Perception and perspectives

So I saw the consultant on Wednesday, and despite my worries, he thinks I’m doing a lot better than I do!  He feels that I am exactly where I should be six weeks post-surgery.  He was absolutely lovely and allayed so many of my fears, and didn’t make me feel that I was asking stupid questions or wasting his time.  I’m sure he hears most of the anxieties that I have every time he sees his post-op patients at 6 weeks.   Despite this he answered my questions patiently and listened to what I had to say.  What has been worrying more than anything is the fact that my operated leg feels longer than the other, reading about this (the forums again!) I realise that this is quite common, and I know that it is a risk with this type of surgery, but it has been something that I have fretted about more than once in the wee small (sleepless!) hours.  Mr Evans was able not only to reassure me, but give me and explanation and evidence to show that any discrepancy was miniscule and most of what I was experiencing was down to my body adjusting to having a fully functioning hip, instead of one which was totally stuck and had no rotation at all.  This is obviously something that affects most patients post-surgery, but being given the time to have this explained to me properly meant so much, and was such a relief.

Mr Evans asked me why I felt I wasn’t progressing as well as he obviously did, I told him pretty much what I’d put in my last blog, mainly that based on what I had been told by people who have had this surgery, my mobility was way below my expectations.  He then said something which I have been reflecting on since I’ve seen him.  He said that what people had described to me was what they wanted to be the best version of themselves at that stage in their recovery.  In other words their perception of themselves.  As I’ve reflected on this I’ve realised something else, it’s not just other people’s perceptions of themselves, its my interpretation of what they have said to me.  When they’ve told me that they were walking without crutches at 6 weeks, I’ve assumed they meant they were walking ‘normally’ – of course, this may be true for some people, but my guess is most people are like me – I can walk without crutches, but I’m certainly not completely mobile, I’ve still got a lot of work to do.  This has been a massive light bulb moment for me, possibly obvious to most people, but as usual I’ve been putting pressure on myself!

Another thing I was told on Wednesday was that I could start exercising again, obviously within reason, but I’m sure this will help my recovery both physically and mentally.  One of the things Mr Evans told me I could do was to start swimming again.  He also told me I could do any stroke without restrictions.  Previously the advice has been to avoid breaststroke after hip replacement surgery.  Mr Evans and other clinicians from the Robert Jones & Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital (RJAH) have carried out research which shows it is safe for patients to swim breaststroke after surgery.  You can read the research here.

I feel so incredibly lucky to have had this operation at such a wonderful hospital, I have known for years what an amazing place it is, but to experience first hand the care that is given has given me a whole new perspective on what is involved. I am so proud that my lovely daughter Claire is running the London Marathon in April 2017, to raise funds for this incredible hospital.  She’s written about it here, and if you are able to support her we would be so very grateful.  The link to her fundraising page is below:

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Claire-Edwards37

So this week was really a milestone on my road to recovery, not least because I no longer have to sleep on my back, surrounded by pillows!  Oh my goodness, the relief, the first decent night’s sleep in six weeks certainly helps put a lot of things in perspective!

 

 

 

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Milestones

Tomorrow is my six week check with my consultant, such a milestone, and one that has seemed very far away sometimes over the last six weeks.  When I started this blog I intended to write far more frequently, imagining cheery little missives charting my recovery.  Quite why I imagined it would be like this I don’t really know.  All I know is that its been nothing like anything I could have anticipated.  Its been really hard at times, and to any sensible person this can come as no surprise, but it has been a real voyage of discovery for me – and its certainly been no Caribbean cruise!

I’m quite apprehensive about tomorrow, while I never envisaged that I’d dance into the consulting room, throwing away my crutches as I went, I did think I’d be much more mobile than I am now.  Everyone I have spoken to who has gone through this procedure has told me that by six weeks they didn’t need their crutches and were walking normally.  Well I’m not.  I am walking much better, and over the last 10 days this has improved on a daily basis- but I’m not where I thought I would be.  And while this is probably normal, and I know everyone recovers differently, and its foolish to compare myself to anyone else – I feel that I have failed in some way.  I know, I know this is ridiculous – I can hear my family screaming that I haven’t as they read this, and I know that I’ve not, but a little part of me feels that I have.  So I do feel some trepidation about tomorrow’s appointment.

The more I have reflected on how I feel, and why I feel like this, I realise that I was living in a huge bubble of denial about my hip and the fact that I needed to have surgery.  I was in an even bigger bubble about my recovery – in my head I was going to be a bit uncomfortable for a couple of weeks then I’d be fine and back fully fit by six weeks – as I said, deluded!  I so wanted this to happen, I’d finally got my dream job, and was where I wanted to be career wise, I really didn’t want the fact that I was having major surgery to screw it up, so I convinced myself that I would be fighting fit in six weeks.

So I’ve had to face a bit of reality check – when I look back over the last six weeks, I have come such a long way and every day has been a small step back to being fully fit.  Strangely weeks three and four were the hardest in lots of ways, and reading the dreaded forums, this seems quite common.  As I hit week five it all seemed to get a bit easier every day.  I was more mobile, could do more, felt less anxious and was I am sure much easier to live with.  Mike and I have managed to get through it without blood being spilt – though at times it was close!

This six week milestone is important, but equally important is the fact that it is just one of many – and I think I lost sight of that for a bit.  This recovery is more of a marathon than a sprint – but I know now that I will get there, just not quite as fast as I first thought….

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Learning patience

Its coming up to three weeks (well nearly) since my surgery, and in some ways this has been a very long three weeks, but also seems to have gone very quickly.  In some respects its all a bit hazy, and the few days I spent in hospital are a bit of a blur, this is probably natures way of dealing with the trauma of it all!  Sounds very dramatic, but I have found this process traumatic in lots of ways.  Its also turning out to be a massive learning curve for me.

I’ve not posted for a while, and this is partly because I really want this to be a mainly positive record of my recovery, not just a catalogue of moans.  And for most of last week I have felt far from positive.  I’ve felt miserable, frustrated and angry for most of the time.  On reflection this seems ridiculous – I’m making good progress with my recovery, I’m in very little pain and am getting more mobile every day.  Last week however I couldn’t see this – all I could see was what I couldn’t do.  Everything seemed to take so long, and the road ahead looked long and slow….  I’ve also been bursting into tears with depressing regularity – which is totally out of character for me.  All in all I’ve not been the happiest person to be around.  My poor family, and in particular my long suffering husband have had to put up with all of this negativity – it’s to his eternal credit that he’s not totally lost patience with me – well most of the time!

I anticipated that this was going to be difficult, I’m really not very good at not being in control, and it turns out that I’m a very impatient patient!  Over the last few days though things seem better.  I can now safely shower and dress myself (mostly!) – this feels like a massive leap forward – and go up and downstairs without having to be supervised.  My lovely sister has lent me a trolley that she used after her hip surgery, which even though I hated it at first (along with all the other ‘aids’ that I need) it does give me a degree of independence as I can now move things around and ‘carry’ things on it.  It all takes so long but I’m learning to accept this, and get on with it.  I’m able to walk a bit further every day, and it feels more normal.  On Saturday Mike took me to Ellesmere and we had a little walk by the mere and coffee and cake in the Boat House.  We also went out for tea to our local bistro – the staff there were so lovely and couldn’t do enough to help me – which was another milestone along the road to feeling ‘normal’ again.

I’m sure that my recovery will continue to have its ups and downs, and that I will probably succumb to feelings of frustration and negativity.  I am trying hard to look to the future and see this time as the temporary phase in my life that it is.  It is necessary for my body to have time to recover properly and get strong again, and the restrictions that I am subject to are neccesary for this to happen.  It is very hard when the sun is shining and its a beautiful autumn day to accept that I can’t go for a lovely long walk with the dog, BUT I can go for a walk up the road and appreciate the beautiful place that I live in.  I am learning patience – slowly….

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Working through it…

Its a week today since my surgery, and its possibly been one of the toughest of my life.  I feel like I was totally unprepared for what this whole process was going to be like.  Today for the first time I feel like there is a chink of light at the end of the tunnel.  Its been really hard, with some small successes, but lots of tears along the way!

Apparently someone has written a blog about the 10 things they don’t tell you about having a hip replacement, and I’m not surprised!  As I say I think I have been totally unprepared for this, partly due to my denial that it was going to happen – even as I was on my way on the trolley to theatre I still couldn’t quite believe it was really happening!  Having said that I don’t think anyone could be prepared for what its really like, and all the forums which are around dedicated to life after a ‘THR’ bear testament to this.  There must be thousands and thousands of words written about it – and here I am writing more!  I’ve actually stopped reading them after reading about ‘David’ who was walking 400 yards down his village street with one crutch 4 days after surgery!

The reason I was trawling the forums was because of what transpires to be THE major challenge after a hip replacement – you have to sleep on your back, FOR SIX WEEKS! Thats 42 nights! And its hard!!  In fairnesss I can’t say I didn’t know about this – I went to Joint School (a brilliant workshop/lecture for prospective hip/knee patients where you are told about the operation and what happens afterwards), but I don’t think even that prepares you for the reality of it.  My second day home found my lovely daughter dashing off to Dunelm to purchase a V-shaped pillow (& pillowcase which cost as much as the pillow!), she then attempted to use what seems a huge number of pillows to try and make me as comfortable as possible, resulting in a sort of pillow fort.

There is no doubt that this is a massive problem – thousands of words on the forums about this.  One chap’s wife has constructed a sort of mini mattress from four walled pillows – I didn’t even know that walled pillows were a thing!  I had to google them to find out what they were, but believe me at 4am the other morning I was wondering if I could get someone to make me my own walled pillow mini-mattress!  I also found the ‘slumber support’ which you seem to strap yourself into – I’ve resisted it so far…

The problem is that you are soooo tired – and you can’t sleep.  The thought of snuggling down on your side is like the ultimate panacea.  Looking on the bright side I’m a week in now – only 35 nights left 😦

The challenges that you face are difficult enough, but for me facing them while I am exhausted has made them seem insurmountable at times over the last few days – this I am sure is totally normal, I have, as my long suffering family have frequently reminded me, just undergone major surgery….  I really wish I’d thought to exchange numbers with the lady who had her hip done the same day as me – at least then we could have exchanged notes about our progress.  The problem is no-one is the same, and we all have to recover at our own pace.  The important thing for me is to accept that I will have good days and bad days but I will get there in the end.

It hasn’t all been struggle, there have been small successes as well.  I’m working my way through the Sky+ planner, and all the programmes I’ve not had time to watch – this afternoon has been a Downton Abbey fest!  I’ve had two walks out today, and on the second one managed to get to the corner of the next cul-de-sac, and the stairs are looking less like a mountain to climb.  Small victories, but so important…

I have also been totally overwhelmed by the love and support of so many of my family and friends.  I am truly blessed, and I need to remember it more often 🙂

The minute I put on the theatre gown in Baschurch ward last Thursday I felt vulnerable, and that vulnerability has continued.  It is getting less, and I am beginning to feel more in control, onwards and upwards….

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Home

I’m home!  After the trials and tribulations of yesterday it was such a relief to wake up feeling comparatively normal.  I hadn’t actually realised just how ill I was feeling until I started to feel better.  The wonderful staff on Clwyd ward were absolutely brilliant – encouraging me to drink Bovril, not something which I have ever drunk, but it has an excellent effect on your sodium levels apparently.  In particular one of of the HCAs Sharon who was so determined to sort me out, and when I agreed to have yet another one, she said she’d get me two – ‘no, one will be fine’, ‘I’ll get you two…’. Well it definately did the trick! Blood tests this morning were fine,  and I was dressed and ready to go at one o’clock.  I have to say here and now that everyone that I have come into contact with throughout this entire process have been amazing, right through from my admission to Baschurch, through dealing with my nerves on theatres to the wonderful staff on Clwyd ward who are fabulous.  Its not been easy, but they have all made this part of the journey the best it could be.

Much as I was looking forward to being home, I was a bit trepidatious. This was the part I’d been dreading.  Both Mike, my girls and their partners have been amazing. They have all been endlessly patient with what felt like my constant  ‘can I just try this’, and ‘this isn’t quite right’, and Andy had cooked us some amazing food.  I am so grateful to them all, and I know I am incredibly lucky, but I feel irritable, out of sorts and frustrated.  Nothing seemed to be quite right, the chair was too low, the cushions to hard, I’m too uncomfortable…  Finally Emily tried another combination with the chair and the cushions – it worked!  I felt comfortable, but so tired.  Something else I wasn’t prepared for was how much I would ache!  I feel like I’ve done a full body workout – muscles I had forgotten I had were making themselves known to me again – and not in a particularly friendly way! They advise you to go to bed when you get home, and I suppose that would have been the most sensible thing to do – but I was a bit scared of trying the stairs, and also didn’t want to be out of things – such a baby!  But as I sit here now I have to admit its a very attractive prospect…so that’s the plan, face the stairs then hopefully a good night’s sleep in my own bed – bliss!

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A patients perspective, the view from the other side….

Thursday:

So I got up at 6 and had something to eat as I’d been told not to eat after 6.30 am – I took Oscar for a walk, did some yoga,had a bath etc etc.  So far so good, the nerves were kept at bay though as 11 o’clock drew nearer they started to kick in a bit.  So we got here and nothing happened for an hour which wasn’t great, more time ticked by and I was called to see a nurse, then they tried to take some blood off me, unsuccessfully…Then I was told I was on the evening list – and wouldn’t go down to theatre until 4.30! By now I am sooo hungry, and really thirsty.  I have to question why I had to come in so early, even the nurse suggested I put it on my comment card.  More sitting around, then the consultant anaesthetist arrived to try and take some blood, by now I’m dehydrated so its even more difficult.  Its been decided to put a canular in and try and take it that way, then at least it will be in ready for my drip later – gulp!

That was as far as I got on Thursday!  In the middle of writing this I was called through, and everything then seemed to happen very quickly!  Before I knew it I was in the lift going up to theatre,and it was all happening… I’d been given the option of being awake (with a spinal block and optional sedation) or asleep with a light General Anaesthetic – I opted for being asleep!  So I woke up in recovery by the anaesthetist telling me it had all gone well.  They were going to take me down to the ward straight away, but then I started trembling all over and didn’t feel very well so they kept me there for a little while longer.  By the time I got to the ward the pain relief was starting to wear off and I was in considerable pain, and felt really ill.  Lots of people had told me that I would feel great afterwards, barely any pain etc…. Well all I can say is that wasn’t the case for me.  The night staff on the ward were wonderful and worked through the night to get me pain free.

Friday:

The next morning I felt much better, and in less pain.   Then the HCA came to help me wash and in the process of helping me turn, my hip really started to hurt, cue more morphine!  Later on the physio came to get me up on my feet, I knew that this was on the cards as they tell you that you’ll get up as soon as possible after my surgery and also the lady in the bed opposite who had had her surgery the same day had been up and was walking (with support) on crutches. Well it didn’t go so well for me – it felt really  uncomfortable and my head felt really woozy.  I did a few steps and then felt really sick.  The physio got me back to the chair and within minutes I was violently ill (sorry too much information!). So back to bed it was.  I felt a bit of a failure at this point I didn’t seem to be doing as well as others in the ward. The lady in the opposite bed had been told she could go home tomorrow- I was beginning to wonder if I would be well enough to go on Sunday which was my expected date of discharge. I also started to itch all over!  This apparently is a side effect of the morphine but I was given something for that too and that subsided fairly quickly and I was able to have a really good nights sleep.

Saturday:

Feeling so much better this morning.  Physio arrived and got me up and walking on crutches – I was even able to go to the bathroom, no more bedpans hooray!  The physio was really pleased with me, and I was told as soon as I’d walked up stairs I’d be able to go – fabulous!  I also had to have blood tests and an X-ray – more trouble getting the blood, so one of the medics had to come and try, and suceeded thank goodness.  So blood tests and X-ray completed I just had to climb the stairs – real trepidation about this, but I was fine!  Excellent, I can go home!  Then the nurse came to tell me that there was a problem with my blood results – my sodium levels were low and they need to get a medic to look at them.

This wasn’t good news – they wanted me to stay in and have more tests tomorrow, and check again.  I was gutted.  Stupid as in the morning I really did not expect to be up to going home until Sunday, so the plan hadn’t changed really, but I really was so disappointed, as was my husband and daughter.  They went off home and I fell asleep again, I’m absolutely shattered and keep falling asleep every time I close my eyes.  The  itching was back and I was feeling really irritated with everything.  There was a lot of noise on the ward, someone’s buzzer was going, I just felt prickly and out of sorts.  I need to give myself a talking to, and snap out of it.  The pain in my hip is minimal now, and hopefully I will be home tomorrow.

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Its getting real now…

So its here, the night before my surgery, I feel strangely calm. I’m not sure this will last but I’m trying really hard to stay in this calm place and go into tomorrow feeling as relaxed and positive as I can be.

Today has been a bit strange, time seems to have slowed right down… We walked the dog, ate lunch and still it wasn’t time to phone the hospital to find out what time I was to go in tomorrow!  When I was finally able to ring up I found out that I don’t have to go in until 11.30 am instead of 7.30 am which is what I expected.  While this means I don’t have to get up at the crack of dawn I admit I was a bit disappointed.  I was hoping that I would be first on the list, and it would be all over by lunchtime – not meant to be unfortunately! Having said that this is much better than going in at 7.30 and sitting around for hours on end though.  I will probably still get up at 6 however as I can’t eat anything after 6.30 am! Otherwise it is an awfully long time to go without food!

My plan in the morning is to get up and eat, go back to bed for a bit then do a bit of yoga and have a leisurely bath.  Oh and I need to pack my case!

Off to bed now… see you on the other side…

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