Diary of a hip replacement: week 5

Helen Pierce / 21 April 2015

In week 5 of her diary about recovering from a hip replacement, Helen Pierce enjoys a hydrotherapy session, has the surgical dressing removed and gets used to being seen out and about with a crutch.



Hip replacementDay 29: my post-hip replacement hydrotherapy session 


Hurrah! The hospital hydrotherapy session goes ahead. My mum drives me over there. To my surprise, there are a few people sitting there with crutches and other walking implements; ‘We must all be having an appointment, one after the other,’ I think to myself, but no, we are all going in the pool together!

There are five of us, two with shoulder injuries, one with a knee operation and me with my hip replacement. There is also a man wearing a rubber ring walking up and down the pool. While one physiotherapist deals one-to-one with him, the other goes round the four of us giving us relevant exercises.

It is wonderful to be in the warm water, the leg wants to float and do stuff it just can’t do on dry land.

She first of all gets me to do the same standing exercises that I do at home, bending the knee up in front 15 times, not using the body, but using the muscles in the leg. Kicking the leg out to the side, this is so much easier in the water, out to the back and up and down on tip toes, all 15 times each.

Then she brings a step: I am to step up using the operated leg. ‘Don t worry,’ she says, ‘the water will take the weight’. This is an absolute no-no at home as you step up using the unoperated leg, but the feeling of weightlessness allows this manoeuvre.

Next, she brings a wobbleboard. I have to get my balance, which is tricky at first. You need to use the muscles in that leg that have been cut, she explains.

Finally she brings a float, the kind you would put on a small child’s arm when they learn to swim. She puts it around the foot of the operated leg, telling me to do the same exercises as before but to keep the float down, as it wants to take my leg up to the top of the water. This, she explains, uses those muscles to control the float and therefore strengthen the leg.

I am in the water for about 45 minutes. The physiotherapist explains that we will feel tired, and need our pain relief but importantly we must drink plenty of water after this session.

A complete bonus, I am allowed to wash my hair in the stand-up shower; this is wonderful.

Being a Pisces and a keen swimmer, I would enjoy this, wouldn’t I? It seems to me that whoever you are with any kind of joint surgery, hydrotherapy is a must, if you can get it.

Day 30: turning housework into an exercise routine


It was a month yesterday that I had the operation, and I feel I’m making steady progress. The hydro and physio sessions are making not just a physical improvement but a mental one too. My leg is still swollen behind the knee, but today I do quite a lot of housework; changing a bed, hoovering while just using one crutch, putting four washes on, making a chilli con carne.

Usually these would just be tedious chores but now I see them as an important exercise routine. It’s nice to put a positive spin on domestic drudgery!

Day 31:  the surgical dressing is removed


I go to the nurse practitioner at my GP surgery and ask her to look at the dressing and scar. My surgeon said I could remove the dressing after two weeks, but I was not happy with this, and have erred on the side of caution.

When the nurse takes off the dressing, she tells me I don’t need another. I can let the scar breathe.

I have high expectations that it will be a very faint line eventually. Right now it looks like a vivid red, thin line, but no sign of bruising. However, the leg is still swollen; behind the knee is rock hard and the foot is puffy.

Day 32: hip replacement exercises


I am still doing the exercises I came out of hospital with, 10 reps of each, 4 times a day; one set lying down, one  standing up. See Day 6 of my diary.

Day 33: everyone recovers from a hip replacement differently


I speak to my friend who had the same operation, exactly a week exactly after me. For her, the nights are difficult, sleeping on her back is hard, and she feels most pain in the operated leg, during the night.

However, she came out of hospital with two walking sticks, and is now going round her house with just one stick. She is determined to be driving and stick-free as soon as possible. Also, while I have had lots of swelling in the leg, she has none, but is remains very bruised around the wound.

It shows that everybody recovers differently and also that recovery is not a competition with oneself. I must take my recovery at the pace that suits me.

Day 34: I get used to being seen on a crutch


I need to get out of the house. Hello! I said, I really need to get out of the house! Thankfully a dear friend takes me out to a café where we put the world to rights. I tell her there has been a significant shift in my perception of myself.

Throughout my life I have pretended that I am ‘normal’, as my medical history with my legs was often a ‘shameful secret’ for me, a stigma. But now I don‘t care if I am seen out and about on a crutch. What’s the worry, it really doesn’t matter. This has been a pleasing development for me and surprisingly easy.

Day 35: Click and Clack


My click-clacking down the hall on my crutches leads us to thinking we could get an animated TV series out of all this – Click and Clack, an animated medical adventure series set in a hospital surgical storeroom. I’ll take any positive I can.   

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