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April 7, 2019
There was a time it required very little effort to step into the stirrup and throw a leg up over the saddle; or swing that same leg over a bicycle seat and pedal happily along a beckoning bike trail. The joy of dragging my kayak to the rivers's edge and climbing in became sadly, and gradually, less joyful and sometimes, almost embarrassing. Eventually, I even needed help tying my shoes. And most importantly, keeping up with our eight grand kids was requiring more and more energy because of my chronic joint pain. I was definitely off my game. At 69, I was trying hard to continue leading the active life I'd always aspired to, but my left hip was giving me fits. After two years of chronic worsening pain, I was slowly but surely losing strength, range of motion and mobility. After various injections, exercises, potions, and other remedies failed to help, an MRI at last revealed the diagnosis: end stage arthritis. "The bad news," said the doctor, "You're a candidate for a hip replacement." But," she said, "the good news is, we can fix this." I was thankful for that. I really was. But deep down, I was also very sad, a little angry and frankly, terrified.
I should have just been grateful. I was grateful; we could fix this. But still, there was a feeling of loss. I cried. Somehow, it felt I'd failed. Perhaps I'd not done enough to stay healthy and fit, or maybe I'd done too much and just plain wore out my joint. Maybe it was my fault! The empathetic doctor (she even hugged me) reassured me that it was probably a combination of good-old genetics and a lifetime of wear and tear. And so, armed with her words echoing in my head, the names of a couple good surgeons in my pocket, and knowing very little about the surgery itself, I began my hip replacement journey.
It is often said that life happens while you're making other plans. In my case, in the midst of consulting other surgeons, and reading about best practices in hip replacements (do not watch videos of these procedures), a family friend called with a recommendation. He'd recently had a successful total hip replacement with TCO's Dr. Owen O'Neill. Ric almost insisted that I try and get an appointment. He couldn't say enough good things about the procedure (anterior minimally invasive) or the surgeon. The recovery, he told me, felt miraculous. That alone gave me hope and courage. Luckily, with lots of deep breaths, crossed fingers, and prayers, I was able to secure an appointment fairly quickly with Dr. O'Neill and then, finally, an actual date for surgery. And with that date circled in red, my own comeback story officially commenced.
My TCO Champion, the one(s) responsible for me regaining my active life is, without a doubt, Dr. Owen O'Neill and his caring, competent staff. Never have I felt in such good hands. From our first meeting, to all the preparations made as my surgical date neared, Dr. O'Neill and his staff made me feel I was their priority. Other champions who assisted in my healing included my husband of 49 years. Stan was a steadfast cheerleader and a loving, competent caregiver. This posse of mine, my family, my friends, and my care providers, set me on a course to recovery. I dove in with both feet, deciding to cross every "t," and dot every "i" to facilitate my healing. I listened carefully to my fellow "hipster" friend, Ric, who even lent me his walker and cane. I did things he suggested that had helped him...pre-exercises to strengthen, changes at home for safer furniture arrangement, even meal prep ideas for after surgery. Ric followed up every week with me, before and after surgery, encouraging, reminding, reinforcing. "How's the pain?" "Ice will help the swelling." "Don't forget to walk a little every hour!" He was indeed my hip-mentor; promoting, advocating, cheering me on. Another wise friend, before surgery, composed daily affirmations to paste on my bathroom mirror. "I see healing colors flowing through and around my body/hip." "I am calm and relaxed." "I give love to all those I meet on this adventure." After a month of repeating and reinforcing these thoughts, I found myself more positive and confident that all would be well. I went into surgery emboldened with confidence, propped up by love.
More than one person before my surgery said, "The most frequent thing I hear from folks who've had a hip replacement is, 'Why did I wait so long?" Coming home 36 hours after my own surgery, ambulating with a walker, climbing stairs to our second story master, (with Stan as my spotter) I was already saying the same. It was amazing; the bone-on-bone pain was gone! Within 5 days, I put the walker away and used a cane. After a few more days, I kept forgetting to use the cane. At my three week post-op appointment, I walked in without assistance and was well on my way to a complete recovery. Two months out, Dr. O'Neill declared me "Good to go; no restrictions." Today, 3 months out, another affirmation, "I have an attitude of gratitude for my new hip and the amazing difference it has made in my life" has come true! Although I haven't yet had the chance to swing my leg over a saddle or drag my kayak to the river's edge, I am already taking extended walks, climbing bleachers to cheer at grand kids' sporting events, traveling and planning more adventures with the caregiver-love-of-my-life, Stan. I've even danced in the kitchen in my new kitten heels! We're headed to Italy soon, where I'll lace up my own hiking boots, walk the cobblestones of Florence, climb aboard a gondola in Venice, and sample Tuscany wines. So yes, I plan to maximize this gift I've been given, this medical miracle, this comeback.
"My hip surgery was a complete success in every way."
"My surgeon and nurses performed at their very best."
"I choose to be healthy and happy today."
I'm already trying to pay this blessing forward, sharing my story with others who are finding themselves in similar situations. And indeed, I'm back, and well on my way to a continued active life, filled with joy for my new hip, and very, very grateful.