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What to Expect From Total Hip Replacement: My Story

I was not nearly this relaxed prior to surgery.

I was not nearly this relaxed prior to surgery.

This Is My Personal Experience

Please note that I am not a medical doctor. I am not a surgeon. I have, in fact, no medical training at all.

Having said that, I did, just recently, undergo a total hip replacement, so I have certain knowledge about this subject which you may find helpful.

As I was preparing to have my surgery, I naturally scoured online sources for information about hip replacement. What I found was a wealth of knowledge written by medical schools and surgeons and other medical professionals, all helpful, all very accurate. What I did not find was a firsthand account of the procedure written by someone who actually underwent the surgery.

And that is what I am presenting here today, a realistic, truthful accounting of the surgery and recovery, written by a 73-year-old who enthusiastically encourages anyone in need of this surgery to follow the advice of Nike and just do it!

Please Note My Age

I had just turned 73 when I had my hip replacement. I was definitely on the outer-reaches of an ideal age for recovery. Generally speaking, the older you are, the harder the recovery will be, a safe statement regarding most surgeries.

No Other Options

By the time I visited my doctor about my hip pain, I had exhausted all other medical options without really knowing it. I had been limping for a year before I decided maybe I should speak to a professional. The limping was caused by pain, and the pain was caused by arthritis of the hip, and it had reached the point, at that stage, where I had no cartilage remaining in my hip. I was basically walking with bone rubbing against bone in the hip socket. No therapy was going to restore the cartilage. No therapy was going to lessen the pain. My options were simple: keep limping or have the operation.


The Nuts and Bolts of Hip Replacement

I was told by the surgeon that the hip is a rather simple mechanism. It is basically a ball and socket, and hip replacement simply means replacing that ball and socket. The ball at the end of the femur is cut off; a new one is attached. The socket is cleaned out, and a new plastic or metal socket is installed. The operation would take about two hours; the recovery period would take about six weeks, the time needed for tissue to grow around the new hip, strengthening and stabilizing it.

I am skeptical by nature. Even with my limited medical knowledge, I knew that the hip is a major joint. I knew that it held a great amount of weight, and I knew that it controlled the motion of my leg. Despite what the surgeon said, I had serious doubts about how simple the operation would be, and quite frankly I was amazed that it was an outpatient procedure, that I would be walking on the new hip and going home the same day.

“There are three things you cannot do after the operation, Bill,” the surgeon told me. “You cannot bend past the 90-degree angle; you cannot cross your legs; and you cannot sleep on your side. Other than that, I want you walking as often as possible, first with a walker, then a cane, and then unassisted. There will be a post-op meeting in six weeks after the operation, and there is no physical therapy other than a few stretching exercises we will tell you about.”

Yep, it sounded way too simple!


The Day Arrived

My surgery began at 7:30 a.m. on October 28. The surgery was completed by 9:30 a.m. I was walking on it by noon, with the assistance of a walker, and I was home by two that afternoon.

Medications included three days' worth of morphine pills; four weeks' worth of oxycodone to be taken when needed; stool softeners; and Extra Strength Tylenol.

Here is the first thing for you to understand: from that first day to today, exactly one month later, I have felt no debilitating pain at all. In fact, any pain I have felt only occurred when I became too overconfident and moved too quickly, and that pain was nowhere near as bad as the pain I had lived with for a full year prior.

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What You Need at Home After Operation

Prior to the operation, I followed suggestions and purchased the following: a toilet-riser seat, a grabber, a cane, and a walker.

I only used the walker for a couple days. I only used the cane for a few days. The grabber helped me to pick things up off the floor for the first three weeks of recovery. And the toilet seat riser is still useful after four weeks.

Life Is Good When You Follow Instructions

I was religious in following the instructions. I had my wife help me with putting clothes on. I never crossed my legs. I slept on my back. I never went past the 90-degree angle of bending. And I was rewarded with an almost pain-free experience.

I walked with the walker for support for two days after the operation. I walked with a cane for support for four days after that. By the end of the first week, I was able to walk without any assistance at all, and it still amazes me to write those words. By the end of two weeks, I was walking two miles without any assistance and without any pain, and it has been that way ever since.

Now, at the end of week four, my range of motion has greatly increased. I am almost to the point of dressing myself. I suspect it will be the full six weeks before I can tie my shoes, but other than that I would say my range of motion is at about 75%, remarkable considering the time period of recovery. I have no reason to suspect anything other than a complete recovery by the end of the six-week recovery period. If it were not for the twelve-inch scar on my hip, I would sometimes forget I'd had surgery at all.

Nothing Short of Amazing

Please note that I am 73 years old. True, I was in good physical shape prior to the operation. I have always been active. I am only about fifteen pounds heavier now than when I graduated from high school, so I entered this experience in better physical shape than most 73-year-olds, but still, the recovery has been far better than I could have hoped for. I expected pain and experienced hardly any. I expected long periods of rest and discomfort, and I was wrong on both counts. I envisioned an old man, walking around the neighborhood for weeks with a walker, and it simply did not happen.

I was driving my wife’s car, with automatic transmission, at the end of week three. I was driving my truck, a manual transmission, at the end of week four.

I would call the operation a complete success!

How long is the new hip good for? On average, 20 years, which would make me 93 when I might need a new replacement. I laugh when I write that. At 93, if I somehow make it to that advanced age, I doubt my hip will be my biggest concern.

I Can’t Speak for Everyone

I had some serious apprehension prior to the operation. I could not believe it possible to be walking on a new hip the same day, but I was wrong. I heard other people tell me similar recovery stories, but I did not believe them. I had the assurances of the medical community that what they told me was the truth, but I had my doubts.

I was wrong; they all were right; and I couldn’t be happier to be proven wrong. The only regret I have is that I waited a pain-filled year before seeing the doctor about my pain.

Are there risks involved with this surgery? Of course, there are, just as there are with any surgery. There is always the chance of a blood clot during or after surgery. There is always the chance of infection. The chance of either happening is small, but there is still a chance.

Final Thoughts

I hope this recounting helps someone out there who is in pain and debating whether to have the hip replacement. This is in no way an endorsement for any doctor or any medical company. I am simply sharing my experience as honestly as I know how, in hopes that it will diminish doubts and concerns others might have.

My thanks go out to the Washington Orthopaedic Center and the fine group of doctors and nurses who performed their trained magic on me. You folks are incredible! Your kindness, patience, and caring attitude meant the world to me. My special thanks go to the operating nurse, her name a mystery to me, who stood next to me at the operating table, held my hand, looked at me with compassion, and told me she wouldn’t let anything bad happen to me. It was such a simple gesture, but it was filled with humanness. She was a calming angel when I needed one.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

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