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.
Since I am the first one to comment – Bismillah ir Rehman ir Rahim. (“In the name of God, most Gracious, most Compassionate”.)
As a fellow member of the hip hip hooray club, I appreciate the thought and effort that has gone into this post. I have copy pasted this entire post and saved in a word file for giving to other people who may need advise for hip replacements.
Good post! I think it great that you are sharing your experience so others can understand what they’ll be going through. I know what you’re going through! I had a total knee replacement last Dec.08. Your advice as what to do is so correct. I do want to add one more-after a few months you will be tempted to forget the exercises-DON’T. This is the case of “if you don’t use it, you lose it”, which means, you leg/hip will start losing it’s flexibility, aches show up. Also, thanks for stopping by my creative writer blog and letting me know gaelikaa’s link wasn’t working, her link is:
I’m so impressed by the way you allowed for every possibility and did and bought everything you could to make the whole recovery process go smoothly. As you say, you’re remarkably independent and determined to do as much as you can for yourself. Brava!
So glad to hear that you are doing so well. You are an inspiration!
Oh, I meant to say – the story of the mother and child space was a hoot! How very ingenious.
You continue to amaze me with your courage and acceptance of your situation. You have taken a very bad scenario and turned it into something wonderful!
You speak of the renewed closeness between you and Elly and you appreciate the help that George and friends have given you. You look for the best to happen to you and it almost always does.
When my husband, Roy, had to have his right leg amputated because of complications of Diabetes, he also had a tremendous attitude. When our four children gathered for the operation they were all sad faced and glum. Roy soon had them laughing when he said, “Don’t feel bad,kids. Losing my leg has some good points,too. All my life I lived in a big family and I never had enough socks.” Everybody roared with laughter.
So, good on you, GM and good on Roy, too. Ain’t life grand ????
Bless you! You’re an inspiration to us all.
Excellent post. Me thinks it should be essential reading for all patients undergoing this op. Your organisation and positive approach are great. Delighted you have come through the procedure so well.
So glad to hear that everything is going well for you. This is sound advice for patients of any kind I think.
Ramana – I forgot to mention your tip about hanging a magnet on a string to aid with picking things up off the floor.
Judy – There were a couple of ladies on the ward who had knee replacements. The seemed to think it was more painful than hip replacement. Thanks for the reminder about the exercises. They are important.
Nick – Nowadays the safest place for patients post-op is at home, there is less chance of infection and it has been proven that they make a quicker recovery in a place they are familiar with. The quicker I get back to normal, the sooner Elly can have her own life back. You can always depend on Elly to use her ingenuity!
Nelly – Being pain free is wonderful and it allows me to concentrate on getting back on my feet.
Nancy – Life is wonderful and I have been given a second chance. I like Roy’s style! 😀
Jean – Thank you.
Lily – The preparation was a distraction from the pain at the time. It was well worth it.
Maz – Modern surgery is so much easier than years ago. I remember my own grandmother had a bad hip but replacement hips were unheard of back then. She just had to suffer in silence.
What shines through in all of this, is your determination to succeed…
you weren’t going to be defeated and it showed!
Keep swinging those hips, Baby 😀
Steph, it will be a very gentle swinging for another couple of weeks.
I am amazed at the rapid progress you are making and I know that your positive attitude is a big part of the reason. Elly’s good nursing is also to be commended.
Being another member of the hip-hip-hurray club I can identify with the early pain and swelling. I still have pain in the hip area if I bend over wrong or sleep in that side. It will be a year next month since I fell and broke my hip (preparations were not possible for me) and I am just now getting over swollen feet and ankles.
One thing I would add is I was told to never cross one leg over the other. A pillow between the knees when you are in bed is also very helpful to avoid discomfort.
Every day in every way you are getting better and better.
THANK you for the invaluable information. I probably will have to have a hip replacement within the next 10 years and it will be good to know what to expect!
Your doing great, thanks to you and thanks to Elly!
Darlene – In the hospital I was often heard to ask “Do I have to have a pillow?” I quickly followed it with “I would rather have a toyboy!” It made the nurses smile!
Judy – Look on it as a new shock absorber, but obey the rules.
Gaelikaa – I have a second chance, and Elly was wonderful!
I understand so deeply how difficult it is to ask others to help. But you know, if you don’t, they assume you don’t need it when often you do. You are fortunate to have Elly there to help you with what many would consider the more embarrasing moments of rehabilitation. Independence, sometimes comes at a price . .people assume you are so cease to assist. I’m so proud of you that in such a short time you’ve followed your regime, been diligent and I know that within weeks you’ll be so happy that you had the replacement. You’re an inspiration to others. I’m surprised you haven’t been given a disabled parking permit. My dad was when he had his knee replacement . . it lasted three months. Your tips are valuable and other’s should take notice. Wonderful tips, no doubt I’ll need them one day soon. . my left knee hates me! Oh but my darling, those red shoes are awful!
Baino – The shoes may be awful and not my usual choice of footwear, but they sure do the job and if they work until my foot is back to normal, that is all that matters.
I admit to having an ‘ugly sister’ moment this morning…. I tried a pair of my normal shoes but the foot was having none of it. Next week…. maybe.
Grannymar, I am very happy for you – and remember: 60 is the new forty so your bones are still pliable.
As they say: Necessity is the mother of invention: Try and take off a bra (worse put it on) with both arms in stiff casts; never mind going to the toilet. One of my neighbours – a sweet lady in her late sixties, early seventies – whispered across the fence: “Don’t wear knickers.” I confessed I’d already worked that one out though feeling slightly self conscious when leaving the house. Still, needs must.
Unlike you I just lived with the fallout of personal hygiene as I am totally useless at indignity at the hand of others. What I have learnt: As long as YOU can’t smell yourself don’t panic; I know this flies into the face of everything we have been taught but it’s true. For someone who normally showers at least once a day this came as a revelation and I now know how cavewomen survived (matted hair and all).
Grannymar, thanks for your generosity in sharing how to cope with the horror of something I dearly hope to avoid – luckily, no one of my forebears has ever had need for replacement of any kind (you still haven’t let me know your bone density). I shall file your hints under “NO – I don’t want to!”
You go into some detail on how to prepare for the, scheduled, operation. Many a time during the last two months have I been pondering how one is so unprepared for an accident – I hadn’t even done the washing up when I left the house for a minute. So maybe, you and I could unite our efforts and write a little “survival” guide to cover all eventualities – fit for the SAS and all perfectionists amongst us.
Ursula, as long time readers know, I did break my right wrist a few years ago. It was awkward enough showering, dressing, cooking, cleaning etc with my left hand, so I cannot imagine what it must be like with two hands out of action. My left handed mouse skills improved 100%. A hip replacement is not something I would wish on anyone, but perhaps the tips might be helpful to somebody someday.
I don’t claim to be an expert on any topic, but gladly share what little knowledge I have with others.
Great post, sure we need a list like that to be handing out at the pre-op’s 😉
I had most of those aids before I went to the Pre-op. I had larger socks too, but they were not big enough. Some of the advice came from friends who had been through hip surgery before me.
Oh bless you… I agree its so hard to suddenly lose your independence – even though you expected it! I have been on crutches too and felt so vulnerable i was dreadful…. but you are coming out of it now and that is terrific, and in such a short time too.
Well done you – determination and a little help from your friends!!!
What! I love the red shoes. I want some.
Kate – I am indeed doing far better than I anticipated. The support from Elly, George and my friends was a wonderful bonus to me. I have so much to be thankful for.
BHB – The shoes are as soft as gloves, a broader fitting and larger than I normally wear. The velcro closing made them easy to manage.
The closest I ever came to wanting to end it all was when Reumatoid Arthritis was coming on full force. I was totally embarrassed at having–not just to use an height adjuster potty for the toilet because I couldn’t bend my knees–to ask Hubby to button and unzip my jeans and pull down my panties because my fingers weren’t working either. Losing your ability to take care of yourself if the height of despair. I understand that well. Glad that you’re able to take care of yourself for the most part these days!
Alice, I kept reminding myself that my helplessness was short term and the price I had to pay for a pain free life. I have had a couple of days where I was alone for several hours and the next stage is to be alone for a night or two.