Replacing My Hip…Replacing My Life

My husband and I visited the surgeon.  That was pretty amazing because he hates doctors and has never gone with me before (except for childbirth).  But everybody seems very concerned about my inability to walk.  We are a very active family.  Half marathons, season tickets to football, backpacking, rock climbing.  Mother was starting to be left out, and I’m proud to say that my family didn’t like it.  So, what to do?

The doctor said it would take 4-6 weeks to recover.  I immediately decided that I would take no more than 4 weeks.  My job involved travel and lugging around briefcases, so when I applied for disability, they immediately switched me to a different job which would keep me in the office all day.  That would help me recover faster, but I am not a desk kind of girl.  I kept looking for a walker that didn’t look like they made it for old people.  I went to a play in San Francisco and there was a lady there who had a snazzy fire engine red walker.  I almost knocked people over  trying to find out where she got it.  As soon as I got home I placed the order.  My husband told me that the cost didn’t matter.  Very soon “Little Red” joined the family.  I got so many compliments on her, and she made me feel special.  My co-workers loved taking her in and out of my car for me.  She was the type that has a seat, so I could just push her into staff meetings and sit right on her.

We had decided that I would have the surgery in May and there was a bevvy of tests that I had to get first – tests for my heart, lungs, many blood tests, stress tests, etc.  I was poked and prodded in every which way.  Finally the day came and I was checked into the hospital.  I was frightened since a good friend of mine had gone into the hospital for minor surgery and never came out.  I was panicked that that might happen to me.  I called my children to say goodbye, and they countered with a cheerful, “I’ll talk to you tomorrow, Mom.”

A lot of surgery is hurry up wait.  It seemed like I laid in the prep area for hours before things finally started to happen.  I was given an injection that helped me to relax during all of the preparations.  They sterilized my body several times.  I was glad to see that, since my friend had died from an infection that she contracted in the hospital.  When I got to the operating room, my Doctor finally said hello.  My Doctor is a teaching doctor, and everyone in the room was a student of his.  I had signed a permission form to allow his students to perform the non-surgical tasks, and to observe the operation.  They were all eager young people, anxious to learn.

I was given an epidural, which means that my body was never really unconscious.  Instead I was in a dream-like state, but awake the whole time.  I never had an epidural in childbirth, since I preferred the natural birth process, and was concerned about drugs coursing through my body before the baby was born.  This allowed me to get up on my feet and walk a mere two hours after the operation.  There were no side effects, like there often are after a general anesthetic. Two students came in and told me it was time to get up and walk.  They said to just take a couple of steps.  So, I got up and walked all the way across the room.   They were amazed…and so was I.

My poor husband said that it was an eternity before they called him into my room. They kept coming out to see all of the other family members, but it was never for him. He asked if he could stay with me overnight, and they allowed him to stay in a single bed that was tucked into the window area of my room.  I guess that he didn’t sleep much because there was a little alarm every time I wasn’t breathing deeply enough.  I was out cold, so I didn’t hear the alarms.  He had brought me a little bear to hold, and a rose for my bedside.  I was allowed to speak to both my kids, so that was comforting.

First thing in the morning they had me up walking.  I was using a hospital walker (not my fire engine red walker).  Everybody said I was doing really well, and I guess they were right because I was allowed to go home that afternoon.  My best friend had been showering me with all kinds of hospital gear, so I had a commode, a shower chair and a sidebar on my bed, so that I could pull myself up to a sitting position.  Those items were so helpful.  I don’t know what I would have done without them.  And they encouraged me to walk as much as possible.  A few days later I started physical therapy with a therapist in our home.  She was very sweet and understanding of my pain, but she continued to push me, and I’m glad she did.  I was so hellbent on returning to work as soon as possible, and I think it made the difference to have someone encouraging me right away.

I had been so afraid of surgery and a hospital stay.  It seemed like a miracle to leave the hospital in one day.  I am no longer afraid of surgery.  The new methods are very mindful of keeping patients sterile and encouraging movement.  Gone are the days where they let people sit in bed for weeks at a time in the hospital.  I like this whole in-and-out philosophy.  I waited for two and a half painful years before I considered having surgery, but I would not wait that long again.  If my other hip needs replacing, I will do it right away.

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