Oh, I know. Puns are the lowest rung on the ladder of humor. Never stopped me before. And being sort of a child of the 60’s (age 13 in 1969), I can say “hip” straight up. No pun. Just a regular old word with two connotative meanings. I use them both here. Efficient language. So there. We okay? Good. I’ll press on. And I reserve the right to fling down a pun at any time. Be ready.
“Hip.” The anatomical kind, a commonly accepted euphemism for the “butt” region (or “bum” if you’re Canadian). A new left one, to be precise. Replaced on Friday, July 11 at Central DuPage Hospital, Winfield, Illinois. It has been a blur since then. Hospitalized from July 11 to Monday, July 14, I had to re-learn how to move. I’ve needed the new hip for years as osteoarthritis gradually reduced my lateral movement to zero.
I adjusted and compensated, still earning the title “Limber Leaper” a few months ago after some physical antics during the “Harvey” play. I tried Charlie’s philosophy, “To truly laugh, you must be able to take your pain, and play with it!” – Charlie Chaplin. But over the last few years, I also had to give up the motorcycle design I prefer, could no longer ride a horse, and struggled in pain simply walking and standing from time to time.
“We can rebuild him. We have the technology.” That’s of course the big catch phrase uttered by character Oscar Goldman from “The Six Million Dollar Man” TV series. I began to see the benefit of being rebuilt and hey, I like gadgets. Let’s install one.
Overall, this hip replacement process was certainly a bigger deal than I had let cross my consciousness in the last few months. A 12-inch long incision closed by 27 staples is now solid evidence of that. As is the x-ray and diagram below of what actually transpired. Wow. My neighbor called me the “Bionic Man.” Yep, to some small degree I guess so. I just watched Colonel Steve Austin on TV the other day. We’re pals now. Kindred hip joints.
Pain. I had grown used to it. I forgot what it was like to have normal movement. In order to function, I gave up freedom of motion. I was actually caged ever so gradually and didn’t even fully realize it. There was never a good time to deal with it. I got cortisone steroid shots in the hip joint over the last year or so to buy time to take action roles in plays and keep a few steps ahead of my grandkids. I finally just decided to get it done. My timing “stunk like yesterday’s diapers” because of everything else going on around me. Oh well.
Funny how that is. How pain becomes normal. It sneaks in to be a daily presence, doing its quiet job of robbing feelings of wellness and freedom. Sad, really. And I know that’s true of other types of pain…physical and emotional. Both equally debilitating. Both heart-shackling joy busters. Even as I began physical therapy for my new hip at home, I quickly noticed how I could now move better in certain directions than I had in years. I forgot what that was like. Exciting! Unleashed!
My surgeon said the bone he removed “looked horrendous.” I had been packing around a hip socket that looked horrendous, affecting not just my hip but also all surrounding muscles and my back. So true of the far-reaching impact of pain. I asked to keep the actual bone they removed. Yes, I really did ask. They said “no.” Too bad. It would have been a good reminder to address pain as soon as I can, taking steps to end it when possible. The original x-ray showed what looked like an explosion…a bomb dropped dead on target in my left hip socket, effectively blocking any side-to-side movement with bone spurs.
So two weeks past surgery, I graduated from home nurse and physical therapy visits. The word from them is that I have done very well so far, and am capable of movement for someone four weeks post surgery instead of two. Good.I had to use a walker at first. Oh, By the way. Another definition of “hip” is “having or showing awareness of or involvement in the newest developments or styles; very fashionable; trendy” (Webster). So I did what I had to do. Picked out a nice metallic blue Team America Super-Stunt Dirt Walker to match my Mustang GT and customized it with some Ford decals. I got a bright red United States Marine Corps “Semper Fi” cane for negotiating stairs and whacking bad guys.
And I had big fun at Target when an elderly lady insisted I take one of the electric scooters. I folded up my walker and took off. Rammed into a shelf unit or two and challenged another cart jockey to a race. I won by default. No fun in that! And while it’s been going well, I’m now officially antsy. My surgeon appointment yesterday, Monday, was to be my ticket back to near normalcy with driving restored along with outpatient physical therapy. Big plans here. Vroom!
Talk about a roller coaster. Monday, July 28. The day began with the highest of hopes and excitement. I bounced out of bed feeling great…got to my doctor appointment early. A quick x-ray, all those staples removed, and a great report from my surgeon sent me out of there casting away the walker and using the cane only when fatigued. Driving a car only a few days away. I got home and buzzed around getting ready for some errands and my first outpatient physical therapy appointment.
Pain. A tremendous tidal wave of shock and pain. Pain as I have never felt before in my life. I had just sat down at my desk at home to take a stressful phone call. In the middle of the call, I must have violated one of my hip precautions…my new left hip must have moved inward too far. The hip dislocated.
I was incredibly shocked this was happening after all going so well. And the pain was unbearable. My son Brad was on “Dad Duty” that day. Lucky him. I yelled for him to call 911. Agony. No relief, every tiny movement triggered a new shockwave. The paramedics arrived quickly but getting me out of the house was a challenge. They finally hefted me up out of my chair onto the gurney. Whoa. Raw hurt seared through every part of me.
Once in the ambulance, they gave me some pain medicine. It just bounced off. Every little bump on the ride was excruciating. Once in the emergency room, more pain medicine. No relief. A portable x-ray machine revealed my now badly dislocated new hip. After a discussion about how to fix it, my surgeon told the ER staff to pull it back in place…no surgery. A team of five stood at the foot of my bed, ready to do the deed. Intimidating! I kept begging them to just knock me out and fix it. Finally, they did.
After about three hours in the worst pain of my life, I woke up calm, sore, and with an empty tank where my hip swagger had been. Home that afternoon and straight to bed, dreading movement.
Today, I feel pretty good. The muscles involved were roughed up and are still sore. The doctor told me to stay the course. I’m moving again, a little slower and more carefully though this all happened as I sat in a chair. Back on track with a lot more respect for my new part. I guess I’m really writing about pain here. Surprise. I started with that somewhat subtle pain that I learned to live with and accepted as normal, even with the movement restrictions it caused. That kind of pain was in the background. There, but somehow hypnotizing me into living with it for years.
Then, yesterday, I met another kind of pain. Violent, crippling, unbearable, dominating, with no respite. In me, they are linked to the same original problem. To deal with the first, I had to risk the second. Today, as bad as yesterday was, I’m thankful I felt both. I learned something. After feeling the different pain manifestations, it takes more courage for me to stand up and walk. The danger of the excruciating pain will lessen though. And I will move carefully, but I will move freely.
“Even though you may want to move forward in your life, you may have one foot on the brakes. In order to be free, we must learn how to let go. Release the hurt. Release the fear. Refuse to entertain your old pain. The energy it takes to hang onto the past is holding you back from a new life.” – Mary Manin Morrissey
Yes! Amen! So much wasted energy! My foot was indeed on the brakes and it took a lot of effort. To release it, I had to risk more pain. Okay. It finally makes sense.
And whatever you may think of disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong, he said something I like. “Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever. Pain is temporary. Quitting lasts forever.” Yes, pain is temporary if I have the courage to deal with it. If I quit, or choose not to deal with it, pain lasts forever. I won’t quit.
And finally, my new kin the Bionic Woman, Lindsay Wagner, said, “A lot of people say they want to get out of pain, and I’m sure that’s true, but they aren’t willing to make healing a high priority. They aren’t willing to look inside to see the source of their pain in order to deal with it.”
That was true of me.
Is no longer.
I looked inside. It wasn’t a beautiful image of peace and tranquility. And I finally took action. There will be tangible rewards…I will ride Sleepy again, the ex-rodeo horse who made a fool out of me, I’ll trade in my motorbike for one I really want, and I will move more easily and without pain. But much bigger is my new commitment to deal with pain as I encounter it, to give it no foothold.
I said from the beginning the word “hip” has many meanings. Here’s another Webster: “aware or appreciative of something —used with to <got hip to their plan>.” Today, I am hip to the source of my pain and what is required to deal with it.
That is my hip new reality.
I’ll conclude with an expression of gratitude for the care I’ve received. My children, Valerie, Ben, Jonathan, and Brad, plus their families including my little herd of minions (my grandkiddos) have put their busy lives on hold to come help out. I’m humbled and thankful. As I am for the special friends who have reached out to help me in all this too. I feel loved. Love is a strong antidote to pain. Thank you all.