I had previously dismissed a hip replacement as something for old people. But now I was discovering I was in the 15% of people who needed it in “young” middle age. How unlucky was I? And there are a few things that worry me.
I crossed the divide. The phrase “I feel worn out” has never been truer than when discovering that in the prime of middle age your hip is completely screwed. Midlife arthritis is a bugger.
A physio’s dream and a backside made of steel
I had hope. I also had an operation (see earlier post), I had physio and I had pain killing drugs. Unfortunately none of them worked, and alongside the Naproxen, stretches, lunges and an arthroscopy, hope for recovery gradually failed too. The only upside was that my backside, once soft and flabby from an office job, was now slightly less soft and flabby (or ‘rock hard’ as I liked to describe it).
Physio had been tough. It had been “enlightening” to realise I couldn’t stand on one leg, partly due to the way I had been walking to compensate for the arthritis. This at least had been resolved through exercises so if I ever needed to, I could do a good stork impersonation. That said, it took some of the pain away, especially the referred pain that had meant my knees crippled me when I walked. The sports massage also helped, although that in itself almost made me cry in pain.
The physios were adamant that following the arthroscopy operation, stretching and strength exercises could make it all better. Being redundant meant I could actually do the things they told me to, rather than (as most people) paying lip service to the regime. However despite many hours in the gym, the pain persisted and got worse. Putting on my socks became an issue as I struggled to reach my foot in whatever way I positioned my leg. Walking ended up with limping. And stubbing my toe for some reason was a killer.
My GP also thought he could resolve the problem. “Just take some more pain killers,” he said. “You’re too young to be worrying about a hip replacement. Double everything up. Come back and see me in six months.”
Andy Murray resurfacing superstar (that’s a hip joke)
While I waited I watched the Andy Murray story on Amazon Prime. When I had first visited my consultant he told me Andy Murray was just like me. He had the same hip problem, was having the same operation and would likely get same outcome.
It turns out Andy Murray is nothing like me. For a start he is fitter, faster and a teeny bit younger. He has a small army of people to look after him, and can spend his days on training and rehab. Whereas I had a couple of half hour sessions with a physio after my first op, he had a person to hold his head in the swimming pool while he floated.
Anyway, even with his army, Andy ended up in the same position as me. His first operation didn’t work (as predicted) and so he went for the next step. In his case this was hip resurfacing. Not quite a replacement, but similar. Kerching! Within 3 months he was playing competitive tennis. I was going to have a bit of that.
When I told my consultant he groaned. “Bloody Andy Murray has caused me more problems in the last three weeks than I’ve had in three years…”. I was an unsuitable body double apparently. Hip resurfacing was new, had mixed results and might not last that long. Best for me was the old fashioned total replacement. He called it a “minimally invasive” procedure. I wasn’t sure, as anything that involves sawing your bone off and bringing it out of a hole in your leg doesn’t sound minimally invasive to me.
It was not all bad news though. Apparently afterwards I would be pain free. I would be able to walk back from town carrying shopping (hurrah!). I might also be able to play squash again (which I’d once said was better than sex, so there was a strong inducement).
The new hip might even last fifteen years or more before needing to be replaced (and by then the local bowls club would be an option for sport anyway). Much better than the ten years I had thought. Also I’m not alone, as the Daily Mail pointed out, people at my age are increasingly having the operation to improve their sex and sporting lives.
My 5 concerns around a hip replacement
So I’ve signed up. Hip to be replaced. Three nights in hospital. Recovery to last six weeks. Pre-op and pre-physio booked. I am a bit worried, mostly about:
- Dying. Although you have to hope that’s a low probability.
- Operation failing, so not being pain free or worse being zimmer-frame bound.
- Not being able to pee into the cardboard bedpan, while the nurses stand by sniggering (which scarred me last time, especially when they took an ultrasound of my bladder to admire how much fluid I had stuck in there).
- Knowing it will need to be done again (unless I die early, rock-star that I am).
- Having to avoid vigorous sex for six to eight weeks. Luckily I’ve been practising that for years.
I’m also very lucky. I’ve got private healthcare. It makes a massive difference in terms of being seen, speed and general support. Andy Murray had more, but either way, you have to wonder how we can level the playing field better. General election anyone?
The op is only a matter of weeks away, so there’ll be further updates charting the cut and thrust of theatre, followed by the Sky box-set binge recovery (hopefully boredom will be the only issue I’ll have to face…).
Previously in this series… A story of midlife arthritis