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Posts Tagged ‘Pain’

The gift of mobility

In behavior, Health, life, aging on February 6, 2016 at 12:53 pm

By Caitlin Kelly

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Cruitch Island Golf Course, Donegal, Ireland — June 2015

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.

caiti flag

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.

02 full floor

Another beloved activity — this is Daybreaker — a 7:00 to 9:00 a.m. regular dance party in Manhattan

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.

IMG_20150111_134324002_HDR

The Paris Unity March, Jan. 11, 2015. Yet another event my new hip allowed me to experience.

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!

I learned how to canoe at camp -- useful when we went to Nicaragua

On assignment in Nicaragua for WaterAid, March 2014

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!

Life – Pain = Euphoria!

In aging, behavior, domestic life, family, Health, life, Medicine, women on March 23, 2012 at 12:07 am
Example of an American grocery store aisle.

Scary no more!! Image via Wikipedia

So many people are telling me how different I look since I had my hip replaced Feb. 6.

Not only that I can now walk standing upright without lurching scarily from side to side.

But I smile more. I look people in the eye. I’m once more able — after two years — to focus on details beyond howgoddamnfarisittogettowhereIhavetogo?

It could have been the agonizing journey the entire length of a grocery store aisle for a forgotten (cursed) gallon of milk. Or the hotel entrance closed on one Manhattan block forcing me to round the corner, sweating and resentful from the additional exertion.

I feel like a new person, someone back in the world.

For the first few weeks, I felt I was rebounding off a trampoline, so high was I flying — emotional energy, physical stamina, intellectual curiosity restored.

(A doctor friend explained this was a neurochemical high as my endorphins were in overdrive for years.They did eventually subside.)

Chronic pain drains your battery, and leaches color from everyday life in so many ways. When every step hurts, you dread…everything: grocery-shopping, visiting a museum, exploring a new city, buying clothes or shoes or anything in a store.

It also drains you mentally — something I hadn’t considered, so automatic had it become — as you constantly calculate how much is this going to hurt before doing even the simplest things.

I chose the anterior method, a less common procedure, which from the day of surgery has made my life better. Since my three days in the hospital, I’ve needed only one dose of major painkiller and a dozen Tylenol.

I’ve gone from being Eeeyore to Tigger, both Winnie the Pooh characters; “Bouncing is what Tiggers do best!”

I’ve even (yayyyyyy!) started to lose weight. I’ve realized, to my chagrin, that my nightly cocktail had become, essentially, liquid painkiller — I’d been self-medicating in a pretty high-calorie way. Add to that the double whammy of a slowed metabolism due to my age and my body’s growing inability to handle truly vigorous cardio workouts…

I fly to San Francisco next week to report a story, which is so fun — being able to travel without dreading every step; exploring one of my favorites cities again for the first time since 1998; seeing three friends out there; having an editor sufficiently confident to send me.

But more than anything, I now have the energy and enthusiasm for all of it.

My husband is a bit overwhelmed, although thrilled, by the new ebullient me.  “You’re happy!” he said the other day.

Why, yes I am.

What Billie Jean King And I Have In Common

In aging, behavior, Health, Medicine, news, seniors, sports on September 2, 2011 at 12:12 am
The Tin Man. Poster for Fred R. Hamlin's music...

He's a cutie. But you don't want to feel this stiff, ever! Image via Wikipedia

Not what you think, smarties. Not tennis. Not sexual orientation.

OA. That’s osteoarthritis, a degenerative disease that grinds away your cartilage and bone and makes it really painful to walk, dance, lift, carry and just get on with life.

So the Arthritis Foundation is running a new campaign to get the arthritic among us — all 50 million of us! — to keep moving.

It’s a little bizarre, but true, that the more you hurt (and you do!), the more you need to get moving, as often and vigorously as possible, to lessen your pain. After only three or four days of inactivity, I feel like the Tin Man, the pain in my left hip so excruciating I wake up at 3:00 a.m. to gulp down a painkiller.

I recently wrote an essay about my addiction to exercise to stay flexible, fight weight gain and avoid depression from my constant arthritis pain for Arthritis Today. It has not yet appeared; I’ll link to it when it does.

Do you have a physical disability or chronic issue that makes your life tougher?

How do you deal with it?

What Physical Pain Can Teach Us

In Medicine on September 22, 2009 at 9:37 am
According to Herbert Ponting, who took this ph...

Image via Wikipedia

Once more, my favorite New York Times writer, Dana Jennings, has hit it out of the park with today’s Cases essay, in Science Times, on facing excruciating pain.

Mothers who’ve experienced labor know it. Athletes who’ve torn an ACL know it. I felt it when I finally went to the hospital in 2007 with a 104 degree temperature as the result of pneumonia. On the hospital pain scale of 1-10, (10 being the worst ever), I was about a 15. Especially if, as Jennings writes, you come from a culture of stiff-upper-lip silence and non-medication, it’s tough to admit you’re in agony, and frightening to have to gulp down painkillers you know, like Vicodin, can become addictive. Some physical pain can feel as though it is eating you alive.

And as someone who’s had three orthopedic surgeries since 2000 and many painful months of physical therapy before and after each one, I know what even low-level chronic pain does to you. It wears you down, makes you bitchy, distracts you, makes you withdraw from work and friends, shortens your temper. The American Pain Foundation offers a wealth of ideas and links.

Here’s a well-reviewed book on the subject by Marni Jackson, a respected Canadian writer.

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