May 31, 2013

To Future Fellow Hip Replacement Patients – If I Can Do It – You Can!

It has been seven months since my hip replacement!  This time last year I was just beginning to make appointments with orthopedic surgeons because my hip pain was becoming debilitating.  No more long walks – actually short walks either!  I DREDED it and kept thinking that maybe with more leafy green salads, salmon, beta carotene-whatever-it would get better…but nooo!

I had read about a medical company several months earlier that created hip/knee joints for a new operating procedure – never knowing I would be checking them out for my own surgery within a year!  So GLAD I discovered this company because it led me to know about “direct anterior” hip replacements!  The search for a surgeon began….

It took a while to find Dr. Louis!  Several appointments with well-known surgeons (one even wrote a book on hip replacements and advertised he did “direct anterior” but did not) led me nowhere.  Those who supposedly used the “newest” procedure called “minimally invasive” still had the long, painful, slow recovery.  No bending/crossing the legs at the knee for several weeks, lots of physical therapy, drugs, etc.

When I mentioned to surgeons that I wanted the “direct anterior” approach, they didn’t seem to think it was “that much better” and that it could cause “different sets of problems”…etc.  I think the real issue is that they didn’t want to learn the new procedure.  Didn’t have the special operating room table and had a full roster of future patients – so why deal with it?

Finally I found Dr. Louis!  He answered all  my questions!  The “direct anterior approach” calls for NO PT – IMMEDIATE ability to bend, cross your legs – no restrictions on movement.  AND Dr. Louis has done hundreds of them!  I schedule my surgery after picking the color of the new hip joint I wanted – pink!  I merrily left his office, got in the car and…..

BEGAN TO PANIC!

Everything I saw reminded me of my impeding surgery. I couldn’t watch “Direct TV” – without being reminded of “direct anterior”.  It was hard to buy chicken legs without envisioning the joint being sawed apart!  I tossed. I turned.

Several of my friends – who had the “old surgery” were trying to prepare me for the “after” surgery experience.  They were stunned that there was no six week “hip university” for me to attend.  They insisted that I was being “naive” – that I would be on drugs (and groggy) for several weeks – would need crutches – months of physical therapy – couldn’t be alone for the first few weeks, etc. etc.  That what Dr. Louis promised was a nice fairy tale but impossible!

Because I live with an old dog who needs to be carried up and down the stairs – have friends who are all busy and a boyfriend who lives 30 miles away – I kept re-reading all the letters from previous patients that Dr. Louis had included in his pre-surgery notebook.  I needed to learn what to expect afterewards – on my own.

I read – and re-read every word of every person’s story!  “Gone with the Wind” paled in comparison!  They were all saying how quickly they healed and how thrilled they were with the results!  I felt like Natalie Wood in Miracle on 34th Street when she asks Santa for a new house then says “I believe…. I believe I know it’s silly but I believe!”

So I prepared for surgery in October – put all the flower pots away – bought enough paper goods for an army.  Frozen foods packed into my freezer – I was ready for anything!  I was hoping for the best and preparing for the worst!  My friends were talking in hushed whispers and appalled at my lack of planning.  They were convinced that I should have gone to a rehab clinic or hired a full time nurse for the first week or two!

Maybe they are right – I thought!  But it’s too late…surgery is tomorrow!  I took a low dos of xanax at midnight.  After, ofcourse, a pedicure in the afternoon.

SURGERY DAY

I arrived at Good Samaritan Hospital.  Everyone was kind, gracious and professional.  Dr. Louis visited me in pre-op.  “How could he be in such a good mood” I wondered?  I remember being wheeled into the hospital room and seeing the “ski boots” at the end of the table….fad to black.

ONE HOUR LATER!

Dr. Louis approached the waiting area to talk to “BF” – who was engrossed in his iPhone 5 expecting to have several hours of personal time awaiting information about my new hip.  When BF saw him – he immediately stopped reading about Nebraska football – and thought I died on the operating table!  What else could explain Dr. Louis’ quick exit from surgery!

Not to worry – surgery was over and a total success!  Back to the sports page!

THE REAL SCOOP

So what’s it like?  Here’s the scoop – at least my scoop!

I did have some pain in post-op (I think) – before getting pain pump but don’t remember using it that much.  Truly amazing drug – no grogginess either!  Bravo!  The nursing care was great!  Had both a private and double room – either is fine.

Standing up to take the first step was the most difficult part of the whole thing (which is five minutes).  But after that – pretty much home free I was glad to have the raised toilet seat – “my landing pad” – which was the only item I actually added in my house.  Borrowed one from my friend who had had the surgery the “old way” – she was surprised when I returned it after two weeks!  Frankly I could have kept it forever – comfy!

The food was good – I suggest the fish for dinner and the scrambled egg with green pepper in the morning!  I also brought snacks for middle of the night hunger – bananas, apples, dried cherries, almonds and some Trader Joe’s low-cal chocolate bars – always delish!

Day two – I was getting ready to go home – after the Nebraska game of course – and was taken to the Physical Therapy room on the same floor.  I was a bit scared thinking it might be painful – but NO!  I had to walk up three steps and down three steps – I remember saying – is that it?  It was.

Then the nurse came with my first dose of Lovenox – which I truly dreaded!  I had checked on YouTube for info on how to give yourself a shot in the stomach.  Do yourself a favor and stay OFF YouTube!  There was a video of a young lady who ranted about how painful Lovenox is – then proceeded to show her swollen and red belly that looked like it had been beaten with sticks by wild monkeys!  Not an issue.  Easy to do and it looks like a bed-bug bite…just go with it!

Before you know it its time to go home!  BF drove and when I walked into the house and saw a leaf on the floor I bent over and picked it up! The house and dog were fine but I felt that I needed to vacuum – so I did about an hour later!  I put my cane in the closet and never got it out again!

I did have two girlfriends who came by on Monday and one stayed all night.  But I was down in the kitchen with her cooking etc. already energized from having to wash my duvet because my dog threw up her special treats the second night.  One of the girlfriends had recently had the “old surgery” – with a well-known surgeon – she thought she was witnessing a miracle!

Friends brought fresh food from the grocery store and I cooked dinner for BF when he visited for the first three nights because I felt guilty that he had to drive in bad traffic!  I ended up helping my dog outside (in a tri-level) – several times a day and night!  Brought in my flowers (sent by well-meaning friends) and took the boxes out to the garage.

I stopped taking Tramadol after three days – because I thought it made me shaky and went to Extra Strength Tylenol the rest of the next 7 – 14 days or so.  I slept with three pillows under my knee to raise my leg for a while too.  It took any stress off my hip!

Dr. Louis has exercises, etc. in the notebook you receive.  I did them every few hours.  Probably OVER-did them.  You don’t need to do that!  After having one visit by the physical therapy person and another by a “home nurse” I canceled any other visits.  Really pointless – you can do the exercises yourself and the nurse just takes your blood pressure, etc.  Why not save the insurance company some money!

Every day got a little better – I had a stack of books, movies and dozed a lot!  If you have someone to drive you around you won’t feel so housebound – get out if you can!

So there you go – we’re all different and will have our own stories.  But keep the faith – you will feels so much better.  I went to a party two weeks after surgery and back to the gym three weeks after surgery.  No one could tell I was walking any differently!

So kudos and MANY thanks to everyone at Hinsdale Orthopaedics and “Good Sam” hospital.  You are the BEST!

And for anyone reading this now very long letter – curled up in the fetal position awaiting their impending surgery – just do it!

Love to all,

Kathy S