Being a young hip replacement patient sucked. And, while I was/am grateful to be able to walk again, this gift came at a high price. One that I believe could’ve been avoided had I known a few things before the surgery.
My experience was unusual, not only because of my age but also because of how quickly my condition deteriorated. Within a year of diagnosis, my pain went from almost non-existent to unbearable. Initially, I was in denial. I looked for alternatives. I changed my diet (though definitely could’ve been stricter), had countless physical therapy sessions, brutal massages with a Russian “healer” and spent hundreds of dollars on supplements that literally went down the toilet. Avoiding surgery began to take over my life.
Quickly I went from being very active to dreading every excruciatingly painful step. So a few weeks after the ACA’s pre-existing condition clause went into effect, I reluctantly scheduled my surgery. In hindsight, there were things that I wish I’d done differently. Here are my top five:
When I first learned about my hips, I experienced a strange combination of shock and denial – along with sprinklingembarrassment. I felt that my body had somehow let me down or worse still, I let my body down. In my mind, I was too young and healthy for this happen. All ridiculous, as it could’ve happened to anyone.
2. Stress Matters
2013 was one of the worst years of my life. I moved back to New York after 9+ years overseas after my mother was diagnosed with an incurable form of cancer. I gave up my home and my job to return to New York. And though I thought I was coping well, the reality is, I was a stressed-out mess going from one medical appointment to another – either my own or my mother’s. By the time I received my diagnosis, the cartilage was long gone, though oddly enough, I felt fine…my body didn’t begin to fall apart until my life started to. So relax, because stress REALLY matters.
3. The Doctor Doesn’t Always Know Best
The thing about medical emergencies is it’s almost impossible to be prepared when they happen. You’re frightened and filled with “what ifs”. It’s hard to remember or even know the right questions. I assumed that the Chief of Surgeries,would know/do what was best for me – and, perhaps in his mind, he did. So when he suggested I do both hips at once, I thought that was was the right thing to do. I was grateful to have only one recovery period and limit my exposure to anesthesia.
Not long after, I learned why almost NOBODY does both at the same time. I wish I asked more questions, gotten more support and, most importantly, had two both done separately.
4. Have a Plan
When I left the hospital, aside from knowing the Visiting Nurse Service would provide physical therapy, I had no real plan for what would come next and didn’t realize there were almost no physical therapists in my neighborhood. The doctor’s office was of no help, except for providing painkillers and assessing their work. It turned out to be a very snowy, icy winter. I barely left my house for over a month, for fear of falling and dislocating my hip(s). Be prepared: have a post-surgical plan – and, if you can wait until the spring.
5. The Things They Don’t Tell You
The worst of my hip pain disappeared almost immediately after the surgery, but was soon replaced with lower back and knee pain along with a stiffness in my right hip due to the significant leg length disparity. Managing my body is a continual balancing act. I work with an amazing bodywork person, am careful about my diet (though not as much as I should be :), I try to meditate meditate, and get as much sleep as my achy body allows.
Having hip replacement at this age means not only do I have to explain to airport security why I just set off their alarms, it also means I take my health and fitness more seriously than most.
The truth is you never know what life will bring. That said, there’s almost nothing as important as your health – So Take Care and Be Well!