Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Hiplog again

Pamela has written an interesting post here about travelling by public transport with a new hip, specifically in London as it's where she lives. There are some very useful tips in it. I found, before my operation, that the Tube was the worst as there is so much walking and so many stairs. One time, I wanted to go to an exhibition at Tate Britain in Pimlico, travelling from Islington. I looked up the route online. There seemed to be no way of getting there without a change at a station where the escalators were not in use. The alternative was three buses. I tried to look up a route without stairs and with limited walking and the effort made the site crash. I didn't get to the exhibition.

I'm not up to a day in London yet, because it would be too tiring, but I think I'd feel fairly confident about a bus or a Tube ride. I'd certainly take a stick - it makes sense to warn people visually that you aren't going to be quick or agile and that you might be grateful to be given a seat. I've already said how very helpful people are, as long as they know you need a hand.

My friend Sally had a new hip just before Christmas. She had a bad fall and broke her wrist and the top of her femur, poor love. I expect she's finding things quite restricting, but for me it's the opposite. I was already so restricted in what I could comfortably do that any limitations now are much less disappointing than they were before.

I've noticed I've gained stamina in the last few days - I had an afternoon meeting and an evening meeting yesterday, which would have wiped me out for today, not so long ago, but I feel fine (although I slept badly last night, the Sage and I are still both finding this difficult). I'm getting heartily fed up with the limitation on movement, though still being patient about it - I can break the rules if I want to, but then can't blame anyone if I dislocate my hip.

This is still my greatest anxiety. Sometimes, in the dark 3am recesses of wakefulness, I've reduced myself to tears of worry - yes, this is silly but haven't we all got things out of proportion at 3am? It's because of my mother's experience - in brief, 3 months after a successful hip operation, when she was completely recovered, she had a bad fall which dislocated her hip. In the next 7 years, it dislocated 7 times, each time pretty well spontaneously. Not surprisingly, she became a nervous wreck. Other health problems were dismissed by medics as hysteria (you might as well say) and I suspect that she was thought to be bringing on the dislocations as a form of attention-seeking. It wasn't until she finally asked for the hip to be pinned that an x-ray was taken from a different angle that showed that the joint had been damaged in the first fall and that was the reason for the dislocations. She had another operation, which was successful - but we had all been through hell - I can't begin to talk about it all - and by then the cancer which had been looked for and not found (no blame, just a statement of fact) was about to spread fatally, so it was all too late to improve her life. I'm very glad to have had a youngish non-white surgeon, because she found her middle-aged, English, awfully charming consultant quite impossible to be assertive with - he should have investigated more thoroughly much earlier.

Anyway, I'm afraid of doing something silly or having an accident and dislocating my hip, which I believe would ruin my life and that of my family. In view of what happened, it's not completely irrational, but I can't tell the degree to which I'm over-concerned. I realise that the best thing to do is talk to my consultant about it (not in an emotional way, I'll be perfectly sensible I promise) and find out any sensible restrictions I should bear in mind for the long term, while not being over-protective of myself.

Anyway - the scar has healed beautifully, but still feels both numb and tingly when I rub it. I do rub and massage it, as that helps break down scar tissue apparently. It is slightly swollen compared to the other thigh, but this is gradually going down. I can feel some pain across the front of my thigh sometimes, presumably where the bone was cut off - it can be sharply prickly if I've moved about a lot or walked far without a stick. I can't in any way feel the new hip, as such - there's no sensation in the bone of a foreign body being there. It's all far less than the pain and aching I had before.

I can't test the full movement of my hip, but I've certainly got far more movement than I did have. i put my foot on a box for the Sage to tie my shoelace yesterday - I'd have found that very hard and sometimes impossible to do before, but my only care was to make sure I didn't have an acute angle of the joint. I am fine in cars and on firm chairs - I wouldn't try sitting in a low soft chair because of the angle and the difficulty of getting up again. If the chair is a bit low, it gives me some discomfort and I can deal with it by leaning back and stretching my leg out for a greater degree of angle - my knee should be lower than my hip. Having short legs is a help here.

Right leg still slightly long. I take a stick if walking any great distance, but actually I'm starting to find it a nuisance to use. I am taking great pleasure in walking very fast - possibly too fast for entire comfort, but it's been so long since I could walk briskly that I can't resist. I don't mind if my leg aches a bit afterwards as a result. I haven't walked *that* far at a time - not as far as a mile, say, though I'm sure I could, because it's cold and it keeps raining and snowing when I've got time for a long walk.

Around the house, I am getting on fine. I can bend as long as I stand on my left leg and put my right leg back in the air (it's the 90ยบ or more angle that has to be watched). I can put washing in the machine, but taking it out isn't so easy because you have to reach right in for the last little things that stick to the drum. Similarly, I can put things in the bottom oven of the Aga and push, but you have to go lower to get them out again, so the Sage does that. Light housework is fine, heavier stuff depends on what it is and i can't move furniture about much yet.

The rate of improvement has slowed, but that's because I'm nearly better (it'll be 5 weeks on Friday since the operation). I was told to expect to be pretty well healed at 6 weeks and back to normal in 6 - 12 weeks. My follow-up appointment is 8 1/2 weeks from the operation - that's a bit longer wait than I'd have expected, but I'm rather assuming that the consultant is having a holiday - and I'm hoping to be told that, apart from some sensible precautions, to pretty well get on with a normal life then.

I know not to do certain things, like dig the garden, for instance, for 12 weeks, but it's movements that I want to ask about, with dislocation in mind. For example, sitting on the floor with outstretched legs or knees bent upwards, sitting in a chair with crossed legs, squatting, sitting cross-legged on the floor - those have an increasing degree of risk and if I ask that, it's short and straightforward. My joint hasn't been cemented - this is good, as it will grow in and make a stronger bond (often, people have to have another operation, not because the joint is worn but because the cement is breaking down), but it possibly means a less secure fix to start with - I don't know. I know I'll be able to run again, but I'd like some advice on what degree of exercise is sensible - weight-bearing exercise is good, but I want to balance being active (I never knew that I'd look forward to not being a lazy bastard, but it's not being able to do things that makes you want to) with wearing out the joint. I'd like to play tennis, for instance, but that means quite a lot of darting about. Mind you, I'm terribly uncompetitive and really can't be bothered to chase every ball. "Good shot" is a phrase that rings out quite often on my court.

12 comments:

Dave said...

Fortunately in your case, the weather rather means that digging the garden isn't much of a temptation.

I, on the other hand, am now starting to find it frustrating.

savannah said...

i'm finding all that you can do, massively impressive! xoxox

Z said...

Digging the garden never tempts me any more, Dave. I leave that to young people like you.

I am so pleased and relieved that the operation was successful Savannah.

georgie said...

You are considerably younger and more fit than your mother was when she had her hip surgery. By keeping active and gradually getting back to full Z power, you will strengthen the hip muscles even more. I can understand your worry.

Z said...

Georgie! I wondered who it was.

Well, my mother made a fine recovery, even the second time when she was 78 and ill. It was the fall that did the damage - and it was a one-off accident, she didn't fall over. But I am a lot younger than her first time, when she was 70, and I will probably do more energetic and more 'bendy' things.

lom said...

stop worrying and take your time, it's not a race.

Z said...

I'm only worried as far as what is safe to do, I'm relaxed otherwise. I do need to start getting back to normal though- it's not fair on the Sage to lounge about while he does all the work. Besides, he doesn't see the need to do any cleaning at all!

I, Like The View said...

it's heartening to read of your progress, Z

may I gently make a small suggestion about a trip to London, when you make one. . . take a cab

it's why they were invented

to help get Z to A place she wants to go when she doesn't want to have to bother with long walks, stairs and crowded tubes

in the meantime, I'm glad you're enjoying your brisk walks!

Pamela Maunsell said...

I'm sending a big hug which will arrive at 3am any morning you need it.

My mother had a partial hip replacement after a fall. Once she'd settled I went abroad but was summoned back to try to motivate her as she was "refusing to do her physio". Before I got back to UK they'd taken another X-ray and realised her new metal femur had crashed through her osteoporosis-ridden pelvis.

But its rare for such awfulness to happen. Stay strong Z - and remember house work will always be with us - let it wait!

Z said...

Thanks, Pamela - and sorry this wasn't published before, I have comments set for moderation on older posts and I hadn't checked for a while.

I'm afraid that, in elderly women in particular, they are assumed to be not worth listening to.

I'm a month on from this post now and pretty well back to normal now. Still being careful though.

Jeff Whitaker said...

I wanted to know how your hip recovery was going. I'm pretty much in the same boat that you were and I'm curious to know how long your recovery took? Any info is helpful, thanks.

Z said...

Hello Jeff, I'm so sorry I've only just found your query waiting to be moderated.

It's now a year and a half and it's fine. Most of the improvement happened in the first two or three months, but actually it continued to get better for the rest of the year. Apart from being sensibly cautious about some twisting movements and not doing too much to jar it, it doesn't affect what I do at all and there's no pain.