My Hips Don't Lie

It's been a week since my surgery. In some ways, it feels like yesterday, in others, it feels like a million years ago.

My mother and I arrived in St. Louis on Monday evening. Tuesday morning, I reported to the hospital for a CT scan and blood work. 8 am, on the morning of February 8th, I checked into pre-op for a surgery from which there is no going back.

For the last 3-4 years, I've been suffering from hip pain. Naturally, my stubbornness fueled the belief that I could use my knowledge as a personal trainer to solve the problem.

The pain started when I was at my lightest. I had cut back on weight lifting, increased my cardio, and was on a ridiculous diet. It was a sharp cold pain that often times stung me out of nowhere. Now I know: the hours I spent on that damned elliptical machine perpetuated and worsened my situation. At one point, my weight hit 168, huge landmark in my adult life but I  was also in constant pain.

When I stopped cardio, my weight creeped back up to 210, but my pain became more sporadic. It would be another year before I sought medical help. It finally became clear that I was only managing pain from a chronic condition. Nothing was healing. Worse yet, the pain was getting in the way of my ability to reclaim a healthy weight.

In the spring of 2016 I was diagnosed with Bilateral Hip Dysplasia and a Labral tear in the right hip. Dysplasia simply means I have shallow hip sockets. This can lead to less stability and more stress on the soft tissue in the joint, hence the tear and arthritis that was also present.

My first option was to scope the joint. Minimally invasive, quick (ish) recovery. Sounds good. Except when someone explained to me that this won't actually fix the problem. Fixing the problems associated with a shallow hip socket means moving the socket to an orientation that provides more support in the standing position.

Sh!t.

4 to 8 weeks of assisted walking? Screws? Cutting bone? Did I really need this? What would happen if I didn't do this? Arthritis would continue to ravage the joint at an accelerated rate and I would eventually require a total hip replacement. I was only 33. I wanted to keep as much of myself in tact as possible, and delay the need for artificial joints for as long as possible.

The Periacetabular Osteotomy does just that. The doctor makes cuts in the pelvic bone to free the entire socket from the rest of the hip. Then, with a certain degree of finesse, the socket is placed in a more stable position and screwed in place. There is no road map for the doctor to follow. This surgery is almost completely subjective. In other words, it really matters who your surgeon is and what kind of experience they've had. I was referred to someone who has been doing this for over 10 years, but I had to fly to St. Louis to meet him. My consult was in July and I scheduled my RPAO for February 8th, 2017. Popular guy.

The vibes in preop were very surreal. People milling around, some waiting for family, others waiting for their own procedures, like some kind of twisted train station.

When they call you back to prep, you get to put on the obligatory hospital gown. They start an IV and get you hooked up to sensors. When the OR is ready for you, the anesthesiologist gives you a dose of “I don't care” medicine (his words,not mine) and mom kisses you on the forehead. I was out before I got to the OR.

The first thing I felt was being transferred onto my bed. Coming to, my body could feel, I could hear, but I couldn't make words and the lights were too bright. I was in my room long before my senses came completely back together. Goodness, I was so sleepy. 3 nights went by, blurred into one long stay punctuated by pill taking every 4 hours, blood tests, vital signs (my BP was once as low as 85/59 or something crazy like that), hospital food and physical therapy.

All hooked up: The IV, the catheter, the incision drain, and my leg in the Continuous Passive Motion Machine. #Cyborg

All hooked up: The IV, the catheter, the incision drain, and my leg in the Continuous Passive Motion Machine. #Cyborg

It was maybe around 9pm(may have to check with my mother on this) the evening of the surgery when someone came to teach me how to use a walker. 2 percocet every 4 hours keeps you in a barely lucid state. I sat up. Got my feet on the cold linoleum floor and, relying heavily on my upper body strength, heaved myself up to standing. Walker. Operated leg. Good leg. Walker, operated leg, good leg. 3 steps got me about a foot away from the bed and then I had to sit down and puke. I felt pretty defeated. But I was assured that I did great.

The next day I was able to make it much further, and every subsequent visit with physical and occupational therapists was more successful than the last. Having food in my system certainly helped. But, jeez. I had tubes coming out of everywhere like some kind of strange cyborg. They kept me on a constant IV with a button to get a dose of pain meds. I am rather proud to say, I never used it if I wasn't reminded to. There was a drain from my incision to a little container that the nurses emptied periodically. Seeing your own blood collect like that is at the very least disconcerting.

Then there was the catheter. Oh my goodness. That might have been the most miserable part of the whole experience! I'll save you the details, but staying a third night was in part due to my inability to go #1 one my own. It felt like I forgot how.

Since I have been home, I have watched inordinate amounts of Netflix. I have also figured out how to go to the bathroom without assistance. The biggest obstacle in that is getting my bum leg back INTO bed. I am beyond swollen, from my right knee all the way across to my left hip. The flesh around the incisions is numb from the nerves being pulled and stretched during the procedure. Due to pain killers and meds to counteract their side effects, I have experienced both ends on the GI spectrum inside of 24 hrs. And I've had one emotional breakdown.

The pain is not terrible. There is stinging at the incision, but the joint only hurts when I am trying to move. The heels of my hands hurt from using my walker more than my hip hurts from the surgery.

I wish I could say this has been some kind of catalyst for me. Maybe it's too early to tell.

I haven't been surprised by any of this, mostly because I kept my head free of expectations all the way to the minute I went under for the surgery. The real challenge will come in the form of a physical therapist, whom I expect within the next day or 2. Surgery is the easy part.

Elizabeth Romsloe