It’s been a while since my last post. The reason: I underwent a total hip replacement in July 2015 and haven’t been in the right frame of mind for blogging since. Actually, that is incorrect. On several occasions, I’ve tried to sit down and write about my experience before and after my hip operation, but each time I wanted to put hand to keyboard (rather than pen to paper), I started feeling uneasy and postponed the writing.
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t some gruesome review of my operation but rather a personal account of my experience. Hip replacements are commonplace in this day and age, but this doesn’t make the process any easier for the individual. Talking about my experience may help others to make up their minds about having such an operation.
The term “hip replacement” was first mentioned to me in the summer of 2014 by an orthopaedic specialist. I thought he was joking, only he wasn’t the joking kind. I felt far too young to even think about such drastic measures and his arrogant manner didn’t do anything to encourage me, so I parked the thought process of an operation for another few months.
I had been seeing an acupuncturist for a while whose treatment helped alleviate some of the pain in my right hip, but frequent visits became necessary. In the spring of 2015, I realised that acupuncture wasn’t cutting it anymore and visited my GP who made an appointment for me with a different orthopaedic surgeon. I saw the specialist about a month later and decided to go on the waiting list for a total hip replacement.
Having decided to go down that route made me feel nervous and I tried to push the thought of the operation out of my head. People kept telling me that I could still back out of the op, but I knew that there would be no going back. Walking and everyday activities were becoming difficult to manage and pain was never far away even when I was sleeping.
A couple of weeks later, I was required to go to the hospital for a pre-op assessment and to participate in a group meeting for hip replacement patients run by a physiotherapist and occupational therapist. The pre-op medical went well and the occupational therapist ordered special furniture for me, on loan from the health board for the time after my operation.
I realised that trying to wriggle out of the operation looked more and more unlikely and closing my eyes or pinching my arm wouldn’t make it all go away.
Shortly afterwards, I received a letter from the hospital with an appointment for 8th July 2015.
The Morning before the Hip Op
I arrived at the hospital just after 7am and was told that I’d be the first patient on the list for that day. I would merely have to talk to the orthopaedic surgeon and the anaesthetist and then I wouldn’t have to wait for too long.
I first met with the anaesthetist who was very friendly and empathetic. I told him that I was hoping for a general anaesthetic rather than a spinal anaesthetic as I was too afraid to witness any of the procedures during the operation. He convinced me that the latter option was preferable as I would wake up straight after the operation and would be able to start my recovery process straight away, without feeling sick. As to “witnessing” any procedures, he advised that he would sedate me before the operation. I still wasn’t convinced that this would be the best option for me, but I decided to trust the doctor and his expertise.
Next I met with the orthopaedic specialist again to discuss the operation. I advised him, as I had done at my previous appointment, that I was very nervous about taking any pharmaceutical painkillers because of a severe reaction I had in the past, but I said that ibuprofen was safe for me to use and that I didn’t want to be given anything else after the operation.
The surgeon advised that ibuprofen wouldn’t be a strong enough painkiller to deal with the post-op pain and discomfort and that I would need stronger drugs and possibly morphine. I became rather upset and told the surgeon that I was not prepared to go through with the operation under these conditions.
The surgeon realised that I was about to walk out and called in the anaesthetist. This doctor listened to my reasoning and suggested to the surgeon that he would try and numb my operated side for longer than the other side as this might take me through the best part of the day and night without too much discomfort and that I could then try and deal with the pain by using ibuprofen.
I was then shown to my room which was a single room with a bed, chair, TV and on-suite bathroom. My husband had taken two weeks off work to accompany me to the hospital and support me after the operation. He tried to keep me in good spirits while I was waiting to be called, but my mood deteriorated by the minute. I hadn’t eaten all day, a pre-op requirement, and wasn’t even allowed to drink water, so I started feeling dehydrated. Time moved on and nobody came to take me to the theatre although I’d been told that I was the first patient on the list.
Lunchtime came and went, I asked the nurses, but nobody knew when my operation would take place. Eventually, at 1.30pm, I’d had enough, packed my bag and went outside to see the head nurse. I explained that I had been in the hospital since 7am and was sick and tired of waiting, especially since I had been told that I was the first patient on the list. She explained that outpatients would go to the theatre first and then inpatients would be seen to. I told her that I couldn’t understand why I hadn’t been told that in the morning and that I simply had enough. Would she please discharge me and let me go home?
I turned around to go back into my room and pick up my bag, when a nurse arrived with a hospital trolley to take me down to the theatre.
Was this divine intervention? Was I supposed to go through with the operation?
I burst out into tears and my teeth started chattering. I tried to get a grip on myself but to no avail. I was terrified and would have liked to be anywhere in the world but in the hospital at that moment in time. I was shaking, yet I climbed on the hospital trolley, hugged my husband and was then rolled down the corridor towards the lift to the operating theatre.