Hip Replacement Surgery – My Experience with This Orthopedic Miracle

I was a very healthy, athletic woman of 54 when I first experienced a pain in my left groin area doing flip-turn kicks off the end of the swimming pool as I was doing my 1/2 mile of daily laps. Over several weeks and then months the pain became more acute and chronic, so that I was experiencing severe pain 24/7 and not just while doing certain movements. Pain was with me all-day – sometimes so intense as to bring tears to my eyes and ruining whole nights of sleep. Finally I relented in my stubborn refusal to admit that something was really wrong with my hip and saw my orthopedic surgeon. It only took one x-ray of both hips for him to come to his conclusion. No ands, ifs, or buts-I had severe hip displasia, which I had been born with and which had been eating away at my cartilage for all my adult life. This condition is really a sort of birth defect in a sense. The hip sockets that the ball joints of the femur fits into are extremely shallow and the cushioning material that protects the hips are worn down very fast in an individual with this condition. My doctor prescribed me VIOXX and sent me home, saying that at some point I would probably need to have a total replacement of my left hip.

I had no idea what hip replacement involved. I had never been sick and I took for granted that my body was strong and healthy. I didn’t know what a beating the joints, and especially the hips and knees get over the course of a lifetime. And I didn’t know that I had a condition which hastened that wear. But I also didn’t know what a miracle orthopedic medicine had become. I just knew that I hated hospitals and didn’t relish the recovery time I anticipated from it. Though I took the Vioxx for about five days, I had no relief from it and stopped because I was adamant about not taking NSAIDs in general. Just realize that prescription drugs that wipe out pain and inflammation all can carry very dangerous side effects. That was Not an option for me, but it was my personal decision. Instead, I began taking all sorts of alternative pills like Glucosomine and Chondroitin, MSM, Pycnogenol, shark cartilage -a whole medley of health food store “miracle workers. for pain” and rebuilding my hip.. I am not saying that these are ineffective, just that they did nothing for me. My cartilage just was almost gone and nothing I did could wipe out the pain or rebuild such a damaged joint. I began taking only aspirin, bit the bullet, and made an appointment for total hip replacement surgery.

The real point of this article is to give some tips and advice for anyone going through hip or any joint replacement for any reason whatsoever. The surgery went well and I came through with flying colors. There was a lot of pain but I was pretty drugged up. My entire lower back was black and blue and my upper leg was too. But I wasn’t prepared for what happened next. The day following surgery I “went crazy,” so to speak – itching all over my back and sides and breaking out with a rash over my entire body. I even tried to get up and dressed and check out of the hospital although I couldn’t even focus properly! Fortunately, a friend had stayed with me overnight and called a nurse. More drugs. Sleep. Another day. More drugs. But one of the doctors had the presence of mind to realize that my rash and itching and behavior were all indicative of an acute allergy to morphine. Needless to say, the remainder of my hospital stay was quite nice. I healed so fast and was doing so well that the therapists said since I was walking on a walker and even with a cane by day 7 that I didn’t need to go to the in-patient therapy sessions. Once out I attended one day of therapy as an out-patient and was given a sheet of paper with minimal exercises on it like going up and down steps, and three or four other light exercises. No real detailed instruction was given.
Well, dear reader, here’s where the meat of my article comes in. I learned quite a bit from my experience and much of it can help others. I will itemize these tips one by one for you.

1. Do Not delay getting x-rays of your hips or any other areas if you are having considerable pain in a joint. At least you will know if you have degenerated cartilage. Cartilage is what makes our hips move without pain. But I delayed because I was quite young for this type of degeneration and it cost me in the additional time I spent in pain.

2. Seriously consider the pros and cons of any medication your doctor prescribes for you. Orthopedics is Not medicine. It is treatment. These drugs are pain relievers, not cures. NSAIDs and other prescription drugs have very serious side effects that may impact your life far more seriously than an operable condition that can successfully fix your problem. If you do decide to take some alternative pills or treatments, do not make them an excuse to replace or delay surgery if they are not working. Remember, anytime you stop serious pain with prescription medication there are Serious side effects that should not be taken lightly. Drugs just prolong the degeneration of your joint. Hip replacement Fixes the problem. It is truly a miracle surgery.
3. If you have an option for your scheduled surgery, I urge you to pick a heavy vacation time. I chose December 19th. Why? The staff is less stressed out because during Christmas and Easter and Labor Day, etc. there will be far fewer elective surgeries scheduled. The staff is less stressed and the food is even better I believe. My stay, barring the morphine episode for a day, was almost a delight. Everyone was nice. Everyone had more time for me and I watched the ice storm outside from my comfortable room with a hot chocolate or ice cream and a warm bed!

4. If you know anyone who has a “universal donor ” bloodtype and would not be averse to donating blood for your surgery specifically, I would strongly advise you asking them to do this for you. One of your siblings, a son or daughter – any family member may have this blood type and is a good candidate. You can also donate blood yourself. I’d advise at least two pints and possibly three to donate and make sure that you instruct the nurses that this blood is for Your surgery at a specific hospital on a specific date. Advise the operating doctor and hospital that you’re doing this as well. Transfusions are mainly safe and well-monitored, but this extra precaution was still worth it for my peace of mind. You must do this weeks before the date of your operation. Ask your doctor the minimun length of time required between the operation and blood donation.

5. Before surgery ask your surgeon how you can test for reactions to pain medications. You will be tested for pre-op beforehand but this is to make sure your anesthesiologist will have all the specs for his job. You will have to ask about testing for morphine or other pain medication reactions.

6. Once surgery is over make sure you make specific inquiries about THERAPY. This is absolutely essential and is Not an option. If you don’t do proper therapy afterwards you will have problems. I am still weak in the left thigh after five years and though I am doing something about it now I would have been much stronger had I gotten Good therapy early on and continued 5 minute exercises every day from then on out. Therapy can also include massage around the scar to help lessen the tightness of the scar tissue area but I really advise your asking your doctor/surgeon about this! It might help with stimulating blood flow around the scar, thus less stiffening. Just make sure you consult with your doctor and have a massage therapist who is licensed and knows a lot about physiology and will do it correctly.

I now have to have my right hip replaced and I am armed with some good first-hand knowledge from my prior experience. I am no longer afraid of total hip replacement. I’ll also get some decent therapy this time, no matter what. And I’ll continue exercises for the rest of my life a few minutes each day. It’s that simple. I have already alerted my doctor that I am highly reactive to morphine, so that won’t be a problem now. And though I can’t schedule my operation for December because my pain level is so intense, I would really advise anyone with a need for replacement to schedule during the major holiday seasons. You might get much more attention from less stressed nurses and orderlies, while avoiding the stress of the holiday season as well. I am still taking glucosomine & chondroitin as supplements but I no longer look for them as cures but as aids in helping keep cartilage healthy all over the rest of my body. I am also taking an Omega 3 fish oil supplement. Though I always ate well and didn’t even like red meat, those who have arthritis can certainly impact its progression by making some big changes in their diets. It will help impact the quality of your life in all other ways as well. I am going to begin walking in the mall as well because this is an exercise I basically ignored as a one-time tri-athelete. Now that I’m older and can’t run or play tennis, my exercise is going to be swimming and walking exclusively. I hope that this helps anyone contemplating hip or any other replacement surgery. I sure know that this knowledge will certainly help me!

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