Thursday, April 15, 2021


So yes, they gave me a new hip. Remarkably, a week ago Monday, they had me out of surgery and on my feet within an hour... and home a couple of hours later.

I understand what they mean--those well-meaning friends, especially the ones who have experienced the same--when they say it's easy. It is. Remarkably. But the nitty-gritty truth is that it's also hard. There's a good deal of pain involved, though mine has been absolutely manageable. I took myself off the narcotic medication a couple of days after surgery without severe repercussion, and have done pretty well instead with regular doses of Tylenol. The sharp, burning pains that accompany awkward shifts in position have largely subsided now, eight days later; they have been replaced by a deeper, more persistent pain around the hip joint. None of which is surprising, given that the surgical team cut their way in through flesh and muscle, sawed off the old, grating joint, and hammered in a new, prosthetic one. Hardly the recipe for comfort.

Harder to manage is the difficulty moving and the (now decreasing!) need for help. Simple things that you normally take for granted--things like sitting down and standing up, getting in and out of bed--become huge challenges requiring inordinate amounts of time and effort, not to mention pain. To put on a pair of underpants or pants required, initially, the help of my wife, Ellie, because I had been cautioned not to bend. Within a few days I learned to operate the "grabber"--a stick that allows me to reach for things on the ground and manipulate them into place. With this, I can now once again manage to dress myself--a skill I surely learned at the age of two or three and have been doing these past 80 years without a break!

I think perhaps the hardest challenge I was confronted with in the first several days after surgery was the inability to get a decent night's sleep. Impossible, first, to even get into a comfortable position. I am used to sleeping on alternate sides; now, unable to sleep on either one and forced to attempt it on my back, I struggled to find a position where I could conquer the pain and fall asleep. This was complicated by the constant, almost hourly need to pee. I soon resorted (excuse this intimate detail!) to the use of a bottle, which filled up all too soon and left me with the need for an in-person visit to the bathroom. It was a twenty minute operation--I was about to say "ordeal"--to get myself out of bed and into the frame of my walker, across the bedroom floor to the bathroom and back and finally, painfully, inch by dreadful inch, back into bed. The first couple of nights I had to call for help from the ever-patient Ellie; but her need for sleep is no less than my own, so we found ways for me to negotiate this particular challenge without help.

It took, I'd say, about a week to be restored to some semblance of independent movement. For several days, while I could manage the stairs (fifteen of them, in our house, one at a time, right foot first, descending, left foot first ascending) I needed to have Ellie in front of me, going down, or behind me, going up, just in case I stumbled. Yesterday, for the first time, my visiting Physical Therapist conceded me the right to take on the stairs alone. And yesterday, for the first time, he helped me begin the transition from walker to cane. This morning, instead of hobbling along, I was striding along manfully with a cane! Well, at least making appreciable forward motion. So there's progress every day, increasing strength and mobility and decreasing pain. It's truly remarkable.

So yes, I have much to be grateful for. First for Kaiser and its orthopedic surgical team, who were brilliant from start to finish--from the people in the prep room, to the anesthesiologists and the surgical gang, to those in the recovery area who woke me up and got me on my feet. Everyone was kind, without being patronizing, respectful, appropriately informative, and efficient. I have nothing but good words for these dedicated people. And then there's Ellie, who has been with me all the way, supportive and loving, working twice as hard as usual--and that's a lot!--to keep up with things around the house and at the same time cater to my reluctant but unavoidable needs. At a time when I needed a trusty guardian angel, I had one close to hand. 

The improvement continues, the strength continues to return. I keep busy with my prescribed exercises and, under Ellie's watchful eye, take walks on the street outside our house. Today I learned how to navigate another of those tasks we perform every day without a second thought: getting in and out of the car. I have applied for a handicapped parking placard, and look forward to getting out and about before too long. I know it will be a while before I return to "normal", but at least I know I'm on the way!


Marie Smith said...

It is good to hear of your progress, Peter. You are doing well by the sound of it with so many people to be thankful for, especially Ellie!

robin andrea said...

This is such wonderful news, Peter. Love reading of your progress. It's so good to have such loving support from Ellie. Yay!

Barbara from Boston said...

Thank you Peter for such an honest detailed account of your road to recovery . As someone who may face a hip replacement in the future I find it comforting . Sending healing thoughts to you and Ellie.

Peter Clothier said...

Thank you Marie, and thank you Robin. And Barbara, I can't tell if that surgery is imminent or just a distant possibility. In either case, as I note in my blog entry today, it pays to be be prepared in body and mind! Sent with good thoughts, Peter