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Monday, October 17, 2011

Wham!! But It's A Good Thing...

How did I manage to not write here for over two weeks? I've no idea... I do know I was somewhat frantically trying to get ready for surgery the 10th. Because the surgery was postponed four times, I kept telling everyone, "I'll believe it when I see it."  I was still saying that to myself when they gave me the happy drugs in pre-op! Even then, I was afraid I'd wake up and they'd tell me they had to cancel for some reason or other.  But no... it was done. I had everything in the house as ready as it could be - not for everyone while I was gone, but for ME when I came back! I remembered the last homecoming from hip surgery in March all too well! When I went in the bathroom to check out the new elevated toilet seat, it fell off to the left and I nearly crashed to the floor! One of the clamps had not been fastened. I remember nearly having a heart attack at the time.  That was the one really good thing about having the same surgery twice - I knew exactly what to expect and could avoid many of the mistakes from the first time. The last time, it was two days before I actually found a comfortable place where I could sleep. This time, I had the bed fixed up correctly and the covers turned down. I was ready. Here I am the night before the surgery, petrified, but hopeful.

The two things I was not prepared for were the pain and immobility. It's a lot like childbirth. You remember you were in pain - a lot of pain - the first time, but the physical memory of it fades somehow. I believe God planned it that way - otherwise there would be no second children! I knew that I would wake up hurting. I had discussed my special pain management situation (because I'm a chronic pain patient, things have to be done differently) with my surgeon. Everything was perfect. Except for the Hospitalist, that doctor who doesn't know you from Adam and decides to reinvent everything. This lovely doctor decided I did not need ANY pain meds - including my normally scheduled ones - unless I asked for them! I had an amazing nurse, Carol, who kept me "off the ledge" for several hours that first post-op night until the doctors could be bothered at home, orders revised, and drugs ordered for pain. In short, it was Hell.

And that is the "Wham." You go from survival-in-constant-pain mode, which is one thing... and postop hip replacement, which is "back to square one" in an instant.  The next morning, things were better. From the last time, I knew that I would have to stand up, walk to the bathroom with my walker, and take a shower sitting down.  Did that. Dressed in a shorts outfit (required attire at "Joint Camp").  Soon it was time for lunch, a picnic affair served by volunteers. At Joint Camp, every patient is on virtually the same schedule. Everyone gets operated on Monday. Everyone stands up Tuesday morning and gets their IV out (unless there's an issue, like me). Everyone goes to lunch together. Everyone goes to PT together. It's a well-oiled machine and brilliant in its efficiency and simplicity, in my opinion.  After lunch, back to the room for a quick nap. Then it was time for PT, back in the same room we had lunch in. After another quick nap, 6 pm and time for dinner. After dinner we could enjoy our only real free time of the day.

Wednesday is a big working day. Lots of PT and another picnic lunch with a different menu.  On that day, those patients who hadn't been through it before learned how to climb stairs, how to step in and out of a shower stall or bathtub, and how to get in and out of a car.  They have a car simulator right there that you actually climb in and out of! After afternoon PT and nap, it was time for gourmet dinner - this time with a guest  (We made our meal selections well ahead of time).

On Thursday morning, physical ability tests are passed (or not) and decisions are made. In order to go home, one has to be able to get in and out of the car, climb the same number of stairs one has at home, do the bathtub thing, walk 50 feet with the walker, get up and down unassisted from the chair, and dress oneself head to toe including shoes with no assistance.  If a person can't do any of those things, s/he is sent to a rehab unit where they stay until they can care for themselves. I went home.

At home, more drama awaited.  My Miniature Schnauzer, Ladybug, had gotten desperately ill the Thursday before. She was dehydrated, had ear infection and two types of worms. I gave her all the medications and nursed her through the weekend, but on Monday morning at 0600 I had to be out the door.  My daughter Cari took over Lady's care at that point, and did a damn fine job of it. She took her back for her follow-up appointment at the vet, and at that point she was still refusing any food. They gave her another medication to encourage her to eat and a prescription for special recovery food. When I arrived home Thursday afternoon, she had just eaten for the first time - a hard boiled egg. I knew the worms had to be dead by then, so it had to be the ears. My son John's girlfriend Janette and our friend Heidi both came over to spend the evening, so I got one of them to hand Lady to me so I could work on her ears. I pulled hair until her ears were spotless. Or hairless:) Then I put in the antibiotic drops, and spent the rest of the night feeding her eyedroppers of Pedialyte. I did take a nap on the couch for a couple of hours but was too uncomfortable (and worried) to sleep much.

On Friday morning, I managed to cook her some hard boiled eggs and she ate those with relish. She was starting to turn the corner. We stayed with the eardrops and warm packs to the ears and just nested for the day in what I call "survival mode." I crocheted, worked on websites, went from one activity to another as I felt like it. Lady was drinking huge amounts of water and, unable to hold it, making huge puddles everywhere. (If anyone ever asks you, it IS actually possible to mop while walking on a walker with an IV in your arm. Just don't ever tell anyone - they'll expect you to do it!)

That day, we had the big breakthrough.  I opened the can of prescription food Cari had bought and here comes Lady from the living room, investigating the great smell. I put the tiny dog, who by now weighed less than 7 pounds, in the kitchen sink with the open can of food. She went crazy! Devoured every single bite.  Later on I made her two eggs and she ate almost an entire carton of yogurt. She was hungry!!  That afternoon the nurse came to do a transfusion at home, and sadly she was unable to use the IV we had left in from the hospital. Luckily though the new line only took two attempts and the whole thing ran like a charm.  (The Thursday before, it took eight hours, four nurses and seven IV starts to get it done).

On Saturday morning, Ron helped me get out onto the patio and stayed there (to supervise all the dogs around me) for about 20 minutes. It was wonderful to be outside and the weather was gorgeous.  On Sunday morning, she started wanting to go outside with the other furkids. Fabulous! She still made a few puddles today (Monday) but nothing like she had been. Thank God, because I was so worried about her possibly having become diabetic. She has definitely improved 100% and barring any complications, all we have to worry about is getting the weight back on her.

When the family started arriving home around 5, I managed to shower and get clean clothes on which was heaven - always is. Tossed my wet hair into braids and got comfy for another long night - which it was.

I still can't believe the surgery actually happened. There were so many things that could have gone wrong. But this time they didn't, and I am so grateful! I got through the surgery with zero complications. I know from experience that every single day (unless I overdo it) I will feel a tiny bit better and get a tiny bit stronger. I know I'll have a lot of awkward helpless moments but at least this time I'll know in advance that the ridey-cart will NOT clear the "handicapped" restroom at the 72nd Street Walmart!  Basically, all I have to do is work hard, not work TOO hard, try to eat, (I don't want to) and keep a really good attitude - if I do all that, I will be rewarded by a leg I can actually stand on without a knife sticking up my groin and another one stabbing me in the knee (that's where hip pain refers to). I'll be back to the good-old-days where all I had to deal with was failed back surgeries, back pain, stiffness, being  half blind in one eye, having a neuromuscular disease that makes me have to have frequent transfusions, a clotting disorder that can wreak dire havoc in any part of my body, and arthritis that could decide to attack another joint any time it wants.  Whew! I say all that tongue-in-cheek... although it's true, I don't CARE.  I'll deal with it. The right hip started giving me problems over 10 years ago. The left hip showed its ugly head with cruel timing, just as the right hip started to feel a lot better after the first surgery. SO not fair.  Point being, I've endured a lot. I'll continue to endure a lot... but it's one less VERY huge thing.  And right now, that's hope. And hope is everything.

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