45…HIP-tastic News!

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.

femoro

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

nhslove

 

 

41…Hippy New Year

A very Hippy New Year to you all! I hope your hips are feeling happy and ready to take on 2017! 

I was hoping to start the new year as I mean to go on, but events conspired against me. So instead I started the new year with flu, meaning that the hip has suffered from lack of exercise. But Phoebe cat has enjoyed it because she’s had a human shaped giant hot water bottle in bed to snuggle up to and warm her paws on! 

Having said that, I have started the year on a positive note because…the hip has stopped clicking! 
It was the other day when I first noticed that my daily routine was no longer accompanied by the usual serenade. You see, there used to be a chorus of clicks, creaks and crunches whenever I moved. My left knee, my right hip and my lower back were the main offenders. Occasionally my right shoulder, clearly feeling left out, would join in with a harmony. But the hip was the star of the show, the front man of the band with a swagger like Jagger!

Obviously it wasn’t really tuneful, and it made me feel ancient. But my brain chose to think of it this way to put a positive spin on it. Funny, how we learn to live with things! 

Anyway, at my second post surgery check up I spoke to my surgeon about the clicking. He said it was because the hip capsule has to be completely severed to do the surgery (the ligament that attaches the hip joint to the femur) and takes a long time to heal, about nine months! When it has properly healed he promised me, the clicking would stop. Well, he wasn’t far off, because it’s taken nine and a half months! 


So this post is short but sweet. A little glimmer of positivity amidst the darkness of winter. Isn’t it good to know that your body is constantly healing? Even when you feel like you’re a lazy cow doing nothing! I’m just about over the flu, having been ill for two weeks, so next week I’m determined to go to The Gym (said in ominous tones) and continue with project Strong Hips! 

Pretty blue skies bring positive vibes!

39… A Very HIPpy Christmas 

It’s thirty-nine weeks since I had a hip arthroscopy and labrum repair to my right hip to correct femoroacetabular impingement (FAI).

femoroai
What FAI looks like…ewww right?!

I can’t believe it’s almost Christmas! I would like to say this year has flown by, but in reality it has felt like the longest year of my life. It’s certainly not going to be a year I’ll forget!

I’ll be unceremoniously kicking 2016 out the door with everyone else. It’s like 2016 is the guest who has long over-stayed their welcome and at times been deliberately awkward and rude! But part of me will be sad to see it go. Because it isn’t until we are tested that we realise how strong we are. And it’s fair to say that this year has been a testing one for all of us!

But let’s backup a second. This time last year I was preparing to fly to Australia on Christmas day.

dsc_0002
My first sight of Australia

Yes, I went to Australia three months before my surgery, when my hip was at its worst. I was relying on crutches to get around. Not my best plan ever. But there was method in my madness. I was in dire need of guaranteed sunshine and a break from reality and I knew that I wouldn’t be getting either of those things for a loooooong time after my surgery.

It didn’t exactly go according to plan. But I’m glad I went, despite the difficulties of travelling when physically impaired. I fell in love with the country and overcame (sort of) my fear of flying. I met some amazing people and saw some breathtakingly beautiful sights. I made far more good memories than bad.

dsc_0666
Can you spot the kangaroos?

These memories, and the anticipation of visiting Australia again with fully functional hips, helped keep me sane during the long, tedious recovery. I’m making plans to go back next year, and that’s giving me something to work towards during this last push. I want to be strong enough to do all the physical activities that I could not do last time. I’m really looking forward to going back to Tasmania to hike up Mt.Kunanyi/Wellington. I had to get the bus up last time, but it is surrounded by beautiful wilderness full of nature trails that I was itching to explore! A place that truly got under my skin.

dsc_0802
The view from Mt.Kunanyi/Wellington took my breath away!

It would be VERY easy at this point in recovery to get lazy and stick to doing the minimal exercises needed to keep me mobile. There have been weeks when I’ve done just enough, and then mentally kicked myself when my hip has seized up and started clicking. I can’t settle for ‘just enough’ anymore. I need to keep pushing myself, physically and mentally and that is one of the best things to come from having had this surgery. I’ve always lacked motivation in everything I do in life. Now, if I don’t push myself I can’t lead a physically active life. Some would say that’s still a choice to make. But to me it’s not a choice at all.

So now, on days when it’s hailing and blowing a gale and I’ve had a bad nights sleep, days when the old me would have happily stayed in bed watching movies or reading books, I MAKE myself get dressed and drag this hip out for a walk for a good thirty minutes. And you know what, I always feel much better for having done it. Physically and mentally.

While I’ll be glad to see the back of 2016, because it has not been an easy year, I’m also eternally grateful for everything it has taught me. For the way it has made me dig deep and find strength that I didn’t know was within me. For the way it has made me learn to love and appreciate my body, despite and because of its flaws. For the way it has made me appreciate how lucky I am to have a strong circle of supportive family and friends. For the way their love and support has motivated me to try to be a better person, to pass on that kindness. For the way it has taught me to think twice before judging people, even people who appear cruel and unkind. So many people carry invisible suffering, both physically and mentally. If someone appears to snap at you for no reason, you can pretty much guarantee that reason has nothing to do with you.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that, if you are awaiting this surgery with fear and trepidation, as I was, then rest easy. Yes, you will have a few weeks of pain and discomfort, and you will have to work hard for six months to get back to your original fitness. But it will be all worthwhile. At the end of it, as well as (hopefully) having a fully functioning hip,  you will have a new appreciation for everything in life!

Wishing all my fellow HIPsters a very HIPpy Christmas and a Happy and Healthy 2017!

And I am VERY glad that I don’t have to leave my family to get on a plane this Christmas Day!

 

38… Small Hip Victory

Short and sweet this week as there’s not much new going on in my world of hip surgery recovery.

It is thirty-eight weeks since I had a hip arthroscopy and labral repair to my right hip and things, generally, are good. I still get excruciating lower back pain if I am standing or sitting for long periods of time, but this is due to my back muscles having to compensate for the weakness in my hip. In time, as I push forward with my physio exercises, my core muscles will get stronger and the pain should reduce. I also still get the odd twinge of pain from my hip, but usually it is because I have lifted something at an odd angle, or taken too large a stride when walking. So I know that I still need to be quite careful with the activities that I do and I’m keeping my work hours to a minimum because living with pain is pretty exhausting!

brit-weather

My hip still aches and clicks when the weather is cold and damp (which, living in northern England is most of the time!) This is due to the arthritis in the joint, which is annoying, but not unbearable. Last time I saw my surgeon I was told that the clicking should stop around the nine month mark, which is pretty much now! I’m impatient for it to stop, but I know that realistically it could take another month, or more! Each human body is unique, which is lovely and keeps the world interesting, but also means you can’t be very specific with rates of healing.

Luckily I have a check up with my surgeon at the end of January, so if I have any major concerns I can raise them then. I also still have my physiotherapist on speed dial!

I did have a small hip victory today, which cheered me up! Ever since the surgery my knees have been too weak for me to kneel down or stand up without hauling myself up on furniture or a kindly arm. Through force of habit I tried to kneel down several times after my surgery, each time resulting in shooting pain and my legs collapsing under me! So I became quite nervous about ever attempting it again.

Well today I dropped something on the floor and it rolled under the bed. The cat had been having a mad half hour, hurtling around the house at break-neck speed and rugby tackling the legs of anyone who happened to go near her. She was now under the bed, so leaning down and reaching under was not an option if I wanted to keep all my fingers intact! I was about to ease myself down to the floor like I’ve taken to doing. I do this by leaning down into a sort of yoga-ish downward dog pose then stepping back until I’m low enough that kneeling down wont hurt. But I decided that it was time to test my knees, and if it all went horribly wrong at least I was next to my bed to haul myself back up!

crazy-cat

But it didn’t go horribly wrong! My knees and thigh muscles are finally strong enough to support me! I managed to kneel down and stand up again without any pain and only a minimum of joint clicking. I also found what I’d dropped and didn’t lose any fingers to the cat. So it was a victory all round!

I celebrated by going for a thirty minute walk. It is a cold, damp, dark day but I could feel the sun shining above the clouds. Every step I took made me feel absolutely euphoric at being able to experience the joy of movement again! It may seem like a tiny thing for some people, barely worth registering. But when you have been incapacitated and had to rely on people to take you to the toilet and shower you, gaining back these little bits of independence feels like the most amazing gift in the world!

ufo

 

35…Hip-static!

That’s like ecstatic, but for hips. See what I did there? Yeah…anyway.

On Wednesday I had physiotherapy, and although I was feeling very weak from all the vomiting and what-not, I was determined not to cancel my appointment. Obviously with tummy bugs and hospitals you do have to be cautious. But the doctor had assured me that after 48 hours, as long as I had stopped throwing up, I would no longer be contagious.

My Mum drove the fifty minute drive to Bradford, hitting all the usual traffic. It’s not an easy drive and my Mum has been doing it every week, more or less, since April! So top marks all round for Super Mum of the year are definitely in order!

I was pretty excited about this physio appointment anyway, because my physiotherapist was going to be checking my progress and had hinted that if I was still doing well that I might get discharged! I was already really impressed by how my hip had held up through the whole gastroenteritis debacle. I hadn’t been able to do my exercises for five days, but my hip still felt strong and hadn’t seized up.

During my appointment I had to do a few exercises including squats and one leg dips. I got quite dizzy and breathless at one point but my physio knew this was because I was weak from being sick and let me rest until I felt better. She tested my range of movement in both my hips and strength of my thigh muscles as well as the strength and range of movement in my knees. She pointed out the hypermobility in my knees and reminded me that I’ll have to keep up my knee strengthening exercises because otherwise I will have more problems with them. But everything else was working as it should be!

‘I’m very pleased with your progress, when you first came here you couldn’t even straighten your knee. It was painful to watch!’ she said, and I remembered that agony and the fear that I’d felt at being so incapacitated.

We discussed how I felt about things, and I was happy to be able to say that I felt almost back to normal. She asked me if I’m managing to do some exercises everyday, which I was before I was ill. She asked me how my hip felt on a scale of 1-100, 100 being normal healthy hip. I said 70%, because it still aches and clicks when the weather is cold and damp. She said that is normal, sadly, but that 70% is still good. She asked me if I had been discharged by my consultant, which I haven’t, and when my next appointment with him is (end of January). Then she said,

‘Well I can’t discharge you until your consultant has. But if you are happy to keep up your exercises at home, I don’t see that there’s any need for us to see you anymore. We’ll keep you on our list until the end of January so that if you have any concerns you can still make an appointment. But in the nicest possible way, I hope not to see you again!’

I thanked her, profusely, and the other therapist who has helped me get back on my feet. Then practically bounded out to the waiting room to give Mum the good news!

We celebrated our (hopefully) last drive home from the hospital by stopping at one of our favourite shops on the way. It’s called Keelham Farm shop and since I’ve been having to go to Bradford for physio since April,  we have made a habit of stopping off there on our way home. It was one of the first places I walked round on my crutches, and going there has cheered me up on some very low days. Especially the early days when I could barely walk and the highlight of my week was going to physiotherapy, followed by Keelham, if I wasn’t too exhausted. It won an award this week, and deservedly so! If you’re in the area and love fresh local produce, give it a visit because it really is wonderful.

 

Another highlight of the week was a visit from my lovely friend, Jinny Burntail. We chatted about all our usual subjects (magic, writing, the inevitable apocalypse brought about by humanities greed and arrogance etc.) over cups of tea and soup. I mentioned that I had to visit the dentist later that afternoon, and Jinny suggested we walk there, as it was en route for her. Now this is a walk that I used to do every day on my way home from work, before my hip got bad. It’s a walk I never used to think twice about attempting but since my surgery I’ve found the distance intimidating. It’s a lovely walk through a beautiful park on the way into town, that used to take me 30 minutes when I was fit and healthy. So I said yes, because it was a beautiful winters day and having Jinny with me gave me confidence.

And…I did it! Not only did we walk to the dentist, we did it in such quick time that I was early for my appointment. So we then went on a magical mystery tour through the gloaming and gloriously gothic Victorian streets and found another beautiful park. There we saw a gorgeous tree with luminous yellow leaves silhouetted against the dusky blue/grey sky. And took this awesome selfie.

Jinny cut half her own face off!
Jinny had to leave me at this point. But my dentist was happy with me…I managed to walk all the way home too 🙂

34 Part 2…Hips in Hospital

I don’t remember much of the journey in the ambulance. I was aware that my hip was hurting, sore from all the twitching and shaking that the high temperature was causing.  My lovely Dad came with me and sat by my side. The paramedic put an IV in and gave me liquid paracetamol, anti nausea and saline solution through it. I was still in a lot of pain even when the paracetamol should have kicked in so he also gave me gas and air. That made me feel a lot better! But when we reached the hospital, about a 25 minute drive, and the gas and air wore off I was back to feeling like someone had repeatedly punched me in the stomach.

They suspected I had a bad case of gastroenteritis, which is highly contagious. So it took awhile for the hospital Accident and Emergency department to find a side room to admit me into. When they did I was seen very quickly by a lovely doctor who actually shook my weak little hand (wearing gloves, obvs!) and looked me in the eyes when talking to me. He confirmed it was gastroenteritis, which is also known as gastric flu. ‘It’s one of those things you have to ride out, I’m afraid’ he told me with a sympathetic look. But my temperature was still sky-high and my heart rate was too fast so he kept me in for observation until they had settled down.

When I was discharged the first thing I did was throw up. I think it was the standing up and walking that set me off. I then had to try not to throw up for the entire duration of the taxi ride back to my Dads house!

Well that was 25 minutes of hell, I can tell you. It was raining torrentially and the taxi kept skating on patches where the road was flooded. I had to have the window open because the icy rain on my skin was the only thing distracting me from throwing up! When we finally made it back my lovely Step Mom was waiting up and I was so exhausted I managed to sleep for three whole hours!

I slept on and off for most of Sunday, my Step Mom making sure that I kept sipping water and rehydration salts. Even the thought of food made me feel nauseous, but I did stop throwing up! Hallelujah! My lovely brother and his lovely girlfriend came back from their day of sightseeing and brought me a ‘get well’ card and gift. This cheered me up so much, thank you guys!

img_1583
I named the monkey Geoffrey, and fell asleep hugging him like I was an overgrown three year old. Then came the tricky question of how I was going to get home to Yorkshire. We were supposed to be driving back that day but I was in no fit state to travel. Emily kindly said she would wait until I felt up to it and at 8pm we finally set off!

I slept for most of the journey, curled up in the back of the car wrapped in a duvet borrowed from my dad, Geoffrey Monkey and a bucket (just in case) by my side. A few hours in and I was woken to us stopping at a service station for a break. Emily and my brother, David, supported me out of the car to the toilets and then to get some food. I managed to eat some fries, but we lingered just in case my stomach rejected them (it didn’t, hurrah!). I learned that Emily had to drive through freezing fog on a narrow country lane. Bless her heart she went above and beyond that weekend!

It was 11.30pm by the time we got to my Mum’s house. She greeted us at the door and with some surprise said to me,

‘Oh, you’ve got a monkey.’

‘Yes, he’s called Geoffrey.’ Was my response, before I staggered past her to get to the toilet. I must had looked a right state, this almost thirty year old woman, white as a ghost and carrying a cuddly monkey!

With that we thanked Emily and my brother, David, who still had to travel across Bradford to reach home.

I was so exhausted it took all my energy to get up stairs to bed. Which is where I stayed, with my bucket (just in case) and Geoffrey Monkey for two days. Happily sleeping through the worst storm this year, which felled trees and flooded the road outside our house, all of which I was completely oblivious to!

On the third day I had to get up to go to physiotherapy…

34 Part 1…Hips on Holiday

It’s been another exciting few weeks here in the land of hip surgery recovery. So many ups and downs that I’m beginning to feel like a yo-yo! This journey is really not for anyone who is faint of heart or weak of stomach (more on that later.)

Last weekend I managed my first holiday since my surgery, with the help of my lovely brother and his equally lovely girlfriend. I’m still too weak to manage hauling about luggage on public transport, and like a fool I still havent learned how to drive (not that I could afford to run a car if I did!) So my brothers girlfriend, Emily, kindly offered to drive us all down to Shropshire to visit my Dad and Step Mom.

roadtrip_50

We had great fun singing and dancing in the car on the way down. It felt so good to be getting away and travelling again, I’ve missed it so much! Emily was a real trooper because it’s a long and tiring three and a half hour journey and most of the motorways in the country seem to be covered in road works! We stopped a couple of times to stretch our legs and grab something to eat. It’s the longest journey I’ve attempted since my surgery and I was a bit wary of how my hip would cope. But I’m happy to say that it was just a bit stiff from sitting for so long, and the stiffness eased as soon as we got to my Dads and I could move it.

We had a lovely few days having meals with my Dad and Step Mom, meeting up with friends I haven’t seen for over a year, going to Christmas fairs and the Christmas lights switch on. I managed loads of walking and was really pleased with how well my hip felt. It was all wonderful, and although I was worn out by all the excitement, I was very happy.

Then, on Saturday night we all went to the theatre. It was on the other side of town so we walked and I felt so grateful that my hip is well enough to be able to walk such a distance! It was wonderfully atmospheric seeing the beautiful old town lit up with twinkling Christmas lights.

xmas-lights
Bridgnorth Christmas lights over the River Severn
We got some drinks, took our seats and settled down to enjoy the first half of the play, but as soon as I took a sip of my wine I felt something was wrong. My stomach had been a bit, shall we say delicate, the night before but it had been fine all day. But as the play progressed my stomach felt worse and worse. At the interval I flew to the toilet and stayed there until I realised I would have to give up and reluctantly go back to my Dads.

My kind Step Mom offered to walk with me, which I was grateful for, and all the while chatted to me which took my mind off the overwhelming urge to vomit. I managed to get back to their flat and into the bathroom before I chucked my guts up. It was about nine pm. I continued to throw up until the early hours of the morning. My Dad and Step Mom were amazing looking after me, and when I started to throw up blood I was so glad they were there. I was absolutely terrified and so weak I could barely stand. I had a terrible temperature so although I was sweating I felt like I was freezing cold and couldn’t stop shivering. I tried sipping water because I was so dehydrated, but even little sips made me start vomiting again. My Dad rang the out of hours doctor and they recommended an ambulance.

When the paramedics arrived they had loads of questions but I could barely talk. They were patient with me and made me feel less scared. They took my mind off the pain and nausea by asking me about my job and the book I was reading. They reassured me that the blood was probably because I’d vomited so much that I’d ruptured some little blood vessels in my throat, so although scary it wasn’t too serious. But they were concerned that I couldn’t swallow any water or paracetamol. They took my blood pressure, heart rate, temperature and tested my blood sugar in case I was diabetic. Everything was ok apart from my temperature being too high and my heart rate, which was tachycardic. This means my resting heart rate was very fast, over 100 beats per minute, then stopping or slowing down suddenly.

I had the most horrendous pain in my stomach, like I’d been punched repeatedly. I also had a thumping headache from being so badly dehydrated. They said the only thing they could do without admitting me was give me paracetomal orally, which obviously wasn’t an option. They needed to give me liquid paracetomal by IV to get my temperature down, get some fluids into me and stop me throwing up and the only way they could do that was to take me to hospital. So although the last place I wanted to be was another hospital ( I make that the fourth hosptial I’ve had to visit this year!) the paramedics sensibly talked me into going with them in the ambulance. By this time it was four am and none of us had had any sleep!

So on my first holiday since March I ended up being take by ambulance to Princess Royal hospital in Telford. Although I was relieved to be getting help and knew there wasnt any other option, I could not believe my bad luck!