My name is Laurel and I’m a survivor of total hip replacement surgery and let me tell you it’s no easy thing, letting a doctor tear off my leg to put a manmade piece of equipment permanently in my body.
But I’ll tell you for starters, I’m going to let them doing it again. Am I crazy?
No way! Why? Because of the end results and moments like this:
The next day came, the ‘high’ wore off, and I was required to walk. Just a few steps, mind you, but the simple task of moving that left leg off of the bed was excruciating. Physical therapists were there to help me re-learn my new body, and they did their jobs with skill and compassion. The charge nursing staff was a picture of caring and efficiency; they tended to my every need with amazing speed and genuine kindness.
How It All Started
Since my early 40’s, I have been intermittently visited by curious aches and pains in my legs. Still relatively young, I ignored these annoyances and continued on with raising a child. I recall, however, hitting myself on my thighs to relieve the pain. My husband and son did not know what to make of that particular behavior, and neither did I.
Fast forward to early spring in 2009, I became somewhat frantic about the situation, and finally went to my doctor. I was given anti-inflammatory medications, pills for restless-leg syndrome, and others too numerous to recall. My legs had become to feel ‘heavy’ when trying to get into my truck. My physician theorized at first that perhaps I was suffering from fibromyalgia, a non-specific pain disorder, but was not willing to medicate that condition until I visited a neurologist. So off I went.
The neurologist found no nerve damage, however he had to administer some of the most painful tests I have ever endured. Electric shocks to the legs are not recommended! My neurologist’s office was joined with an orthopedist, and the next step was to X-ray my aching body to find the source. By this time I was exhausted and frustrated with the entire medical community; quite sure they had missed something. I felt as though I was being handed off from one doctor to another, with no one able to diagnose me whatsoever.
The leg-heaviness and overall fatigue I felt were beginning to frighten me, I often thought of Multiple Sclerosis: I was full of hypotheses, but none of them prepared me for my final diagnosis.
As my orthopedist walked through the door of my examination room waving my X-ray, he proclaimed, “I guess you’ve got some pretty sore hips, there.” Showing me the films taken of my hips, the doctor pointed out that I had no cartilage left whatsoever, which cushions the bones. The doctor pointed out that both hips were in poor condition, but did not recommend surgery on both at once. Since my left side was the most troublesome, we agreed that would be the first.
While we spoke, it slowly began to dawn on me that he was suggesting major surgery to correct my condition. Admittedly, I was relieved to finally have an answer, but an operation? To be honest, I don’t believe I heard much of what he actually said, I was in a state of shock. I had heard of such operations performed on much older people, But at 52, I had no earthly idea that cartilage would wear so quickly. My only experience with the scalpel had been to have a Cesarean Section when my son was born 21 years earlier-and that surgery was certainly not elective. Some research into the matter revealed genetic factors that cause such joint deterioration, in fact I have found many-older-relatives that have had 2 and 3 of these operations-I had simply not known of their histories.
In the System
After talking it over with my husband, I scheduled my next appointment with the surgeon. Surgery was not an easy decision to make, however the pain was unmanageable and I was willing to put my trust in the orthopedist, or now should I say, the surgeon.
I was diagnosed at the end of May 2009, and the surgery was scheduled for July 29th. In the interim, I became a participant in a most thorough and detailed medical procedure-actually a process with which I had to comply in order to be healthy enough for such an invasive procedure. Eight weeks prior to the operation, both the surgeon’s office and I had to contact my insurance company in order to be certain of adequate coverage. That was a major hurdle since this surgery is considered elective. Multiple laboratory tests and pre-op health evaluations were performed at this stage as well.
My most difficult and astounding task was to quit smoking, which was required six weeks before the procedure. A lifetime smoker, this was something I did not think was possible. One morning, a Wednesday in June, I simply stopped. I imagine that the information I had been given on oxygenation and healing rates frightened me, and I miraculously followed directions.*
To the Hospital
From the time I quit smoking until the actual procedure, my life was focused primarily on my health. I put myself in the hands of the staff at the hospital where I was to have the operation performed with, perhaps naive, trust. I was lucky to be in competent, caring and capable hands every step of the way. Within seven days of surgery, the nursing staff warned me against taking any over-the-counter medications that could increase bleeding. The night before the operation, I was instructed to wash with an antibacterial soap. As I did so, I said ‘good-bye’ to my original bone.
I was not exactly afraid that morning, I was committed and ready. My husband and I arrived at 5:30 am that day and had the whole place to ourselves. I was admitted and the surgical nurse came out and called my name, which of course wasn’t necessary, but there was a certain ease and humor about her that calmed me right at that moment. The nurse then proceeded to carefully prepare me for the ordeal, thankfully administering some Valium to calm me. I vaguely recall being wheeled into the operating room, speaking a bit with the anesthesiologist, and then, nothing.
When I woke from my operation, I was a bit hazy at first, then hungry. I was not aware that anything had gone on at all. Only my husband’s face looking down at me with concern reminded me of what had transpired. I was dumbfounded to find that I had been in the operating room over 3 hours, since I now felt fabulous. That’s right, fabulous! After replacing my natural bone with my new bionic parts, the surgeon had placed long-acting (18 hours) morphine directly into my spinal column.
I was released from the hospital on the third day with trepidation, but my attentive husband cared for me with love. Now, 2 1/2 years later, I feel that my new hip is a gift. It took me a number of weeks to learn to walk again without a limp, but recently my husband pointed out that I was walking just like I did before.
My right hip is now giving me more trouble, however I will not have to go blindly into the same situation if I decide to have another operation. I don’t regret a thing.
I started smoking again around 3 months after surgery, am disappointed with myself, but am planning to quit again, whether or not I go back to the operating room for another total hip replacement surgery.
- Parker Waichman LLP Learns that British Hip Society Is Advising that Certain Metal-on-Metal Hip Implants Should No Longer Be Used in Total Hip Replacement Surgery (prweb.com)
- Willowbrook Man Pain-Free After New Direct Anterior Approach Hip Surgery – Downers Grove news, photos and events – TribLocal.com (earlsview.com)
- A Red Letter Day for Writers Who are Also Hip Replacement Survivors! (theauthorlink.wordpress.com)
- Some Complications in the Year After Aging Parents’ Successful Broken Hip/femur Surgery (helpparentsagewell.com)