Excuse me if I do a 2-week update – I’ll forget, you see, however much I now think I’ll remember, and be annoyingly vague when people who are about to have the same operation ask. As they will. I did. This is long, I’m afraid, but it’s not gruesome – however, I will write something totally frivolous tomorrow to make up for it.
It’s now two weeks since the operation. The wound has almost completely healed to a thin pink mark. It feels somewhat numb around that area and, comparing it to the other thigh, it’s still a bit swollen. When I got home, I took paracetamol for five days, a total of 16 doses.
I’m sleeping pretty well on my back, and I think the key to this is plenty of pillows so that my back can slope and is well supported. I also have a pillow in the bed which, to start with, I put between my knees so that I wouldn’t accidentally turn on my side and now (because I don’t, and as I’m not lying completely flat I can’t do in my sleep) I sometimes have it under my knees, sometimes under the length of the leg if it’s uncomfortable, and sometimes under my feet if the heels feel sore.
I’m walking easily with one stick and don’t limp. I can walk without a stick but I limp slightly as my right leg is a bit longer than my left – I still think this will correct itself and am not bothered about it. I also find that walking for long without a stick puts too much weight on my operated leg, so it’s more comfortable with, but if I want to carry something in each hand it’s quite possible. I must not bend that leg at an acute angle – less than 90º – but I can bend over, standing on the left leg and putting the right one behind me in the air. I can pick things up from the ground that way. What I can’t do is dress my lower body without tools – I use a grabber and a sock-aid. I can’t take off my own socks – or not off myself, at any rate. I have a long-handled shoe horn, but haven’t used it yet as I’ve only worn a pair of slip-on shoes and slippers.
It’s starting to be possible to sit on a lower chair, though if I do, I need to remember to stretch my legs out and lean back a bit. I’m supposed not to cross my legs at all – it’s really hard not to cross my ankles so I try to keep my left leg a bit ahead of the right when sitting, so that if anything crosses it’s left over right. After six weeks, the hip is much less likely to give trouble and I can have a bath, ride a bike and various other things. I’ve an appointment for a check-up in mid-March and can’t drive until then. Hm. After twelve weeks, it should be pretty well completely recovered, although if there’s anything that’s still not comfortable then, I shouldn’t assume that’s as good as it’ll get – it will continue to become stronger as I use it more.
Before the operation, I had a lot of pain in my knee. My hip was usually more or less sore and sometimes I had other aches or pains in my leg. Occasionally, my other leg hurt. This was not acute pain and I didn’t take more notice of it than it deserved – I blanked out a lot of it and can’t really evaluate it. I’d had pain in my leg for eight years, so was used to it. I rarely used a stick in the house but used one increasingly out of doors as last year went by. My limp was getting a lot worse in the last three months and I walked a lot slower, though I could keep going a long way if I needed to. I avoided it when possible though. For the last 6-8 weeks I was woken several times each night by a painfully aching hip. Sometimes this kept me awake for a few hours, but other nights I was able to turn over and get back to sleep. I slept with a cushion under my ‘upper’ knee to support it, whichever side I lay on – usually, lying on my back was too uncomfortable.
The first night after the operation, I had that familiar bad ache, but I felt I’d had sufficient medication and didn’t want to ask for more, so I bore it. It’s never been anywhere near as bad since. Since I arrived home, I’ve slept very well and now realise how much my sleep had been disturbed for a long time. I put my feet up for an hour or two every afternoon and about twice a week I find I need a good long rest. After that rest, I have found a big improvement, which has been sustained. In fact, every few days I’ve seen a jump in what I can do or how it feels. For example, to start with, I sometimes wanted a bit of help getting my bad leg into bed at the end of the day as it was a lot of effort to lift both legs together, but this has improved in stages and now I hardly notice it.
As far as pain is concerned, of course the arthritis is gone, and so I no longer have any problems in my knee or any part of my leg. I can always feel my hip, but that is certainly the healing scar tissue and not the bone – I do feel that sometimes when I’m walking but, after all, the top of my femur was removed and that is still healing and adjusting to an artificial addition – it is a lot less uncomfortable than one might think. Most of the time, I don’t feel it at all.
Peering at my eye, I know I’m still quite anaemic, but I don’t feel at all unwell. I’m taking an anti-coagulant for a month – I hardly feel it is necessary but it seems to have no side-effects except for a slight tendency to mild nose-bleeds, so I’m not unwilling to take it. Notwithstanding the chocolate – good quality, mostly plain – I am eating a very good diet with lots of vegetables and more protein than usual and, as I said, I’m getting enough rest. I know that, if I get exhausted, it takes me ages to get over it, and I want to remain well.
The main reason I wanted to put off the operation was because I know it will need to be revised in future, and the count-down has now started. I’ve been told 10-15 years – I know that some hips last a lot longer, but in view of my comparative youth and therefore activity, I’m more likely to wear it out. However, it could well be that the first revision, at least, will only need to be to the plastic socket and not to the ceramic ball and pin. This is extremely hard and durable, more so than metal, as long as I don’t have a bad accident as it can shatter – it doesn’t have the flexibility that a metal ball can have. On the other hand, wear can cause metal ions to enter the blood stream. Pros and cons in everything. There is metal in the socket which supports the plastic. One can have ceramic against ceramic – again, this is extremely hard and durable and probably more suitable for someone very active, but it can make a sound as you walk, and any wear means that you can only have china replaced with china, as any other material would wear out too quickly.
I found it hard to decide to have the operation. It was my decision when to go for it and in September I was still pretty confident I could go another year to fifteen months. But by November it was becoming appreciably worse. It was when I arrived home from my holiday in Portugal, looked at the itinerary for my booked visit to Glasgow in May and realised I couldn’t do it then, let alone in six months time, although I’d been okay to do it when I booked a couple of months earlier, that I decided to go ahead. It was a good thing I did, as it got worse subsequently – mainly, in how much I was woken in the night, how slowly I had to walk and how often the joint gave way briefly. I never had the awful grinding pain that some people describe, which is probably the reason I didn’t accept that it needed doing. I had to reason it out, I didn’t feel it as unbearable.
Once I’d been told the likely date, only a fortnight after my visit to the consultant, I decided to choose a positive attitude to the operation itself. This worked really well – but when I’m indecisive, it’s in early stages. Once I have made a decision, I go with it whole-heartedly. It was spectacularly successful in fact – being so positive about the operation that I wanted to be awake, for example. I still have a sneaking regret that there wasn’t a mirror so that I could see it being done – but of course, that would have been risky in case I’d been horrified and I am sure it wouldn’t have been allowed. I don’t in the least want to see anyone else’s operation, by the way, I’m only curious about myself. I also really would have liked to see what was being put in me, and the bone that was taken out. I wish I’d asked.
I almost forgot to mention the unexpected pleasure of being able to dress standing up. I haven’t been able to do that since last summer, when my balance became too uncertain to do safely, and then it became impossible anyway. Once I’m quite over this, I’ll be so much quicker at everything. It’s lovely.