You might think that this is a piece on new photography technology or techniques, but it’s more fundamental than that. A month ago today, I received a new hip, courtesy of the Ontario healthcare system and the wonderful folks at Sunnybrook’s Holland Orthopaedic Centre in Toronto. I’ve affectionately named my hip “Metallica Chalybs”, in honour of the materials out of which she is made.
It’s amazing to me that this object, about the size of a banana and almost the same shape, can support my frame and give me back my mobility. Actually, when fully assembled, it looks like a banana with an ice-cream scoop on top. Do you get the sense that I want to depict this as something pleasant?
In reality, the experience was about as pleasant as any major surgery can be. I’ve never had a full-scale operation before, and I must admit that I was more prepared for the surgery than the recovery, despite months of homework and conversations with many people that were either directly involved in my process or had had it done to them.
The surgery itself went incredibly smoothly with no complications. I don’t remember a thing except for the incredibly nice people who looked after me before I went in to the operating room and after I came out.
But the first week afterward was not a breeze by any stretch. I fainted when I first stood up after a day in bed. I had the most amazingly stiff leg with the worst muscle cramps imaginable all along the upper part of the leg. I developed a heat rash across all my backside, due to being bedridden most of the time when not standing and moving as prescribed. Modern practice is to get you up and moving the day after surgery, bright and early. For some people, the pain of the arthritic hip before surgery outweighs anything after. For me, it was the other way around. But I’ve always been “special”.
And yet, it does get better. With so many people interested in helping, in managing your pain and in getting you past the first week, you do get through it. The hospital stay itself is fairly short – only 3 days. By the time I left, my family and I were fully prepared to look after things from there. But it was an adventure getting home, with every little bump and turn causing some discomfort.
The second week is about adjusting to the limitations in function and movement you have during recovery, and of course, establishing the discipline to do the exercises that get you back to full function.
The biggest surprise of the second week was that the leg swelled up like a football, part of the natural healing process. And the bandages came off this week as well, revealing a nice 5 inch incision line that hopefully had fully closed. Luckily mine had.
The third week, I really started to feel like I was past the worst of it. The leg was getting stronger, the movements were more natural and sometimes not even noticed. In this week, I really had to stay conscious to limit movements to the ones I’d been told were safe to do.
In the fourth week, it’s all about strengthening the muscles, about putting more weight on the leg and about getting up and being more active. I’m using two canes as prescribed, but now more for stability than support, as the legs are doing almost all the work.
And after this first month, I start to put full body weight on the operated leg and do everything possible to get it as strong and mobile as its neighbour. That’s where I am now.
It seems most people return to essentially normal function after two months, so I have another 4 weeks to go. I’m looking forward to the end of this journey, and to the start of the real adventures with my new buddy, Metallica.
So why the title, Adapting to Change? For all my adult life, I’ve been an independent person, trying not to ask anything of other people or relying on others for help. Don’t get me wrong – I cherish my family and friends, but I’ve always felt that asking for help was imposing. I had to get over that big time for this surgery. The most mundane tasks have required creativity in movement and a slow pace. Some of my favourite things, like looking after my two cats at home, I couldn’t do at all.
The bottom line: I could not have gotten through the last month without the daily support of my family and the help of friends who have gone above and beyond to ensure I had nothing to worry about during recovery. It’s the best “get well” gift anyone could have received. All I can say is thank you.