mountain hike since I came back to Colorado nearly five years ago. My friend Elizabeth and I headed up to hike the Middle Frisco Creek Trail, but missed the trail head. It was no big deal. The three forks of this creek run parallel and we didn’t go far. We hiked on the fourth anniversary of my moving into my house in Monte Vista.

Wrong trail but really who cares…

At this point, I’m no longer rehabbing but just getting ready for whatever athletic adventures await me. I’ll be 67 a week from New Year’s Eve (tomorrow!) but somehow I don’t care. I’m waiting for more snow to see if I can still X-country ski. I’m hoping I’ll be able to downhill ski at least once if only on the bunny slopes of Wolf Creek with my friend Lois in March. These are things I’ve loved forever, missed during my life in California, and hope I can have again, even just a little bit.

Behind all of this physical rehab were two books — The Price and Fledging. The Price is for sale on Amazon, and Fledging is a private project.

I think 2018 was a pretty amazing year.

Meditation on Justice

Justice is a made-up thing, one of the best things humans have attempted, IMO. It is designed to make up for the injustices of nature. Since justice is administered by humans, it’s not perfect, but its imperfections reflect the very imperfections in humanity justice exists to rectify. Laws were formed that all people could follow and a rule of law to establish justice in the case of a law being violated. The people administering justice are supposed to know the law well and have the ability to detach their own biases, beliefs, and experiences from the whole shebang.

That can’t be easy.

Justice is a very wonderful thing. There was never any need for humans to come up with it. Nature works in the opposite direction. It doesn’t give the weak and alien a chance at all. I guess when we decided to form the uber-organism of a society, we began to see survival as something beyond an individual thing. You’ll have to ask Lamont or Dude on that one. I don’t remember the moment myself 😉

I got justice this year. Medical science had found a way to rectify my weakness so I’m not going to be left behind when the tribe moves on, and I won’t be stealing food from the young.

 

1

Metal joints — justice

 

There is injustice here, too. By sheer luck (and possibly some merit) I was born into an upper-middle-class family with parents who both had college educations. I was also born with a pretty good mind and an extremely strong will which helped me compensate for some learning disabilities (and no one had learning disabilities in the 50s and 60s). My family also happened to have been from the Great American West where few people lived (or live now). I consider this good luck — the tensions of highly populated areas were not part of my childhood.

On the other side, why did my dad have to die at 45? Why was my mom a nutcase? Why was my brother self-destructive? Why am I left here with no family? What the fuck? Fate’s injustices were made up for by a large and loving extended family. This is an example of why justice is represented by a balance. The philosophy I grew up with is, “You gotta’ take the bitter with the sweet,” “Count yer’ blessings,” and “Keep on keeping on.”

I think every day we struggle for justice in one way or another. We want people to listen to us and hear what we’re really saying. We want to be respected for the person we are.

I’ve been — out of the corner of my eye — watching all the stuff involved in the appointment of Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. I will now weigh in.

First, when the Republicans (I believe illegally) obstructed the appointment of a Supreme Court Justice during Obama’s last year in office, they asked for what’s happening now. They’re getting a species of justice but it might be called revenge. Not having the votes to make any impact on anything Mr. Trump and his minions choose to do, they have resorted to dirty politics, and it’s just the kind of dirty politics that will deflect attention from things that (I, anyway) think are more important such as tariffs on Chinese goods. I think they’re playing into the Repub’s hands in their ire and search for justice. I think it’s awful.

Second, men vs. women. I grew up during the 50s –> now. I was inappropriately hit on by a wide variety of men from my college poetry professor to a kid in one of my classes. In between those two? I don’t want to detail this at all. As a friend and I were talking the other day, it was a different time. That kind of behavior — and the fact that it was more or less considered “OK” — is one of the reasons behind feminism. But back then I think we mostly went around with the idea that the only reason a man wanted to hang around a woman was on the off chance that he could “do her.” It wasn’t and isn’t true, but it was a common defensive posture.

On the other side…

There was a time in my life when my eyes were completely open to sexuality in the workplace. One was the office Christmas party at the large law firm where I worked. The woman who ran the one and only word processor (it was the late 70s), a formerly hot chick now in her late 40s, too much make-up, slinky clothes, cheap nylons, teased hair dyed strawberry blond, emphasis on the strawberry, showed up that day even more decorated with robin’s-egg-blue eyeshadow and jewelry than usual. That day I learned (in the lady’s break room) that she had been the “mistress” of one of the partners years before and had not let go. Her hope was to re-ignite the relationship — which I think she did that afternoon, if only temporarily.

The other was when I had my annual performance review and I was told (by the smarmy, nasty, ugly, polyester-pants-clad office manager) that the only reason I had the job I had was because one of the associates had recommended me. The law firm had the idea that in order to get him to go with them (he was a judge’s son) they had to hire me. They thought the judge’s son was boinking me. He wasn’t. We’d met when he attended the law school where I was working. He respected my work and thought I’d be a good paralegal. It really WAS that simple. But the culture was what it was. The undercurrent in that place was a lot like Madmen. 

Our rationale for all of this was “all men are pigs.” I would add (though we never did), “and some women, too.”

Sex is NOT rational which is why there are laws about it. It’s that justice thing again.

We don’t live exactly in that world anymore, but many of us HAVE lived in that world which makes justice difficult. The response of some is, “That’s how it was.” The response of others (younger women? angrier women?) “That’s not to be borne!” Both are right. That’s how it was and no, it’s not right. That it’s not right is WHY we’ve worked to change our world.

Which brings me to what’s going on now with the appointment of Judge Kavanaugh. This is politics. This is retribution. The guy deserves a fair hearing. I don’t like him. I don’t like anything about politics in this country right now. It’s all of a very corrupt and angry piece to me and justice doesn’t enter in.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/09/28/friday-rdp-justice/

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.

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

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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. ❤

 

 

 

Better Angels

Since starting real physical therapy this past Tuesday, and riding my Airdyne, I’ve finally been feeling that there really will be an end to this and again I will walk and sleep and cut grass and all the various things a person does every day without thinking about it. Still, I think for a long time I WILL think about it and for a while it will all be a kind of miracle, doing all these things without pain.

Yesterday at physical therapy, as I rode the semi-recumbent bike and listened to three songs (10 minutes), I thought about all this from another perspective. I don’t know how long it will be before I’ll really have come to a deep understanding of the changes in me and in my life apart from the repair to my hip, but there have been many. I came home from the hospital after my hip replacement with a list of restrictions beyond which I was supposed to do everything possible on my own, for myself. That meant I needed to learn to ask for help, to let others help me and also be very clear about what I don’t want help with. I learned that the people who care about me will do pretty much anything to help me; it’s my job to tell them how. This required two things of me that are difficult — asking for help before I get into a pickle and asserting boundaries.

I’ve also seen people in a way I would not otherwise have seen them. Every day something has happened that has made Washington DC and all of that so much less important or interesting. Who are we human beings anyway? Are we the monsters we read about in the news or are we the old Hispanic guy coming out of Safeway, using his cane to awaken the electric eye on the entrance so it opens for me making my life easier? Are we my UPS delivery guy showing up to see how I’m doing and offer his help? Are we the owner of my kennel who loves my dogs? Are we a woman I barely know offering to come and give me a ride to her house so I can use her walk-in shower? Are we my neighbors coming out of their houses to keep me company when they see me walking slowly down the street? Are we my neighbor and I discovering that going to the supermarket is fun if we go together? Without the hip surgery, we would never have done that.

Personally, I think that’s who we are. I think our better angels just want half a chance to come out of their hiding places.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/06/08/rdp-9-pickle/

 

Back at the “Gym” — Flexibility

Kind of a big day for me. I returned to physical therapy this morning — the real deal — not just the guy coming to my house to make sure I’m moving around. As it happens, yesterday they moved into their own facility. They were sharing space in the local gym. Their new space is beautiful and includes a lot of new equipment, including a semi-recumbent bike a lot like the one in the picture above. I rode it today. I was so happy to “ride.” Since I cannot yet get safely on my Sainted Airdyne, I haven’t had anything approaching aerobic exercise since my surgery. I took my archaic iPod (“Online? What’s that?”) out of my pocket and listened to my anthem (Running Up that Hill) then to Bruce Springsteen singing about not surrendering. I could’ve kept riding godnose how long, but since it’s been a month, I thought I should be prudent.

Then my therapist, Ron — whom I like, respect and trust very much — put me on a table and tried to get me to “let go” of the operated leg, to relax it so it would fall over the edge. It was so difficult. I could feel all kinds of fear clinging to that joint. I’m lucky in that my body is VERY articulate in transmitting messages to my mind. It said very clearly, “I’m scared!!!!” I said to Ron, “There’s all kinds of stuff going on down there.” He nodded. He knew. “It’s scared,” Ron nodded again. I sent a message to my joint that said, “Let go. It’s OK.” It did, just like that, relaxed. The reward was a massage of my quads and the IT band.

Then we went out to the parallel bars and I basically “practiced” walking without walking, using all the muscles and working on balance. Then we went back to the table where I did muscle response exercises.

One of the wonders of this is that I stand up straight.

Before we started, Ron interviewed me about how the surgery had gone, how I was feeling, what worked and what didn’t and then he said, “What are your goals? What do you want to be able to do when we finish here?”

My eyes filled with tears and I said, “I’m going to cry.” I don’t know why that struck me so intensely. “OK, on July 15 the Rio Grande Wildlife Area opens again. I want to be able to walk 2 miles with my dogs. With this, that’s OK,” I lifted my cane.

“You should use that, definitely, everyone should on uneven ground,” he said. “We can do that. That’s completely possible. What do we have, six weeks? Plenty of time. Let’s get to it.”

And we did.

RDP #5: FLEXIBILITY