Diary of a hip replacement: week 4

Helen Pierce / 13 April 2015

This week, Helen's hopes of hydrotherapy are dashed, but on the bright side, a pal who also had the hip replacement operation rings up to compare notes.



The day has arrived for me to start hydrotherapy, I remember from my last operation 15 years ago how wonderful this was. With the help of a one-to-one physiotherapist, I was able to walk along in the water, and remember eventually kicking my leg out kung fu style to the side, and then kicking against her resistant hand. It really was the moment when I felt I was starting to recover and helped me a great deal.

Imagine my disappointment, then, when sitting in my swimming costume at home, waiting for Mother to pick me up, the telephone rings, it’s the Hydrotherapy dept at the local hospital. The appointment is cancelled, somebody had called in sick, something about health and safety, is that alright?... It’s not often that I lose the power of speech, but I do now. ‘So’ says the voice ‘we’ll try again, same time next week?’ I replace the receiver, still mute. A whole other week, before I can kick those legs about. It’s a dark moment and I can’t say that I’m not angry. 

Day 23: doing my dirty laundry

Taking the dirty laundry downstairs is hilarious, I pick the items up using the helping hand, then fling them down the stairs, of course they land all over the place, moving to halfway down the stairs, I re-fling them down the next set, they land in a heap in the downstairs hall. I then separate them into darks and whites, using my helping hand gadget, all while holding myself up on my two crutches. Once the colours have been separated, I fling the piles into the kitchen and, once near the washing machine, pick the items up and flick them into the washing machine, bravo, job done! I can also iron, sitting down.

My left leg (the operated one) has remained swollen up, from the knee and behind the knee down to my affectionately-named ‘pig’s trotter’, if you can be affectionate about a foot that defiantly wants to go its own way. We have a clever hand-held massage machine and, after doing my exercises, I sit on the bed and massage behind the knee and around the swollen area. It takes ages but seems to help a bit.

Day 24: cooking possible, but can't walk without a crutch

After a quiet day, my son drives over to see us in the evening, he is going to watch football with his dad, I have managed to cook a chicken casserole, as I am ok standing in the kitchen, chopping and stirring. However, if I set off to walk, I must have the crutches, it would be impossible without them right now.

Day 25: check my swollen leg with the GP

I have an appointment with the young man at the physiotherapy department at 8am. Mother picks me up bright and early at 7.30am and we set off through the traffic-free town to the hospital.

I tell my physio that I am concerned about the swelling, he lies me down and has a look and a feel, pressing down with his thumb. He massages the area with some bland moisturiser and says that he would like me to go and see my GP just to check the swelling is nothing to do with a blood clot. He is apologetic about the hydrotherapy, it is not his department and the staff are separate to him.

It is the first time I have seen my GP since the operation, she greets me enthusiastically, asking me how I am. She measures both calves with a tape measure and discounts the idea of any blood clots (phew) she tells me to put my tight stocking/socks back on to contain the swelling (damn). She prescribes me some painkillers, and I feel generally uplifted for seeing her.

Day 26: resigned to watching, not pruning

There is a branch on a tree outside our bedroom window, scraping along the conservatory roof like a fingernail down a blackboard. It makes the most terrible noise whenever the tree bends in the wind and morning sees me and my husband out in the back garden, me being not much help leaning on two crutches and he climbing up and snipping off the noisy branches. He goes off to buy some groceries, I do miss being able to just jump in the car and go. I sit and type this blog to you instead.

Day 27: I'm turning into a recovery guru

There is something quite good about being so home-based, having to take it so easy. It forces you to be more patient, less hurried, more accepting. But it’s for my own good. Being this homebound gives me the opportunity to do all those little jobs I never got round to, like mending, sewing buttons on, darning, ironing the Christmas tablecloth. I have even found some colouring sheets (don’t laugh) and pencils, they are all on my little table should I feel the need to get busy with my hands. Oh dear, I am turning into a recovery guru!

Day 28: swapping notes about the hip op with a friend

A friend calls out of the blue to say that she’s had the same operation! We exchange notes and advice. She tells me she was on sticks when she left hospital, while I’m on crutches still, four weeks after the op, probably because I am partial weight bearing and need stronger support. She tells me that she’s suffered a lot of bruising, which thankfully I’ve not suffered this time round. It’s great to hear from her, I wonder which of us will be the first to get behind the steering wheel again?

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