3 Months on… hip replacement

Wow! I can’t quite believe that it’s been a whole 3 months since my total hip replacement. I also can’t quite believe it’s only been three months since surgery!

I went into the surgery very apprehensively, in retrospect I was very anxious, as you can read in my blog Living with Perthes, without Limits. The week before I gathered friends and walked to the top of Rangitoto Island. This is a volcanic island in Auckland harbour. It’s not epic or tall. But symbolised a hill for my ‘old’ hip to climb one last time. To say good bye and shed that last bit of me. And it was a farewell. It was frustrating how challenging it was. How I dragged my leg up the last bit. My daughter whinging beside me. But me in no state to carry her. I thought it would take another year to climb it again. Little did I realise that LESS than three months later I’d ace it if not more.

Going into surgery I didn’t know what to expect, how I’d feel after or what my recovery would be like. The closest experience I’d had was cesarean sections for my babies. Which as it turned out is not miles away! The unit I was with is a modern hospital clinic set up specifically for orthopaedic surgery, the non-complicated type. After meeting my surgeon and waiting my turn (second in the queue with four for him to complete that day?!) I was hustled into the operating room and very quickly was on the table and out. I came too a couple times (thankfully out of it enough not really to register what was happening before I was out again). Post surgery I was monitored having lost more blood than ideal, iron levels through the floor. And I lost track of what exactly was pumped into me. Up to the ward and the serious business of getting back up to standing and walking.

First up was actually just recovering from surgery. I was in and out of sleep for the first 24 hours. I watched as ‘Steve’ got himself up and out within a day on hip op two! But by that night I was able to get myself, slowly, to the toilet and even showered myself. Less than 48 hours after surgery I was discharged with crutches and the ability to get up and down stairs (a valuable skill in my home)!

My surgery was done through the New Zealand public health system, it wasn’t until later that I learnt that I struck it lucky with the new facility, high tech, clean and modern. The staff amazing and only four patients in the ward. I’d also been allotted to Dr. Rob Elliot, one of only two surgeons in the country doing anterior hip replacements. This means that the surgery is through the front of the hip rather than the side or rear. Thus meaning no need to cut through muscles and compromise those important strength building areas any further. Also meant that I haven’t run the risk of dislocation to the same extent and haven’t needed to worry about the 90 degree restriction. Also means the scar is only the length of my index finger. All things I was unaware of before this process.

On return to home it was a hard two to three weeks. I was largely house bound, my mum was at my beck and call with the car (bless her, she wore the brunt of my frustration). I’ve never really felt so vulnerable or useless before. I was a wreck. Emotionally a complete roller coaster. My hubby, doing everything around the house, could never quite get it right. My mum was growled at, kids grumped at and basically only our new kitten could do the right thing (for me, he was still figuring out the litter box so hubby not such a fan). Whether it was the combination of pain killers or the shear brutality of the surgery that was wearing on me I became depressed. More than any other time in my life. I felt stuck, physically, emotionally and mentally. Tearful and dark. I knew I should be grateful, I was surrounded by loving family, friends jumping to help with the kids and had just received life changing surgery?! WTF??!

A visit to the doctor to remove the stitches, a little tearful I received some hormonal balancing advice and more practice on the crutches I started to see improvements.

I guess that was the biggest surprise. I had to pull myself up. Find my purpose again. Get moving again. By week 3 I was off the crutches! Limping a little, and getting tired at the end of a busy day, but off the crutches??! By the end of week 3 I was driving again, and driving myself to interviews. I was independent, I was capable.

Mum said she’d miss our time together. Through all the growling, dark and horribleness I inflicted on her she still enjoyed being with her eldest daughter. Is there anything more wonderful and enduring than a mother’s love?

I landed a 3 week contract, 2 weeks earlier than I intended. My first paid work in over 3 years, 4 weeks after major surgery!! Thankfully I’m in advertising, a desk job. The biggest challenge was actually sitting still so long. I’d have to come home to lay on the floor and stretch my hip out. But I enjoyed my few weeks in the big bad world again. Clocked up a friends hens weekend, my birthday and friends wedding (I danced ALL night – so very sore the next day).

I finished up the contract in time for my 6 week check up. Finally had a look at the x-ray of my new heavy metal (titanium with ceramic on ceramic). Was given the all clear, bar a check up in a year to see how the bone is growing around the titanium. And over the last few weeks are finally seeing the improvement. I’ve moved through the stages. Can’t walk, limping, walk with pain, walking ok through to I can now do my shoes up, put my pants on without lying on the bed, do the child’s pose (yoga), walk up stairs using both legs evenly, squat, sleep without pain killers! These might seem minor achievements but they have honestly meant the world to me.

Sleep… oh I didn’t realise how much I’d missed this. Prior to surgery I would wake A LOT through the night. Move, shuffle, take more pain killers and generally still wake up stiff and cranky. Now? I can go to sleep and largely stay asleep! I wake up with more energy. And I guess the best bit?? Is I largely don’t think about my hip??! All this just to forget about it? I think that is the ultimate goal.

Next? Get strong, get fit. I’m already able to walk my usual 5km. Plus more. And not be aching. Not to ‘pay’ for it the next day. Not to get twitchy as I rest. I’ve already been walking with the family, white water rafting and generally getting on with it. I want to try running on it. I want to build those lazy glutes back up. I want to enjoy literally this new lease on life I’ve been given. The kids still expect me to be tail end Charlie. I need to change that!!!

Today, exactly 3 months on I have started a 6 week challenge to get my body back. I’m going to exercise and get my eating healthier, and say good-bye to wine for a few weeks. A particularly awesome friend reunion in Bangkok has left me full of prosecco and friendship. I’ve realised with recovery I took my eye off the ball and the body needs love. Wish me good luck! I’ll use this new hip for good!!!

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