Return to Tango: 3 weeks after hip replacement

Briefly, for my record as much as anything.

My mobility is much improved. I walk everywhere without crutches. Walking feels smooth and natural  for a few minutes. I find that my right leg (new hip) gets tired on a walk outside after about 5 minutes. Lots of muscles are returning to work. I can balance on that leg for about 10 seconds. 

Physiotherapist has confirmed that there are ‘no restrictions’ and that I can stretch, mobilize the joint gently and continue to work on strengthening. It feels so good to get down on the floor again and start stretching. It’s only in the last day or so that I have felt confident enough about getting up from the floor even if I’d been able to get down there. Now that the incision has closed, I’m allowed to start doing exercises in the pool. 

Pain relief is working. I had a go at dropping it a bit a week ago, but that was not a good idea! Will continue for 2 weeks and then have another go at dropping it.  My GP has been very helpful. The pain is back pain which I’m pretty confident will gradually diminish as I regain fitness and continue with back massage.

The tight swelling around the outer upper thigh is diminishing. I’m massaging and icing it.

Generally, I feel good. It’s been therapeutic to regain independence around the house- today I have returned the hired shower chair. I’m cooking, carrying around cups of coffee and so on. However, I get tired quite quickly and it’s good to go off and rest. I’m still loving sleeping!

Right Anterior Hip Replacement, Day 14

It’s been fourteen days since my right anterior total hip replacement operation on Tuesday January 13th, 2015. The operation, performed by Mr Phong Tran, went well. Both hips are level, and here at home I can now walk around without crutches.

Now, the biggest improvement for me is that at night I am sleeping again. I had about nine months before the operation of tossing and turning and never being comfortable in bed. I would have to get up in the night and walk around, do my stretching exercises, refill the hot water bottle, have a cup of tea, anything to distract me from the nagging and niggling ache. I would lie on a tennis ball, judiciously placed under my hip’s right buttock to relieve the inner pain.

The four nights in hospital weren’t good even though I had a spacious private room. A hospital is often noisy at night, and in this orthopaedic ward where there is a constant need for ice to relieve sore joints, the corridors sometimes rang with the sound of ice crushing. I was always waiting  for the pain relief, sometimes up to three hours when the pain had reached the 8/10 mark. The hospital system understandably allows no flexibility in the prescribed timing or dosage of analgesic drugs. The 24 hour time lag in adjustments was difficult. However, the visiting peri-operative physician improved the pain relief regime each day  until it was nearly right by the time I got home.

I went straight home from the hospital, and as soon as I was at home I sat down and looked at what drugs I was able to take and adjusted the timing so that there were no distinct peaks and troughs in pain relief delivery. Being at home meant that I had discretion of up to two hours with the panadeine I took, and that made a big difference.

My first night at home was magnificent. I slept. I did have to get up with a rather restless bladder (I’m drinking a lot of water) but went to sleep again immediately. I’m surprised I’m not bothered by having to sleep on my back. I have now had seven nights of sleep and feel there is quite a bit of pleasant catching up to do.

The pain issue has been interesting and quite difficult for me to work out. During the operation, a tube was inserted  into the joint for 48 hours of constant delivery of local anaesthetic from a little pouch which lay next to my thigh. I felt no pain at all from the joint. But there was a lot of generalised pain around my back, abdomen and thigh muscles. I hadn’t expected this and it was quite difficult to manage. I’ve learned that the back pain is related to the rather vigorous manipulation during the operation in which the hip had to be dislocated, and also to imbalance from the preceding months of limping. My thigh muscles are sometimes excruciatingly painful – not surprising considering that , although they weren’t cut during the operation, they were pulled aside and held there while work on the bone and prosthesis took place. The poor things are still grumbling, as are the tendons, one of which had to be cut and repaired. They like ice packs. My back likes a hot water bottle.

It took a bit of time and a visit to my local GP who helped further with the pain relief management to sort out this rather confusing melange of sensations ranging from quite mild to wincingly strong. But knowing what is going on in my post-op body is good and all this will improve with exercise and physiotherapy,

One of the things I was hoping to be an outcome of the surgery was not having to take pills any more. Usually I take nothing, touch wood, and I was fed up with having to rely on pills and vigilant timing to be able to function at all. Strangely enough, now I am taking many more but I’m not bothered. I think it’s because I know that the prime cause of the pain has been removed and that the need for pills will diminish as I become stronger and my body heals. I’m a bit fuzzy in the head at times but don’t mind. I just have a rest and feel relieved that it’s all over.

I am astonished at how well I’m getting about. As I said, I can walk around home from about 12 days after the operation without crutches, if I’m not tired. It was bliss the morning after the operation when the physio helped me move my leg and lightly bend the right knee which with my leg had been safely immobilised overnight. The leg was really aching by that time. It hurt to move but the movement was better than the ache. I swung around to sit on the side of the bed and lowered it to the floor. It was painful but OK. Then he helped me up into a standing walking frame and there I was, standing on two legs 16 hours after the operation. I walked a bit around the room and from then on walked everywhere. That afternoon he brought my crutches and I walked out to the corridor to do my first set of standing exercises. I’d been doing the bed ones since regaining feeling in my legs and feet.

From then it became easier. Exercises 3 times a day, walks in the coirridor, learning how to go up and down steps. I concentrated on walking tall and as evenly as I could without limping or swaying from side to side. By now I was very appreciative of the pilates and physiotherapy I had been doing in preparation for the surgery.

I managed getting into and out of the car perfectly well, and it wasn’t much different from my efforts before the operation. Home was comfortable and manageable. I had hired a shower seat which feels safe and luxurious. I’m increasing my walks outside on the one crutch now and feel well on the way!

This afternoon I’m celebrating a recovery goal. Nick and I are going to Sidewalk Tango’s Australia Day barbecue and milonga. I will climb the concrete stairs to my tango world. I will see my tango friends again, hear the tango music, enjoy the familiar Tiki Bar, and I will definitely at least stand on the dance floor in the tango embrace of dear Nick who has been looking after me so well.