Episode 4 – hip replacement number 2

Introduction to the second hip

I’m working from home today.  More accurately – I’m sitting at home feeling like I should be working, but I can’t actually be bothered.  A couple of hours’ research on various relevant forums reveals that procrastination like this is pretty normal at this stage because the body is busy healing itself, and boring stuff like work admin is very much a secondary consideration for it.

But what are these forums, Matt?  Why is your body busy healing itself?  ARE YOU OK????

Don’t panic!  The answer is that I had my second hip replacement surgery last Friday.  In surgical terms, this is Day 6.   In Gregorian terms, it’s Thursday 25th May 2017.

It’s about time I wrote an update on my adventures.

Maybe you’ve read my previous blog entries (starting here), which were to do with my first hip replacement – the left.  And if you HAVE read the other blogs, you’ll no doubt be expecting more of the same.  But wait!  There were significant differences between the two experiences.  Read on.

Background

First – some brief background.

Both left and right hips have been giving me problems for ages.  On paper, they looked similar.  Crap, in other words.  Advanced osteoarthritis.  In practice, the left was worse, so that’s the one that was operated on first – 9 months ago, in August 2016.  This what it looks like now:

For some time after this, the right one behaved itself very well – up to the point where the left overtook it in terms of strength and ability to walk.  After that, its shortcomings were exposed for all to see – and for me to experience.

Most of the people who found out I was to have this operation were surprised – and made no effort to hide it.  You’re not even limping! was one comment.  You should have a look at MY hips!  No thanks – although I can recommend at least one good surgeon if you seriously want them viewed by someone.

But they had a point – the symptoms could have been worse.  I could function OK pottering around the house or the office, but serious acrobatics were way beyond me.  Indeed, I could only walk a certain distance before the hip started to give me major problems.  And the pain would wake me up at night.

I know that other people have it far worse than this, so I’m fortunate that I had a choice (via my wife’s private health insurance).  It’s selfish, I know, but I wanted a life free of these painful restrictions.  My dream is to get back to some proper long-distance walking.

Anyway – there was no doubt that my hip was a candidate for this procedure.  The first surgeon as good as told me that any time I fancied having the operation, all I had to do was shine a silhouette of a pelvis into the night sky, and he’d be there, knife at the ready.

So in April this year, that’s what I did.

The surgeon

I didn’t really shine a silhouette of a pelvis into the night sky, of course.  The torch on my ageing Samsung is nowhere near bright enough for this.  I took the more mundane route, which was to ring my surgeon’s secretary to see if he was available.

But – disaster!  For him, and more importantly for me.  He’d only gone and broken his shoulder in a skiing accident!   His secretary was most critical of his antics, implying that he deserved every moment of pain and inconvenience for being so foolhardy as to take to his skis while in her secretarial care.

I felt some sympathy for the man; after all, the whole point of going for surgery in the first place is to be able to lead a more active life, doing things like this.  And accepting the risks.

Having said that, skiiing is never going to be a realistic option for me, as I’ve never done it before and I’d be guaranteed to fall over dozens of times before beginning to become in any way proficient.  And falling over dozens of times in a day is incompatibale with long-term hip replacement health.

I used to enjoy running, and I held a number of unofficial running records when at school.  I seem to remember this.  I was often the best at running around the block, anyway – which was a regular school challenge back in the day.   But I’m resigned to the sad truth that I’ll never do that again either.

Anyway!  I had to go with a different surgeon, or wait an unknown length of time for someone else’s shoulder to heal.  And I wasn’t sure I wanted to be his first case back after a shoulder break.

Doing research on surgeons isn’t as simple as reading reviews on Amazon.  For a start, they don’t advertise on Amazon.  Secondly there’s no real equivalent to Tripadvisor for hip surgeons (although there should be.  Hipadvisor is the obvious name for this).

You can find out how many people they’ve killed compared to national averages, and you can check that they’re actually registered as a surgeon, but beyond that there’s very little you can do.  It’s a bit of a leap of faith.

So I took the leap (metaphorical), and made an appointment with surgeon number 2; I’ll call him Mr H.  He was great!  Interested in me, had looked at my notes in advance, was originally from the North West. We clicked at once, and agreed on a second date.

Preparation

I spent the next few weeks trying to walk as much as possible, and was frequently dismayed to find that my hip wasn’t as bad as I’d expected it to be by now.  But some of the other days were much worse, which reassured me again.

Complacency was a bit of a danger.  Since I’d done the other one relatively recently I think I thought that I knew it all.  But I’d forgotten loads about it!

First things first: the pre-op.  I knew that I needed to do some preparation for this because last time my blood pressure had been too high, and I’d had to have another go at my local doctor’s surgery later that same week in order to pass the test.  I think I’d been affected by ‘white coat syndrome’.  So this time I prepared well in advance.  I didn’t drink anything for a week beforehand, I did deep breathing exercises, I lost a few ounces of weight.  And it worked!  My BP was fine.

I learned a few things this second time around.  One is that you don’t have to have your chest hair shaved for the ECG if you don’t want to.  You just ask them not to do it.  Easy!  I wonder how many other unnecessary procedures are as easily swerved.

Interesting fact: most of the nurses were going out together on a hen do that weekend.  This made me pleased that my surgery was scheduled for the following Friday.  Nurses are legendary drinkers, but even the most accomplished medically-qualified booze hound would struggle to make a hangover last for a full working week.

Two pieces of advice stick in my memory.   I was instructed to on no account shave my hip.  The idea had honestly never occurred to me!  Also –  if I received a blood transfusion between now and the day of the surgery, I must tell them all about it.  I duly promised to do this.  It’s not the kind of thing I would be likely to forget.

Then the physio arrived, and we talked about the elephant in the room – the brand new raised toilet seat that just happened to be there, pristine in its box and leaning against the wall.  If they thought I hadn’t spotted it, they were wrong.  And I was ready.  They offered it – and I refused, because the one I was given the last time is still perfectly functional.  Apparently, lots of people turn this down too!  Chest hair retaining, toilet set avoiding.  It turns out that British people are less compliant than I thought.  This steeled my resolve, and I decided then and there to be a maverick inpatient when the time came around.

Blood

The final hurdle was to have a blood test.  I was instructed to sit in a chair in the corridor, to wait.  I picked up a boring magazine with a target readership of the nearly dead, and was relieved to be joined soon after by another person – a man wheeling a load of boxes on a trolley.   He wanted access to the same room that I did.  A rival!  But with a different agenda.  He stopped at the closed door, and knocked.  There was no reply.  He waited.  After about a minute, I told him that I thought that I had seen someone going into that room just before I sat down, and I encouraged him to try again.  He did, knocking very loudly.  He shouted, too.  And when there was still no answer I believe that he thought I had been winding him up.  I agree that only a very deaf person could have failed to hear his efforts.  He gave me a funny look, and sat down to wait – for what, I wasn’t sure.  I offered to take responsibility for his trolley if he wanted to go about his business somewhere else, but he wasn’t keen. This slightly awkward situation came to an end a few minutes later, when the same door opened and the blood test lady came out and looked surprised to see us both.

The trolley was pushed into the room, and I followed it, ready for the procedure.

I don’t enjoy blood tests, so I deal with them by practising the denial method (self-taught) which involves turning my head the other way and thinking of something else. It’s usually quite easy to think of something else, because they sit you in a giant plastic throne designed for maximum discomfort, and angled so that you’re at constant risk of tipping forwards onto your face.  If you faint before the needle goes in, this risk will become reality, and they can just catch some of the blood that’s spilling from your cut forehead.

I didn’t faint, but there was a new horror this time – I could actually hear my blood spurting into the bottles.  It was a nauseating sound, and it made me think that I need to refine my technique in future, perhaps by singing the national anthem in order to drown out the noise.  I’ll give this some thought.

And then the pre-op was over, and I could now begin to look forward to the operation itself.

If you’re interested, hold tight for the next episode.

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