In the build up to my surgery I did a lot of research, I had trouble finding stories from younger people who had hip replacements. In fact every time I spoke to anyone about my surgery the first thing they said was “ooh, you’re young to be having a hip replacement”. I was interested to know how the recovery would be for a younger, more active (ok, ok, even I’m laughing at the more active part) person.
So I decided to write about my own experiences of my surgery and my recovery in a series of posts. Part one will be about my surgery and my time in hospital.
You can read all about my disability here. Over the last year my hip pain has become increasingly difficult to manage and following a couple of steroid injections my consultant and I decided the next step was a Total Hip Replacement.
Hip replacement is a surgical procedure in which the hip joint is replaced by a prosthetic implant. Hip replacement surgery can be performed as a total replacement or a hemi (half) replacement. Such joint replacement orthopaedic surgery is generally conducted to relieve arthritis pain or in some hip fractures. A total hip replacement (total hip arthroplasty) consists of replacing both the acetabulum and the femoral head while hemiarthroplasty generally only replaces the femoral head. Hip replacement is currently the most common orthopaedic operation
I had to have a custom made implant because of how my disability has affected my legs and bones. A standard replacement looks like this:
My operation was booked for 21 September at Derriford Hospital, Plymouth. I had to be on the ward for 0700, along with my hospital bag with enough clothing/pyjamas/etc. for 4 days – the average stay for a hip replacement. We arrived just before 0700 and joined a long queue of people. Many hospitals perform a number of surgeries on the same day and generally people are all booked in at the same time so that pre op assessments can be carried out.
I was sent to Postbridge Ward, a place I have been to many times now. Neil and I followed the nurse who led me to a curtained bay to await the various people I would need to see before my operation. Neil left at this point. We’d agreed there was no point in him hanging around as we didn’t know where on the list I would be.
The blue curtains make me laugh. They draw them around you for privacy but I don’t know if they realise they aren’t soundproof and every detail of your conversation can be heard, so I knew all about the lady behind curtain number one and she in turn, knew all about me.
My first visitor of the day was the nurse, she took my temperature, pulse rate and blood pressure readings. She also went through my pre-op booklet which was completed a few weeks before in a designated pre-op clinic. She checked my name, date of birth and a few more details and I was given a red hospital wrist band. Red denotes an allergy – mine is Codeine.
The nurse told me I was second on the list.
A short while later I saw the consultant, he checked some details with me and I was asked to confirm my signature on a consent form I signed at the pre-op clinic. He asked me to confirm what operation I expected to receive – a right side Total Hip Replacement. He then marked my leg with a big arrow and asked if I had any questions – I didn’t.
Not long after this the anaesthetist arrived, he also checked all my details, asked me to confirm what operation I was expecting. He then told me that they were planning a spinal block, an epidural basically and that I would be awake for the operation. If they were unable to get the injection into my spine then it would be a standard general anaesthetic. He explained that they could give me sedatives and things during the procedure if I became distressed or uncomfortable. He asked me if I had any questions and off he went.
Now, I’m not gonna lie – I was pretty terrified at this point. Did I want to be awake? It seemed an extreme operation to be awake for and I can’t say I was entirely convinced. Still, as he had explained if I became distressed or changed my mind, they could put me under completely.
A little while after this, I was moved to a more comfortable room along with some other ladies, who also informed me that I was young for a hip replacement. I tried to read my book but got distracted by the surgical procedure competition the two ladies were having.
At around half ten, the nurse bought me a gown to change into. I was then collected by a member of the theatre team, before we headed to the theatre, he checked through all my details again, checked my wristband, confirmed my date of birth. I was asked again to confirm the operation I was having and he confirmed that I had seen the surgeon, had my leg marked and that it was my signature on the consent form.
My bag was then locked in a cupboard along with the belongings of the other people who would become an inpatient following surgery and we began the long walk to the theatre.
We arrived in a sort of waiting room and he rang through to the theatre to see if they are ready. They were so we carried on through. I was helped onto a trolley and some monitoring equipment is attached to you. I had my details and wristband checked 3 or 4 times by the theatre team. A cannula was put in the back of my hand and I was given antibiotics and something to relax me. The anaesthetist then inserted the spinal block, at which point my pulse rate shot up through all 12 stories of the hospital and I was given something through the cannula in the back of my hand that made me feel a bit drunk. I was then laid on the trolley and a catheter was inserted. Shortly after this my entire bottom half forgot who it was. I lost all feeling as planned.
Things got weird then, a number of other theatre staff arrived and I was laid onto my side. Then I was clamped into this side position on what I can only imagine was a Black and Decker Work Mate. I was made as comfortable as possible and then wheeled into the theatre room. A large screen was put up and then lots of things happened.
Although I was awake, I think I was also somewhat unaware of what was actually happening, I felt no pain at all and I couldn’t keep track of time, but you can feel the pulling and the tugging as they go about their business. I could hear sawing, banging and suction and I could smell when they used a cauterizer. It was all very surreal. At the point the surgeon shaped the socket to fit the ball into nicely, I started to feel very hot and unwell, the hammering travelled up through my spine and I was sick. I was given anti-emetics at this point and I was starting to feel anxious. Fortunately a short time after I was sick, they announced they were closing the wound.
Once they had finished, the screen was removed, the clamps holding me on my side removed and I was transferred to another bed. I was then wheeled through to recovery.
I spent quite a long time in recovery. My blood pressure had dropped in surgery and then dropped further in recovery – down to 80/30 at one point. Once they finally perked it back up and I had been sick a few times. I was taken to my home for the next few days.
On arrival to Stannon Ward, the recovery room nurse handed over to staff on the ward and I had my wristband checked again, they also checked my temperature, pulse and blood pressure again. The rest of the day I spent partly asleep until Neil arrived. A little while after that my bag and phone was located. Neil left and I was given some dinner – a gluten free vegetable risotto which was very unpleasant. I then slept on and off, as a post-op patient they take your obs every half an hour and its hard to sleep through that!
On Thursday morning – which they class as Day One, I was helped to have a wash in bed and was offered a gluten free breakfast. I was feeling pretty unwell on Thursday so I spent alot of the day being sick and sleeping. In the afternoon I was visited by two physiotherapists and after a long and frustrating conversation about how I couldn’t wiggle my toes or perform ankle pumps (and if I was able to it would have been nothing short of a miracle), they told me how to do some bed exercises. I was then given a frame and stood up and out of bed. I was asked to march on the spot gently, at which point I threw up and they helped me onto the chair next to the bed and thankfully left me alone with my exercises for the day. Mum and Neil visited and the nurses tested my wee at one point, where I was found to have a UTI – which explained the constant vomiting. I spent Thursday being pretty ill and sleepy.
Friday morning, I was helped out of bed and had a wash again, I was still feeling unwell from the UTI so everything was very slow going. Later on Friday morning I was taken down for an Xray. The porters and I talked about book to movie transfers and how disappointing they were. It was cold off the ward and the blasts of fresh air made me feel a little more normal. I arrived back on the ward after the xray and slept a little more. Friday afternoon the physios arrived again and after another pointless conversation about how I have never in my life been able to wiggle my toes, I was given crutches and had a practice walk around out of the bay and as far as the toilet. (I still had the catheter in at this point so was pretty tethered to one place). My mum and godmother arrived mid practice walk and unfortunately, I was terrible company – completely unable to keep my eyes open!
The first couple of days I had to have a lot of help getting dressed. I was being given regular anti-emetics through the cannula in my hand too.
On Friday, everyone else in my bay was allowed to go home, including all the people who had their operations on the same day as me. I was feeling frustrated, in pain and sorry for myself at this point. My catheter kept blocking and bypassing because of the infection, my hair was dirty and I was miserable. On Friday night I was moved into another bay.
On Saturday I was given freedom from the catheter, I was deemed fit to visit the toilet on my own and did some stairs practice on a set of steps in the bay.
I was allowed to head back and forth to the toilet on my own too and was encouraged to sit out of the bed for short periods. I was still unable to stay awake and I was still feeling pretty rough at this point. I hadn’t slept more than an hour or so at night since I’d been in there. Which wasn’t helped by a fellow patient who took it upon herself to spend Friday, Saturday and Sunday night awake, shouting and generally loud. There were also a lot of snorers on the ward (which I suppose reminded me of Neil). I was signed off by the physios on Saturday and after a visit from the Occupational Therapist, was signed off by them too.
On Sunday, which should have been my going home day, I had a couple of funny turns in the morning, I was sick a few times and I was unable to manage the pain. I still couldn’t stay awake but I was allowed to go and have a wash and in the wet room where there was a sink big enough to be able to wash my hair in which left me feeling a little more human. Sunday night was pretty bad – the shouty patient turned a bit nasty and was moved to another bay, unfortunately this didn’t stop her yelling and shouting her way up and down the ward all night. The staff were incredibly patient with her considering the abuse that spilled out of her mouth.
I got a bit upset on Monday as I wanted to go home and nobody seemed able to tell me if I could go or not. Two of the lovely ladies I work with visited me after lunch, I was feeling pretty low at this point so I was genuinly thrilled to see two very smiley faces.
Eventually, I was allowed to go home and I had to wait for pharmacy to provide the many drugs I would be going home with. The drugs trolley turns up 3 times a day on the ward and I was taking painkillers every two hours. I had a lovely cocktail of pills 3 times a day.
Neil eventually was able to take me home and I was beyond happy to be back there with my husband and my cats. I was able to have a first proper look in the mirror at my dressing over the wound. (Excuse my gigantic cellulitic thigh by the way).
I hadn’t bruised that much which was good.
Overall, my time in hospital was fine, I was ill and frustrated much of the time but the staff are all very kind and good humoured. The ward was short staffed at times and when staff are dealing with very demanding patients, their time is taken up and other patients were largely ignored, so it feels a little unfair when you have to ask 4 or 5 times for pain relief.
The gluten free menu I was offered was large but samey. The normal menu changes daily but the gluten free options are the same each day. Luckily the quiche was amazing as was the potato gratin. The catering staff remembered that I was gluten free and that I took my tea black, which I really appreciated. The ward was kept really clean and overall, every member of staff I encountered was really nice.
I hadn’t prepared myself for the pain I have experienced following my surgery and I got quite upset as other patients didn’t seem to be in pain. I had to keep reminding myself that I am different and face different circumstances which contributed to my pain levels and having a raging UTI didn’t help.
Back home and I’ve already started to personalise my crutches and embrace my new bionic self. The pain has improved and I’m getting pretty good at getting round the house on my crutches (God knows I’ve had the practice).
Keep an eye out for my recovery updates coming soon.
Have you had major surgery and a hospital stay? Let me know your experices below.