By Caitlin Kelly
Maybe you just walked to work or enjoyed a bike ride or went dancing last night.
Maybe you’re training for a marathon or triathlon — or happy to race with your dog(s) along a trail.
Today’s the day I celebrate my body’s rebirth to full mobility – on Feb. 6, 2012, I was wheeled into an operating room to have my left hip replaced.
I was young for the surgery, as most people have it in their 60s or beyond; my 86 year old father only had his hip done in May of 2015.
I was very fearful, (I’d already had 3 prior orthopedic surgeries, [both knees, right shoulder] within the decade, all of which had gone well), and had put the operation off for more than two years. I was sick to death of surgeries and rehab and doctors and the whole thing.
And, as someone who’s wholly self-employed with a fluctuating income, I also had to fund a month off and the cost of co-pays for physical therapy rehab.
Those two years of avoidance, though, were crazy.
The arthritis in my left hip had required a course of steroids — whose side effects, (called avascular necrosis), instead destroyed my hip bone.
The resulting pain was 24/7 and exhausting. It made every step I took painful; even crossing a room was tiring.
Buying groceries in the enormous stores here in the suburbs of New York was a misery. Museum visits became marathons and I carried painkillers with me everywhere.
By the fall of 2010, in desperation, I went on crutches for three months just for a brief respite from pain. I bought a pair off the Internet, the short kind typically associated with long-term disability (think of FDR photos). Heaven!
With renewed energy and the ability to move more safely, painlessly and quickly, I went to the movies and theater, (scooching sideways across those narrow aisles), and even flew to Las Vegas to address a conference there.
By December of 2011, I was just too worn out from pain and booked the operation.
Three days before it, I was a featured speaker at — of all things — a conference of liquor store retailers in New Orleans, wandering that city’s streets with a limp so pronounced I walked like a drunken sailor. I’d been invited as a result of my book “Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail” to share my research into low-wage labor.
Sheer luck brought me that gig — and earned me $6,500, enough to take time off to just rest, rehab and recover.
A highly active person — I walk, cycle, dance, play softball, ice skate, ski and do a variety of other sports — I feared that a poor surgical result would mean the end to my athletic life. Or that my doctor would utter the dreaded word “moderate”, as a verb.
Not in my vocabulary!
Here’s my cover story from Arthritis Today about that life pre-surgery. I like the photos they took, but you can how heavy I got because it hurt so much to exercise.
Today I take jazz dance class twice a week, one of them so vigorous I leave sweat puddles on the floor, and enjoy full range of motion. (OK, I don’t do the splits anymore.)
I also live in an apartment building filled with people in their 70s, 80s and 90s, many of whom can now only ambulate safely using a cane or walker.
It’s sobering and instructive to see what aging, (and/or a poorly done surgery), can do to our blessed ability to run, dance, jump and simply enjoy the grace and power of our bodies.
Never take it for granted!