This week, some two years and seven months after suffering what appears to have been a self-inflicted catastrophic onset of osteoarthritis in my hip whilst playing golf, I went for a pre-op assessment in advance of my date with the knife for a hip replacement in July.
By ‘self-inflicted’ I mean to describe the situation where, together with my playing partner, I had made a conscious decision to yomp the second half of our round.
This was in order to stay ahead of the chasing pack behind us who were beginning to be held up by our slow progress.
In the days of yore, of course, this never used to happen but on this occasion sadly a combination of advanced seniority and the time we were spending looking for our increasing number of lost balls had left us with but two options, i.e. (1) beginning to let those behind us through, or (2) doing our best to speed up.
We chose the latter.
Since most Rust readers are oldies I doubt I’ll be detailing things you don’t already know.
Whenever you take any appreciable amount of exercise beyond the onset of your seventh decade, for the rest of the day you tend to suffer from the onset of either a general ‘stiffening up’ and/or a variety of aches and pains, especially when sitting down or resting. You come to expect it. Almost invariably when you awake the next morning you find said symptoms have miraculously disappeared and … er … life goes on.
Not on the occasion mentioned above. I had awoken the next morning to discover that all my aches, pains and stiffness had indeed gone, as expected, bar what to all intents and purposes felt like a seriously-pulled muscle in my groin at the top of my right thigh.
This I did nothing about, expecting it to recover and return to normality in a few days, maybe a week max. But it didn’t. After a month I took myself to my GP and mentioned the issue. From there on, over the next month and a half, I progressed – via an ultrasound, an MRI scan and several x-rays – to a diagnosis of osteoarthritis for which the prognosis/outcome was an eventual hip replacement which (all medical advice counselled) should be put off as long as possible because ‘life expectancy’ [if I can describe it as such] for the technology involved was no more than ten to fifteen years.
This appeared to be on the basis that if you were 75 or more, a hip replacement should more than ‘see you out’. However, if you were under 65, there was at least a fighting chance that it might not … and then there was a possibility that you’d be left as a rapidly-degenerating 80 year-old, possibly reduced to getting about only with the aid of a wheelchair.
Since then I’ve coped with both the complications of having a chronic hip problem and the uniform comments of all those who have had hip replacements (or indeed know people who have) to the effect “To hell with what the medics say, come on in, the water’s lovely …”, in other words the suggestion that, once you’ve had one done, you’d soon get back to how you were.
Or, if not quite that, since it begs the question as to how far back you’re going with your definition of ‘how you were before’ [at 45? 25?] … or was it just how you were before you began coping with the symptoms attendant upon having a hip problem.
Dear reader, I held out for two years of walking with a limp, getting tired doing so for any length of time, being constantly ‘aware’ of my hip when sitting or standing, having to shift my pelvis around from time to time in order (whatever I was doing) to ease the pressure, finding a suitable position (lying on my side) in which to sleep – and so on. In the end it became boring and frustrating, or should I perhaps say ‘debilitating’.
And all the while the ‘drip, drip, drip’ of coming into contact with people counselling “Why wait, just get it done!”
In the end, as I told the consultant I saw this week, slightly concerned that I would be regarded as a bit of a wimp in volunteering for elective surgery after just two years, I signed up by going to see my GP again in February. He assured me that some people whose hips had degenerated to a similar extent had already gone for the replacement well before the two years I had waited – whilst others were content to hang on for far longer. I gained the impression I was about average in ‘running up the white flag’ when I had.
And thus to the pre-op this week.
I had swabs taken from my nose and groin to test for MRSA [the booklets and DVD I’d been sent made great play of taking every precaution to avoid infection]; enough – four phials-worth – of blood taken to qualify for Tony Hancock’s outraged reaction “A pint?! That’s practically an armful!” to Patrick Cargill (playing the doctor) telling him that it was perfectly normal to take that much from him as a volunteer blood donor; a session with a nurse filling out a form covering every medical condition and/or trauma that I’d ever suffered in my life, that is, so far as I could remember them; and finally a trip on foot to the third floor of another building altogether for a series of x-rays to be taken.
Four hours after first presenting myself, the episode was over and I drove home. As ever, as with going through the plate glass automatic doors that herald your arrival at the ‘Departures’ terminal of an airport, entering an NHS hospital is akin to entering a different world in which Time (as it is known and experienced anywhere else) is suspended and the individual is subjected to something quite different, viz. ‘institutional time’, in which seconds and minutes are greatly extended.
How am I feeling as D-Day approaches? Excited? Worried? Nervous? Positively excited … or the reverse?
None of the above, really. My general approach to such things is instinctively laid back. Whenever I am going into a medical situation, great or small, I tend to just lie there and let them get on with it.
Let’s see how things are when we get a bit closer …