When you live with chronic pain on a daily basis, it becomes so much a part of your life, that you don’t realise just how bad it has become until it has stopped. It is so consuming that it takes over your whole existence. Every movement that you make has to be carefully calculated to avoid aggravating an already painful manoeuvre. If only somebody could wave a magic wand and give you your life back.
At 37, I discovered that the only option for me in the long run was a total hip replacement. It was such a daunting prospect that I delayed the surgery a year by having a hip-block injection. Whilst I knew that it had to be done, I was scared and naturally very apprehensive. It took me almost a year to get my head around it.
I am now 4 months post-op, and every day I wake up and realise how blessed I am. The months of research into finding the right surgeon had paid off. Making the decision to proceed with the hip replacement, and choosing Ian McDermott to do the surgery were a major turning point in my life.
Of course the surgery is complex and not without risk, but given the opportunity to have one of the best surgeons in the country perform it should go a long way towards relieving any anxieties you may have.
My surgery was a particularly complicated case. I not only needed a total hip replacement, but my pelvis was badly misshapen, and my left leg was 2.5cm shorter than my right. I had walked all of my life with a limp, and suffered back and pelvis pain for the last 20 years. Despite this, I had managed to live quite an active life until about two years ago, when my hip started to deteriorate quite rapidly. It was then that the condition became chronic, and the pain was with me day and night.
Mr McDermott had suggested that whilst replacing the defective femoral head and neck, it would be possible to also lengthen my left leg by adjusting the length of the stem into the femur. I couldn’t quite believe that he was going to be able to correct my leg as well as my hip. Obviously, this also involved some temporary tissue, muscle and nerve damage as everything had to be stretched out.
Yet still, two days after surgery I was able to stand and walk a few steps with a frame. After 6 days in hospital, I was walking with two crutches. When you have a hip replacement, you are told that you need to be weight-bearing on that leg as soon as possible, which means that you have to put that foot down when you use the crutches. My rehabilitation was really quite remarkable. Given that I had a shorter left leg all my life, I had always walked on my toes on that foot. For me, it wasn’t just a case of learning to manage without the crutches. I had to learn to walk, as I had never walked correctly before. It took about two weeks of telling myself ‘heel, toe’ with every step with the crutches before it came naturally.
As a mother, being an invalid was not really an option for me. I cannot stress the importance of physiotherapy. Right from the beginning, the day I arrived home from hospital, I began to do leg exercises whilst sitting in my chair. I was determined to disperse the swelling and build up my muscles as quickly as possible. Every repetition was a struggle, but I managed to build up to three hours of physiotherapy a day, spread out into sessions of 15 minutes each.
At three weeks post-op, I was able to stand without crutches and was stable enough to begin changing my physiotherapy routine to include exercises whilst standing. Five days later, I took m
y first step. I felt like I had conquered the world, when in actual fact I had only managed to move two inches. It was so momentous, that it gave me more courage and determination to keep trying. I managed five steps that first day. Each day I pushed myself a little bit harder. At five weeks post-op I could walk completely unaided.
I hope that my story may go some way to inspiring you to take control of your life again, rather than just controlling your pain. Put aside any anxieties you may have about the surgery and the recovery, and try to envisage having the simple things in life that most people take for granted, like a good night’s sleep, being able to lift up your child or grandchild to give them a hug and walking to the shops instead of having
to drive everywhere.
My story does not end there. My rehabilitation has come so far that I can now walk 5 miles, and am going to start doing charity walks in the autumn. My daughter says that Mr McDermott is her hero, as he has given her her mummy back. You should take your life back too.
17 July 2012