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Hip, Hip, Hooray! Helen’s Story of Becoming Bionic!

I’ve always enjoyed sports and discovered karate in my 20s which I absolutely loved and spent five years training.  Little did I know that becoming the fittest I’d ever been was the beginning of the trouble for my hip and knee.

white roseFast forward a few years and things started to go more than a little wonky with my joints and because of my young age, I was told to take painkillers and keep moving.  Not the best news so I started to work on myself internally using the Lightning Process especially on my beliefs and managing my condition and with my Osteopath.

I continued with this approach for a number of years but as I got older, my hip got progressively worse.  It started to affect my knee and ultimately, it was stopping me from fully engaging with my life and I was starting to miss out on things – I had also developed a really bad limp which was frustrating.

So my journey to a new, shiny hip began.  By the time I was referred, the consultant concluded that the only course of action was to replace my left hip and right knee as both were past any other intervention.  It was scary to see how bad they looked on the x-ray but in some ways it was a relief to actually be able to see the reason for the trouble I was experiencing – it was all very ‘real’ now.

On the run up to my operation, friends and family responded in one of two ways: 1 – really positively and how amazing it was going to be or 2 – to tell me the horror stories they knew and describe the terrible fear and pain that I would experience!  Not what I needed to hear – THANKS!

Luckily I am good at letting those sorts of comments wash over me but if you know someone who is facing a big challenge in their health, please don’t tell them how bad it’s all going to be – you’re not helping them in the slightest!  Instead concentrate on how good things will be after, this is much more useful and supportive for them.

The two weeks before my operation I faced a number of opportunities to put my self-management into practice with all the appointments and tests.  The big downside of these was the amount of information I got on all the potential problems and side effects – argh!  The pressure was on here as these were the make or break times for the procedure going ahead and I was actually starting to get a little excited about being bionic and what I would be able to start doing.

I am naturally pretty calm but every now and then there would be a moment that would make me go ‘yikes’ as I realised the scale of the challenge ahead.  This was highlighted by the arrival of the special equipment which turned some of my house into a care home – it’s amazing what you need in order to avoid bending your hip past 90 degrees.

The 1st May arrived and it was the morning of my operation.  We had to be there by 7.00am which was rather early and before I knew it, I was checked in, presented with a very fetching gown and matching white surgical stockings – very glamorous!

The anaesthetist was happy I was fit to go ahead and then threw a new decision into the mix – did I want a general anaesthetic (which I was expecting) or a spinal block and be awake for the procedure although he assured me I would be have a mild sedative and feel like I’d had a glass of wine – just a glass?  I felt a barrel would be more appropriate!  My logic told me this new option was good but the idea of being awake especially with the involvement of power tools wasn’t appealing so I went with my heart and decided I didn’t want to know anything till it was well and truly over.

Gary (my husband) walked with me to the theatre and said good bye and then went off to enjoy a much needed breakfast and I entered the room – yikes!  By the time I’d laid down and was chatting to the anaesthetist (I hate to think what I may have been saying but I’m sure they’ve heard it all!) I was away with the fairies.

clock-404352_640Next thing I knew, it was over and I was in recovery forcing myself to wake up through a haze and trying to work out where I was and what was going on.  I remember being cold, shivering and very thirsty but nothing much else was registering at that point.  The next thing I remember was being back in my room with a nurse buzzing around me asking how much pain I was in.  I remember smiling at her use of the word ‘pain’ which wasn’t very ‘Lightning Process’ but I felt ok and very dozy.

I can remember trying to send texts and falling asleep midway which made the whole process rather long.  When I did read some of them back later, they made no sense whatsoever so apologies to anyone who received one of those!

Later that afternoon, my sandwich and coffee arrived which by now I was really looking forward to but it was hard work eating and I gave up after a quarter – not like me at all!  The first coffee on the other hand slid down really well and I got cocky and went for a second cup – big mistake!  Needless to say I was back on water for the rest of the evening.

The next morning I felt much more awake and unaware that my most challenging day was starting.  I got my first experience of a bed bath as I was still covered in bubble gum pink coloured antiseptic – interesting look.  That was enough to motivate me to get up and about as soon as possible.

I also had started to feel the effects of the surgery as the drugs wore off and was feeling a little sorry for myself.  The physio came along to get me up and standing and taking my first steps on my new hip – I can’t tell you how scary that was to start with and my muscles in my leg felt like they had seized up completely.  Interestingly, there was absolutely no pain in my hip itself, it was like it had just been switched off, it was an amazing experience!

Little did I know getting back into bed was like climbing Everest, I just couldn’t navigate or move in the way I needed to in order to get in so I had to be assisted (it took me three days to conquer getting in and out of bed on my own).

I was hurting and felt overwhelmed by what was ahead of me, add this to the anaesthetic still in me and I felt very sorry for myself.  Later on I ended up laughing with a nurse who relayed how many people end up crying the day after an operation.

I plucked up the courage and got up for a second time later that day.  It was one of those times where every ounce of me was screaming ‘nooooooo’ but I had to dig deep and get on with it.  I’m so glad I did as it was a much better experience than my first and really helped to build my confidence.

From then on, things got much easier and I could see my improvement day by day and this was helping to keep me motivated.  Just being able to do simple things like having a shower made such a huge difference.

Another physio session and swapping my zimmer frame for crutches was great and although I wasn’t exactly fast, I certainly felt much better.

chocolate cakeAs my stay was over a bank holiday weekend, the hospital was very quiet and the nurses were fun to chat to – even the food was good, especially the huge hunk of chocolate cake that arrived with tea, I’d certainly got my appetite back!

Bank holiday Monday was a good day and I went to the gym and got to do the ‘little stairs’ in preparation for the ‘big stairs’ test that would be my ticket to my release the next day.  I even managed to get myself back into bed which was a first although to anyone watching, it certainly was not an elegant manoeuvre.

Just doing a few things resulted in me needing a rest or quick siesta and I quickly realised that I would need to be kind to myself in order to make a quick recovery.

Tuesday had arrived and I got myself up and showered and was ready early for my physio where I conquered the ‘big stairs’ and was announced physio-fit to go home.

Just the x-ray to go where I got chatting to a patient who had had a new hip last November and went skiing eight weeks later – OMG!  Not that I was planning any skiing trips, I couldn’t ski before so wasn’t banking on having picked up this new skill in hospital but it did fill me with the confidence that it wouldn’t be long before I was doing things again.  His advice was to do my exercises – I wonder if he had been planted there by the physio???

He was exactly the type of influence I needed, someone who would reinforce hope and potential in what I could achieve – thank you!

The care I received during my hospital stay; from my consultant to the nurses, physios and support staff was amazing and I’m humbled by their outstanding care and compassion for me.

Getting in the car to go home was interesting.  At nearly 6’ tall and with my height in my legs, navigating exactly how to manoeuvre myself was challenging but before long we were on our way trying to avoid the speed humps.

Nurse BellaIt was lovely to get home.  Gary had been busy and the house was sparkling and Bella was beside herself with her tail wagging ten to the dozen – what a greeting!  She kept checking up on me and putting her head on my knee which was really sweet.

My first few days home I rested most of the time as I was still tired from the anaesthetic and needed to allow my body to heal. It was odd sitting back and watching someone else do the chores I would normally do and I had to remind myself that just because things are done differently, doesn’t mean they are wrong.  I could see the improvement everyday where I was getting stronger and my exercises were getting easier.

The morning after getting home I decided to get on the scales and find out how much weight I’d dropped during my hospital stay.  To my amazement I had put on 7lbs – gutted!  I looked up the weight of my new hip and there was the reason – it hadn’t even crossed my mind that it was heavy so that was a big shock.

Ten days after my operation I was back at the hospital to have my 45 staples (it turns out that I have an exceptionally long scar – trust me to be special!) removed and it was so much easier getting in and out of the car this time.  A few days later it was back to the hospital for my physio appointment and everything was going to plan – the scar was healing well and I was getting stronger every day.

It’s now four weeks and I only need one crutch so it makes it so much easier to be independent having a hand free.  I can’t drive for another two weeks and Bella is missing her daytime walks but her buddy Henry has visited for a play date and other than that, we are having lots of games of ball in the garden to wear her out.

Looking back over the last few weeks, time has flown and I have had to learn patience, that I am not superhuman and have to allow myself time and space to heal and that I am blessed with amazing family and friends.