Day 1 post op – Free Willy
A new day, and one step closer to hip replacement recovery. First things first – my porridge, which was the best I’d ever tasted. Or so I thought at the time, but perhaps I was just hungry. After I’d finished this, plus my toast and two cups of tea (take that, bladder) I noticed that the nursing staff had changed back again, and S was once more in charge of me. This fact increased my desire to get out of there, and into my room. So that is what happened.
Things became much more civilised very quickly. I had my own TV, which I tuned immediately to the BBC to catch up on all the Olympics action. Plus, the internet connection was stronger – as was I. Today was to be the day I got out of bed.
First, though, I needed to be rid of my catheter. A nurse came in with a student close behind. This student appeared to have a particular interest in catheter removal, and she was keen to have a go on me. Just my luck that the most attractive ward employee so far should be the one to see me at my absolute worst. But I didn’t care; I just wanted it out. And out it came, slippery and writhing like a lasso. Grrmph.
Tea, bath, pants
Next up – another brew plus biscuits. I was really enjoying the constant supply of caffeine and carbohydrates, and I thought the catering staff were great. I’m sorry for asking them to help me pick up the dropped remote control, but it was an emergency.
Then – a bed bath. I’ve heard about these so I was initially apprehensive, but I needn’t have worried, as I was neither in bed nor offered a bath. Instead, I was helped into a chair (a big moment, although not marked by any special ceremony), relieved of my gown, and offered a towel to cover what was left of my modesty. Finally, I was given the bathing choice: they do it, or I do it. Given that my arms were in perfect working order, I did it myself.
Side note – the paper underpants I’d been issued the day before were nowhere to be seen. Stolen, I assume. But by way of compensation the thief had left me with a pair of compression stockings, which I still wear proudly today.
Getting dressed in proper clothes was a different prospect; there was no way I would have been able to put on a pair of trousers by myself. The care staff helped me out without embarrassing either themselves or me in any way. I had to admire their skill. They also got busy tidying up my room and unpacking my bag, which was something I would have done myself on arrival if I hadn’t been more concerned with writing a blog that no-one would read. It turned out that I’d forgotten my toiletries, by the way. My poor anxious brain had prepared them but not packed them. Idiot!
X ray, physio
They left me then in my chair, then, ready for the next visitor – Agnes from x-ray. Agnes was the instant winner of my Most Cheerful Nurse prize, and she made the process an easy pleasure. Not that you have to do much when it comes to having an x ray; the less you do the better, in fact. I didn’t see the image myself, but Agnes confirmed that an artificial hip joint was indeed in place, and I was now officially bionic. Armed with this exciting news I was wheeled back to my room.
And who should be there waiting for me but my dad, along with his wife and their son. I was very pleased to see them, and their visit ticked all the right boxes: it was meaningful but not too long, it didn’t interrupt any important meetings (with physiotherapists, for example), and it involved the giving of gifts. In this case the gifts were some golf balls (new), some aerosol deodorant (full but not new) and some shower gel (neither full nor new). But almost before I had a chance to inspect and quantify the shower gel, they left, and I was alone once more.
But not for long – I barely had time to catch the news headlines before the physios came in. I’d been looking forward to their visit so that was OK by me. And they didn’t mess about. There were two of them with but one agenda – to get out me of bed and walking around.
This I did – first with a walker, and then with crutches, and the whole thing felt weird. Even at my worst I have always been able to move my legs, but right now I couldn’t do that, in certain directions anyway. Obviously there is no way in surgery to get to the hip region without causing some damage, and that damage takes the form of reducing the power of certain leg muscles to almost zero. Hence I needed quite a lot of help to move around at first, and even now, a week later, I’m only just beginning to get this ability back. It’s more frustrating than painful, but you work around it. I use my arms to lift my legs in and out of bed more than I should, I think. Anyway, I was up. I shuffled out of my door and into the wide world beyond. I was free!
A short-lived freedom, of course. As soon as I’d reached the nurses’ station (about 10 yards) they turned me around and headed me back to bed, job done.
The surgeon again
I had one final visitor that day – my surgeon. Once again his visit was brief and matter-of-fact. He was pleased with how the surgery had gone and reported that my hip was one of the worst he had ever seen, with so little cartilage that it resembled an ivory ball. This is exactly why I had wanted to keep it, of course. The angle of my pelvis meant that he had put in a cemented polyethylene cup instead of the ceramic one that he’d been planning, which would have matched the ball. So an opportunity for symmetry missed there. On the plus side he confirmed that there was plenty enough metal in me to set off airport alarms, and he finished by saying that I was free to go the following day, subject to all the other health professionals being satisfied at my progress. Great news.
The rest of the day passed without much more to report. I ate food, I drank tea, I moved from the bed to the chair and back again, and I activated my previously-catheterised frontal sphincter (I assume this is the technical term). And thank goodness for the Olympics! I watched it all.
At 9pm the nurses changed shift again. Bonus – it was J from the night before. I wasted no time in requesting tea and toast, and she delivered – not buttered this time, but otherwise just as good. I fell asleep with crumbs on my pillow and a smile on my face, two things that are generally forbidden at home.
Day 2 post-op. Home.
I had another good night’s sleep and woke up to my repeat order of porridge and toast. Boring, I know, but I was craving routine (and porridge).
My main aim for the day was to get home; I’d had enough hospital stuff by now, fun though it was. But before they’d let me go I had to have an acceptable blood pressure score, and pass the stairs test.
This particular hospital is basically a massive bungalow, and has no structural stairs it can call its own. Instead, it has a mini portable 3-step staircase to nowhere, publicly situated in the middle of the main corridor. This is where I headed with Steve, physio number 3.
No problem. Up and down I went. In case you need to know how it’s done, here is the secret formula: good goes up to Heaven, bad goes down to Hell. In other words – lead with your non-operated leg when going upstairs, and lead with your weaker one when going down. And hold both crutches in the opposite hand. Easy peasy.
Then back to the room, to have a go at the exercises that I need to do 4 times a day for the rest of my life (or for 3 months, whichever comes sooner). This was more of a problem, because I started feeling faint after the first set. I tried again but it was no good, and I had to get back in my bed, annoyed and worried that I might have to spend another night in. Steve was less concerned, having seen it all before, and said that he’d send his colleague over later in the day to try again. He then wrote up his observations in my green folder. When he’d gone I tried to read his notes myself but I could understand literally no words. He might as well have been writing in Chinese.
Lunch was great. A superfood salad that I only vaguely remember having ordered, followed by ice cream. That’s more like it!
The home straight
The afternoon brought a different set of nurses again. I had a sitting-down shower, which was very welcome, and it was at this point that I realised I had been less clean than at any point in the last 40 years. I was ashamed, but I felt considerably better afterwards.
Then blood pressure and pulse rate again, and my cannula was removed. Another blessed relief for me!
Finally, the replacement physio came in to repeat the tests. I liked this one – she had been there at my pre-op. And this time I passed the tests with ease. Apart from a bit of paperwork, I was good to go.
Things moved quickly from then on. I called my lovely sister who had given up some of her holiday to help out, and she came along in her big car. A new nurse brought a wheelchair, and I sat down. My sister followed behind as I was wheeled back to the main entrance and out in to the car park, and a bit of contortionism later I was comfortable in the passenger seat. The nurse closed the door, and at last I was on my way home, Vauxhall style, ready for my new life.
Update: I had my second hip replaced a few months later. Here’s the link.