Recovering from a hip operation

Although not directly linked to cycling my recent hip replacement has an indirect connection to when I fell off my bike and broke my left femur, nearly 4 years ago.  I then had a “dynamic hip screw” inserted, pinning the femur into the left hip.  In recovering from that injury too much strain was put on my right hip, which has now resulted in a full replacement almost 8 weeks ago.

Hip replacement is a common operation these days with something around 98% success rate, so I thought it might be useful to document my recovery for people who might experience a replacement in future. It is a major operation. I chose the Circle, a small private hospital close to Bath, as the main NHS hospital the RUH, had stopped doing routine hip and knee replacements.

The NHS pay private hospitals to do the surgery and set a time limit for the operation to be done (18 weeks now extended to 22 weeks) and fine the hospital if it doesn’t do the surgery within that time limit.

I had attended a clinic in February, where the details of what was needed to aid recovery was recorded and would then be delivered later.  A booklet advising what could be done when, during the recovery.  Exercises were listed to be done prior to the operation.  The equipment, raised toilet seat, fixings to raise a chair and the bed, along with a “tea trolley” to move eating materials from the kitchen to dining room, were delivered the following week.  Later on I also had a seat delivered to enable me to get into the bath, in order to shower.

I received a telephone call on 5th April, telling me that there had been a cancellation and did I want to have the operation on the following day.  I jumped at the chance and so I had little time to think about it.

For the recovery period patients must not allow the body to go beyond 90 degrees when bending from the waist. Hands must not go below knees.  To dress and pick things up from the floor patients are issued with an instrument that can only be described as a “litter picker”. This is invaluable.

Two things made me anxious:  sleeping on my back for 6 weeks and having a catheter fitted.  Subsequently sleeping on my back has been difficult, but alternatively you can turn on the good side with a pillow between your legs.  I don’t know when the catheter went in, but it was not uncomfortable and was removed before I came home, no problem.

Although a major operation it can be done though a local anaesthetic.  The back is injected and everything below the waist goes numb, but I knew nothing until I came round an hour or so later.  Because I had a local anaesthetic I felt awake and there were no after affects that sometimes accompany a general anaesthetic.

The remains of the anaesthetic doesn’t wear off for a day or so, then there was a need for pain killers.  As soon as you are able to walk with sticks and do stairs you can go home, so I went home on Saturday.  Here we only have a shower over the bath and it was impossible to get into and out of the bath right away.  Luckily a neighbour has a walk in shower on the ground floor, so every couple of days, I was able to use that, as well as a strip wash on other days.

In the first few days at home I felt the lack of a shower, but also I needed to get out and do normal things and to see that the world was still operating.

The first week was uncomfortable and I needed painkillers, including some codeine, with a laxative to prevent constipation.  For the first couple of weeks someone has to be in the house all the time.  Nic had some leave to come and combined that with working from home to be around.

The sleeping on my back was a problem, but I usually managed a few hours each night.  I also found it difficult to concentrate, even to read, so I reread the Philip Pullman trilogy, His Dark Materials, much of it during the night. By the time I had finished these, I then went on to Jo Nesbo and “Bike Nation” by Peter Walker.  As I recovered TV played a gradually more important role.

It took a few weeks for the bruising to come out, but the ache from this went and could be controlled with pain killers until that time.

My appetite returned after a few days and by the end of the Jo Nesbo book I was able to concentrate much more.

At my 6 week check up some of the restrictions on movement were lifted and I am now able to work on bending the leg beyond 90 degrees, I can drive and also ride my Brompton.  Got rid of the recovery aids in the seventh week and am able to use the shower. I am  now walking without sticks.


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