Last week, I attended an education session offered by the physiotherapy team at the hospital. It was certainly an eye-opener, providing lots of detailed information about what to expect during the 3-5 days of our hospital stay and then the 12 weeks at home after surgery.
Here are a few things I was surprised to learn about the risks of blood clots and dislocation:
- Surgical stockings have to be worn for 6 weeks after surgery
2. You have to take blood thinning medication by tablet or injection for some time
- You have to sleep exclusively on your back for 12 weeks
- You cannot cross your legs or ankles for 12 weeks
- You cannot have a bath for 12 weeks.
There were about eight of us in the group, all facing imminent hip replacement surgery. Initially we were given a presentation, a series of demonstrations and a chance to ask questions as a group.
The practical demonstrations on how to move correctly (eg when getting into a car or into bed) and how to use the recommended aids were very useful, but also a bit intimidating. The sock-putter-on thing looks fiendishly complicated.
We were told that this aid, the ‘helping hand,’ is going to become our best friend for the 12 weeks when we are restricted in our ability to bend or twist:
The whole group became silent and mesmerised as our very slim physiotherapist demonstrated how to use the ‘helping hand’ to put on an oversized pair of plaid boxer shorts that would have been baggy on a giant! I think it was a combination of awe and horror that silenced what had been, up to that point, a very chatty group. I had a wretched moment of realisation at that point. “Oh no,” I thought. “That is going to be me! That is how I will have to put my knickers on for 12 weeks.” Grim.
That was the grand finale on our group session. Immediately after that, we were told that each of us would have a 1:1 session with a physio to go over the measurements of our body parts and household items (eg chairs) that we had been asked to bring with us. The purpose of the individual sessions was to identify any aids or additional support that each patient would require on returning home after the surgery.
I was not one of the first to go off for a 1:1, so the remaining group of us formed a little self-help group having a good chat and a laugh while we waited our turn.
In my experience of talking with joint replacement patients, I would say that despite our many differences, we all feel anxious about surgery. For the vast majority of patients, having access to detailed information about what is going to happen and an opportunity to ask questions helps alleviate some of this concern.
In our little support group, we swapped tales of how we came to need surgery and how we chose our hospital. I was interested to learn that my fellow patients had done a lot of research – checking feedback on the NHS Choices website, looking up the number of similar procedures done at a range of hospitals and checking infection and revision rates. Unfortunately, no one else was aware of the National Joint Registry, our resources for patients or the recent publication of surgeon-level data. I passed on the details of the NJR website and documents.
We discussed the pros and cons of having a general anaesthetic or a spinal which is a choice each of us will have on the day of our surgery. The straw poll showed a divided group. Those sure they would opt for the general were in the minority. They felt worried about being aware of what was happening to them during the operation.
Those planning to have a spinal had generally heard from others about their positive experiences and how they felt better able to start their recovery post-surgery.
I have not had a general for many years, but have previously found it has taken me a long time to overcome the general blah feeling. I am leaning toward the spinal option, but will keep an open mind.
On my way home from the session, I had a momentary panic about having the required slippers with a closed heel for my hospital stay so I stopped to check out the options. I rarely buy clothes without checking with my daughter Annabel first. As she was not with me, I took some pictures for her to consider. Not surprisingly, she has banned me from buying any of the slippers pictured here. “Mum, just no,” was her judgment!