Diary of a hip replacement: week 6

Helen Pierce / 27 April 2015

In the sixth week of her recovery from a hip replacement, Helen Pierce is full of questions as she approaches her six-week check-up.



Hip replacementDay 36: training my operated leg to stay straight


Hydrotherapy again, my second session. The physiotherapist notices that my dressing is now off, and tells me to put some moisturiser on the scar to soften it. We repeat the exercises from last time, plus a couple of new ones. We talk about the foot – ‘trotter’ - always trying to escape to the left. She says this is very common in hip replacement patients because the muscles in the outer thigh have been cut. Basically the foot needs to be trained to stay straight ahead at all times to make those thigh muscles work.

Day 37: still taking the pills


Despite my progress, I am still taking painkillers every 4 hours (2 paracetamol, 2 ibruprofen), remembering the nurse’s advice at the pre-assessment - people think they can just take a painkiller when something hurts, but it doesn’t work like that. You need to have them in your system, so that when pain strikes the drug is there, ready to fight it. However, I have always been aware of the dangers of prescription medicine addiction and have stopped using codeine-based pain relief, or kept it to a minimum.

Day 38: down to one crutch around the house


I have been going around the house with just one crutch, on the opposite side to the operated leg, I cannot yet walk completely unaided as it is too jarring to put my weight onto the operated hip. One crutch seems to be working well, and I don't think I will go back to using two.

Day 39: a broken lift means doing lots of steps


My mother and I go to a local home furnishing store. We have a nice time mooching around before discovering that the lift is broken, but following my ‘bad leg down, good leg up’, I am able to get down the steps. This is the first time I have used so many steps out of the home. It doesn’t seem much, but to me it’s a significant moment.

Day 40: I have to miss out on a family celebration


A big family birthday celebration. I really want to go but common sense, and my husband’s misgivings, mean that I must make apologies for my absence. It’s a long car journey in a smallish car and my husband is concerned that with all the stairs at the venue, not to mention the crowd, I’ll tire myself out, let alone risk a fall.  Coping with a set of store staircases is one thing...

The thought of leaning on a crutch while everyone else is on the dance floor is not a fun prospect. My nephew who had a knee operation following a serious car accident says that he, too, felt vulnerable and stayed away from various social functions while he was on crutches. Even though he was in his 20s, he felt awkward, concerned that he may have a crutch knocked away, and would not be able to enjoy having a drink. What’s more, everyone would be asking what happened and how he was - and you don’t want to be the centre of attention at someone else’s party.

Day 41: missed trip turns out for the best


It was probably for the best that I missed the party. They took a wrong turning for the M25 on the way home and ended up in a truck stop in deepest Essex rather than heading for the south coast. They got in at 3. I don’t think my leg could have stood up, or even sat down, to that. Fate moves in strange ways.

Day 42: in the run-up to my six-week check up I'm full of questions


This is an important moment in my recuperative timetable. Next week brings my post 6-week check-up. My main worry is has the implant – the mechanical hip replacement itself - taken properly? Is it in the right place? Of course, I would not be able to walk on it if it hadn’t, but I want the personal reassurance of seeing the X-ray for myself so that I know it’s all in the right place and mending properly. I am walking on one crutch - is that good progress? Or am I pushing myself too far?
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