Baby Steps

Nearly two years ago I had a total right hip replacement. At the grand old age of 43. Just a spring chicken in hip replacement circles. When I took my “hip class” – a requirement before total hip replacement surgery at the hospital I had mine done at – it took quite a while to convince everyone that I really was scheduled for surgery, and indeed belonged in the class.

The day of my surgery the lady who had her hip replaced before me was 86 years old – exactly twice my age. My surgeon told me after my surgery he couldn’t decide whose hip was worse – the 86-year-old’s or mine!

I will tell you this – that 86 year old lady could whoop my butt on walking the halls! She could lap me in no time flat! Wow! She had SPUNK! And a little bit of a devilish smile for me whenever she’d leave me in the dust. The stinker.

What we didn’t know when they replaced my right hip was that they’d end up having to make my right leg a little bit longer – just 5 mm longer. I thought, “Yeah, so?” Couldn’t be a big deal, right?!

Wrong.

Within about a month of my hip replacement I was pretty sure I’d somehow managed to sprain my left ankle. It hurt. It swelled horribly. I was experiencing some weakness with it. I figured if I ignored it a while, the problem would go away.

Didn’t work.

So began the progression of visits to doctors, surgeons, diagnostic centers for x-rays, MRI’s, physical therapy, orthotics, etc.

Eventually the conclusion was made that the change in leg length had actually caused an acceleration of the degenerative joint disease that I have in many parts of my lower body.

Bummer.

A little over a year ago one of the surgeons I saw asked, “Has anyone tried putting you in a cast yet?” I looked at him blankly and though, “Why would they?” but said, “No.”

April said, “You should have lied! That thing is a fashion nightmare!”

She had a point.

However, the one thing that cast did for me was help provide structure (so, fewer falls), and reduce swelling (because of the air pockets built in).

I started wearing it June 2008. I got to throw it away on March 4, 2009.

A surgeon or two had already bantied about the phrase “ankle replacement surgery” with me by this point in time. The first time I heard it I laughed – I couldn’t imagine they were serious! But apparently they were. The problems being:

  1. There aren’t many surgeons in my neck of the woods that do these.
  2. It’s an emerging procedure – those undergoing it at this juncture are smack dab in the middle of the learning curve.
  3. It’s not done so successfully – one must be THE ideal candidate to have a hope of some measure of success. I wasn’t.

So – I kept looking for a surgeon who had a higher level of education, confidence, and success rates.

More than one surgeon I saw mentioned the fact that my days of mobility were limited if some sort of big time fix didn’t take place – soon. Motivating… very motivating!

I eventually found the guy! Dr. Beaman instilled a LOT of confidence when I met with him the first time. He looked at all of the diagnostics that I dragged along, ordered a whole additional slew of them, and said he’d see me back later. When later arrived he opined that a reconstruction was what was needed – and suggested moving forward. After consulting with some other specialists that I’ve met – it became obvious that Dr. Beaman’s plan was the best one available for me.

On March 4, 2009 Dr. Beaman and I had a date in the OR. He replaced the ligaments around my ankle with donor material, removed some necrotic bone and filled it with donor bone, added a tendon to give additional stability, and cut the muscles in my calf so that my foot/ankle could be more appropriately re-positioned. I think that’s all… There were five suture sites – and honestly, I was surprised I only had to spend one night in the hospital, and that my pain was pretty minimal.

The rules for the first eight weeks following surgery?

  • Toes above the nose – 99.97% of the time
  • No swelling allowed – see rule number 1
  • NO weight bearing. NONE.

See? Not too difficult to remember, just three simple rules.

So I did a lot of knitting.

A lot.

Like tons.

Good thing I like knitting.

But eventually, progress was made, and I went through a progression of casts. Eventually ending up in this one above – a walking cast.

I got confident enough I even started doing some traveling! Denver in April. Tucson in May!

Had my handy knee scooter – and definitely traveled!

I’ll admit it. There have been days during this recovery period when I’ve felt like I’d never be healed up and moving on toward normalcy.

Things actually took a big turn for the better in June when I got the order to start going to physical therapy – woo hoo!

I met the crew at Therapeutic Associates a year and a half ago post-hip replacement and about the time doctors were figuring out it wasn’t a sprain, but a bigger problem with the ankle. I knew I would be in great hands!

And I have been! I’ve actually been making good progress. Aimee – my physical therapist – has been stretching my poor inflexible foot, doing ASTYM on it, and Mel (the gym Nazi – I love her – but WOW!) has been keeping me on task with all of the exercises that need to be done, and Bonnie – with her amazing gift of deep tissue massage – have all been a huge part of the healing that’s been taking place.

When I saw Dr. Beaman last week he was pleased with the progress. And he moved me up to this:

A BRACE!

Not a cast – but a brace!

Know what?

I’m starting to feel like I’m gonna get somewhere closer to normal – and maybe not all that far off down the road.

That’s encouraging.

Baby steps… it takes baby steps.

I just gotta remember that!

My theme song for the week?

Count Your Blessings

Johnson Oatman, Jr., pub.1897

When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Refrain:
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
*Count your many blessings, see what God hath done.
[*And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.]

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
And you will keep singing as the days go by.

When you look at others with their lands and gold,
Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold;
Count your many blessings—wealth can never buy
Your reward in heaven, nor your home on high.

So, amid the conflict whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged, God is over all;
Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.

1 Thessalonians 5:18, “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”

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2 thoughts on “Baby Steps

  1. I’m home (for the 5th day in a row) with the crud – low blood counts, you know. I’ve enjoyed your two most recent entries – not that i don’t enjoy them all – and had me a little mini-worship here with the music your link provided.
    God is good!
    ~Mad(elyn) in Alabama

    • Mad,

      You’ve been in my thoughts and prayers much of late. I’m so sorry you’re going through this. Ugh! Please know that I continue to tell the Lord how much you need His touch and nearness, friend!

      BIG hug,

      dina

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