Some of you know about my surgeries and new body parts. I’ve waited a while to write about them, but think it’s time I explained what it was all about.
Last year at this time, I could barely walk 20 feet. When I did walk, I relied on a cane to steady my gait and protect me from bumpers. This problem had been going on for years. In fact, I haven’t had cartilage in my hip joints for at least five years, maybe more.
You have to understand, I was once a compulsive walker, eventually a jogger. I walked three miles every morning before work, and sometimes took an evening jog just to clear my head. I entered short races just for the exercise and camaraderie because I was never fast enough to win. But, a day without walking or running was a day of misery for me.
At some point in my late 50s, my body started playing tricks on me. Among other things, I developed a rheumatoid condition plus plain old osteoarthritis, then started losing use of joints in just about every part of my body, including hands and feet.
Last December, the worst of my two hips was replaced. The structure of the joint was so bad, cysts had taken over where there once was cartilage. Without warning, those cysts would lock together so I couldn’t move at all. Bone had deteriorated, which led to systemic inflammation and nerve damage. Instead of feeling sharp pain at the hip, I felt dull aches all over. Some days, I felt like I had a full-body migraine. Eventually I learned to swim when the pain was bad, and found other low-tech methods to soothe my body without resorting to steroids or high-powered pain killers (which I had tried but gave up because of side effects).
I spent four days in the hospital for the first surgery, then nine days in a nursing home before going home for a month of in-home nursing and physical therapy. Once I outgrew that, I went to outpatient PT for about six weeks. At the same time, I started prepping for the next adventure.
Then, it was on to surgery number two. This one felt easier than the first, but I developed post-surgical complications that kept me in the hospital six days. By the time I could leave, my strength was good and pain was low, so I skipped the nursing home and opted for in-home care. Dave took a week off to take care of me, with help from an RN and PT several times a week. Again, I went to outpatient PT for a little more than a month.
So, here I am four months out from the second surgery, and there isn’t much I cannot do that I want to do. As you can see, my legs are straight, facing forward (which they weren’t doing before surgery) and approximately the same length (which wasn’t the case, either).
However, I can no longer cross my legs. Now that I’m allowed to, I can’t bend much beyond my waist. That will come, the doctor says but he also warns that too much bending could harm the prostheses.
So, I can’t do crunches or run or jump. My pole vaulting days are over. I may not be able to polka BUT I can tango! And, I can go to the playground with my grandkids, and soon will be able to get down on the floor with them to color or build a castle with Legos. What could be better than that?
To prepare for surgery, I swam every other day for six months before, then as much as I could do between and after surgeries. The buoyancy of water allowed me push harder than I could on land, so swimming was invaluable exercise. My husband convinced me to add upper body Nautilus to the mix before the first surgery, which really helped me build stamina.
The entire ordeal took about a year out of my life, but that didn't come as a surprise, so I just went with it. You have to focus on one thing at a time. Major surgery isn’t something you squeeze in when you have a little extra time.
As you may have noticed, sometimes this blog went weeks without new posts. I almost gave it up, but didn't because I enjoyed reading your comments and your blogs so much. The therapeutic value of blogging cannot be overestimated!
During the recovery period, I read a dozen novels on Kindle, but found it almost impossible to write. The stumbling block was not pain or weakness, but brain fog. Today, I’m happy to report that all systems are running at almost full throttle.
Would I do it again? You bet. A year is a small price to pay to feel 20 years younger.
If you’re thinking about joint replacement surgery, here’s the most important thing you need to know: The surgery part is nothing. After all, you’re not there!
What’s really hard is the rehab. It’s a killer! You must be totally committed to regaining muscle, nerve and bone. The recovery window is quite small, so you may have to work harder than you have ever worked, when you least feel like doing so.
But, if I can do it, so can you.