The Hip Chronicles, Part IV: The worst part is waking up

In my series, the RA Diaries, I’ve tried to write about the weird, the painful and even the comical parts of having a chronic illness. Very recently, I had what for many RA patients is a rite of passage: my first joint replacement. My new right hip, with its festive combination of titanium, cobalt and plastic polymer, is worth five times more than my car. And it will surely be a great source of amusement to TSA scanners worldwide, because on x-rays it looks like I’m packing some major heat.

Now, kind reader, let me tell you exactly how I went about getting my new hip. But be warned. It’s gonna get gross. And graphic. And, maybe once in a while, somewhat amusing. I hope you get something out of it. I’m certainly hoping I will.

“Well, hello! You just got a brand new hip!”

I couldn’t see where the voice was coming from, but I could tell it was female. And annoyingly chipper.

I tried to answer her — okay, to say something snarky, like “but I thought I was having a knee replaced!” — but all I could do was groan. My throat felt like I had swallowed crushed glass.

The rest of me wasn’t much better. My legs ached, but I couldn’t move them. My back and neck felt cricked, and the IV was still in my left wrist, making me paranoid it would come out. I had no intention of going through THAT again.

Another voice came out of the darkness.
“You’re really hard to intubate. We had a really hard time.”

It was the young anesthesiology resident. Had I had any strength, I would have thrown something at him. Unfair, I know, but that explained the crushed glass sensation in my throat.

Almost immediately after, my surgeon stopped in. My surgeon is a great guy, and I loved his bedside manner the minute I met him. He told me the surgery went well, once the anesthesia part was over.

“Has Bill (the internist) stopped by?”
“I don’t know.” I had last seen the internist two weeks earlier, and hadn’t realized he was still involved.
“I saw him earlier. I’m sure you’ll see him tomorrow.”
My surgeon left, no doubt to update my husband that I was awake.

As I started becoming more alert, I realized I was in a dark curtained cubicle. And I wasn’t alone. There was someone standing next to me.

“Water, please?” It came out like a croak. My throat was really hurting, and my mouth was arid.
“How much pain are you feeling? On a scale from one to 10?”
I thought about it, judged the pain I had compared to the pain I’ve experienced in the past. It was dull, not sharp.
“Six.”
“Okay, I’m putting something in your IV for that. As soon as I’m done, you can use this to control it.”

She gave me a brown device, about the size of a Chapstick, attached to a
long wire. It had a button on the end.

“Can I have some water please?”
“Yes, just hold on.”

Three men suddenly pushed through the curtains.
“We need to get an x-ray.”
I groaned. The last thing I wanted was to be touched.

But apparently, I had no say. My poor sore legs and pelvis — I suddenly realized I was strapped to some sort of foam structure — were lifted, not too gently, and a hard plate was placed underneath.

My torso was draped in a lead apron. The x-ray itself only took a moment, but it felt like forever before I was back on the soft mattress surface.

I groaned again. The pain was starting to sharpen, no doubt from the x-ray procedure jostling me.

‘Push the button,” the nurse urged. “Push it as much as you need. There’s no way you will overdose.”
I pushed the button, and something beeped. I pushed it again. Beeeep. And again. Beeeep.
“Can I please have some water? Can I please see my husband?”

My husband arrived before the water. He kissed me and held my IV-free hand. In my relief, I started to cry.

I begged for water again, but was told all I could have was ice chips. My husband helped feed them to me, and they were the best thing I had ever tasted.

I don’t remember what we talked about. The morphine was kicking in. But he and the nurse were chatting.

I don’t know how long I lay there, but it felt like at least an hour. My husband asked when I would be moved to a room, and was told they were waiting on one to open up. I figured I would get a roommate, though I wasn’t looking forward to it. In preparation, I took another shot of morphine.

But when the room finally became available, and I was wheeled into it, it turned out to be a single. Considering everything I had gone through and was about to go through, that was a blessing.

All text copyrighted by A.K. Whitney, and cannot be used without permission.

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