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Total hip replacement: my wife is becoming a cyborg

On Monday Irene will be going to the hospital to get the first of her hip replacement surgeries. We’ve been to the hospital for orientations and such this past week, so we have most of the details more or less figured out. But still its a bit scary.

Irene has been in pain for quite a while- probably a decade or so. And she’s had “discomfort” from her hips for longer than that. The worst part is that the pain got bad enough in the past few years that she couldn’t ride her horse- anything that stops Irene from riding is really serious. Both of her hips are compromised: a few months after Irene is recovered from the first surgery she’ll go back to have the second hip replaced. The idea is that the surgery will be a short period of increased discomfort that should result in a reduction of daily pain, and pretty much restore her ability to do all the things she used to. About a year after its all done, Irene should even be able to return to gentle riding- she’ll likely be using a mounting block and such, but she should be back on a horse. It sounds like a good deal.

There are lots of little things that you have to be aware of when you get a hip replaced, things that I hadn’t really thought of. Most of the precautions during the first few months boil down to avoiding hip/leg/pelvic angles that cause too much of the ball to be “exposed” in the ball/socket joint. This means a lot of things simply can’t be done: bending over, for example, or putting on your socks, or sitting on a toilet that’s a normal height.

And the mechanics of the surgery itself are a lot more complicated than first glances might suggest. There are dozens of different types of hip replacement prosthetics involving all sorts of different materials: plastics, ceramics, titanium, steel, cemented, cementless…. I know Irene’s hip will be steel on steel (steel femoral head, steel rather than plastic cup), some kind of alloy I presume. I’m not sure whether its cemented or cementless. I keep imagining all this equipment inside my wife…maybe she’ll be able to run faster? One thing for sure: she will now need a special medical note for whenever she goes to the airport…she’ll be setting off all the metal detectors.

We have all the “Aids for Daily living” organized: a walker, crutches, a cane, toilet armrests/raised seat, shower seat, sock puller, and my favorite, a reacher/gripper thingy that is great for chasing the cats around. We spent an hour or two one evening earlier this week going up and down the stairs with a crutch, practicing what the therapist had told us about.

My wife is a very special lady, and I love her very much. I want her to be comfortable and be able to go back to doing all the things she enjoys. But during the next six weeks or so, I imagine we’ll be straining each other’s patience a bit…oh, there she is now, calling from upstairs that she wants the bed made. I better get moving, or she’ll hit me with her crutch soon…:-)

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