Category Archives: Hip Replacement

Hip Replacement: The 6-Week Post-Op Milestone

I had my 6-week check-up with the surgeon two days ago and am happy to report that he’s pleased with my progress! I’m now officially off the 50% weight-bearing restriction and am allowed to drive … both of which I, uh, sort of ‘awarded’ myself a few days earlier than he did.

So, where am I at?

I’m walking with just a cane now and am doing much practice walking without it too. Without the cane, however, I have a definite limp – a sort of a sideways bob & waggle – that I’m working hard to lose. According to the physiotherapist, it’s a very hard thing to lose if it becomes too entrenched, which is why it’s better to stick with the cane a bit longer and be vigilant with the strengthening exercises. OK!

There’s just one problem with the cane though: it makes me feel old. Crutches are a clear indication that you are recovering from something. Not so with a cane. I was at the local mall yesterday to do some Mother’s Day shopping. It’s a destination for the elderly, in that a high number of senior’s residences and organizations bus their seniors there. As I worked my way around the mall, where I and they all had walking aids, I began to feel like one of them – it was a relief to finally escape!!

Actually, there is one other cane issue: a huge callus mid-palm on my cane hand.

I’ve been able to wave goodbye to all the other recovery aids too, most notably the raised toilet seat. For the unfamiliar, this is a seat that sits (firmly clamped) on top of the regular seat so that it’s not such a long way down (and up again). Side handles make things even easier. Nothing makes it in any way comfortable. The rest of the family was every bit as happy as me to see it go.

The other aids – the reacher/grabber and the sock aid – are things I really didn’t use at all. I either got up or got closer when I needed to reach something and, for items down low or on the floor, I used the golf reach (standing on the good leg and extending the other behind me while bending forward), which has given me a much stronger right leg! To get dressed, I went, within days of being home from the hospital, to just using my toes to get pants to within arms’ reach. As for the sock aid, well, I’ve just not worn any, opting for slip-on canvas shoes or my ratty old wool-felt Haflinger clogs, neither of which require socks. And neither of these required the long-handled shoe horn either.

A week ago, you could likely have knocked me over with a feather when I was standing unaided but I’m far more stable now and I can finally start on the exercise for lateral strength and stability that will really move me along.

I was started using the recumbent exercise bike at my last physio session and was really happy to note that the painful mid-rotation catch that had kept me off a bike for years is now gone. So, I can now go ahead and order the recumbent tadpole trike I’ve been eying! And if you’re wondering why a trike, I’m not talking about the old, upright ‘grocery cart’ trikes driven by Florida retirees – tadpole trikes are fast, fun machines!

Did I mention fun?? I test-drove a few last year – loved them, even with my bad hip. Plus, no feet off the pedals for stops and, at longer stops, a built-in place to sit. I think the trike will be a big benefit to my rehab and I hope to be able to ride it to and from work this summer.

So to sum things up, I’m half way through recovery, about two weeks away from returning to work (the 50% weight-bearing restriction pushed my return date back a bit) and generally feeling fine … in fact, still more so each day!


Hip Replacement: Home Recovery – Week 4

Week four – hard to believe it’s already more than a month now, since surgery!

I finally started physio this week and, while it’s good to be moving forward that way, it sure highlighted how far I still am from full recovery. Having pushed to the limits of what I was allowed to do, it was easy to think I was pretty far down the recovery path – which I was, in a certain way – but once more was suddenly allowed, required, I suddenly felt far less able. I have tougher exercises to do now but they’re already easier now that a few days have passed. I’ll be going to physio once a week for the next six weeks or so, which is an indication right there that there’s much to be done still.

My physiotherapist was quick to chastise me for putting more than 50% of my weight on my leg when I walk. I’d figured I was, to a small degree, but apparently I’m putting a much higher percentage of weight on the leg than I thought. This disturbed me too, for a different reason – not finding that anyone could really provide clear guidance on how to gauge this at the outset, I had done my best, but was now worried that maybe I was jeopardizing my recovery. I’ve since decided, however, that pain is likely the best barometer and therefore, in its absence, I’m probably doing fine.

There was also gentle condemnation of my backless shoes. While they are frowned upon, I am cursed with problem feet but blessed with sure-footedness and good balance, both of which I regained within days of surgery. So, though I’m not urging anyone else to go against the guidelines, I opted to resume wearing my wonderful, comfortable, ugly old disintegrating Haflinger wool felt clogs a few weeks back. No problems so far.

At this point, I’m just two days away from being done with the last of my medication – the blood thinners – and of being able to start moving (legitimately) toward 100% weight-bearing! I’m so ready to be done with meds & crutches!!

I’m still sleeping on my back as I just can’t get comfortable on my side when I have to keep a big pillow between my legs and maintain all the movement restrictions. I’ll really be happy when I figure out how to make that one work.

I have another physio session in two days and can’t wait (yeah, right) to see what new exercises are thrown my way. And in eleven more days I visit the surgeon. That’s when I’ll really know how I’m doing, I guess, and find out when I’m back to work.

Hip Replacement: Home Recovery – Week 3

Another week! And, like I had sensed by the end of last week, the nature of progress has changed somewhat – there aren’t as many big noticeable milestones to it as there were before but, in the end, there have been some pretty good gains.

It’s been a bit frustrating, in that there were a few bad days here and there – well not bad, exactly, but days with various different aches and muscle issues – but each time, the following day would be really good, with noticeable improvement, as if to make up for the day before.

So, what’s changed?

Well, I can get up from a chair now with far more ease, with the effort weighted evenly on both legs … as long as I consciously think to do it that way.

The hateful exercise, though easier by the end of last week, continued to plague me. But finally, yesterday, while not yet effortless, I was at least pain-free during the exercise and the strain was minimal.

Overall, I have far less stiffness although sitting in one position too long brings it on again. And at this point, there are very few positions to shift between. And I’m getting really tired of having to think about every shift or move before I make it, too.

For sleeping, there IS only one position – flat on my back, and I detest it. Things start off well enough when I first lie down, though it just feels awkward and wrong somehow. Thankfully, I usually drop off pretty quick and then sleep like a log, however, about five hours later, I wake up. There are two reasons for this. One, I drink far too much tea most evenings. Two, I ache. Horribly! I’ve tried pillows under one leg, the other leg, both legs – none of it works. Once awake, I’m done. I’m up, and for good most times, even if it’s 5AM. I long the day when I can once again just roll over, curl up and fall back to sleep.

In general though, I have far more ease of movement, increasing agility and feel far less fragile with each passing day.

So, what did I do?

I was kept pretty busy this week with some birthday preparations for my son’s 19th on Thursday.

I spent a few hours Tuesday evening at Bayshore Mall, discovering how frustrating it is to get between stores and floor levels.

Wednesday, I was in the Glebe, first at Slaysh, where it was a good bit of fun to hobble through the door on crutches and ask for a longboard (and they DO look cool but that’s a door that’s closed for me – sigh) then at the Glebe Emporium, where the replacement for the mug I broke two weeks ago is on back-order but, happily, still available! Finally, it was on to lunch at Irene’s Pub, for one terrific club sandwich.

Thursday, I made the birthday cake – deep, dark chocolate, with coffee buttercream and sour cherry filling between the layers, and dark, rich chocolate ganache frosting, laced with brandy. Best yet, I think!

Dinner that night, at Sushi Kan on Baseline, was great!

And the final analysis?

I have no stamina yet – those three busy days, though the effort took only a few hours each day, were incredibly exhausting! In no way would I be ready to return to work yet, even if I was fit to sit at a desk all day, which I’m not.

I have adapted to not working with rather alarming speed and fear it won’t be anywhere near as easy to return. I don’t think I’ll have any problem adapting to retirement when the time comes.

But at this point I’m getting pretty frustrated with seeing things that need doing or thinking of things I’d like to be doing and not being able to tackle them. The moments of boredom are on the rise and there’s only so much daytime TV I can take! The internet will never lose it’s appeal though and I’ve a good book or two tucked away. Maybe I’ll tackle one next week.

And that’s about as exciting as it gets for now.

Hip Replacement: Home Recovery – Week 2

Here’s an update, in journal fashion, on my second week of home recovery after a left hip replacement.
Important to note, however, is that this is where my experience starts to differ from what’s typical due to the fact that I, unlike most after this surgery, am limited to only 50% weight-bearing for the first six weeks of recovery. The usual recovery could well be somewhat faster from this point forward …
I also expect that my future weekly recovery reports will be quite a bit shorter than this one, as the changes become more subtle (like they already have).
So …

There’s less tenderness to the touch in the thigh and it’s getting easier to get in and out of bed and the car.
I walked half a bock and back and managed to do some cooking in the kitchen – my favourite beef barley soup!

Even though things are still tight and stiff, I can feel the ease of joint motion. Nice!
Things are tight where they weren’t before, but also loose where they weren’t either – funny.
I walked to the end of block and back today.
I would never have thought a week ago, as good as I felt then, how much improved I’d feel just one week later.
I would love to be able to touch my toes, rub my foot and do a knee-hug though.
I worry about brushing my teeth too hard or bleeding after flossing – how’s that different than what could go wrong from having dental work??

The hip joint is loose, which is nice, but it’s apparent that the supporting muscles, of which there are more than you might imagine, need build-up again, big time.
It was a wet day, so no walk, and a day of dropping everything – very trying.
We also had a power outage for about two hours.
My sides are sore from the crutches; I’m tired of using the darned things!

Imagine a life where every day, you consistently feel better!
I can finally do that impossible exercise too – not effortlessly, but better!
I’m worried though that it will become increasingly difficult to remember the restrictions.
Hard to believe how loose the hip joint and muscles are – and I thought they were loose after IMS treatments and cortisone shots!
It’s the first day of a totally dry dressing – hope it stays that way.

I went for physio, which was very good, as I now know how to function on one crutch!
But it seems that, loose as things are relative to before surgery, some areas are in fact incredibly tight, so things got manipulated a bit and I now have some extra stretches to do, however, things are kinda sore this afternoon.

I’m not liking the one crutch thing – I worry it’s putting more weight on my leg than is good.
My bruising, of which I had surprisingly little (just one deep purple patch and larger yellow areas), is mostly gone and what’s left is hardly noticeable.
The stitches are gone! It feels so much better – looks fairly good too.
Again, I walked to the end of the block & back, after going to the Fresh Produce store on the way back from the hospital.
I sense I’ll need more physio than what is standard after hip replacement, for muscle and alignment issues that I’d hoped would just disappear after surgery.

The bed I’m using, in the main floor office, sucks big-time – but I don’t think I’m ready to get back upstairs yet.
I’m back on one crutch again, after reassurance from my sister-in-law, and decided that I need to get a bit more aggressive with rehab – I’ve been a bit lax with the exercises but have new resolve to be more diligent with them.
I watched someone doing yoga on TV – will I ever be able to do such moves???
I’m looking forward to a dressing-free incision as of tomorrow and having only the blood thinner to take daily, after Sunday (for two more weeks).
I was a bit worried yesterday that my recovery was falling behind but today seems much better somehow.
Being a bit more aggressive seems to be paying off – at the end of the day, I feel today was a much better day than yesterday and progress has taken a leap!

Hip Replacement: Home Recovery – Week 1

It’s been a week since arriving home from the hospital after a total hip replacement and I’m happy to say it’s been a week of steady progress.

I’m still on the pill cocktail of Celebrex (muscle relaxant), Lyrica (neuropathic pain reliever) Xarelto (blood thinner), however, all but the blood thinner will drop off in a few more days. The painkiller that was prescribed for use on an as-needed basis I’ve used only once.

I’ve had some aches and pains but they’ve been few and mild for the most part, and seem all muscle-related – nothing like the joint and muscle pain that existed prior to surgery.

In fact, the two biggest pains have been:
a) the crutches brushing my incision site because I can’t remember to hold them wider
b) the serious pain in my rear that kicks in later in the day from sitting – my ability to shift positions is seriously curtailed by the movement restrictions imposed après-surgery

Before surgery, my leg had a tendency to turn outward at the foot. I suspect this came from the hip socket as it is now as straight as the right one. So I think some of what I feel is my muscles around the joint adjusting to this new alignment.

I’ve concluded at this point that my quads are in pretty good shape, relatively speaking, as the exercises involving those muscles are really easy for me. My gluts need some work, and do-able exercises and walking will address this, however, where I’m really weak (and I think this is a problem that began long before surgery) is my inner thigh and groin muscles on that left side. The exercise that uses these has been a real trial, to the point where I dropped it for a few days. The outer thigh muscles I’m not really sure about yet because I’m not yet able to exercise them due to my 50% weight bearing restriction.

I’ve an appointment with my physiotherapist, in the coming week, to get a better understanding of how best to handle the 50% restriction and what to do to optimize my recovery process.

I discovered from my reflection in a mirror, that, while I my feel as though I’m walking perfectly upright, I’m in fact tilted to the right – I think it’s because I’m putting more weight on that side. So maybe physio will also help me look less like the leaning Tower of Pisa!

In the first few days after surgery my balance wasn’t 100% but it returned very quickly and feels perfect now. On Tuesday (Day 6 after surgery) I decided to ditch the walker and move to crutches. I immediately felt more mobile – I was even able to get down the three steps out and into the back yard, which made the dog very happy. The walker is still the safest option though if I need to get up at night because I’m not quite as steady on my feet then.

Frustration was a part of the week too – getting plates of food and cups of tea from kitchen to living room easy chair is a challenge! It’s disheartening to work your way around the kitchen, on crutches, to get toast or a sandwich and maneuver plate and crutches at the same time to where you want to go, only to have it slip and hit the floor once you’re just about there. And I dropped my favourite mug a few days ago (trip to Glebe Emporium coming up, to see if there’s hope of replacing it!). Everything happens at a snail’s pace – I’m not good at that!

A bit of worry and a sense of vulnerability were there at times – while walking, albeit with crutches, is going well and I often feel like I could walk unaided, I know that any unsupported instability or sudden jolt would send me crashing to the floor and I would not be able to get myself upright again. I’d likely dislocate the hip too, if that happened. If I was alone, and I am for hours each day, I’d be there till someone came home again. It’s clear that recovering at home would be impossible for a single person, at least for the first few weeks, and I’m both fortunate and grateful to have my family’s help and support. They’ve been terrific!

I was also made aware of the effects of blood thinners, first with a few nosebleeds (minor), next by biting the inside of my cheek while eating, and also from repeatedly scratching an itchy spot on my leg one evening – the next day, the spot I’d scratched was a huge 5-inch diameter bruise! All has healed well, but it leaves me wondering what would happen if the kitchen knife slipped … I’ll be glad when I’m off that medication.

Each day, there’s noticeably less tightness and stiffness. Each and every day, I tire less easily and feel better and stronger – I expect to report continued improvement in next week’s update!

My (Canadian) Hip Replacement – Part 3: Post-Op Days 1 to 3

Day 1, post-op, dawned. I was already off to a good start, with my low blood pressure beginning to rise again.

Breakfast arrived. Hmmmm. Cream of Wheat? Really??? I hadn’t had that since my mother tried to get me to eat it as a small child. But I ate it. However, I pushed aside the milk and juice and was able to get the coffee replaced with tea – never have been and never will be a coffee drinker. The tea arrived, tasting faintly of coffee, as it often does when either the water used is produced in a coffee machine or plastic cups normally used for coffee are used to make tea, as was the case here. Sorry, a pet peeve, as a tea-drinker. But I drank it.

I was having another minor issue, determined through blood tests – low hemoglobin – which, again, could be caused in part or in full by surgical blood loss. (I later discovered that Cream of Wheat and milk are both good for boosting it back up, so perhaps there’s some actual reason for the dismal diets served in hospitals.) My hemoglobin count never did dip low enough to require a transfusion though – another plus!

So, what next? Meds –
Pills were appearing at 4-hour intervals – heavy-duty Tylenol for pain every four hours, Celebrex to reduce inflammation, Lyrica for neuropathic pain. I was kept from ever really feeling pain at all, except with certain movements that came later (and even that was minimal). The other thing was blood thinning medication. This, however, was administered via injection. I was less than thrilled to learn it would be injected sub-cutaneously in the stomach and even more apprehensive when I was told I would have to do these injections for myself once out of the hospital. (This did not happen though, which I‘ll explain later.) But they weren’t that bad and were only needed once a day.

So now, more than friends & family need to know, but I’m putting it here for the sake of anyone headed to surgery – the catheter comes out after the first 24 hours. Not a problem, in and of itself, however, you’ll now feel and need to respond to the call of nature instead of just lying there, as you’ve done up to now. The IV, however, will remain in place for another 24 hours and it’s putting a high volume of fluid into your system. You need to get mobile, especially if you want to avoid the dreaded bedpan!

The phsyio team arrived to get me mobile. I was remembering the knee surgery I’d had years ago, where, again there’d been no pain afterward … until the leg went vertical, and the pain shot from 0 to 10.

The first challenge in getting vertical was to slide the leg, which was still a dead weight, over to the side of the bed … without compromising all the movement restrictions (‘precautions’, they call them) I’d need to remember with each move for the next three months.

These are:
1. No bending beyond a 90-degree angle at the hip
2. No crossing the mid-line of your body with the operated leg
3. No twisting or rotation at the waist, between upper & lower body

Uh-huh. Try it.

I more or less needed to be grabbed by the heels and dragged there the first few times. Then the legs were lowered, knees bending, to the floor. The biggest problem through all of this was stiffness – incredible stiffness, and tightness, and a fair bit of swelling too, at that point, from hip to knee – but no pain, and I was suddenly sitting upright at the edge of the bed!

I was helped into my shoes. Let me say at this point that I fretted over footwear before surgery, trying to figure out what would work for me and still be acceptable. I have problem feet and so had found backless wool felt clogs my best option, at home, for months prior to surgery. But backless shoes were verboten and I ruled out lace-ups because they’d require assistance. None of the slip-ons I tried on in the days prior to surgery had worked, then finally, the day before, I found them – cheap $10 flat running shoe-style rubber-soled slip-ons that I could get in and out of without needing hands or a shoe-horn. Perfect! (And they have been perfect, if a tad cold for this time of year.)

I stood. I grabbed hold of the walker. And away I went! Stiff, awkward, but not painful!!
That first walk was up the hospital hall about 50 feet perhaps, and back. Tiring, but manageable. As long as I was up and over the operated leg, supported by my grip and push on the walker, I could get it to move forward. Not well, but enough.

I started exercises that day too. There were six on the list, all to be done three times a day, but one got nixed due to the fracture. Four of the remaining five were no trouble at all but one, apart from being very difficult to do, was really painful. For this one, you lie on your back in bed, legs straight out, with a plastic bag under the heel of the operated leg. The goal is to draw the leg up into a bent position at the knee, while sliding the heel across the bed toward your butt. The plastic bag is to make it easy. Not! I could only make this work with a lot of strain and considerable assistance from a hand under my outer thigh. Additionally, as the knee bent upward, the leg needed support not to flop out sideways. That one exercise was, and continues to be, the hardest part of the recovery process. In the grand scheme of things, though, a very small part of it.

One more thing that day; the nurse removed the bulky, blood-saturated reinforcement pad that was attached to the surgical site. I’d been happy to find that I didn’t have a drain, just the pad, and once it was gone I felt a bit more comfortable. The actual wound dressing remained in place but the nurse indicated that my level of bruising was not bad at all – surprising to me, as I’ve always bruised easily..

So the days were a mix of walking, exercise, eating, resting and sleeping. The pill and injection regime continued, as well as monitoring of my vital signs, and more blood tests.

Day 2, post-op, I mastered stair climbing and getting dressed, and finally got unhooked from the IV. It felt really good – more normal! The nurses changed my dressing and I finally got a glimpse of things. I think my perspective is a bit different than theirs – my doctor did a great job with the stitches (I was adamant about not having staples) and the incision is shorter than the typical 10-to-12 inches that literature about the surgery had indicated (more like 6 or 7 inches) but I still may stick to shorts rather than bathing suits this summer … time will tell.

Later that day, my doctor popped in after finishing surgery, to touch base once more before my release the next day. He reiterated much of what he’d told me in the recovery room. It sank in a bit better this time. Basically, the hip had been in bad shape, the surgery had gone beautifully, the hairline fracture, which happens sometimes, was nothing to worry about and proof of good bones, my good muscles and good health meant I’d heal well and I could expect a huge and lasting improvement from my surgery!

Then, as if that wasn’t enough, he produced the prescriptions I’d need over that next while and there was the blood thinner, in pill form – no injections! Bonus!!

A few words about the pill form of blood thinner – I’m not sure it’s available everywhere but its trademark name is Xarelto, generic name Rivaroxaban, and it was approved for use here in Canada around 2008. Aside from coming in pill form, another benefit is that the blood tests required when on the standard blood thinners are not a necessary when using the pill product.

Day 3 – the hospital portion – was short ‘n sweet. Release time was 10 AM.
After getting up and dressed, eating one last horrible hospital meal, packing up and receiving one last injection, that was it – I was on my way.

I can’t say enough good things about the super care and treatment I received throughout my hospital stay – from the time I entered till the time I left, everyone was wonderful – caring, competent, supportive and reassuring … and I was so glad to be out of there and headed home!!

My (Canadian) Hip Replacement – Part Two: Surgery Day

(Continuing from Part 1 … )

On Wednesday, March 23rd (a week ago!), after a false start a month earlier, I had a hip replacement.


I arrived at the hospital at 7:30 AM and, after speedy processing through admissions, made my way to the pre-op area where I said goodbye to my husband. I was on my own now. In short order, I was in a hospital gown, on a gurney and hooked up to an IV, then wheeled into a hallway and parked just outside the operating room. The wait there seemed to take a while but I suspect a sedative was already running through the IV, as I felt surprisingly calm. Surgery was scheduled for 9 AM but I had lost track of time at this point.

Eventually, I was wheeled into the OR which was already buzzing with activity. The anesthesiologist introduced herself. She looked about twenty. Maybe. But she sounded competent and was soothingly reassuring.

I’d opted for a spinal anesthetic as opposed to a general one, because it’s widely felt that recovery is better and faster that way. I’d had a spinal years before, and remember being asked to lie on my side, where they injected freezing before inserting the spinal needle.

This time, however, I was instructed to sit up and lean forward, where the anesthesiologist supported me while someone I couldn’t see swabbed my back …

… and the next thing I knew, I was coming to in the recovery room! The anesthesiologist had done her job beautifully!!

Recovery Room

It was 11:30 AM, and it was over! I was somewhat drowsy, yet alert, and hugely relieved.

My surgeon soon paid me a visit to tell me that all had gone extremely well.

There was a small issue however – my femur had a tiny hairline fracture and was now wrapped with titanium bands.

This may sound bad but, in fact, it does happen sometimes, through no fault of the surgeon, to bones that are particularly solid. It in no way compromises the surgery or the recovery (this was verified for me by my trusted and independent medical authority – my sister-in-law, a physician).

*Side note: My surgeon came highly recommended to me from sources well-positioned to verify his superior surgical skills. After having dealt with two others beforehand, I was immediately impressed with his intelligence and warmth, and the way in which he patiently, knowledgeably and intelligently answered my many questions, all without a hint of the condescension I had often experienced with other ortho guys (I may touch on this again in Part 3). I trust him implicitly and know I received the best possible treatment and care from him.

The impact the hairline fracture has on recovery is restriction to 50% weight-bearing on the leg for six weeks instead of the full weight-bearing I’d have been allowed otherwise, as a precautionary measure. I was assured that, given what good shape my muscles were in and my general good health, I’d recover wonderfully. And, given how shot my old joint had been, the improvement I’d notice would be major – woot!

I was parched, but that was my sole discomfort – no pain at all! I spent the next few hours resting and progressing from ice chips to sips of water. I spent many hours doing this, actually, as there wasn’t a room available for some time. Around 3 PM, the nurse asked if I’d like some soda biscuits and apple juice – yes!

I had two soda biscuits and several sips of juice. Not long after, however, a wave of nausea hit. It was touch-and-go, but things managed to stay put in my stomach and eventually, around 4 PM, a room was available and away we went. Thankfully, there was no awkward bed transfer, as I’d been transferred right after surgery to a standard hospital bed, which was now wheeled up to my room. My husband, who’d been kept waiting for hours, was now finally allowed to visit and he arrived full of relief at finally being allowed to see me. Unfortunately, that was precisely when the second wave of nausea hit and my return welcome was a messy and unpleasant presentation of the biscuits and juice I’d ingested earlier, luckily confined to a bowl provided earlier for such events. Poor guy, but he took it in stride.

Nausea’s a fairly common effect of anesthetic but one that had never bothered me before … but then, I’d been many years younger in previous surgeries … perhaps a factor?
At any rate, that was the end of that, thankfully!

First Night

My husband soon left me to settle in for the night. I’m already sketchy on some of the details but – hey! – I was tired. Here are the highlights:

I had some more liquidy stuff and can only remember the cranberry juice, but it stayed put.

I can’t say enough about the superb pain management I received throughout my hospital stay – I was, both that night and in the following days, pain-free, with a very few minor exceptions. I was hooked up to the IV and already can’t remember whether the pill cocktails began that night or the next day. (There were lots – more later) I had a ‘pain pump’, a direct IV link to a button I could push if I needed more pain control. I didn’t!

I’d started some very easy foot movements and ankle rotations in the recovery room and continued to do these that evening. The sooner these begin and the more frequently they’re done, the better for preventing blood clots in the legs. I did try to move my leg a few times, but it felt like an absolute dead weight and I couldn’t imagine how I could possibly make it move enough to get up the next day, as I knew I’d be expected to do!

I also began some breathing and coughing exercises for prevention of lung clots. Not hard at all – just harder to remember to do, somehow, than the foot exercises.

And, it has to be said – I’d awakened from surgery catheterized and would stay that way till the next day. It was actually a relief to know I wouldn’t need to contend with nature’s call that night.

My vitals were monitored frequently – heart rate & blood oxygen levels, by means of a monitor taped to the middle toe of my right foot (the un-operated leg). My blood pressure was also taken frequently, and more frequently still as it dropped. And continued to drop …

This, I think, is important to know going in – one of the common side effects of spinal anesthetic is a drop in blood pressure that can occur for the first 24 hours following surgery. My BP is naturally low to begin with and at one point that night it fell to 75 over 45. Though nothing was said, I could tell that the nursing staff was increasingly apprehensive about this progression. I was a bit apprehensive too. A call was made to the doctor and my IV flow of saline fluid was increased. I suspect (hope?) other combative measures were waiting in the wings, if needed, but they weren’t, as things stabilized, then slowly started to improve early the next morning.

Now’s a good time to mention that I lost 500 millilitres of blood during surgery, which may have also impacted on my BP.

So, I survived my first night, awakened a few times but sleeping pretty well, really.

If anything sounds frightening here, let me assure you that the actual experience really isn’t that way while you’re going through it. The fear and dread you have in the days and weeks beforehand are really the worst part of it all. Once through it, however, you realize how unnecessary (though entirely understandable) all that worry was!