Entries tagged with “physical therapy”.


While I thought I had pulled the plug on my total hip replacement series, some people have asked for an update. They are either curious, or taking some sick pleasure in my pain. Either way, I’m happy to oblige.

In week #5 post-surgery, the doc gave me approval to drive. I eased back into work, limping about on a cane and toting a throw pillow to place on seats. Sporting a scruffy beard, I looked like a demented interior designer walking the halls of Ames Scullin O’Haire in search of the perfect place to accessorize with my throw pillow.

The physical therapy regimen continues...

In week #6, I began my out-of-home, in-office physical therapy. Aaron, my therapist who re-built me from my first hip replacement, was ready to begin the process all over again on the left side.

Physical therapy is a lot like torture, except giving vital information will not save you from further pain. But physical therapy and natural muscle healing is all I have to do to get better and be human again. It hurts, but I do as I am told. I’ve heard horror stories of people who went through hip or knee replacement surgery, but didn’t do the necessary therapy and consequently have pain and a store-bought joint because they didn’t heal correctly. No thank you. Bring on the pain, Aaron. He does, he most certainly does.

It hurts, but I don’t resort to popping muscle relaxers. I’ve eased myself off the goof, cold turkey-ish. If I need pain relief, I pop a couple Aleve and the little blue pills take the edge off in their powerful yet street legal over the counter way.

... and I am feeling whole again.

I don’t do sleeping pills either. I now sleep the rest of the exhausted. But, to quote comedy guru Chris Elliott, I “have a bladder like a little girl.” I awake a couple times a night to totter my way to the bathroom, relieve myself and return to bed. I must keep two pillows between my legs to keep the new hip in check and out of harm’s way crossing the evil hip precaution zone (NEVER cross legs in the first three months post-surgery).

My two pillows are like a fluffy chastity belt.

My wife begins to ask me how much longer I am going to keep the beard. “It’s prickly,” she says. “Kissing hurts. Besides, it makes you look older.” When you are getting into the region of old fartdom, looking older is not a good thing.

Ancient bearded me.

I had never grown a beard before I had had my first hip replacement. I liked the change of pace, the lazy maintenance of it. But, she didn’t much care for it back then and it eventually found its way to the barber’s floor. It was time to begin thinking of a similar fate for this beard. It would be gone very soon.

Youthful clean-shaven me.

Week #7, I feel like I have my full energy back and I walk without a cane. Yes, I’m wobbly. Yes, I look like a mad sidewinder. Yes, it hurts somewhat. But I’m walking, dammit–– on two fake hips and a couple weak arthritic knees. It’s not pretty, but it is forward locomotion. I CAN WALK! I’m also climbing stairs with both legs alternately bearing load, like we all learned in step climbing school. No more slowly shuffling up steps on the good leg, descending on the weak one.

I also leave my pillow behind. I jack up the height of my office chair as high as it’ll go, and I’m extra careful to hoist myself out of chairs with both arms so as not to put undue pressure on my new hip. I don’t tempt fate by sitting in low rider chairs or couches. That’s a fool’s play, one that could send you back under the surgeon’s blade for some hip re-setting. That fear make me obey my hip precautions slavishly.

I'm ready for my TSA inspection.

Week #8, I take my hip on a test drive to the airport. I can walk, and now I will fly.

I make my way through my pals at TSA, I set off their security alarms and indicate I have TWO artificial hips. I get my “male assist” to wand me down. I beep on the left hip, I beep on the right. I’m patted down and deemed safe to pass. I gather my belongings and ask a nearby son to do me a solid and tie my shoes. I can’t do impossible tasks like that yet.

Life’s getting better all the time. I’m walking stronger on the road to recovery, eventually without a limp.

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.

It will be a long time before I'm able to do my Fab Four leaping exercises.

It will be a long time before I'm able to do my Fab Four leaping exercises.


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).

A portion of my medical trophies wall

A portion of my medical trophies wall

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.

Medical Science has made me better, eventually.

Medical Science has made me better, eventually.

Tomorrow I go to the surgeon for my follow-up visit.

It’s been almost a month since my total hip replacement. If all goes well with my examination, I should get the green light for driving– meaning no matter what color the traffic signal is, I can GO. Your ‘ordinary traffic laws’ do not apply. I think that’s how it goes.

The point is, I should be able to drive again, provided I sit on a pillow of some folded blankets to keep the hip elevated. Since it’s my left hip that was replaced, it won’t come into the driving equation too often. I’m right-footed.

I should be able to ease slowly back into the workaday world with the ably-jointed.

I have been a good boy, doing my physical therapy exercises, getting rest, getting somewhat stronger and doing these postings for therapeutic purposes. My hope is that my pain = your reading pleasure.

Do I recommend hip replacements? No, not if you don’t need them. Recovery is tough. Play Parcheesi instead.

But if you are troubled with constant arthritic pain, if your life is one of pain management, well, something needs to give. And a bum hip seems to be the ante.

I’m curious to see what my medic says. Onward I limp!

I came home, was on my walker for one week and showed enough progress with forward motion that my physical therapist graduated me to the cane. I did not trick out the cane tip with a tennis ball since that would be dangerous. Yes, it’d look cool, but…

I'm like House, without the bothersome brains.

I'm like House, without the bothersome brains.

My walker seems angry with me. It sits in the corner and sulks. The tennis balls shine bright yellow and beckon to be driven. Vroom! But there is no going back– I am a cane man, now. I still use my walker for support during many of my physical therapy exercises, but for walking, I don’t need my pimped-out walker. I walk like a big boy now! A big boy with a very pronounced limp.

I have not shaved since my surgery. A salt and pepper beard is coming in nicely; more salty than I’d like, but facial hair has a mind all its own. With my beard, my cane, my limp and my somewhat sour disposition brought on by pain, I am like Dr. Gregory House. Except unlike House, I don’t have a genius intellect. Why can’t life be more fair?

17 days after surgery, the visiting nurse comes to remove my 33-surgical staples. I’m not sure how she does this, but I don’t think it’s with an office staple remover. The surgical staple removal is a little discomforting, but not really painful. The nurse tells me that my scar looks good and applies eight adhesive scar-binder strips over the wound. These are temporary and will fall off naturally after a week or so.

I’m cutting back on the goof. Weaning myself off painkillers isn’t difficult. I don’t have to get all Sid Vicious or anything. As the wound heals, there is less pain. With less pain, there is less need for painkillers.

Night without Ambien sucks.

Night without Ambien sucks.

The one pill I won’t stop in the near term is my sleeping pill. I tried one night to go without it, but after a few hours of uncomfortably tossing and turning, I gobbled an Ambien and rode it to SleepyTown.

Although I don’t necessarily feel rested after my three short shifts of sleep in two different locations, I know my body MUST have sleep to repair– it’s been through a lot.

I am on the mend. It’s getting better but it’s slow going. The swelling has gone down, the bruising is healing from a dark brown to a shade of light tan and my regimen of hip- strengthening exercises are getting somewhat easier to do. My physical therapist adds more exercises to the list. I curse her and thank her. She knows best.

The road to recovery is long, and if I could, I’d hitchhike. Unfortunately there are no shortcuts. What a pity there aren’t.

Home.

A steady diet of painkillers, better-than-hospital food, rest and various spots to sit that are jacked-up with throw pillows so that my hiney and hips are hoisted out of harms way.

I receive visitors: my Nurse at Home and my Physical Therapist at Home.

The Nurse comes to take my temperature, blood pressure, pulse and get a blood sample. She is not great with getting blood work. She draws blood with little confidence. She ties-me-off clumsily and searches intently for a tapping spot, finally pricking me and filling the small sample tube… leaving a drop of blood on the carpet for good measure.

No, this isn't one of the exercises...

No, this isn't one of the exercises...

My Physical Therapist– Bonnie, however, is the best.

She has an exercise regimen that is challenging but not impossible. She takes my hip to the brink of pain with simple exercises that would make you giggle for their lack of physical challenge. But they are strenuous work for me, my new hip and its 33-surgically-stapled 12″ scar. I do the exercises and Bonnie brings me back from the brink o’ pain. I do exactly as she says and slowly my hip is getting stronger.

Then Bonnie does a dirty trick. She adds more exercises to my regimen. Curses! She is a physical therapist/dominatrix!

But this is the drill. The ONLY way to get back to normal is to do the physical therapy. And Bonnie is great at designing a program that builds the muscles.

I'm wearing hose, no garter belt required.

I'm wearing hose, no garter belt required.

My poor surgery leg is very swollen and bruised beyond belief. Bonnie suggests I get something called JOBST Compression Stockings. They are super-elastic hose that run to the top of the thigh and help improve overall circulation. They’re $60 a pair and I only need to wear one on my surgical leg. I take the suggestion and start wearing hosiery– but I will not succumb to stylish pumps. A man must know his limits.

Bonnie is right. After a couple days, the swelling in my leg goes down. My blood is now circulating well and reducing the bruising. I am healing.

My challenge at this point is simple: I must survive the nurse taking my blood work so that I have some circulation.