Have you ever wanted to know the real truth about hip replacement surgery? The little things you might not read about on Medical Web Sites? Helpful tips or Word to the Wise???
Well, buckle up, little Bobby…this month’s story is about events surrounding around my January 9th total hip replacement….. and all I have learned.
Google and Amazon are a Patient’s Best Friend
I was told I would need a walker after surgery and I borrowed one from a neighbor. It was the usual aluminum frame with two wheels.
Did you know if you Google “How to decorate a walker?” then a world of decorating opportunities opens up to you? Once you decide on a theme, you can search Amazon for walker decorations and/or accessories.
I chose to go with a Butterfly theme—Whimsical but Classy—in honor of my mother who loved butterflies. It made me feel she was with me on this adventure.
Technology Comes to the Lowly Patient Wrist Band
While in the hospital, all medical personnel would ask the same questions: “What is your name? What is your date of birth? Who is your doctor and what is he going to do?” They verified my answers by looking at my wrist band.
In our technology-driven medical world, my wrist band also contained a graphical QR code which is the bar-code/optical label that is used for consumer advertising, ticketing, and so forth. In the business world, this black and white label contains all needed information about the item to which it is attached.
In this case, it was attached to me.
It was fascinating to look at the square grid on my wrist band and realize the mixture of black squares was being scanned to confirm medications, procedures, IV fluids, and so forth.
I just hope the next QR code attached me to is for a ticket to a movie/or concert.
When You are Blind as a Bat…..
The surgical process for this operation involved check-in; getting a spinal block; having the surgery; going to recovery; going to my hospital room as they wanted me to stay overnight due to my sleep apnea; and going home the next day.
My son Chris was with me for the check-in period but I was flying solo for the spinal block. I was no longer wearing my glasses. Without them, I see shapes and forms and can tell that a human being is talking to me and not an elephant but it is like looking at a faceless blob.
So, while I am laying there, chatting with various faceless blobs that are coming in and fooling with IVs and so forth….. a faceless blob appears and starts asking me how I am doing and so forth. I can tell it is a male blob and he seems very nice and professional and I am answering his questions and then he says something about seeing me in the operating room and I think to myself…..
OH MY GOSH…is this faceless blob my doctor? The doctor who is going to take my hip apart and replace the worn-out parts with new shiny metal parts? Is this him?
It is very likely that he said his name when he came in and I was distracted or it is also possible that he would assume (rightly so) that I could see him and, having met him before, I would recognize him especially as he was wearing surgical clothes.
Regardless, at that point, I had chatted long enough that I felt I would look like a clueless old demented person if I said “hey, it’s been nice talking to you…but who are you… really?” And I knew that squinting and trying to stare at him would not help.
A telling clue was when he said he was going to write his initials on my hip and he would see me soon. I will confess I was tempted to say “and your initials are…….?” but instead, I acted as if having a faceless blob write his initials on my left thigh was a normal everyday occurrence.
For any future surgeries, I think I will wear a sign around my neck that says “Blind as a bat…. Please identify yourself.”
Being Chatty….. While Conscious and Sort of Conscious
I am not a newcomer to surgical procedures. I am also a lightweight (aka cheap drunk) when it comes to pre-operative relaxers—the IV medications given to reduce stress. For every previous surgery, I would get my “relaxers” and then stare sleepily at the ceiling while being taken to the OR where I would make small talk before being given the “you are going to sleep now “ drugs.
So, the nice nurse comes in and she says she is going to give me my margarita cocktail aka relaxer before my surgery and a minute or two later I am kidding her and telling her she needs a stronger cocktail as this one is not doing anything and I want something on the rocks with salt on the edge of the glass and I am looking at my wrist band (the one with the QR code on it) and…..
THE NEXT THING I KNOW I AM WAKING UP IN THE RECOVERY ROOM PULLING THE OXYGEN MASK OFF MY FACE.
I had NO and I mean NO memory of going to the OR and seeing the male faceless blob who autographed my hip. I hope he was there. I mean NO MEMORY. I have never had that happen to me in the past.
So, the next day, when my Physician Assistant is checking on me, I share with him how that was a strong cocktail and how my memory slate is blank….and he starts smiling and chuckling.
I have learned enough to know if medical staff is looking at you and chuckling it might not be a good thing. His response was:
PA: Well, I will say… you were very chatty back there.
ME: Excuse me…….? Chatty?? (My son immediately breaks out laughing.)
PA: Yes… you were very chatty….. Now—you did not say anything bad….. but you were very chatty.
I know I am chatty….but I had no idea that in an unconscious sort of state that my motor mouth would keep going. I think I need to work harder on making sure my filters remain in place while conscious so that I do not slip into embarrassing conversations in case there are future surgeries in my life.
The Parent becomes the Child and the Child Becomes the Parent
My fabulous son, Chris, brought me home from the hospital. At that point, our roles started reversing. I am turning 67 this year and he turns 40 and I got a glimpse of the handwriting on the wall based on several conversations of which I will share two…..
Chris: (as I am sitting at my kitchen table and he is surveying my family room.) Mom, the best chair for you to sit in is this one as it has arms and it is straight and not soft. But, you cannot see the TV from there so I would like move the furniture so you can see the TV.
May I add these were all good ideas and he did ask me instead of telling me……a very wise son.
Chris: Mom, they said you needed to get lots of protein. (Good grief, was he really listening to all they said??) So, I am going to the grocery store and we can make a list of what you need and so forth. (Looking in closet) And I see you have some olive oil but you need some extra virgin olive oil.
The end result is that he grilled an entire chicken (lots of protein) for me that night as well as picked up other items (including extra virgin olive oil) and fixed a great dinner.
All his comments/suggestions were made respectfully but it was not lost on me that he was taking over. The mantle of responsibility had shifted a tiny bit. I have been there in the past with my parents. What I know is that I have to keep my sense of humor and to remain flexible when suggestions are offered.
And if his suggestions involve his cooking a whole chicken on the grill so I can have lots of protein, then they will be welcomed with open arms.
Post-op Star Wars Stormtrooper Leg Accessories
In the old days, you wore something called TED hose on your legs to prevent blood clots. TED hose are these incredibly thick TIGHT stockings that cover your entire leg and they are impossible to put on and take off—especially if you are single and have no one to help you—and they are UGLY.
In our new technology-oriented world, TED Hose are obsolete. Instead, I became the proud owner of a Cirona 6300 Deep Vein Thrombosis Prevention Therapy System. The look and the name of this system makes it a cross between a Terminator movie and Star Wars Stormtroopers.
You wrap these adjustable Velcro sleeves around each calf. Each sleeve has a compression therapy device unit attached that you activate with the simple push of a button and the compression therapy mimics the body’s natural contractions which will keep your blood flowing and prevent clots.
What that means in English is: you strap something similar to a blood pressure cuff around each calf; on the outside is a battery box and when you press the button, it inflates the cuff and then deflates the cuff. When it inflates you hear this whirrrrrr sound for 5 seconds and feel the cuffs squishing your legs and then it slowly releases.
And it does this over and over and over and over again—for the entire 8 hours that you are SUPPOSED to be sleeping……and I forgot to mention, each battery box has a little green on-light that shines brightly and looks like green glowing eyes in your bed (even I can see those.)
So imagine trying to go to sleep dressed like a Star Wars Stormtrooper with one leg propped up on pillows and ALL NIGHT LONG YOU HEAR Whirrrrr followed by squishing and un-squishing and then it happens again and of course, both legs are not in sync so one is whirring and then the other whirrrrss…..
Over and Over and Over Again.
For 8 hours!
I have two more weeks to go…………. Whirrrrrrrrrrr…
What is that Smell?
Last story—so they tell me I should keep icing my incision/leg and one of the best ice packs is to buy bags of frozen peas and keep reusing them. They melt and defrost and then refreeze again easily.
On paper, that was a great idea…..
Until the night where I woke up and I am lying in bed in the dark listening to my Star Wars Stormtrooper Leg Accessories cycle on and off (whirrrrr) and then I go “Sniff Sniff”.
Sniff Sniff—what is that smell?
Sniff —it smells like— Sniff Sniff —hmmm it smells like Thanksgiving Dinner— Sniff Sniff—you know with turkey and mashed potatoes and Sniff Sniff and OH MY GOSH—it smells like peas.
Why am I smelling peas in my bedroom at 2 AM?
Well, it turns out that if the bag of peas freezes and refreezes over and over that eventually the frozen peas smell permeates the plastic bag so once the defrosted liquid moisture appears on the outside of the bag, the sweet pea smell is also present.
So, at 2 AM I realize my pajamas, my sheets, AND the mattress pad are all damp and now smell like Eau-de-toilette-le-peas and not Tide Floral. Pass the Cranberry sauce please.
Needless to say, the frozen bag of peas was retired with honors to the trash can and I now use gel packs.
They say attitude is everything. And it is–in the midst of leg pain and becoming a bit helpless, I realized the only way to handle this was to laugh—and to look for and appreciate the gifts being given to me—the support, concerns, and prayers offered by friends and family…and to be grateful that I live in a country where medical issues can be addressed and solved.
With that in mind…. I want to offer my heartfelt appreciation to my son, Chris, who handled graciously this (temporary) transfer of the mantle of responsibility; to my sister-in-law Debbie who flew up from Florida and stayed with me for 5 days…..fixing meals and cheering me on; to family and friends who emailed me, called me, and prayed for me…..
And last but not least… a big thank you to my kind and very professional physician who autographed and fixed my hip—Dr. Stephen Kim, and his staff—especially Josh Shuford and Andrea Neel. I am grateful for your outstanding medical skills and the support offered me during this process.
All of you have worked separately and together as a team to make certain this 66-year-old woman could get her active lifestyle back.
And for that I say Thank you………. Truly ……… Thank you.
Butterfly Walker–My Mother Would Approve-Whimsical but Stylish!
Star Wars Stormtrooper Leg Accessories -Try Sleeping with These Strapped on to Your Legs as They Whirrrr and Inflate and Deflate
Thanksgiving Peas Ice Pack (replaced with Gel Pack)
jfh – At home 24 hours after surgery–with Starbucks Coffee and Chick-fil-A Chicken Wrap!
jfh – 5 days after surgery–walking my neighborhood and look–No walker!
jfh- 6 days after surgery- drove to grocery store–can we say shopping?