Daily Archives: October 20, 2009

Last words

Final report on my Hip Replacement

These last few weeks have been a great lesson to me.

Normally I am a very independent person who will do everything myself and not look for help.  No matter how difficult a task may be, I will stick at it like a dog with a bone.  Sometimes it has earned me the name ‘stubborn mule’.  I have a friend, a plumber, and on occasions I would ask his advice about certain tasks.  In the beginning he was all too willing to say he would do whatever it was for me.

“No thank you” I would say.  “The question is what is the best way to do it and is it within my scope”?

The answer always began in the same way… “That is not weemin’s work, but you would need to do it like this…”  That sentence was always said with a twinkle in the eye and a smile.  Only once did he say “I know I always say “That is not weemin’s work”, but this time it is not for you.  I will call over tonight and you can watch me do it”!  He did call over and worked slowly and explained what he was doing as he went along, pointing out the reasons why it was not a job for me. That time I had to agree he was correct.

So in the past few weeks while confined to bed for the first few days and since then learning to master crutches, and forbidden to bend more than 90°, I very quickly learned to ASK for and allow others to help me.  I had to learn to leave my dignity at the door and allow others to help with my personal care.  It should have been no problem to me since I had bed-bathed my Granny when I was about 13 years of age, my mother in her latter years, Jack and my dear friend Liz when they both had cancer.  Yet it was not easy.  Not the being naked or uncovered, but the fact that I was unable to do the things myself.  I saw it as intruding on other peoples time and a loss of my independence, perhaps it was an inward battle of coming to terms with the fact that I am getting older.

It is hard to credit that I am almost back to normal now.  The awful nagging, dragging pain of pre-op has gone and I no longer have hip pain.  My two legs are the same length once more, another bonus.  I am now getting in and out of bed by myself and dressing right down to my shoes.  I manage to get in and out of a car – driving will be next.  It all helps.  I have also rediscovered SLEEP!

The biggest obstacles are other people – the general public.  I have almost been knocked off my crutches by a lady, had a car horn hooted at me by a young buck because I was not crossing a road fast enough, expected to walk around able bodied trolley pushers in a supermarket, even though they could plainly see my crutches.  I almost want a large sign to wear LEARNING TO WALK.

I quickly learned that if I overdid things, I paid the price!  It was essential to keep warm, when cold my joints and muscles stiffened and movement was difficult.My main problem was one very swollen leg right from hip to toes and all the colours of the rainbow.  Elly was laughing at me because one hip/thigh was size 10-12 while the other was 18-20!!!!The bruising has now gone, but the ankle and instep are swollen by bedtime each day.That too will pass in time.The first couple of steps after a long sit or rest on the bed are difficult, but once I move I am fine.I also play music with a good strong beat to get me moving about the house.James Last, Glenn Miller, Salsa or Tango all help; but a CD of Swing is the best aid to the ‘exercises’ that I have come across!

Concentration was slow to come back, poor Elly, I believe I was asking the same questions over and over.Reading a book was out as I never got past the first six lines but blog reading helped as I could dip in and out when I felt like it. It has taken me weeks to catch up but I am sure to be forgiven for my lack of commenting.

I think the practice of walking with crutches and doing the prescribed exercises in the weeks before surgery made all the difference to me. In hospital everyone was amazed at how straight I was even on my first walk. I also wore shoes instead of slippers and they gave me more support.The shoes are very soft with velcro fastening, making it easy for me to open and close them myself.

Walking outdoors was easier with someone walking step for step with me.  A new form of independence was found on day 19 post-op – walking with one crutch, it allowed me to make my own coffee and carry it into the living room.Five weeks from the day of surgery I was like a child who discovered her legs!I walked across a room without crutches and have continued to do so while indoors.I am not quite ready for that yet in crowded areas or outdoors generally.Uneven pavements, loose stones or damp leaves at this time of year, are all hazards.

Getting into and out of the car was made easier by the placing of a plastic carrier bag on the seat.It made turning so much smoother. Remember to REMOVE the bag before the car engine is started in case of any sudden stop…. You don’t want to fast track through the windscreen.Once the car is stopped and the ignition key removed, slip the carrier bag back under you to aid with getting out of the car again.

Once a week we went out for lunch.It gave me a feeling of normality in my life and a chance to talk to other people.

Laughter is a great healer and Elly and I are having fun laughing with and at each other every day. Elly left home for College in 1996 and has only returned for short spells since then.The five weeks with me night and day has strengthened the bond between us.She may be able to work virtually, but it was a very big commitment to leave her husband and work colleagues for so long. Being so far from her support network of husband, friends and work colleagues is not easy.

To date I do not have a Blue Badge for my car, therefore I am not at liberty to park in a disabled parking space. One day while at the local supermarket, Elly asked “Where are the mother and child spaces”?“You are not going to park there, are you?” I asked.“Why not”, she replied.“We are after all a mother and child and nowhere does it say what age the child must be!”Trust Elly, she always thinks outside the box.  So we left a note on the dashboard saying the passenger was on crutches and adding a cell phone number.  Nobody contacted us or complained.

So what tips have I learned that might help someone else faced with the same surgery?

Practise walking with crutches in the weeks prior to surgery.Let them take your weight, that way the upper body muscles become used to working for you, leaving you with only the hip to think about once the surgery is over.

Ask what exercises you should do – they vary from surgeon to surgeon and the placement of the incision.Doing the incorrect exercises can cause injury.

Practice stretching the leg for operation out behind you and while holding onto a solid support e.g. counter top, table or sturdy chair bend forward to pick up items such as keys or cutlery. If something falls in the middle of the floor, slide it over to where you have the support to pick it up.If you are prone to light-headedness don’t try this one.

A good grabber is essential to pick up items you drop.It also aids with putting on pants and trousers without bending too far.Mine has a magnet at the base – it is only suitable for very light objects.

A comfortable high chair with arms to aid with sitting down and getting up is important.The seat needs to be knee height.Remember you will need to sit with the operated leg extended and not bent under the seat (as all young ladies were taught in my young days 😉 ) during the early weeks.

Remove all door mats and loose carpet. Clear unnecessary clutter or furniture to give a clear walkway from room to room.

Socks – buy socks that are several sizes larger.It is amazing how difficult it is getting a sock on that operated leg.I found the sports socks that just come ankle high are the most comfortable.

A sock aid (photo below) makes the task of putting on socks easier since bending the torso more than 90° is forbidden in the early weeks.

It was suggested that I buy slippers and shoes in a much larger size with Velcro fastening for comfort.The slippers available when I was looking were horrible and I chose soft leather shoes instead (photo below) and they gave me more support and the confidence to walk around in them.Again I wore them in the house for a few days before I went into hospital.

A long handled shoe horn to aid putting on and taking off shoes.Mine came from IKEA and is 2 foot long.

One for the Girls: buy cotton nightwear, silk or satin lets you slip around in the bed and makes getting out more difficult.Nightdresses make for easier examination of the wound.I also bought a half dozen pairs of high leg cotton pants several sizes larger than normal.The hip area and leg swell so you’re normal sizes will not work.

Music with a good beat, the kind that makes you want to dance, is a good idea to get you up and moving about the house.I found ‘Swing’ was the best to accompany my exercises.

My exercises were in groups of ten, so I set ten clothes pegs on a windowsill and they helped me remember how many exercises I had completed.As I improved I did two exercises per peg! Doing the exercises at the window allowed me to survey the countryside as I went along.

Five of the best.

So hopefully this is the last you will hear about Horace Hip.

All that remains is to say an enormous thank you to The Consultants & Staff from the hospital, Elly, George, Lesley, Niamh and Darragh for their time, patience and hands on help.  To all who sent cards and messages and to all my friends that visit my blog.  Each of you in your own way were a help and support.