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Three steps forward and then … er … one going nowhere

By Friday afternoon this week it will have been exactly a fortnight since I had my hip replacement operation and my post today is a report upon how things have been going. This is not going to be heavy stuff – I’m nothing special in the category of those who have had hip replacements and I very much doubt that my experience has been unique. I’m also conscious of trying to guard against ‘letting it all hang out’ and/or boring people to death by presenting a self-indulgent blow-by-blow account of my doings. They just haven’t really been that interesting …

As previously blogged, by nature I’m not the kind of person who tends to get het up and/or nervous about undergoing operations and/or the prospect of spending time in hospital recovery wards afterwards. If I am required to do them, I try to just lie back and think of England.

Nevertheless, it was great to get out after only three nights in hospital and to find that my recovery process immediately after my operation seemed to go so smoothly. I was soon up and about, albeit for short periods only, with the help of a zimmer frame and then a pair of walking sticks.

Apart from that – and doing my exercises as shown in the booklet they give you before leaving hospital, plus taking the wide-ranging cocktail of pills I must down four times per day, and stabbing myself in the stomach after I have my evening meal – I just sit around and read newspapers, magazines or the book on the Battle of Waterloo that I picked out of my bookcase just before setting off to hospital and am now quite engrossed in.

Movement is necessarily restricted both physically by what I feel comfortable doing and that which I am warned best not to do. When you get to your mid-sixties, although the gung-ho dare-devil ‘let’s go for it’ approach is still inside you somewhere, you do tend to take a less urgent attitude towards actually trying to push your recovery so far that you gain automatic consideration by the Guinness Book Of World Records for a potential ‘fastest-ever recovery from a hip replacement operation’.

sticksLast week, towards the end of my first seven days post-op, I was beginning to acquire some self-confidence that the continual, stage by stage, incremental progress I was making would be uninterrupted and that (to a certain degree) the whole ‘hip replacement experience’ was a bit of a doddle.

If you were physically fit and worked at it hard enough, that is.

Another six days on and I am learning slightly different.

From the outset I have had trouble getting to sleep. This has been all to do with the fact that (with a hip) you are not only advised, but soon find, that sleeping in any position but on your back is going to be a struggle. Well, it has been for your author, who never normally sleeps upon his back and by choice prefers to sleep on his side.

Secondly, as an invalid who needs access at least one stick in one hand in order to manoeuvre himself in an acceptable state of balance (and yet simultaneously can necessarily carry only one thing at a time in the other), it takes a little bit of planning to – for example – prepare some food and drink and take it to a table or indeed to my armchair in front of the television.

Obtaining food from two or three different parts of the kitchen, or a glass from a cupboard and then filling it with some orange juice from inside the fridge, and then preparing a plate of food satisfies every quality necessary to qualify as ‘multi-tasking’.

Thereafter getting your food and drink to your desired position takes at least two trips (because you can carry in only one hand). I’ve lost count of the times I’ve plumped down in my armchair … only then to realise that I’ve got to get up again because I’ve left an element of my meal (or indeed just a sliver of kitchen towel) behind and have to go back for it.

Thirdly, I find I get tired easily and frequently. My immediate response is to retire to lie on top of my duvet, on my back naturally, in my bedroom until I feel fortified enough to rise again.

I referred earlier to the impression I initially gained that ‘recovery’ from a hip replacement operation was a continuous progression along an upward sloping graph.

I suspect that this may have allowed me to get complacent and/or even ahead of myself. I have been ‘pushing the envelope’ on my mobility – trying to speed up and stride out on my outings across the road to the newspaper shop … or simply down the road specifically to take exercise. Partly this was because I felt I could, partly because it seemed like a good idea, and partly because many I came across who knew anything about hip replacements kept saying encouraging things like “My God – you’re doing well! I can scarcely believe you’re getting around as well as you are this soon after your operation …”

All this now appears to have come back to bite me on the backside.

My much-vaunted progress seems to have stalled over the last 48 hours.

workI may have overdone things on Sunday night and Monday (including, I confess, two short trips driving my SUV into town and back again without any mishap, despite being absolutely banned from driving until my surgeon says different) because yesterday I awoke with more discomfort than I’ve been used to recently in the hip and thigh region of my operated-upon leg.

This stayed with me throughout yesterday, to my intense disappointment. Instead of moving about, courtesy of my left hand attached to a walking stick, like an adrenaline-fuelled house spider – or even Anthony Sher’s famous version of Shakespeare’s Richard III – I was restricted to the kind of general and rather tedious hobble that I was operating with about 36 hours after my operation.

An old school chum came round to visit yesterday afternoon. His wife of thirty-five years had a hip replacement last year and was back at work exactly six weeks later, as the medics had predicted.

Upon arrival he said he was stunned to see me already as mobile as I was and, when I commented somewhat dolefully that I seem to have ‘plateau’d’ over the last 24 hours, he responded that this was perfectly normal and only to be expected. During her convalescence, his wife had endured periods of ‘spurts of progress’ and then others of ‘nothing’ or even ‘going backwards’. He advised me to just hang in there and keep trying.

And that’s what I’m going to do …


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About Gerald Ingolby

Formerly a consumer journalist on radio and television, in 2002 Gerald published a thriller novel featuring a campaigning editor who was wrongly accused and jailed for fraud. He now runs a website devoted to consumer news. More Posts