Episode 5 – the full set

Fast forward a week, and it was Thursday night.  I checked my list, packed my bag, and decided to have a very late night.  The reason?  I wasn’t allowed to eat or drink less than 6 hours before check-in time, which was 7 o’clock the following morning.  So I stayed up until 1am, stuffing my face.

The next morning dawned bright, clear, and far too quickly.  I had the condemned man’s shower, using the special sponge pictured below, and got into the car.  Not my car, but the car that belongs to my friend Jimmy, who happened to be travelling a similar route to mine at the same unearthly time.  A fortunate coincidence, and one that saved me a £25 taxi fare.

My wife would have given me a lift, but she had a logistically impossible child preparation and school run situation to contend with; besides, she was saving up all her good deeds and sympathy for after the surgery.

I arrived early, but the waiting area was already full.  I walked unaided to the reception desk, exaggerating my limp so that I didn’t feel so much of a fraud, and announced myself.  The receptionist looked down the list, failed to find my name, and asked me to repeat what I had said.  Seriously?  How many operations does this tiny hospital do in a day?  In the end, she found me on a completely different piece of paper, and invited me to sit down.  There was no time for this, though; the next escort was already there, to take us all to our rooms.

This is where the déjà vu begins for real, and it’s also where I start skipping bits.  If you want a reminder of the detail, have a re-read of my previous blogs.

Better to concentrate on the differences.  This time my room was a mirror image of the first one, although identical in every other respect.

Important difference: when the surgeon came in to see me, he drew an arrow on my right leg instead of my left, and in black felt tip this time, instead of blue.

And I was first up!  I called my wife, who had planned to see me off, and told her the news.  There was no time for her to visit before I went under, because of the school drop, so she heroically offered to do some shopping and maybe have herself a coffee to fill in those anxious hours before we were to meet again in the step-down ward.

So I was by myself, but with no time to dwell on it.  I was asked if I’d shaved my hip. No. I was asked if I’d received a blood transfusion.  No.

The anaesthetist come in, and asked what had happened the first time around.  I told him what I remembered, he compared what I said to my notes, and pronounced that he’d be doing exactly the same.  Copying, in other words.  Where’s the creativity in that?  He was a droll chap.  ‘Don’t start without me!’ he quipped on his way out.

The whole thing went quickly from then on.  I was given an epidural to numb my lower half, which worked almost instantly.  They then started the sedative down the cannula, and asked me what I would normally be doing at this time on a Friday morning.  Before I had a chance to think of something witty to say in response, I was asleep.

After

Two hours later, I was still alive.  I celebrated by looking at my feet, which were once again encased in the unfashionable but functional squeeze shoes that guard against you getting a DVT.  I wouldn’t choose to wear them on a night out (a night in is a different story) but I was grateful that they were there.  And I could actually feel them working, which indicated to me that the effects of the epidural were already wearing off.  This in turn gave me hope that I might not need a catheter this time around, which had been one of my main concerns.

A couple of medical visitors later, I was transferred to the step-down ward, where all the recent surgery patients are stored until they can be trusted to sleep in a room by themselves.  A 24-hour stay, usually.  This room was incredibly familiar to me.  I was in the exact same bed space, too.  The only one with a window, as far as I could tell.

Back to catheters.  I had assumed that the quick recovery from the anaesthetic would give me a swift pass to urinary freedom.  But no!  I still had to prove my ability.

The young nurse in charge of me was desperate to put a catheter in, even though I was producing what I thought was a generous portion.  Apparently, there was still some left after I thought I’d finished.  Big deal!  I’d given her the best part of a litre!

After persuading her to grant me an extension to try again, I passed the test with relative ease half an hour later.  It was a close shave though.  Closer than the shave that I didn’t give my hip.

What is it about newly qualified nurses and catheters?  They’re obsessed.

Then my wife arrived, no kids though.  It was great to see her, although I wasn’t the best company.  I kept falling asleep, in fact.  Incredibly rude, I know, and normally when I do this she bops me on the nose.  She brought me a magazine, and some tasty chocolate.

And then she was gone.  I’d only been asleep a few seconds!  But she’d warned me that this might happen, as it was school pickup time.  I leafed through the magazine and felt relieved that I didn’t have the same nurse as last time, despite the current one’s bladder obsession.  But then I spied her!  I don’t think she recognised me, even though I was wearing exactly the same outfit as last time (embarrassing).

She was looking after my neighbour, John, instead.  I heard her giving him a hard time about using his phone to call his wife.  Risking exposure, I shouted through the curtain that he shouldn’t worry about it and should carry on with his call.  I then hid my face behind my magazine and pretended it hadn’t been me.

Then my wife returned, along with my daughters, who were much more interested in my chocolate than they were in my well-being.  The surgeon visited while they were there, and the children both became totally mute, as often happens when confronted by any kind of stranger.  I suppose this is a good thing, in moderation.

Mr H has a very good bedside manner, and he gave me a summary of the operation.  Terrible, no cartilage, had to remove loads of bone, blah blah blah.  They all say this.  But then he gave me some real news: he told me that I could drive whenever I felt ready – although probably not before 2 weeks.  This was a life-changing development!  The previous surgeon had told me that 6 weeks was the absolute minimum.

As a side note – I now have ceramic on ceramic on my right side, which is known to be the hardest-wearing combination of materials, but with the fairly common side effect that you might squeak when walking.  This hasn’t happened yet, thank goodness.  In other news – I notice that our house now has an infestation of mice.

That first night passed without too much incident.  The overnight nurse was the same as last time too.  Lovely, but prone to talking about her side business in photography.  In fact, she’s leaving nursing to do this on a full-time basis.  I hope she didn’t photograph me in my sleep.  I don’t think I was an attractive sight – or sound.  Next morning’s observation chart made frequent mention of my snoring.

Evacuation time

The following morning the whole ward was evacuated, ready for the next lot, I expect.  I waved to John on my way out, and he gave me the thumbs up – grateful, no doubt, for my moral support the day before.  It just shows that a curtain divider is no barrier to inter-generational friendship.

Then I was back in my own room.  I spent the day trying and failing to wean myself off the painkillers, reading, falling asleep, watching tv, speaking to nurses, and generally having a lazy time.  At one point I woke up to find that my lunch had been delivered while my eyes had been closed.

It was cottage pie, and fruit.  I had no memory of ordering this, although I was glad I had, and the act of eating it was so exhausting that I fell straight asleep as soon as I’d finished it.  And when I woke up the tray had been cleared away!

Who was this mystery waiter?  I’ll never know.

The second night was uneventful, because I was doped up on heavy-duty painkillers again.  They don’t half help you sleep.

Day 2

My plan all along had been to go home on day 2, so I made sure that I passed all the tests that came my way.  Walking with a zimmer – check.  Have a shower – check.  Check blood pressure – check.

The final test was to persuade the physiotherapist that I was capable of moving around on crutches, and up and down the stairs.  I think my previous experience was helpful, because I achieved all this with ease.  The physio was so impressed with my performance that he spent almost as much time writing up my notes as he did assessing my ability to do the step test.  It wasn’t worth it though, as what he wrote was almost totally illegible.

If anyone can interpret these hieroglyphics, please let me know what they say.

Finally, though, I was to be allowed home.  I was released at 4pm, and now I’m at the start of another new life, this time with beautifully symmetrical scars – and with the ability to play 80s electro pop dance tunes by walking sideways through airport metal detectors.

Advice

If you are thinking of going for a hip replacement operation, I hope this blog been helpful to you.  Here are a few final tips:

  • Your biggest problem after surgery isn’t pain – it’s gravity.  Every time you move, there it is.  And if you lean your crutches against anything, which you will, you can be sure that Mother Earth will snatch them to her bosom the instant your back is turned.  And the long-handled grabber is useless in this situation, because it’s always in a different room.
  • Online forums can be helpful, and amusing.  One person anticipating the op referred to it as ‘evasive surgery’.  Believe me – it’s far from evasive.
  • They advise you to ‘secure all loose rugs etc around your home’.  I ignored this advice and came very close to dislocating the new hip at one point, when I planted one of my crutches onto a loose rug, and almost went flying.  If the surgeon had heard about this he would have repossessed my hip!
  • If anyone offers you a ‘freedom wand’, make sure you know what you’re letting yourself in for.  I didn’t need this, but the forums tell me that it’s a useful bit of kit. https://www.freedomwand.com/

Congratulations – at last, you’ve reached the end!  I’m sure you will join me in hoping that this will be my last hip replacement blog for at least 20 years.

So long, suckas!

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