Hip Replacement – Not just for Grandparents Anymore

The following is a post I made in March 2010 about my hip replacement surgery.

If you have seen Ms. Savin recently, you have probably noticed a slight limp and a reluctance to stand or walk for long periods of time.  This week she announced that she was going to have a full hip replacement.  Obviously, many questions arose and we asked her to sit down with us and discuss.

We met in her living room where she pointed out with pride her TV that was no longer sitting on the floor but she became annoyed when I pointed out that her Wii and USB record player were still in boxes.  She agreed to the interview because she has been getting lots of questions since first coming out about her hip replacement and decided it would be easier to answer them all at once.  She is already sick of hearing herself talk about hips.

Q:  A hip replacement?  WTF?
C:   I know!  Pretty crazy isn’t it?

Q:  So what is the deal?  Why do you need a new hip?
C:  Well, I was born with a congenital hip so I have always known that this day would come.  I have actually gone 15 – 20 years longer than my doctors originally expected so that is good.  But now I have osteoarthritis and little cartilage left so it is time to go bionic.

Q:  Bionic?
C:  Ok, technically ceramic but bionic sounds way cooler and has implied sound effects.

Q:  Congenital hip, what is that?
C:  So this internet thing is really awesome and I was able to do some research.  I always told people that it was because my mother shot tequila while she was pregnant but I guess that is not true.  I may have to apologize for that sometime. Turns out it is genetic which explains why a great-aunt had it too.

Q:  OK, but what is it exactly?
C:  It is an abnormal formation of the hip joint, the ball of the hip is all whack and doesn’t fit into the socket right.  Then the ligaments aren’t quite normal either.  I was lucky and it was noticed shortly after I was born so I was in a body cast as an infant to help the joint form correctly.

Q:  And didn’t you have surgery again later?
C:  Yes, in 4th grade.  As I grew, my hip grew funny and my legs were several inches different so they broke my hip and reset it to make my legs even.  Later, I had a smaller surgery to have the pins removed.  I still have them if you want to see!

Q:  Um, no.  That is kinda gross.
C:  Well, I had the best show-n-tell ever in grade school.  Your loss.   Wuss.

Q:  Ok, back to the surgery.  Why now?
C:  I have really been in need of a change.  I tried a new hair color but that didn’t do it so a new joint seemed like the logical next step.  Actually, I am just sick of having to consider my hip in everything I do.  It is so damn annoying.  Timing seems to work so I decided to go for it.

Q:  What is the recovery?
C:  Every person is different but I expect to be in the hospital 4 days, then a recovery facility – whatever it is a nursing home – for up to 2 weeks.  I should be back to work in 2 months and fully recovered in 6 months or so.

Q:  I understand you will have a walker?
C:  Well maybe, most likely crutches up to 6 weeks and then a cane for up to 6 weeks after that.  Assuming I can find a kick-ass cane.  That is one of the last things I have left to do – find a kick-ass cane.

Q:  So what do people say when you tell them about having surgery?
C:  I get a few standard responses:

  • “Congratulations” (for having a malformed hip??)
  • “Aren’t you excited?” (I am a lot of things, sort of excited but not exactly)
  • “My grandmother/father had a hip replacement” (yes, I know my hip is 90 years old)
  • “I hear hip replacements are easier to recover from than a knee” (yes, I hear that too but I hope to never have to compare)
  • “I know – insert random person here – and when they had hip surgery – insert random horror story here” (Seriously??)

Q:  I do hear that there have been lots of advances in joint technology.  Do you think this hip will last the rest of your life?
C:  Yes, there have been lots of advances but I was kinda hoping for “Star Trek” kind of advances.  (At this point, in a spectacularly geeky move, she pulls out her cell phone and waves it over her hip as if it was a medical tricorder.  After an uncomfortable pause, she continued.) As far as how long my hip will last, no one knows for sure.

Q:  This has to be stressful.
C:  Yes, it is hard to get answers to important questions.  Like, “how soon can I take a shower?”  “When can I get a pedicure again?”  Did you know you can’t have on any nail polish when you have surgery…annoying!  Or, “where can I find a kick ass cane?”  Plus, I am not used to having my life planned out so far in advance.  Ask me what I am doing in May and I already know…annoying!

Q:  So what are you looking forward to the most after surgery?
C:  Oh, lots of things.  I am excited to be able to go out without having to worry about finding a chair, no longer having people ask me if I hurt my foot, sleeping for more than 4 hours at a time, getting back the use of my brain, walking around the lake and I would really like to swear less but I doubt surgery will help there.  But, the thing I am looking forward to the most is being able to sneeze with abandon.  Being able to sneeze without having to brace myself will be awesome!

Q:  And when is this surgery?
C:  Soon.  I will get back from my vacations and have about 2 weeks to get ready.  And before you ask, yes I am still going to London, to Austin and California.  I want to make sure this hip is fully worn out before I get a new one!

Q:  Any other big plans?
C:  Sadly, I have a few friends I would love to see but won’t have time.  I do plan to have a going away party for my hip in March.  There will be lots of breakup songs and a toast to say goodbye.  I mean, my hip did the best it could for longer than anyone expected and frankly I can be kinda difficult.  It deserves a proper farewell.

Q:  Well thank you for your time, can’t wait to toast your hip goodbye.
C:  Yeah.  I get final edit approval on this right??

Bionic Birthday

Four years ago today I replaced my lame hip with a shiny new bionic one. I had prepared for the procedure from the moment I heard a nasty pop as I rushed to a Madonna concert in San Francisco. I had everything set for my surgery and recovery and then took my hip on a farewell tour before I went under the knife. In the end I have the best result I could have hoped for but I am still amazed I survived the hospital and nursing home.

My hospital stay coincided with a staffing reduction so nurses and other staff were a bit scarce at times, working in unfamiliar wards and covering more patients than they should; I do not in any way blame the staff for some of the errors as they were doing their best in a difficult situation. My experience has given me a definite perspective on healthcare and how one must prepare and be aware when being treated.

The biggest blip was that I was one of the very lucky few that had an epidural that did not take. Since there was confusion and I was given blood thinners, it could not be removed right away but since it was still in I could not get extra pain meds to compensate for it not working. That was fun.

Once I was left alone on a bedpan out of the reach of my call button and I had to wiggle myself close enough to my cell phone and call my sister to find a nurse to rescue me; man that hurt. The first night, someone left the blood pressure cuff on my arm for hours, luckily it was not pumped up too much but it still left a lovely bruise. I was given a stronger dose of Dilaudid than prescribed and thought my arm was going to burn off as it entered my veins.

For my surgery the doctor went in from the front, a newer technique at the time, and this required being moved in different ways than staff was in the habit of moving hip replacement patients. The time I was moved incorrectly was so painful I screamed louder than I ever knew possible.

My time at the nursing home had its own set of issues mostly because I was stubborn and wanted to do everything for myself when I could but the staff still treated me like I was a complete invalid. Words were exchanged many times but I always won.

I was given the wrong medication more than once but luckily knew the color and shape of my pills and could get my dosage fixed; I admit the one time I had an extra oxy in cup I popped that sucker and felt much better for a few hours. Because my primary doctor and my surgeon were not in the same practice, there was confusion over which doctor was supposed to sign my various medical orders, so no one did until a social worker finally got involved after I threatened to walk, well wheel, out. So much red tape.

I had a bit of an issue with a lady taking my blood who didn’t appreciate my suggestion that the vein she was trying to use was not going to work; I was right but I still had to take all her extra pokes. I really dislike her to this day.

Even before my procedure I had a couple issues while getting my first MRI, I learned that I am in fact claustrophobic, I have no “happy place” but I can eventually calm myself down with focused breathing and valium.

My stubbornness led to an early release from the nursing home and I continued my recovery walking around the hood with my cane. I was due one more set back as I overused my shoulder and had rotator issues, another MRI and more physical therapy.

But I recovered. While sometimes it feels like I am sitting on a cast iron ball, I no longer have pain, my scars are mostly faded and luckily I am not one of the 5% of the people who have a hip joint that squeaks when they walk. What a nightmare that would be.

So happy 4th birthday bionic hip, glad to have you aboard!