Hips Don’t Lie: 8 Weeks Post-Op

My hips were achier than usual all day today, and I told Stephen tonight at dinner that I bet rain was coming. My hips always seem to hurt more right before it rains. Sure enough, earlier this evening rain began to fall. Just call me Shakira because my hips don’t lie!

I’m happy to be at eight weeks post-op. It somehow feels like a big milestone, although the true milestone was last Tuesday, when I was FINALLY able to ditch the crutches after almost 7 weeks! I was so nervous those first few days without my crutch, scared that the slightest misstep would send me right back on it, but so far I have been fine. My physical therapist says I still have a slight problem with my gait, but she feels that it will correct itself overtime as I strengthen my muscles. One of the biggest issues I’ve seen with therapy is the fact that I have zero muscle tone due to being completely sedentary for a year before my surgery. It took me so long to get the right diagnosis and treatment for  my hip, and while I was seeking that out, I wasn’t doing anything physical because I was in pain all the time. Obviously, being so inactive took a huge toll on my body, in more ways than one, but I see it the most when I am at physical therapy. At first, just doing a simple thing like extending my leg and holding it made my thigh quiver with exertion. It’s gotten better thanks to all of the sessions I’ve had and the home exercises I’ve been doing, but I can’t help but wonder if my therapy would have been easier if my muscles had been stronger. I know there’s really no point in worrying about that at this point since I can’t change the past, though. And on the positive side, my left hip will hopefully be stronger going into surgery since it’s had to work harder these past few months (and boy have I felt it!).

I had a follow-up visit with my orthopedic doctor last Wednesday, and he was very pleased with my progress. He took x-rays and showed me the area of bone he had shaved away and showed how that should help the movement in my hip joint. He said my joint space looks great and also thought my gait looked good. I was concerned before the appointment about the amount of pain I’m still having, but he said it’s normal at this stage and that I should see a decrease within 2-3 weeks, so I’m hoping that by week 10 I will be doing much better. It’s been hard for me when people have asked me if I’m pain-free now and I have to say no. I feel as though I’m letting them down with that answer, which I know is ridiculous, but we all know I’m good at being ridiculous. I am ready for the day when I can say that I’m pain-free. I hope and pray that day comes, but sometimes I am afraid it won’t. I still have a long road ahead of me since I still have to take care of my left hip, too, but I can’t dwell on that right now. I’m only guaranteed today, so I will focus on that and be thankful, achy hips and rainy day and all. 🙂

(Almost) Six Weeks Post-Op

It’s hard to believe it’s been almost six weeks since I had my hip surgery. The time has gone by really quickly since I went back to work and started physical therapy. I’ve been going to therapy 2-3 times a week, which has been tough. My sessions have lasted at least an hour, and even though the exercises seem really basic, I’m worn out afterwards. It doesn’t help that I head right to work after I’m finished. Everything seems to be harder since my surgery, which I guess is to be expected as I continue to heal.

At this point, I’m still on one crutch. I really thought I would be done with the crutches altogether at this point, but it hasn’t worked out that way. Last week when I tried walking without them at PT, I felt a sharp pain, and I felt it again over the weekend, so I have tried to do what my physical therapist said and take it easy. I was able to walk a little bit better at my session on Monday and hope to have similar success on Wednesday. I have been frustrated at how slow the process of weaning myself off the crutches has been, but I know it’s better to do it slowly and without injury than rush things and end up doing more damage.

I have been surprised by how much I have had to fight fear and anxiety related to my recovery. I had no idea what a mental struggle recovery would entail. I have been so nervous that the surgery won’t work to relieve my pain and worried that every twinge I feel means something is wrong.  It’s easy for me to get worked up and think of all of the worst-case scenarios that can happen, so I find myself having to stop on a daily basis and remember that 1) worrying doesn’t solve anything,  2) I have no real reason to think anything is wrong, and 3) no matter what happens, God will meet me there. If my hope is based on my physical condition, I will always be disappointed. So I must hope in the Lord instead. On Sunday I was reminded of the beauty found in Micah 7:7, which says, “But as for me, I will look to the Lord I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.” This verse encouraged me and reminded me that God alone is my hope and my help. Even if my hips always hurt, He will be faithful. And that will be enough. 

FAI/Labral Tear Surgery and Early Recovery

I’m happy to report that I’m now a post-op hip patient! My surgery was scheduled for 7:30 a.m. on Thursday, November 12, and it happened right on schedule. We had to be at Vanderbilt at 5:30 that morning, which worked out fine since I woke up a little before 3 and couldn’t go back to sleep. 🙂 When we got to the hospital, I checked in and then waited for about 15 minutes before being taken to a pre-op room. I changed into the super-attractive hospital gown and put all of my belongings into a plastic bag that lucky Stephen got to carry around with him the rest of the day. Then I met a host of different people who would be assisting with the surgery or anesthesia. I took about a half a dozen different medications, and they did some quick blood work. I was there by myself for a while before Stephen got to come back and see me before they took me to the operating room. I felt anxious about the surgery and wondered how it would go, but praying helped me, as did getting some texts from friends who were up at 6 a.m. and thinking about me!

Once in the OR, I received a spinal injection to numb my legs and make them easier to maneuver, and it was really weird to feel the effects of that slowly take over. I expected my legs to feel numb instantly, but instead they started to tingle and then gradually grew numb. The nurse and surgeon started to put these special booties on my feet to help with blood circulation, and the anesthesiologist told me he would be giving me something to help me sleep. Then the next thing I knew, I was waking up! The first thing I remember doing is crying and then saying to the nurse, “I don’t know why I’m crying.” She laughed and said it was probably the pain medicine I had been given that was causing that, and that I must be a lightweight. Thanks, I guess? There were a few other moments where I randomly started crying, which was weird, but I was so relieved I had made it through the surgery. The recovery room nurse I had was very kind and helpful, and I was so glad to have her there with me. Nurses are the best!

I don’t remember a lot of that time immediately after surgery, but I know I slept for a bit and that my surgeon and another doctor who had assisted him both came and saw me and went over the pictures they had taken of the procedure. (Don’t worry, I’m not going to post those!). I didn’t even have my glasses for the first part of recovery, so I was happy when Stephen got to come back and see me, so I could not only see him but could make out shapes in general.

The surgeon said that he had found exactly what he expected to find: a torn labrum and extra bone on my femur. He repaired the labrum with sutures and anchors and then shaved down the extra bone. All I have as evidence of the surgery are 3 small incisions at the top of my right thigh. I was in recovery for about 3-4 hours, and then around 3:00 p.m., they discharged me. It’s crazy that I underwent an operation involving such a major part of my anatomy and didn’t even have to stay overnight!

The drive home seemed long, but I used a cold compress for most of the way home, which helped immensely. I put the seat of the car as far back as it would go, and sat on a pillow while also reclining it far back. We stopped for a quick meal at Sonic because I was starving after having not eaten all day, and it was the best tater tots I’ve ever eaten. 🙂

I really wasn’t sure what to expect regarding how I would feel after the surgery, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it might be. I had a lot of pain medication still in my system and was pretty groggy. I think I went to bed around 8:20 p.m. that first night. Sleeping has been challenging because I’ve had a hard time finding a good position. The anesthesia also gave me wildly vivid and slightly scary dreams the first 2 nights, but I didn’t have any like that last night, so hopefully that’s all out of my system.

Now that I’m 3 days post-op, I’m really pleased with how I’m doing. I’m not great at getting around on the crutches, but fortunately for me, we have a small house, and I haven’t had to travel very far on them. I have a lot of things within easy reach of me, and my parents and husband have been excellent caretakers. The pain has been manageable, and I’m trying not to take the pain mediation too often and am keeping the area iced regularly.

I’m so thankful to have the surgery behind me and to be able to focus on healing. A huge thanks to all of you who have supported and encouraged me along the way!

Everything You Never Wanted to Know About My Hips

Have you ever tried to catch an ocean wave using a small plastic cup? It’s an exercise in futility. There’s too much water and not enough cup to contain it. That’s kind of how I feel about this blog. I have too many thoughts and don’t know how this little space can contain them all. But here I am, holding out my cup…

Two weeks from today, I’m going to have arthroscopic surgery on my right hip. I saw an orthopedic surgeon at Vanderbilt back in September, and he was finally able to give me definitive answers as to what has been causing the hip pain that has been my constant companion for over a year. After looking at my MRIs and xrays, the doctor told me that I have hip impingement in both hips, and this has caused bilateral labral tears. Basically, the ball and socket of my hip do not fit together like they should because of the size of my femoral head, so there is increased friction, which caused the labrum, or cartilage surrounding the hip socket, to tear. (There’s a much better explanation of all of this here.)  The surgeon will shave down the excess bone on my hip and then repair the labral tear with sutures and anchors. The surgery is what the doctor called “deceptive” in that it’s an outpatient procedure that will result in my having relatively small incisions, but the recovery is lengthy and will require lots of rest, time on crutches, and lots of physical therapy.

My lame hip

                  My lame hip

The bad news is that because I have torn the labrum in both of my hips, I will need to have surgery on both hips, and the surgeries cannot be done at the same time. This means that I will have 2 separate surgeries, several months apart (the length between the 2 depends on how quickly I recover from the first surgery, but he’s hoping to do the left hip 3-4 months after the right one). The good news is that if all goes well, there will be a day when I will no longer be in pain! I’m so thrilled about this but also really anxious about the prospect of having 2 surgeries and the possibility of them not helping or making my pain worse. I did finally manage to stop reading every blog post about hip surgeries that I could find online, which has helped my anxiety levels somewhat. (If there’s someone out there with a horrible hip surgery experience, I don’t want to know about it!) I wish I could know that everything will work out perfectly, but there’s no way to know that, so I have to trust that no matter what happens, God will be with me. That I do know I can count on.

I’m going to be laid up for a little bit after the surgery (and hopefully not breaking my leg while trying to use crutches!), so I may try to blog a bit more often. I’m not making any promises, though. Longtime readers know how that usually goes. 🙂

If you have any questions, leave them below, and I’ll try to answer them or at least point you to Dr. Google.