The Hip Chronicles, Part X: Was it worth it?

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.

This entry will be the last in the Hip Chronicles. It’s not that I’ve run out of things to say. Or maybe I have. I just worry that I’m starting to repeat myself, and, God forbid, starting to whine. And whiny deja vus have never been my thing.

Anyway, Friday marks the six-week anniversary of my hip replacement surgery. At this very time on Nov. 19, I was likely having a scope shoved down my throat because the anesthesiologist couldn’t find my narrow trachea. Luckily, I can’t remember a thing about that.

Almost six weeks later, I’m back in my own home. I mostly walk unassisted. I can get up and down off suitably high surfaces. I can get up and down shorter flights of steps without a cane. I can sleep on my unoperated side. I can fix a light meal, decorate and wrap gifts, write blogs, make it around the block without stopping to rest. I’m down to roughly one painkiller a day. I’m done with blood thinners, and the twice-a-week blood tests that go with them.

I still can’t drive, bend past 90 degrees, crouch down to pick things up when I drop them, or get in and out of the shower, or car, without supervision. I can’t reach my right calf, ankle or knee to shave or moisturize or even scratch them. I can’t trim my own right toenails, or put polish on them.

These are all things I likely won’t get to do for at least another six weeks, though one doctor told me to practice driving within nine weeks of surgery.

I’m still only half-way through this thing, but it doesn’t stop me from questioning whether it was worth it. Was it? I still don’t know.

Was my hip damaged beyond repair? Certainly. Four surgeons and one rheumatologist wouldn’t lie, right?

Was I in constant pain? Definitely. And strong drugs weren’t making a dent.

Was it disrupting my life? Well, I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t walk much, feared stairs and was starting to become a social hermit, turning down parties, coffee dates, anything that involved standing or even short drives.

All of the above were good reasons for having this surgery, even though I am younger than most candidates. There is also the concern that the prosthesis will wear out and need to be replaced. I’m hoping, though, that in 20 years technology will be advanced enough that they can just grow me a new hip and teleport it in.

So why am I questioning the surgery’s worth? Part of it is my fear that, in spite of all the gains I’ve made, I will never have a fully functioning right leg again. For example, will the numbness around the incision ever dissipate? And will the mountain cow syndrome continue? And will I ever be able to cross my legs again?

I also have fears about my future. I don’t think this will be my last replacement. But if it isn’t, have I screwed up my chances of getting health insurance to cover it because I took care of this hip before I turned 40? I already pay outrageous premiums for the privilege of having RA. Obamacare gave me some reassurance that I wouldn’t get discriminated against for getting an incurable illness as a very small child. But what shenanigans will this new congress get up to?

After all, I’m too young for socialized medicine Medicare. And, you know, I’d pull myself up by my own bootstraps, but I still have to wait six weeks! Should I just have shut up, medicated myself into oblivion, then taken steps to make sure I’m not a burden to society?

Oh dear, this is starting to border on a whine. So let me end this on a positive note.

Here is what I haven’t said: The pain I used to have is gone. And even with my doubts, that alone may make all this worth it.

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

3 comments

  • Yes. Yes it was. As someone else who has lived with pain as a constant companion and had surgery as part of what it took to get to the other side, (although i freely admit it was peanuts compared to yours!) every well-considered medical risk is worth it to take back the energy, creativity and joy that pain saps from your life. You have too much to enjoy and bring to the world to not be free from as much pain as possible!
    Btw this kind of funk is normal post-op. Call me if you need any food runs/ cheering up, okay?

  • Sending you a hug.
    I’m one year post -op I can do just about anything I want to. I won’t attempt to sit full lotus though! And my surgeon has warned me not to rock climb – because of the danger of falling rather than lack of ability.

    I have no pain – though I did for a while as I developed a trochanteric bursitis which was successfully treated with physio.

    Not everyone can do everything they used to do but the comparison, I suggest, isn’t with a fully functioning hip but with what you had (one that was deteriorating rapidly) or with the one you would have had you not had the op.

    As an example my surgeon told me I’d be in a wheelchair in a further two years (that was a year ago) instead I’m totally mobile.

    Hope you grow to love yours too.

  • Thanks, Pamela! It’s good to hear from others who have gone through it. I don’t think I have the bursitis issues you had, but I’ve been dealing with sciatica for the last two days. Gaah. At least I am still convalescing, and don’t have to drive all over the place and work long hours!

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