“So you’re telling me I didn’t pull my hip flexor?”
“No ma’am. Look at the x-rays. You need a total hip replacement.”
After that shocking bit of news, I zoned out and stared at the not-so-pretty picture of my bone-on-bone hip socket and two nasty looking dragon claw bone spurs thinking Seriously? A total freaking hip replacement? I’m too young for this.
The only reason I had even made this appointment was because my chiropractor had exhausted every massage, ultrasound, adjustment, and joint manipulation technique he had in his considerable bag of tricks and had delivered the sad news that there was nothing more he could do for me. The MRI showed nothing amiss that he or the radiologist could see, and his x-rays on me, taken three years ago when my pain had begun, showed ample space in the socket.
He was stumped. I was frustrated.
I had danced on Broadway. I had a fifth-degree black belt in To Shin Do Ninjutsu. I was not a gimpy old lady. I hiked in the mountains and power-walked along the coast every day. Or rather, I did before my hip went into critical lockdown.
“You’re sure I didn’t tear a hip flexor?”
“Huh.” I thought of the decades of abuse I had forced on my body. “Well, I guess I came by it honestly.”
I had chronic back issues since my dancing days in Cats. I had pulled or sprained muscles and joints from my neck to my toes. I had been hit, bent, thrown, dropped, and crushed. I had torqued my body in directions normal people reserved for Cirque de Solei performers. I had experienced this kind of pain my entire life; and no one had ever suggested surgeries or joint replacements. I had never even broken a bone.
I wished I could call my dad, but I couldn’t because my sisters and I had scattered his ashes in the ocean only a few weeks before.
Had the stress of caring for Dad through death contributed to my orthopedic crisis?
Certainly the long car rides and awkward positions—sitting at his bedside, writing in waiting rooms, sleeping on the couch between visits to his rehabilitation nursing facility—had aggravated my arthritic hip. But I also couldn’t discount the physical effect of emotional stress. I had lost both my parents within a year.
And yet, through all of the emotional stress, I managed to stay positive and productive. I finished my novel, rewrote another, and had two short stories published in anthologies. I meditated, ate well, cared for my family, and hiked or walked at least five times a week.
Which was why I wanted to tell Dad about this crazy hip replacement!
To him, I was Wonder Woman,
Super Mom, and Florence Nightingale
all mushed into one badass ninja package.
All of these thoughts played in the background of my mind as my husband and I listened to the surgeon’s explanation about how osteoarthritis had deteriorated my hip joint.
“The injury you thought you experienced was probably the tipping point. You had pain, but you could still function. Now you can’t, which is typical. Your accelerated decline over the last two months means the time has come to replace the hip.”
I could remember the exact moment of my supposed injury. I had been on my porch warming up for a mountain hike with a cardio routine I had devised using a six-foot oak staff, based on Ninjutsu fighting techniques. It was a classic case of me going too far, too fast, and too hard. Now, gray-haired grannies were whizzing by me in movie theaters, and rising from a couch had become a major event.
“Wait and see. You’ll be able to do whatever you want: ski, dance, martial arts. You’ll be amazed. This surgery will eliminate your pain.”
“How long is the recovery?”
I stared at my soon-to-be-surgeon, trying to process what it might be like to take one of those Zumba classes I had heard about or making love without massive pillow constructions to immobilize my body.
My husband smiled, making me wonder if he could read my thoughts. “You’re not really be surprised by any of this, are you? After all those years of dance and martial arts abuse?”
I shook my head. “Shocked but not surprised.”
THREE MONTHS POST HIP REPLACEMENT
The surgery went wonderfully.
I recovered at my usual pace and efficiency. In fact, when I finally made an appointment with a physical therapist one month later, he was amazed by my balance, strength, and mobility. I got the green light to rely on my ample knowledge and experience (from teaching dance, martial arts, and body work/training) and told to call if I ever needed him in the future.
I continued my rehabilitation with care then amped up my expectations and goals when I hit the surgeon’s three-month mark. (Check out my Ballet Barre Therapy) Then I pushed. And paid.
I felt more pain at three months than I had at three-weeks. And yet, this did not alarm me. In fact, from my professional athlete point of view, this seemed logical. After all, I was demanding more of the joint and pushing the muscles. Why wouldn’t it hurt more? So I kept pushing—and crippled myself back to the pre-op days.
Four days later, I got the news that we had to move.
So, barely recuperated by my burst of rehabilitation enthusiasm, I pushed through four weeks of deep squats, heavy lifting, and carting bags and boxes up stairs.
Which leads me to yesterday and my reunion with the physical therapist.
FOUR MONTHS-ONE WEEK POST HIP REPLACEMENT
I explained my suffering and my concern that I wouldn’t regain my former agility if I didn’t push myself, and assured my physical therapist that I had been resting after my five-week ordeal.
“How long have you been taking it easy?”
I gave the question serious thought. “Five days.”
The rest of the appointment was both amusing and illuminating. Apparently, I already have amazing motion and don’t need any more at this point. What I need is strength to control the mobility I have. What’s more, I should forget the magical three-month recovery mark and shoot for full operation in a year.
Talk about an expectation/perspective adjustment!
So now at my new home, in my delightfully sunny kitchen, writing the first blog I’ve had time to write in five months, and feeling pain-free even after the PT’s stretch-band exercises. Most of our belongings are put away and I’ve been rewriting a short story I’ll submit today. Life is good and finally calm again. And I gotta say: It feels wonderful!
POST-OP HEALING TIPS
1) Slow and equal beats a fast and limping. (walkers are great for this)
2) More movement requires more rest (preferably with ice and elevation)
3) Backpacks are awesome (even inside the home)
4) Do your PT exercises diligently throughout the day
5) Accept and embrace the process