Post Hip Surgery is No Bed of Roses

I had no idea I would burst into tears several times a day, or that this could be so hard. And I don’t mean the surgery I underwent two weeks ago to replace my entire right hip joint. My surgical experience was close to perfect.

I was allowed to bring CDs to the operating room and drifted off to sleep listening to Mozart’s horn concertos. The choice of a spinal anesthesia for my lower body and a lighter anesthetic for the rest of me was fine. I woke up just after surgery’s completion, still in the operating room, feeling fine. I was permitted to put weight on my surgical leg, as much as comfortable, soon after surgery. My surgical incision is about 4 inches (and this was not “minimally invasive hip surgery”).

In addition, my surgeon did not use sutures or staples to close the wound. He used Steri-strips, which are a close cousin to Band-Aids. Even my home visiting physical therapist was surprised. My wound is closed now and the strips are off.

The surgery was a breeze compared to the torment of post-surgery. Due to my previous muscular conditioning and comfort with water exercise I am permitted to return to the pool, but I am not ready for the adventure of visiting my beloved pool. My overall discomfort (even with anti-pain medication) has been huge, and I live in terror of moving in a way that would dislocate my hip joint. For example, I must hold my legs just so to avoid hip dislocation while I move to and from the couch or bed. The pain and effort required have been almost excruciating. Further, I am frequently nauseous, and have lost seven pounds.

I did not envision this post-surgery experience. I believed those reports along the lines of ”... and the day after hip surgery, I felt no pain!” (While each person’s recovery is unique, I think those comments belong in the unrealistic “I lost 40 pounds in 40 days” category.) Those reports must refer to the hip pain which prompted surgery, and they are omitting surgical recovery.

Thank goodness for the wise medical professional who has witnessed decades of hip surgery convalescences. She said, “Think of it this way: The surgeon cut into your leg, cut the end of your femur bone off, hammered a metal stake into your femur, cut your joint capsule ligament, and pulled and tugged on your muscles. It is as if you experienced a simultaneous assault and a sprain.

“You should not expect to feel great now.”

I guess nothing beats learning through experience. Luckily, it seems that two weeks post-surgery is a small turning point. I sleep better, the pain is decreasing, hunger is returning and my overall malaise is subsiding. As I follow medical instructions to “heal uneventfully, be comfortable, and regard movement restrictions,” I look forward to the same outcome as a 70-year-old friend of mine who underwent hip replacement surgery a while back. She now moves with the ease and energy of a sprightly Christmas elf.