Today I have a new hip, a round, probably cream colored ball, that replaces the round top of my femur, which is attached to a stem that fits into my thigh bone and has been placed in the empty socket where my old arthritic hip used to be. Got that? I am nine days post-surgery and, for the second time in two days, feel a burst of morning energy. I’ve made a few lists of things I can actually do and started checking them off. I’ve begun the process of straightening and sorting all my belongings that made it over to chez Koch, my home away from home.
Chez Koch is where two remarkable and generous friends have let me stay for the first ten nights of my recovery. It is a ranch style house, the only steps being the two very small ones that allowed me in the front door. Between lots of naps, I’ve slowly been learning how to walk again with the aid of a walker. My Physical Therapist at the hospital said “you have wonderful posture. Were you a dancer?” Meaning that if I stand erect and walk, the surgical leg moves directly behind me slightly stretching the thigh skin, exactly as it is supposed to do. Then he said “You walk like Frankenstein” In my cautiousness, I was forgetting to bend my knee of the surgical leg. This produced a few chuckles from the watching staff. Dancer and Frankenstein describing me within two minutes of each other! Well, as they say “only in San Francisco”. It turns out there is a Ballet showing in the City at the moment called “Frankenstein”.
For the record, I didn’t like being in the hospital. It was my first time and, hopefully, my last. It wasn’t the constant poking and prodding that I’d been warned about, it was the double speak. I had the orthopedist who performed the surgery. I had a Joint Care Coordinator, a physical therapist, an occupational therapist, a day time RN and a night time RN and both of them had trainees. I had a substitute doctor as my surgeon was unavailable when I awoke Friday morning. Each of these people knocked carefully on the door of my single room at Kaiser San Leandro Hospital. Each entered with an opinion or feedback. Almost all the opinions and feedback contradicted each other. For me, already scared by someone having taken a scalpel to my backside, opening up a fairly large portion of said backside to go in and out of the hip area, not to mention drugged silly with anesthesia so as not feel the above mentioned activity, I just wanted one person to be decisive and tell me exactly what to do.
Not to be. I had immediate problems. I couldn’t stand up long enough to get anywhere to take a pee. My blood pressure would drop to the floor, giving my stomach a good shuffle on the way down so I thought I might vomit. I’d break out in sweats while shivering. This all turns out to be normal if one has low blood pressure to begin with and then adds anesthesia to the mix which drops blood pressure even more. I suppose it’s nice to have that information but what I felt was weak, vulnerable, lonely and wanting someone strong to tell me what to do.
By Friday afternoon, I had a mini-meltdown, no one would agree what should happen to me. I thought I was in a crazy house and wanted out. I called my friend Jane and she came and got me. Kaiser I’m sure was happy to see me go. I’d like to think I’d been mirroring back their very bad communication efforts and they wanted me GONE but I think that would be a bit arrogant. I’m sure I was just a difficult patient.
From Friday evening, February 24 thru Saturday, March 4, my world became my bedroom, my slow trips from bedroom to bathroom and then slow trips from bedroom to kitchen. The most difficult thing physically that I had to accomplish was hauling my surgical leg up onto the bed when getting ready for a rest. I had to use a bungee cord that I would hook around the insole of my foot and gently pull the leg up, followed by the good leg, until both legs were safely propped on a pillow.
It’s been a kind of nether world. Not much exists outside of these walls. Friends have been bringing me meals and doing shopping for me, often staying for a bite and a visit. Everyone wants to know about me so I have perfected the story. I see the paper each morning and that the same man is still President but it feels so far away as not to really touch me. I’ve read four mysteries. It’s not a vacation from life, it’s more like a detour. I’m off the track I know. I don’t know this one very well so I’ve slowed down to a crawl and trying to pay attention. The problems of my normal track aren’t the problems of my today. Today, it’s how to balance out activity and rest so as not to push myself too far. Today, it’s the fine line between pain meds and laxatives so that a secondary pain doesn’t take over all my attention from my healing hip. These are huge problems to me.
Part 2 soon….