Like any life experience that requires endurance whether physical or emotional, the memories of the experience fade as we adapt to whatever is our new lot. When I told a friend that I didn't want to forget what I have recently endured, she said, "But isn't that normal, to forget pain, as when women forget the pain of childbirth?"
When I said that I didn't want to forget, what I meant was that I didn't want to ever again take for granted the ability to walk, to lift my grandchild, to carry a bag of groceries, and even to put on a pair of socks. When we cannot do what we have always been able to do, life changes radically. When a hip joint breaks down, this is what happens.
In my case, a sometime-in-the-future surgical repair, if it came to that, would be available. I knew this. Mind you, I did everything I possibly could to avoid surgery. There was not a joint health supplement (and there are many) that I didn't try, nor an exercise I didn't do that was promised to help relieve the pain and disfunction of osteoarthritis of the hip. For two years I kept trying, reading, hoping for my body to not fail me. It never had before. Increasing doses of ibuprofen were the only thing that helped for a while.
Note the crooked woman in the piece of die-cut German ephemera above. I looked like this (minus the bat and the cat!) just a few weeks ago. An empathetic, relieved friend of mine created this little card for me after my surgery. Since the day two years ago when she noticed my limp and occasional stumbles as we walked around Greenlake together, she had worried about my hip and the future of our shared adventures. After all, since the age of 17 when we hitchhiked around Germany and later Eurailpassed all over Europe, we have taken our mobility for granted. We are both hearty, active souls.
When the day came last July that I couldn't safely walk without support, it was this very friend who offered me a cane and a pair of crutches that had been stashed away, "for when we get old." Ack! Apparently that day had come for me! A few days later, I had an x-ray (my second) taken. There was an unequivocal evaluation: severe osteoarthritis with the possibility of avascular necrosis. OMG. This is the death of tissue as a result of lack of blood flow. There was one solution: a total hip replacement, period. So I relented. I let go. Three weeks later I met with a surgeon and saw my pitiful hip in the x-ray. Not surprisingly, it hurt even more after I saw how the ball of my femur was no longer spherical, but amorphous. The pelvic bone looked like a lunar surface because cysts were blooming all around the femur head. Just ugly. My poor hip. I was stunned. At that point, I couldn't wait for surgery. I was ready right then and there.
But there was a problem. After the consultation with this surgeon, I unexpectedly felt that he was not the right one for me. This surgery, my first ever, was to be a big deal; after all, I was going to "lose my bones" and have a prosthesis forever inside my body. My gut reaction was that I needed a different, more experienced, more...je ne sais quoi surgeon. After awkwardly saying this much to him, I sat kind of stunned in that consultation room then slowly, painfully arose from my chair. I walked with effort to the lobby and sat down. I needed to research the other surgeons available to me, so I went home to do this. I selected two others in this orthopedic group and called for an appointment. After waiting another five long weeks (it was summertime, and these were evidently popular surgeons) I returned to the clinic and waited in that same room for the second surgeon. Well, within the first minute of this consultation, I knew he was the right doctor. Dr. W. Oh sweet relief.
It was hard to wait another 8 weeks for surgery. I no longer felt safe walking across the street to get our mail. November 13 finally arrived. I opted for the anterior, or frontal, approach (less common than posterior). Dr. W offered both. From the time I first got out of the hospital bed my walking was better than it had been just the day before. In spite of the discomforts that go with surgery and hospitalization, I was euphoric. Dr. W was very happy with the x-ray taken immediately after surgery. Some weeks later, an acquaintance said, "I wouldn't have had the courage to have that surgery." Courage? It took no courage at all. I tell people that I had no rational choice. It was either eventually live in a wheel chair or have surgery. A no-brainer.
My recovery was rapid. I was religious about doing my in-hospital and post-surgery exercises. I can't imagine being more motivated to recover. Two physical therapists were highly complimentary; one even called my condition at 6 days after surgery as "a miracle." See? I knew I picked the right surgeon! Plus, I really worked at doing all the right things to prepare myself. I read a lot, talked to people who had had this surgery, and I had fabulous support, good food, and prayers from family and friends.
At six weeks, I had my first check-up with my surgeon. So special to me was this meeting with Dr. W that I even wore a new dress. Overflowing with gratitude, I had written down what I wanted to say to him in case I became weepy. When I arrived at the clinic my new hip was x-rayed again. I was led to the office and waited for Dr. W. The door opened, and in he walked, beaming. He handed me a copy of my x-ray. My jaw dropped. I had a sculpture in my body! Indeed, I lost some bone, but in its place was a titanium and porcelain creation that has returned so, so much to me. Further, I was awed to have Dr. W tell me that my bones had already knitted to the surfaces of my sculpture within. We were bonded. I'll never see the kinetic artwork inside of me except for in the photo below, but not one day will go by in my life that I don't feel deep gratitude toward it and toward the man who installed it. Before surgery, I told people that struggling with my hip disease was like living a bad dream. And now, I have awakened from it!