eThoughts : February 1, 2010: Pain and Mobility

I went in on January 18, 2010 to have the so-called hip-replacement surgery. The spinal block didn’t take as needed so I was given general anesthesia. I went to sleep and woke up what seemed like an instant later in the recovery room. The surgery went well and now my attention is turned to preventing post-surgical problems and to aiding the healing process.

Once committed to the surgery, I had to turn over the process to the surgeon. However, postsurgical issues are largely under my purview. I am going to be on blood thinners until mid-February and that requires some major attention via diet and lab work to see how the meds are working. And there is physical rehab—I’ve got work to do. In that work, I’ve got to be extremely careful not to move in such a way as to dislocate the metal ball from the metal socket—the thought of which is enough to make me pass out.

Clearly this is a one-step-at-a-time process. So far I’m told I’m doing very well—ahead of the game compared to many others. I think it’s true, though I’ve never had this level of immobility, much less for this long.

One major advantage is that my sister is staying with me for nearly two weeks, into early February. It is a chance for us to talk and interact, something we have done very little of in our lives. Besides, without her, I could not change the anti-embolism hose I’ll be wearing for some time (heck, she can barely change them). And I would certainly have trouble doing other things, like laundry as those machines are in my garage, about eighty feet from my house.

Another advantage, though I’ve almost always appreciated it, was how much mobility matters. What once took three minutes can now take thirty. Brushing teeth sucks energy. Putting on and taking off socks requires a special tool. Pants are a hassle. And slip-on shoes are the only way to go.

Pain is another issue. Though I’ve cut way back on the narcotics (as I write this I’m basically on Tylenol), pain can be my friend or my foe. If I overextend myself, the pain is consuming. If I do too many pain meds, I can easily overextend, la-la-ing along like there is no problem. The trick is to have enough pain to provide appropriate feedback, but not so much to undermine the healing process.

Unless there is a major set-back, I’ll return to work by mid-February for the start of the spring semester. Driving should be interesting. So should getting around the campus. I’ll be using a cane by then instead of a walker, but I will not have the strength I had prior to surgery, though my hip was “pretty well shot” according to the surgeon. I just have to face that this will be a long period of recovery, tested in increments, balanced between doing nothing and doing too much.

It’s a good time to take stock and appreciate the little things that are such a big part of our lives. It isn’t that I needed a big set-back to know this, but what has happened adds a dimension to that appreciation that will be a positive imprint in every part of me. I may have needed a new hip and I look forward to mobility without that hip pain, but I now suspect that I will be a lot freer than from just that pain.

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