Tomorrow my right hip will be excised, pruned, dismantled, de-commissioned, removed, taken away, discarded, supplanted, to be replaced, implanted.
Something made of living bone which has been with me for all of my life will be replaced with an inert substitute. I know that the hip joint I have now, at 69, is not composed of the same bone cells as the one I had when I was born but it is the same structure being replaced constantly with new cells all my life. It has known what shape it was meant to be and the cells just got on with it.
I’ve never seen it. Like so much of my body it is buried deep, protected and wrapped by muscles and tendons.
My mother tells me that one of my knees had to be dislocated to let me be born. But that knee has always felt fine. Tomorrow my right hip will have to be dislocated after the muscles have been laid bare and drawn aside to allow access to the joint: the anterior approach. The ball at the end of the femur, now arthritic and covered in cysts, will be dislodged from its socket now lacking intact cartilage, and both surfaces exposed to the air and the lights.
I feel tender towards these poor worn out parts of my skeleton. At least the socket will still be in situ after being scraped out and resurfaced. But the femoral head will go. No saving it.
Thank you hip! You served to crawl, walk, run, ride a tricycle and a bike, and drive a car. You played hopscotch, marbles, dodgie, rounders, softball, tennis, netball. You loved being in water, and swam and kicked up and down the Bendigo pool for miles and miles and miles; although you didn’t really like kicking that much. It was the shoulders living above you that pulled you through the water. You were made to ski, reluctantly. You enjoyed dancing at parties and later you went to work at jazz ballet. You never much liked walking and the feet below you hurt until they were equipped with orthotics. Just walking was boring, and you got sore and creaky – until you discovered that you loved walking up mountains on little uneven paths. Somehow this sort of walking suited you. It stopped you being bored and doing the same old steps all the time. Going down was fine, except that the knees had a grumble about that.
When you were fifty you started working a potter’s wheel, which meant sitting with knees either side of a sort of drum enclosing the electric motor that turned the wheel. You had to make the right foot push down to work the power pedal near the floor. After about 14 years of this the muscles supporting you got very tight and made it hard for you to move easily.
By the time you were sixty six you had given up the wheel, but then you climbed up some concrete stairs and started learning tango. This was hard for you. You had to carry a whole body’s weight on your own – hold, balance and swivel around on one foot. The muscles you needed weren’t strong enough to protect your cartilage. Soon you were scraping femoral head against boney socket and irritating muscles and tissues around you. You found it harder and harder to slide smoothly in the socket. You developed cysts. It was no good. X rays showed you had lost all your protection and lubrication. You were scraping bone on bone. You hurt!
It is time to say ‘thank you’ for all the happiness and experiences you have given me, my dear hip joint. I’m sorry you have broken down.
I’m glad I live in a time when I can be anaesthetized, my body cut open, have old damaged parts removed and new parts inserted, sewn up, woken up, pain controlled, infection minimized, and then helped to recover by people whose work it is to do so.
Good bye old hip.
Hello new hip.