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Posts Tagged ‘Hip replacement’

Is “Help!” a four-letter word for you?

In aging, behavior, domestic life, Health, life, seniors, women on March 15, 2012 at 12:07 am
English: "A Helping Hand". 1881 pain...

Image via Wikipedia

I’ve just experienced the most dependent month of my adult life.

Having had full hip replacement, returning home bruised, swollen and sore, I needed daily — even multiple times a day — help to do the simplest of things: eat, dress, pull socks, stocking and shoes on and off, get in and out of bed, bathe.

I left my parents’ home at 19 and lived much of my life after that alone. I’d been sick as hell alone in my apartment or traveling far away where I knew no one and didn’t speak the language, in places like Venice or Istanbul. My family has never been close emotionally or physically — it was made very clear to me what, pretty much whatever happened to me, physically, financially, emotionally, it was up to me to figure out, and cope with it.

I hated being weak, needy and vulnerable. Surprise!

I finally drove this week — and showered (alone!) and tied my sneakers (unaided!) — for the first time in a month. I went by train into Manhattan, our nearest city, and saw a movie with a friend and did some clothes shopping. It was all deliciously new and deeply pleasant.

But I didn’t, as everyone expected, sigh with relief at finally regaining my cherished independence.

I loved having Jose home, to chat with and bring me breakfast in bed. Friends drove an hour to visit, bringing home-cooked meals and fresh cheer. Two close friends were kind enough to chauffeur me to physical therapy a few times, otherwise a $20 cab ride each way.

I’d never been so fussed over or cared for, and it was lovely. Our front door is covered in get-well cards. We ate dinners for three weeks cooked and delivered by members of our church.

As I’ve been walking our apartment property in spring sunshine, I’ve run into a neighbor, a single woman my age who is fighting cancer for the third time. She’s reluctant to ask for help, but she needs it from time to time.

We all do.

We are, even in our vigorous 20s or 30s, as likely to be felled by a vicious flu or a broken arm or a sprained ankle.

We need help, whether writing a better resume or finding the perfect wedding dress or learning how to refinish furniture or bathe a baby. But, for some reason, we’re supposed to shoo away a helping hand.

No, I’m, fine, really, we insist. Even when we’re really not at all fine and would kill for a helping hand or two.

Maybe we’re afraid no one will step up and be reliable and do the hard work, even for a while. As someone who took decades here in New York to make lasting friendships, this offered a huge and powerful lesson for me. We’re loved!

Do you find it difficult to ask others for help?

When you ask, do you receive it?

One (slow, halting) step at a time

In aging, behavior, Health, life, Medicine, women on March 2, 2012 at 12:06 am
English: Walking with the parallel bars

Image via Wikipedia

There’s a new sound in my life — the click, click of my sexy French crutches — as I learn to walk normally again after two years of 24/7 pain and a gait so altered I started to look like Quasimodo, that ruined my shoes and swelled my right foot and increased the diameter of my right calf by an inch from overcompensation.

It’s been almost a month since my hip replacement, and I’m learning to trust my body again. It feels really good to stretch, to break a sweat and (yay!) to reach my toes.

“Patient”  — the adjective, not the noun — is not my most obvious quality. This recovery, from full hip replacement, includes dire warnings about doing too much too soon and how not to push it. More is not better. But you don’t know you’ve done too much until…

Daily, I circumambulate our apartment building and garage in warm, dry weather and our apartment building hallway, where 12.5 laps equals a mile, when it’s wet or really cold. My goal is a daily mile, only after which do I get to shed my $38/pair white surgical stockings I wear 23 hours a day to prevent blood clots.

Physical therapy, three times a week, (and $60 week in copays), is slow, incremental, dull, repetitive — and utterly essential to a full recovery.

When I met my surgeon, I handed him a list of a few of my many sports, and asked how soon I would be back at them. My softball team, having missed me for two years, keeps asking when I’ll return. I’m hoping within six months; friends my age (and much older) who’ve had this procedure have since climbed the Great Wall, hiked Guatemala and climbed four flights of stairs without trouble.

I’ve had to recuse myself from real life for a while, missing a friend’s book party, unable to get to my regular hairstylist in Manhattan, a 45-minute drive or train/cab away, closed off from movies, concerts and anything that would require me to sit more than than 60 minutes at a time I’m allowed.

Maybe because I did a silent 8-day retreat last summer, I’ve really appreciated a time of peace and quiet, of reflection and withdrawal. For weeks, I had to rely fully on my husband for the simplest of tasks, from helping scrub me in the shower, (after an 18-day wait!), to putting on my left sock and shoe, counting out my 10 pills a day, cooking.

I miss his companionship since he returned to work this week, leaving home at 7:30 and only returning 12 long hours later after his commute.

Soon, I hope, I’ll once more be my usual blur.

A new definition of love

In aging, behavior, domestic life, family, Health, men, women on February 17, 2012 at 1:08 am
Love heart uidaodjsdsew

Image via Wikipedia

What’s romantic?

What’s loving?

What makes you feel cherished?

The past two weeks have revealed new sides of my husband, even after 12 years together. I knew he was fun, funny, kind, affectionate.

But since coming home from major surgery, the replacement of my left hip, I’ve seen, (as has he), wholly new sides to his character.

Our days right now are so overwhelmingly focused on my health and healing, (including avoiding infection and complication), that I’ve gotten the whole bed to myself while he sleeps on the (too soft) sofa. I bought a bottle of chlorhexidine, (what surgeons use to scrub their hands with), and latex gloves and, once a day, he uses both to clean and dress my incision.

He’s been making meals, buying groceries, doing laundry, (which he normally does), helping me in and out of bed, putting on my shoes, socks and sweatpants. Helping with sponge baths, since no showers are allowed for two weeks.

The hardest part? Wrestling me in and out of my (so sexy!) surgical stockings, thick, tight white hose that go up to my thigh and which I wear 23 hours a day to help prevent clots.

He hands me the 10 pills I need every day, at the time I need them, after drawing up and taping to the wall our daily schedule that starts at 7:30 a.m. and stops at 6:00 p.m. He cranks up raucous rock and roll to boost my energy for physical therapy which I have to do two to three times a day. He brings me me a well-hammered ice pack (four times a day.)

He walks slowly and patiently with me as I do my crutch-aided circuit a few times around the garage.

As someone who prides herself on being feisty, strong, quick-moving, independent and modest, you can imagine how this has felt for me. Weird!

It’s one thing to be seen naked when you feel sexy, quite another when you’re bruised, sore, covered with surgical magic marker notations.

Instructive, to say the least.

He apologized this week for not getting me a Valentine’s Day present; I brought him shoes, socks and a sweater from one of his favorite shops, Rubenstein’s in New Orleans.

I can’t imagine a greater gift than a man willing to give up three weeks’ vacation to nurse me back to strength.

Healing is emotional as well

In aging, behavior, Health, life, Medicine, sports, women on February 11, 2012 at 2:19 am
Doctor's office again

Doctor's office again (Photo credit: Sidereal)

One of the most essential elements of healing a body that has been injured, damaged or ill is to soothe and comfort the psyche, the soul of the person whose corporeal armor has, in a significant way, (even in the aid of better health), been pierced.

But it’s the piece that is consistently left out. When you leave hospital after a major surgery, you’re handed a thick sheaf of instructions, some in boldface type, all of which are — of necessity — focused on the physical.

Who addresses the needs of the soul?

Which is why, when I met a fellow hip patient in the hallway, a former dancer, a woman my age, we couldn’t stop talking to one another about how we felt.

Not our bones or muscles, but our hearts and minds.

A sense of shame and failure that years of diligent activity and careful eating and attention to posture…led us into an operating suite. The feeling of isolation, of being cut from the herd of your tribe, the lithe and limber, the fleet of foot. The fragility of suddenly relying very heavily on a husband whose innate nature may, or may not be, to nurture.

And a husband who knows all too well that physical intimacy is almost impossible, sometimes for years, when your loved one is sighing not with desire but in deep pain. When your hips simply can’t move as you wish they would, and once did. It is a private, personal loss with no place to discuss it.

I’m deeply grateful to know a few women like me: feisty, active, super-independent and all recovering, now or a while ago, from hip replacement. Every tribe has a scar, a mark, a tattoo.

Ours is  a vertical six inches.

Time to wear it proudly.

Say a little prayer, please!

In aging, life, Medicine, women on February 6, 2012 at 12:16 am
English: An unidentified yellow flower at the ...

Flowers make me happy! Image via Wikipedia

This morning, while it’s still dark here, we’re driving north up the road to my local community hospital to have my left hip replaced.

My husband, Jose, is taking three weeks off to stay home with me, (blessedly able to have that much paid time off and willing to nursemaid me), and a friend from our church has offered to coordinate meals and drives when he needs a break.

She, too, will be with us as she recently had bypass surgery and knows the drill all too well.

I’ve tried for weeks to wrap my head around the idea that a foreign object — the ceramic head made (je suis ravie!) in France, the rest in Warsaw, Indiana — will become part of my body.

In the United States, where 47 million people suffer (as I do) from arthritis and millions are obese or overweight (guilty), 200,000 of these procedures are done every year. It’s hardly unusual. But that doesn’t make it any less scary. My hip was destroyed, ironically, by the drug given to me in May 2010 to reduce severe inflammation, producing AVN. Beware!

Thanks to friends who write on these issues, I’ve got checklists on how to try and avoid infection; one friend wrote the book on MRSA.

Please say a little prayer — or a big one — for me!

I hope to be back here with you in four or five days, and Jose may post in the meantime.

Thanks to blogging and a bum hip, I’m a cover girl!

In beauty, behavior, blogging, Health, journalism, life, women on October 27, 2011 at 12:42 am

Too weird for words, really…

It all started out thanks to my blogging for True/Slant, which is where the editors of this magazine found my writing and liked it enough to ask me to write about my miserable left hip, whose arthritis worsened severely in January 2010, just in time for me to combine writing a memoir with — agonizing pain! Five specialists! Xrays! MRIs! Heavy painkillers!

The corticosteroids I took to reduce the inflammation then destroyed the bone in my hip — necessitating hip replacement (which I am trying to get up the nerve to just get done.)

Joy.

The cover shoot was a hoot. Five (!) strangers converged on our small suburban apartment: an art director and photographer from Atlanta, a make-up and hair artist from Chicago, a photo assistant from Brooklyn and a wardrobe stylist from New York City who brought an entire garment rack filled with possibilities they had chosen for me, based on my many bossy emails of what I refuse to wear and (shriek) my clothing size.

Brave souls, all of us.

It took 4.5 hours to achieve this shot. What you can’t see is the July sweat dripping down my back, nor the photographer sliding up and down my living room wall for support, also drenched from non-stop focus and exertion. Nor the art director, Susan, peering after every shot at her laptop to see how it all looked.

Luckily for me, the photographer, Kevin, and Susan and I had had time the day before to enjoy a long, leisurely lunch and have a chance to get to know one another personally, which made the shoot much less scary than it might have otherwise been. They’re lovely people, warm and down-to-earth, so I never felt intimidated or nervous.

(Thanks to my new book and other projects, I’m fairly used to being photographed for national publication. I even had my pic taken in a bathing suit for some paid web writing I did about my hip.)

The necklace is my own (Ann Taylor), as are the invisible earrings. I’m leaning against our sofa, with lots of artificial light thrown in. The curly hair is natural.

I never thought in a million years this might happen, but it’s already prompted some kind and supportive emails from AT readers.

Here’s a link to the issue…although you can’t access my story (!) online.

Our Lady Of Perpetual Orthpedics — Or How I'm Learning to Love My Alphabet Soup: MRIs, Xrays And PT

In Health, Medicine on March 18, 2010 at 11:11 pm
A product technician gives a demonstration ins...

My best friend, the MRI machine...Image by AFP/Getty Images via Daylife

Latest headcount: four MDs: orthopedic surgeon (hip specialist); GP (acpuncturist); GP and neurologist. Five, if you include the ER doctor who saw my back spasm at midnight. Three Xrays, one MRI. One walker and a cane.

My most recent MRI — I’ve lost track how many I’ve had over the past decade — was the weirdest I’ve had as the machine focused on my lower back.

If you’ve never had one, they are extremely challenging if you are the slightest bit (and who isn’t?) claustrophobic: you lie on an extremely narrow platform that slides into a round machine  — you’re the center of its donut. The smooth gray plastic interior is no more than six or eight inches from your face and I was in it for only 20 minutes — it can be 40 or more. Our MRI usually gives us headphones to listen to music but I could only use earplugs. (There are such things as open MRIs for those who just can’t do one of these.)

The noise alternated between: jackhammer/a hammer tapping on my butt/a knocking noise, staccato/a low, deep buzzing that — reframe! stay calm! — sounded like being inside a not very interesting Philip Glass or Steve Reich composition.

Meds: Flexeril, Prednisone, Advil, codeine, Tramadol. Only Advil and codeine work well in my system; the others produce nasty side effects and I stopped taking two of them right away. About to start Voltaren and Prevacid.

I’ve been to my orthopods — a group practice (now on specialist number four there) — since 2000, when I had my first knee arthroscopy. I know their phone number off by heart and have been next door to the physical therapists, or PTs, who I wrote about, with gratitude, for The New York Times, since then many, many times.

I am not 80!

But, which is deeply, frustratingly painful and annoying, my left hip, when it acts up, behaves like I’m about 106. I have osteoarthritis there — like 2 million other Americans — which means either painful inflammation (which rest and drugs can help) or thinning cartilage (which they cannot.)

As someone who lives to move athletically: softball, jazz dance, walking, biking, hiking — I am losing cartilage — and trying not to panic because my life’s core identity, my social life, my stress relief — are all through sports, activity and motion.

Jane Brody, longtime New York Times health writer, recently wrote about how essential exercise — and its social joys — are to her and her readers:

So many nonhealth benefits keep me exercising every day that I’m sure my life would be greatly diminished without them.

Shortly after 6 the other morning, a stunning full moon hugging the horizon enhanced our walk around our local park, and I remarked, “Look what the stay-a-beds are missing.” Soon after came a picture-postcard scene of two Siberian huskies trotting through the snow-covered woods. The week before, we were treated to glorious snow-laden trees as we trudged through the falling snow.

Note that I said “we.” Two to five of us walk for an hour every morning. We chat about our days, share our thoughts and problems, seek and offer advice, bolster sagging spirits, provide logistical support, alert one another to coming cultural events, discuss the news, books, articles and what-have-you. No matter how awful I may feel when I get up in the morning, I always feel better after that walk. And so I always do it, come rain, shine or blizzard.

The members of this walking group, which I joined (admittedly reluctantly) about 15 years ago, have become more than dear friends. They are a sounding board for any and all problems, providing both emotional and practical support when needed. They have introduced me to wonderful activities — museum and gallery shows, concerts and operas, movies and books — I might have otherwise missed.

I miss my jazz dance class, my softball buddies and the fellow walkers on our reservoir, all off limits until I am pain-free and stronger.

I clicked around four Manhattan blocks with my cane today. It helped me stay erect — and visually warned self-absorbed, fast-walking New Yorkers to not bump into me!

I am am very grateful for: having something that is treatable and not life-threatening; excellent, compassionate doctors and the insurance that allows me to see them; warm spring sunshine so I can rest, as ordered, on a park bench outdoors.

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