It is ten months since I had surgery for femoroacetabular impingement (F.A.I) and a torn labrum (cartilage). Yesterday I had a check-up with my surgeon to see how well the hip has healed and see if the hip arthroscopy had done the trick. If it hadn’t worked then I would need a full hip replacement sooner, rather than later!
The surgery involved my lovely surgeon shaving away the bony spur that had caused all the damage in the first place, then reattaching the labrum, which is cartilage that had been torn by the extra strain on the joint, and removing a few arthritic cysts, again caused by the F.A.I condition.
When I first met my surgeon, roughly a year ago, I was terrified by the prognosis he gave me, that the surgery had only a 40% chance of success because my joint was so badly damaged. At the time he warned me that there was no point in proceeding unless I was willing to commit to at least six months of intensive physiotherapy afterwards. Without the physiotherapy, the surgery would not stand a chance of working, because my damaged hip needs super strong muscles to support it. He also warned me that even if the surgery was a success I would need a full hip replacement in about five years.
Obviously this was life changing news, especially at the age of twenty-eight when you expect to be able to enjoy leading an active life! But I had already suffered years of pain in my hip and lower back and it had got so bad that I hadn’t been able to work for a year.I knew I did not really have a choice, I had to give the surgery a try. My surgeon told me I would also need to be prepared for the mental hardship of the recovery, because the recovery time was long and the process very frustrating. I really appreciated him being so honest with me, at no point did I feel like I was being coerced into having unnecessary surgery.
I was also really blown away by his enthusiasm and obvious passion for his work, his eyes lit up when he told me how he planned to try and fix my hip. I had already been told by the consultant who referred me that he was one of the top hip surgery specialists in the country. When I listened to him talk about my condition and the hip arthroscopy surgery he was going to perform, I felt totally assured that if anyone could fix my dodgy hip, this man could! Bless him for continuing to work for the NHS instead of being lured to the private sector by financial incentives.
Following the surgery, and over the course of the year, I have had several check-ups to see how well my hip is healing. Each check up has been a pleasant surprise. My surgeon is obviously incredibly busy, he runs an orthopaedic clinic as well as doing hundreds of operations a year, so many times I have been seen by his colleague, who was the second surgeon in my operation. It’s quite unnerving to think how many people had a fiddle around in my joint that day!
Anyway, surgeon number two has a great sense of humour. He was the one who drew the big arrow on my hip on the day of the surgery and made me laugh when I was absolutely terrified of going under the knife. I’ve seen him for several of my check-ups and it’s so nice to see his face light up in a massive smile at my unexpectedly good progress! On one occasion my Mum was with me for the examination and she used the word ‘flabbergasted’. English was not his first language and he chuckled in delight at this crazy English word that he’d never heard before! He is also the one who, when I mentioned my hip was still clicking at six months, said ‘It will take at least nine months for the joint to heal fully. You’d be amazed the damage a surgeon can do in thirty minutes!’ Said with a chuckle and a twinkle in his eyes! Basically, my surgical team were the best!
Anyway, to finally get to the point.
The drive from where I live to Harrogate takes an hour and involves some quite steep roads over the moors that are treacherous in winter. My Mum has kindly been driving me to each appointment, since I can’t drive. (I had lessons, I’m hopeless, don’t ask!) We’ve been amazingly lucky with the weather every time. Apart from yesterday when thick fog cloaked the hill tops and the roads were slick with water. I’m quite a relaxed passenger and I love the gothic moodiness of fog, but even I found it a bit unnerving to see huge lorries looming out of the hazy grey road ahead. They looked like leviathans emerging from the black depths of the ocean! My Mum did amazingly well to drive us there and back, her poor nerves were frazzled by the time we got home!
But it was worth it, because after the terrifying drive, the quest for the holy grail of a parking space in the hospital car park, and my appointment being delayed by thirty minutes in an overcrowded stuffy windowless waiting room (seriously, I have no idea how NHS staff work in those conditions) I got the best news ever.
I didn’t get to see my surgeon but I saw his second in command that day, a lovely blue-eyed Irish man who had man handled me before at one of my previous check ups. He asked how I was getting on, manipulated my hip in several different directions, got my foot up by my ear with only the slightest of protests from my back and confirmed with a big smile on his face that I was a miraculous success! I asked him about the aching pain I get from the arthritis, and he said it’s nothing to worry about, that the amount of arthritis in my joint is minimal. Then he showed me a sketch of my hip joint that my surgeon had made in my notes. I have the tiniest amount of arthritis where the cartilage tore, and three ‘anchors’ keeping the cartilage in place. The rest of the joint, as he put it ‘is near pristine’.
He said that I must stay as active as possible, keep up with the physio exercises at home and reassured me that resuming running would be a good thing to do. He also said that because the surgery had been such a success my prognosis had improved. I would still need a full hip replacement eventually, but instead of it being in five years time, it would be more like twenty! Then he smiled, shook my hand and vanished off into the world to fix more broken bodies.
To say I am happy doesn’t quite cut it. I am ecstatic, I am literally jumping for joy! I don’t know what to do first, book dance classes or climbing lessons, or…oh my beloved horse riding! I’ve happy danced around the house and I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.
But actually, I do know what I want to do first. I want to thank our amazing NHS that we are so blessed to have in this country, which we should always support and never take for granted.All the talented, kind individuals who keep the system running, despite the frankly terrible pay and working conditions. You people are angels, and you have given me my life back. XXX