So one month ago today I had surgery on my hip. Actually, I had full hip joint replacement surgery. This is what I know…
My adventure began with some minor pain in my groin. I noticed some stiffness and a little bit of pain when I was reaching down to tie my left shoe or clip my toenails. Nothing major. I was still biking every day and running when I wanted to. The only other sign that there was trouble in paradise was that when I would walk the dog the long strides I took trying to keep up with Enzo would cause my hip to hurt slightly when we were done walking.
I decided to go in and see my doc. My hope was that I’d be sent to physical therapy, I’d do my exercises and life would be good. Wow, I really missed the diagnosis on this one.
I went in to see the doc, explained my pain, the symptoms and whatnot and next thing you know I’m on a cold table getting x-rays. No big deal as I realize this is a key tool in diagnosing problems, but it just wasn’t part of the “Dane Plan.” The x-ray shows some bone spurs, damage to the cartilage and definite lack of cartilage in the joint. Yeah, not good. The thought was that there was some normal wear and tear, but also some damage from days gone by.
After reviewing the x-ray the Orthopedics staff provided me with the following 4 treatment options:
- Take Ibuprofen: This is normal wear and tear and with a little pain relief (and some balls) I should be just fine for the foreseeable future. The only issue here is that when things stop working it happens in a heartbeat. This can be very effective one day and completely useless the next.
- Silicone Injections: I could have silicone injected into the joint to provide some lubrication between the ball and socket. While these injections only last a few months they’ve proven effective for short-term relief.
- Contouring or Resurfacing: This would involve a surgical procedure where they would go in and grind down the bone spurs. This would help in the short-term as it would prevent further damage to the cartilage and provide a smoother surface (less pain), but cartilage does not regenerate so this surgery is not a permanent solution.
- Hip Joint Replacement: Yes, actually replace the hip joint. My first reaction was this was a very extreme response. No need to replace the joint when I was having pain my tying my shoes and clipping my nails. Overreaction.
I decided to learn more about the various treatment options. I went to a class at Meriter Hospital (Meriter Unity Point) to get additional info. Over the course of the three hour class I began to lean toward the total hip replacement. I wouldn’t say they were trying to convince me or steer me in that direction, but they made some good points.
My initial thought on treatment was to go with resurfacing, but the replacement option made more sense because:
- resurfacing requires surgery, but is not permanent which means I’d need surgery again at some point
- my initial thoughts on the replacement recovery time (my guess = 6 months to 1 year) were off
- I’m a great candidate now as I’m “youngish” for the procedure and in decent shape from biking
- joint replacement surgery was a solution versus a stop gap procedure
When I got home I read through some additional information they’d handed out at the class. I don’t want to say I felt like they were pushing me to have the replacement, but it was pretty obvious what the people running the class thought I should be doing.
They kept referring to me as a ‘great’ candidate for the surgery. In the spectrum of people who have hip surgery I was on the younger end. I was in pretty good shape so the surgery would be less traumatic for my body and I would also be in a better position to recover.
I took a few days and after careful thought, some back and forth discussion with Lindsey, I decided to do it.
I’m not going to say the surgery was easy, but really all I had to do was get myself to the hospital. Yes, I was a little spooked, but they knocked me out and when I woke up I was suppose to be a new man. Well, at least I was a guy with a shiny new titanium and porcelain hip joint worth about $7M (price adjusted for inflation).
It was a few hours after surgery that I could finally feel my feet. They really put the whammy to me in knocking me out, but that’s exactly what I wanted.
Once I was awake they wanted me up and around. I guess movement is a key to not getting blood clots and apparently they’re the worst thing in the world (if you’re not drinking them at a bar). I was up right away, but still nauseous from the anesthetic. I actually fainted once, but thankfully Lindsey and a nurse were there to catch me and make sure I was back on the bed.
Later than night I gave things a go again and did much better this time. I took a few steps and while I wasn’t feeling 100%, but it wasn’t too bad.
Because of the way the surgery was done the patient is able to put his/her full weight on the leg immediately after surgery. I haven’t looked on YouTube for a video of the surgery, but I’m sure if you were interested you could Google “hip joint replacement anterior” you’ll find what you need.
Where am I at?
At this point I’m well on my way to full recovery. Well, I hope full recovery. I have a check-in with Dr. Anderson at the 6 week point, but things appear to be going well.
I’m back on my bike and riding to work again. Yes, it’s a little painful, but the physical therapy has been very helpful and I’ve been very diligent in doing my exercises. I still don’t have complete range of motion and I do have a tiny bit of stiffness or swelling in my hip. Aside from struggling to get my sock on my left foot… things are good.
Considering that this wasn’t exactly “outpatient” surgery and I’m only a month out… things are really good. I may have to dial down my expectations as according to the doc (who loves my optimism) the recovery on this procedure is 3-6 months. I told him “UNACCEPTABLE”, but it didn’t seem to phase him.
In all seriousness things are moving along very nicely. I have times when it’s difficult to get comfortable and I need to get up and move around, but as I said, considering we’re at the one month mark I think things are good.
What I’ve Learned
So after having gone through the process here is what I’ve learned and what I would share with anyone considering a hip replacement surgery:
- How Can I Avoid Surgery? It appears to me that normal wear and tear and age certainly play a large part in when people need hip and knee replacements. However, another common thread that seems to be a factor is being overweight. When I was at the information class and then at the hospital I don’t believe I noticed anyone that was in good shape. Not even fair shape. I say this as someone who has battled weight issues my entire life and was significantly overweight until about age 25. Bottom line… if you want to avoid excessive wear and tear on your body, joints, etc do yourself a favor and stay in shape.
- Recovering From Surgery: Want to recover more quickly? Make your recovery more manageable and less painful? Start working out before you go in for surgery. Don’t be the person who says they’ll use the surgery as a way to get in shape. Believe me, you’ll have all the physical activity you can handle recouping from surgery. Trying to shed a few pounds is just piling on.
- Do your PT! I realize that physical therapy is not fun. It is actually quite the opposite. Boring, repetitous and actually quite painful. For me it’s an issue of flexibility. The strength seems to be there, but some of the muscles just don’t want to stretch the way they need to at the surgery site. This makes things a little challenging on the bike and during some everyday movements.
- Listen to the Health Care Professionals: When I was in the class learning more about my options the nurses told people over and over to prepare themselves for the day they come home from the hospital. They had all kinds of advice about where to store groceries. What kind of chair to have. How you were going to sleep and use the bathroom. Basically, they wanted to make you aware of all the different things you currently take for granted that are going to be difficult after surgery. They want you to plan for the the everyday activities you’re going to struggle to do.I’ve had a very good experience, but for those who are older, heavier and maybe not in the right frame of mind I can see this type of surgery being life changing. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for folks who are not as fortunate as I have been.
- Don’t Wait! Your hip or knee or whatever is not getting better while you put off surgery. I understand nobody wants to go under the knife and then face a long rehab, but make the decision… get it over with. Just do it! Waiting will not make things better.