I apologise for the lack of blogging content in recent weeks. In my defence, weeks three to six of recovery from hip replacement surgery are really boring if things are going to plan. This makes for dull blog content, but, hopefully, long-term successful surgical outcomes.
I don’t think anyone would describe me as patient. When asked to identify my weaknesses in a job interview, I have, in the past, put “prone to impatience” at the top of my list. My mother reminded me frequently before my surgery that I would have to be patient during my recovery and be prepared to ask for help.
In recent years, I thought that I had improved in the patience department, not least as a consequence of having children. When they were very young, my children would unintentionally test me by bellowing, “again” just as the favourite game or story was nearing the end. Children really love repetition.
For Harry, it was endless readings of “Baby Bear”. It is nearly twenty years ago, but I can still recite the first few pages of this epic from memory. I cannot remember which kindly relative supplied this book; it may well have been the same sister who provided the birthday drum kit.
Anyway, I thought years of child rearing and managing large teams of people at work had taught me everything I needed to know about being patient. Not so. Recovering from joint replacement surgery really put me to the test.
Although I had received plenty of explicit warnings, I was still surprised to find that the post-op fatigue really is quite debilitating and that improvements are very gradual to emerge. I found it very frustrating to sit around waiting for my oomph to return. Unreasonably, I had hoped somehow to be exempt from the promised post-surgical pain, fatigue, inability to concentrate and boredom.
Phrased more positively, I should say that my recovery has been blessedly uneventful and full of slow and steady improvements. Compared to those coping with complications such as infection, dislocation, loosening of their new joint, ongoing pain and trouble with medication, I have absolutely nothing to complain about.
I would characterise week 3-6 as being full of mini-milestones. Each day or two, I noticed slight improvements. These improvements tend to creep on you, and it’s important for your own sanity to recognise and celebrate them when you or someone else spots them.
Recently, my husband was away for a week working abroad. When he came home, he identified significant improvement in the way I was moving and the things I was managing to do far more easily than when he left. That was very encouraging and gave me a new perspective on my recovery. Up until that point, I had been getting very frustrated with what felt like the glacial speed of healing.
Some of the key milestones during this period for me included:
- Managing stairs better and more frequently
- Able to sit and visit with others for longer than 20 minutes
- Improving concentration
- Less dependent on two crutches
- Able to concentrate much longer and resume work in bursts
- More mobility
- Able to walk easily with one crutch and to take a few steps with no aids
- Reducing pain – no further need for ice
- Sleep still disrupted but fatigue lessening
- End of blood thinning injections (hurray!)
- Able to remove reminders for pain medication from phone alarm
- Sleeping a bit better and experiencing no fatigue in the day
- Improving mobility and ability to walk longer distances
- Pain free (apart from occasional aches after long walks)
- Able to walk longer distances with ease and without aids
- Able to work and concentrate well for long periods
- Sleeping better
- Able to say goodbye to the compression stockings (Hurray! But be prepared for the dry, flaking skin which is pretty disgusting).
For me, being free of one crutch made a massive difference. Suddenly, I could carry items easily, cook and do laundry. I never thought those would be tasks to celebrate, but it was such a relief to be free of the overwhelming fatigue and limitations of the first two weeks. I also celebrated my first trips to the supermarket and the hairdresser as significant occasions.
And, when the magical 6 week date is achieved, the real excitement starts. After week 6, my surgeon cleared me to drive and to sleep on my side. These are two of life’s true joys. Perhaps they can only be truly appreciated by those who have been denied them for a long time!
I just had my 6-week check and was told that I am making good progress – particularly in walking well with a good stride length. I confessed to a few misdemeanours (like putting my socks on without the contraption, walking without aids and tying my shoes) and was absolved as long as I do not strain my hip.
In general, I was told that walking and exercising (but not to the point of fatigue) are fine, but I still need to be cautious until late March. The danger in feeling well and pain-free is that it is tempting to overdo it and strain the still healing muscles and nerves. I am determined to behave myself and follow any rules that will promote the health and longevity of my new hip.