One month after my total hip replacement, the surgeon says I’m good to drive and begin easing my way back into life. I had my new hip X-rayed and everything is just where it needs to be. The doc came in and checked me for flexibility. He stretched my new hip leg straight out and flat on the table. It hurt.
He took my leg and bent it this way and that, inside and out, round and about like it was a strand of pretzel dough wishing to be twisted. It hurt, too. “You need some physical therapy,” he said (the unsaid meaning was clear: My job here is done.) “You need to stretch and work on your flexibility,” he said like a judge pronouncing his sentence.
So I do, and so I will. I remember that after my first hip replacement there was the getting over surgery stage, and then there was the getting over physical therapy stage. It takes lots of physical therapy to walk pain-free with the walking again.
My doc gave me a prescription for physical therapy (you don’t want to be buying your physical therapy on the streets). I asked him for more sleeping pills. “Why are you having trouble sleeping?” he asked with no trace of irony. “Pain and discomfort,” I said. The doc wrote me scripts for mild muscle relaxers and a small stash of sleeping pills. “Try the muscle relaxer to help you sleep,” he said, “if that doesn’t work, take Ambien.” My doc isn’t a fan of sleeping pills for pain management. I read the precaution sheet that came with the Ambien and he may be right. Here are some of the official precautions from the drug company that makes it:
- do not take Ambien if you are allergic to anything in it
- a common side effect is drowsiness
- After taking Ambien, you may get up out of bed while not being fully awake and do an activity that you do not know you are doing. The next morning, you may not remember that you did anything during the night. Reported activities include driving a car (“sleep-driving”), making and eating food, talking on the phone, having sex and sleep-walking
I don’t know if Ambien is a sleep wonder drug or the ultimate alibi pill. Last night I took a muscle relaxer and slept great. I’m getting this Ambien monkey off my back (goodness knows what he’s doing back there in the middle of the night– driving, eating, talking on the phone, having sex).I will carry on, do what I’m told to do and slowly regain strength, stamina, a dash of flexibility and perhaps even a nice straight walking gait without a whisper of a limp.
I will continue my practice of keeping a trophy for every doctor visit. When I am kept waiting and waiting and waiting in the doctor’s office, I take a latex glove as a souvenir of my visit and post it in my office on the wall. I have quite a glove collection (I also have eyepatches from various glaucoma field of vision tests).
My wall of gloves and eyepatches are a constant reminder to work to stay healthy. I have enough souvenirs of medical visits, thank you, and I’ve unfortunately witnessed how fragile good health can be.
I’ve given two eulogies and seen two of my very best friends laid to rest way before their time. Some things we can avoid, others we cannot. Control what you can and appreciate what you have because when disease calls your number, there’s no debating. That’s the uncertainty of life– living with the certainty of our mortality.
My advice is simple: work to squeeze more years, enjoy all the days you have and spread some good cheer along the way.
I hope this 17-part total hip replacement journey has been informative and entertaining. If my pain has brought you some reading pleasure, I’ve done my job. If reading these entries makes you yearn to replace your healthy hip with a brand new titanium one, well, I may have done my job a little too well.
Thanks, and keep collecting Lint.