Saturday, September 25, 2004

Sept. 25: What news, Horatio?

I went to see my surgeon for the six-week check-up five days ago. It was a damn good thing that I had some idea in advance of what he would say.

My X-rays looked great. The bone and the prosthesis seem to be bonding well. My surgeon asked how I felt and I responded positively. He smiled, looked skyward and said, "Thank you, G-d." Then he merrily slapped me with another six weeks non-weight bearing. Any slight chance of a problem is too big a chance for him to take. Obviously, his god-complex was severely shaken by what happened to me. Now, he really seems to be looking to a higher power. It's just a shame that that higher power had to choose me to teach HIM a lesson.

When I went to the secretary to book my appointment, she could only offer me a 5-week or a 7-week appointment. Needless to say, I chose five weeks. By the time I get to test out my new hip, I will have spent three months without putting any weight on that leg. A frustrating wait (weight?).

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Sept. 14: Dealing With Anger and Helplessness

I'm still processing what might be. I'm sure others would say to me that it's not worth worrying over something that may or may not come to pass. Sorry, that's just not my style. I need to process the ramifications of not starting to walk before Oct. 20. If I start before that, so much the better, but I need to think it through now.

Actually, although I have already come up with a few practical coping strategies, my first order of business is dealing with anger and helplessness.

ANGER: Before the problem with my hip replacement was identified, I was consumed with anger at my surgeon. I had gone in for surgery to correct a problem and come out with a much more severe disability. I felt pure, unadulterated, raw hatred towards my surgeon. I felt that in large part it was his arrogance that was to blame for what happened to me. As soon as the surgeon acknowledged the problem and apologized for causing it, both he and I changed our tunes. He showed great professional concern for my situation and impressed upon me that he was fully committed to correcting the problem. I, in turn, felt much more positive towards him and relatively confident that he would keep his promise. As soon as the second surgery was over, however, he reverted to type. He flew in and out of the room, taking just enough time to admire his handiwork and admonish me to not break any of the post-op rules. When I raised the issue of excruciating pain in my knee several times, he became downright surly. His last words to me on day 6 or 7 post-op were, "I don't know what [the knee pain] it is. It'll go away." With that, he left the room. I have not seen him since. My next appointment with him is in 8 days.

HELPLESSNESS: In response to my faxed question concerning weight bearing after six weeks, the news is that "probably" I will have to wait another four weeks. Concretely and medically speaking, I am at the mercy of the surgeon. His decision is what counts and I certainly cannot decide alone to go against it. He may very well be correct in his assessment, but in comparison to almost every other surgeon I have heard of, he seems to be vastly more conservative. In a perfect world, I would ask another surgeon to review my file and give his/her opinion. In this imperfect world, that option is a serious non-starter.

So I am faced with how to overcome the feelings of anger and helplessness and learn to live with, rather than against, my non-weight bearing status. I think that I need to get out of the house--to sing for the High Holidays and eventually to go out and work a few days over the next month. Money is not an overriding issue, mental health is. I have to establish whether sitting or hopping (as opposed to lying down) for a full business day is a viable option. I have just left a voice-mail message for my physiotherapist asking her to call ASAP. Voice-mail is the black hole of our society. We'll see if she calls back.

That's it for now.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Sept. 13: Four more weeks?

While supporters of George Bush, Jr. are busy chanting "four more years!", I am on the point of wailing "four more weeks?".

I got a call from my surgeon's secretary today, in response to last week's fax asking whether the bone grafts would add further time to my non-weight bearing period. The jury is apparently still out, but odds are on another four weeks tacked onto the first six (as of today, I am at five weeks). I suppose I shouldn't jump to conclusions, but knowing how conservative my surgeon is, the chances of my walking before the end of October at the earliest are faint to imperceptible.

I am angry for two reasons: If I have to be treated with such caution, why wasn't I treated that way the first time around? Maybe this fiasco could have been avoided. And secondly, NO ONE told me about this extended period of hopping. Such important information should have been imparted to me before the surgery. Now I'm starting to wonder how long he'll keep me on precautions, such as not breaking the 90 degree rule: six months, forever? "Sorry, we didn't think it made a difference to mention that."

When I went for my first out-patient pool therapy today, I was given four (count 'em four) exercises, which I did in about five minutes. Then I asked about walking, assuming that the physio would say yes since I had been allowed to walk in the pool TWO weeks earlier while I was still a patient at that hospital. Wrong. The sheet says totally non-weight bearing, so even at almost zero weight in the pool, I can't do anything. We may very well scrap the pool therapy since it's next to useless.

I'm almost no pain, I've got energy to burn, I'm following all the rules and all I can say is fuck this. I'm starting to feel iffy again about ever seeing the back of my crutches or canes.

I admit that four more years of Dubya is much worse than five more weeks of non-weight bearing but it sure doesn't feel that way to me right now.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Sept. 9 Not a happy camper

When I left the hospital after my revision, I was given a date for my 6 week appointment (Sept. 22). In my fairly euphoric state (feeling relatively little pain, very energetic), I assumed that, just like the last time, I would be non-weight bearing for the initial six weeks and then would be allowed to slowly learn to walk again (crutches, canes, cane, nothing---almost impossible to imagine).

Over the past few days, I have come across hippy posts and sites on the Internet where people (both real and of the medical variety) refer to a three-month non-weight bearing period for those who have received bone grafts.

Today I started out-patient physiotherapy at the convalescent hospital where I had been a patient after both operations. Going back there in of itself was probably more traumatic than I had expected. I could feel a cloud of bitterness descend on me and become heavier and heavier as my appointment went on.

I discussed the non-weight bearing issue with my new physiotherapist. She said that three months seems to ring a bell. I didn't feel great. But the cherry on the sundae was at the end of the session when the physiotherapist said, "Oh, I forgot to ask you. What is your goal in coming to physiotherapy?" I didn't lose it but I said I would like to walk again, at least as well as I did before any of the hip surgery took place. I said that so bitterly that she asked me if I wanted to see the hospital social worker and discuss my feelings with her. I replied that I already have a therapist, thank you.

Now that I'm home and had my little cry, talked to Carol (who has her own concerns so we're prop each other up) and scared the pants off Squidgy with whom I was supposed to have a coffee (can't talk now--gotta cry), I have come to the conclusion that I need to get in touch with my surgeon now. If I am automatically non-weight bearing until November, I need to prepare myself psychologically and figure out how I'm going to function and be part of the family without being able to do anything but hop around on crutches. My house is so small that a walker is impossible to use, especially in the kitchen--the room where I need it most. I'm going to have to jury-rig some kind of contraption to carry things around but glasses of water, food on a plate, etc. will be impossible to deal with. I'm also afraid that one of my crutches will fall and then I'll be unable to move at all until someone comes home. My mother-in-law will be leaving around Oct. 10 and neither she nor I want her to stay longer (things are going quite well, but there's a limit to how long one wants to be away from home or have "visitors" in one's home).

If I have to be non-weight bearing, I will survive. I've just got to process what it means to me on all levels.

I will send my surgeon a fax today, asking him whether the jury's still out or whether he'll automatically extend the NWB period.

One more thing:

When my new physio asked me who my surgeon was and I told her, she said that he's the one who does all the tough cases no one else is willing to take.

Bow down and worship...

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Sept. 1

The days go by fairly fast but I'm still counting down desperately until Sept. 22 when I see my surgeon again. I really hate not being allowed to put any weight on my operated leg and seriously wonder whether my surgeon is the last one on the planet to impose this type of restriction. That being said, as John so wisely pointed out, if I go against his instructions and something bad happens, the warranty will be nul and void! So in lieu of walking using both feet, I hop a lot on crutches and complain vociferously and frequently. Only three weeks left!

There's still a lot of muscle flexibility left to be gained and my knee has a way of reminding me that recovery can be a long and winding road. However, although I have also complained that the physiotherapy exercises that have been prescribed for me are "Mickey Mouse", I do them faithfully and enjoy the fact that I am pushing my body to wake up and get going.

Since this is the day to talk about frustration, I have two more to present. But first, a bit of background for my non-hippy friends: I have been on the Internet, reading and posting on three different sites created for hippies and their friends and families. Through these sites I have made a number of wonderful, supportive friends (you know who you are!), learnt a lot and found comfort and caring when I was at my lowest before this second surgery.

So, what are my beefs, you might ask. They concern both recovery and the care and feeding of the artificial hip:

If I had found these sites before my first surgery, I would have gone in expecting to practically spring off the operating table and begin figure skating within a week of surgery. The sites abound with glowing reports of easy, pain-free, quick recoveries. As you all know, my first experience last November was the absolute opposite. I like to joke that I had a DAP (disability augmentation procedure) rather than a THR (total hip replacement) the first time. I feel that people on the verge of surgery should not have the fear of God put in them by reading about disasters such as my own. But they should also understand that everyone's recovery differs and measuring oneself against someone else can be counter-productive. We must listen to and accept the messages from our own body, not someone else's.

There is also the issue of exercise and what one can/should/shouldn't do with an artificial hip--because let's face the facts, it's not a natural hip, it IS artificial. As artificial hip recipients get younger and younger, the boundaries are pushed further and further out. The mobility needs and desires of an eighty year old are completely different from those of a forty, much less a twenty year old. Prostheses and surgical techniques are changing to keep up with the new landscape, but I fear that many hippies refuse to face the fact that they are now equipped with new parts that have NOT been manufactured by the best company in the world, Mother Nature. Proper exercise is absolutely necessary to keep the hip going but high-impact activities like running are anathema to the artificial hip. Insisting on continuing to do such exercise after a THR is, in my opinion, the height of macho recklessness. OK, I'm an old fart, but I've suffered too many surgical disasters to want to wear out my hip prematurely.

I have expressed these two often highly impopular opinions on the various hippy sites, but I also wanted to share them here. Thank you for listening!

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Aug. 29

I've got 24 days to until I next see my surgeon and presumably get the OK to start putting weight on my operated leg. Aside from the odd twinge, especially in the knee, I feel so good that it is a huge effort to keep hopping around on my crutches while carefully keeping my operated foot off the floor.

Those of you who have never had to contend with orthopedic surgery are probably unaware of the many assistive devices that exist to make the life of a recovering hippy much easier. One of these devices is the "transfer bench", which sits with two legs in the bathtub and two legs outside. The bather sits on the bench and swings her legs over the edge of the bathtub in order to sit in the tub and use the shower. After my last surgery, it must have taken me a month to do this myself. John would have to carefully lift my operated leg over the very high edge of our tub to get me in and out. Yesterday, I had my first shower at home. Although John was there to help with adjusting the taps, drying my feet etc. I managed to get in and out of the bath using the bench all by myself. I know, the crowing sounds are deafening.

Today, it rained for a good part of the day so I was unable to go out. Tomorrow, I will hopefully hop over to our local café and meet with some colleagues for a little business meeting. It's so great getting back to real-life activities!

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Aug. 28

Here is a post that I made to one of my hippy sites today:

Dear B.,

Your comments blow me away. It has been a rough ride for me, but I think that telling things as they are, honestly expressing the pain (the psychological pain was, if anything, the worst), has been the most healthy way for me to deal with things.

I think that there is a fine line to tread between blind optimism and total despair, and that is what I constantly work on reaching. Throughout this experience, I have been learning a lot about myself, the effects of my past on my present outlook, the courage I and my family have had to find, the strength that you and countless others whom I have met or may never meet have been so generous in giving to me.

If all had gone well the first time, I would probably not have sought help on the Internet. Life would have been much easier, both physically and psychologically.

I would not have refused an easy, positive outcome. But this difficult experience has also given me great gifts: friendship; a better knowledge of myself; a re-affirmation of how blessed I am in having a wonderful husband, children, and mother-in-law; the realization that I love to write and not just police other people's grammar (though that it both fun and frustrating).

My goal is to really get better and get back to my hectic, stressful, loving, fun, crazy life. But the lessons I am learning along the way are priceless.

Thanks again to you and everyone else (you know who you are!).


Aside from mentioning that I have to do my Mickey Mouse exercises twice daily, that's about all I have to say today!

Friday, August 27, 2004

Aug. 27: I'm Home!!

Hello Faithful Readers,

I am thrilled to be home and extremely touched, indeed blown away, by the popularity of this blog and the realization that there are so many people out there reading my story and rooting for me.

I have to thank all of you for your much appreciated moral support. This second time around has been much easier physically but knowing how many people are supporting me has given me an immense psychological boost too. Thanks again for all your comments, too!

Of course, I cannot thank my wonderful husband John enough for his posts. This blog was his idea in the first place and a truly inspired one at that!! It may be a cliche that you only really see what your spouse is made of in times of trouble but boy is it true. I am one lucky woman to have John by my side.

It's 10:30 a.m. and I've been home for about 1 1/2 hours. I've kissed my kids, husband and mother-in-law (who's here to look after us until I'm back on my feet) numerous times and already done my telephone banking, paid the bills and sorted my mail. I also had the first decent coffee I've tasted in almost three weeks! I'm not a huge coffee drinker but my morning cup is sacred and as we all know (or suspect), institutional coffee is not much better than coloured dishwater.

John has just reminded me that the last time I came home--after slightly over 4 weeks rather than slightly under 3 in hospital--I immediately went up to bed. This is a big improvement.

Since I'm not allowed to walk for another 3 weeks and 5 days (but who's counting?), I can't predict how things will progress. What I can say is that a fracture is not a nice thing: it was hugely painful. In comparison, this time around is much easier, even with my sore knee (which is getting better) and some incredibly tight muscles. I still don't quite understand how in the space of 3 1/2 hours of surgery, my muscles could go from their normal elasticity to almost no elasticity. I've heard the surgeons put you in some pretzel-like positions during surgery. That must be at least part of the reason.

Our cat Jelly Bean has settled into her favourite spot on the windowsill, right behind the computer. Ah, home sweet home.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Day 17

Not much to post today. Getting ready for Wendy to come home on Friday, the boys are really looking forward to it as are the rest of us. Wendy was in much better spirits than before. Not sure if I mentioned that Wendy has kept up reading to the boys eventhough since they're not in camp this week they don't come to the rehab hospital with me. After I leave at around 7pm, Wendy calls home and reads to them over the phone!

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Day 16

So, it's for sure that Wendy is coming home on Friday. Eventhough her knee is still hurting quite a bit, I guess that there's nothing more they can do at the rehab hospital. She'll be doing outpatient physio there once she's home, although there is a two week waiting list to get started. What we're really focusing on right now is pain management for her knee. Wendy will probably get a percoset prescription before coming home -- not so she can use them regularly, but really to control the occasional bad pain, especially around bed time. Overall, Wendy is a bit anxious about the whole process: waiting the 2 or 3 months until we really know how the operation went is going to be long.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Ok, Ok, I'm not missing any more days!

Back by popular demand, I promise not to miss any days posting until Wendy comes home from the hospital. Not much to report, though. Friday still seems likely, but Wendy still has to get the final ok. As for the staple count, Wendy lost count but figures between 40 and 50! The next step is to make sure we have the equipement we need at the house for her return. We need an extra large bath transfer bench since we have a very tall bathtub. We've also decided to get a wheelchair this time. We figure we won't use it a lot, but it'll give us the option to travel around the neighbourhood a bit more with the (hopefully) nice weather. Last time, we didn't get a wheelchair, and regretted it. Even in winter, it would have given us the option to go out a lot more around the neighbourhood, lessening the claustrophobic feeling of being mostly indoors in winter.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Day 14

The boys and I visited yesterday and today for about 1 hour each day. Not much to report. The staples are coming out tomorrow, so I guess we can start a pool guessing the number of staples in the incision. Wendy continues to not have that much pain, to use crutches more than the wheelchair and to be in very good spirits. Oh yes, she might get internet access tomorrow for a little while, so the next post you see here might be Wendy!

Friday, August 20, 2004

Day 12

Haven't posted in a few days, basically because there hasn't been much news. Now there's a bit to catch up on. Wendy's continuing with the physio, her knee is feeling a bit better each day. Now when we go down to the caf for a bit to eat, she goes down with her crutches rather than a wheelchair, which is a big improvement over last time. Then she didn't start using the crutches until about 3+ weeks, never mind longish distances. The best news is that it looks very likely that she'll be coming home next Friday.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Day 9

Wendy has moved to a private room at rehab today. Last night there was an elderly woman in her ward who vomited all night, with noisy relatives. Another woman called a nurse to go the bathroom about 5 times during the night. So, when a private room became available today, she snapped it up. Ah, insurance. Wendy's knee is still bothering her quite a bit, so that is the main thing they're working on with physio & pain management.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Day 8 -- On to rehab

A smooth transition to the rehab hospital. Wendy's now very glad to be in her own clothes rather than the hospital duds. The boys and I visited after work & camp for about an hour; we went down to the cafeteria where the boys and I had a bit of supper and Wendy read from the Oppel book. Now, to solve the mystery of the missing running shoes...

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Day 7

Wendy was feeling much better today, both physically and otherwise. Not so much pain in the knee. She's really ready to go to the rehab hospital tomorrow. She's resumed reading to the kids over the phone in the evening -- it's one of Kenneth Oppel's Silverwing books, I'm not sure which. This coming week, the kids are at camp where i work so we'll all be visiting Wendy briefly after work on the way home.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Day 6

Things continue to be a bit tough, as Wendy is having quite a bit of pain in her operated-side knee. She's having some trouble getting the attention of the docs on this problem, but will work on the second banana surgeon tomorrow. My mother brought the kids to visit today, so that is always a lift. Also, it's looks certain that Wendy will be going to the rehab hospital on Monday. We're guessing for one or two weeks. Another telling point: she's really noticing how bad the food is this time. Last time she was so out of it, the hospital food seemed almost good.

Friday, August 13, 2004

Day 5

Not much to report today. Even though Wendy was feeling a little down compared to yesterday, she's still progressing nicely and is overall very positive in her attitude. She says that she can tell how much better she's doing compared to the first time by how much more she's interested in reading and not so much interested in just watching tv. A friend gave her A Round-Heeled Woman yesterday and she's really enjoying it.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Day 4 -- More good news

Wendy felt even better today than yesterday -- the residual effects of the transfusion having worn off. Wendy first started sitting up today, and also getting around a little with a walker. As far as pain medication is concerned, she is mostly only using Tylenol, with only the occasional shot of morphine to get through the introduction of new activities. By comparason, the last time she was on percoset for about two months.

Administratively, I removed the requirement to be registered to post comments. Now anyone can post with no hassle -- just use the anonymous feature.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Day 3

Another day getting better. Wendy felt really well today, up until the afternoon when they decided to give her some blood due to low hemoglobin. As usual, it was a nightmare finding a vein, the blood didn't agree with her and she ended up feeling a bit wiped out by the end of the day. Not much supper, but she did eat a bit of the fruit salad I brought her. Looks like she'll be going to the rehab hospital on Monday, same one as last time.