The moment the X-ray came up on the computer monitor, before the doctor had said a word, I thought, "Oh, shit. This is bad
The right hip was normal. The left was a ruin. The top half of the "ball" part of the ball-and-socket joint looked rotted and crumbled in on itself, collapsed under the weight of the pelvis, which was noticeably tilted downward on that side. Bone was resting on raw, decayed bone. Well, that explained the crunching
noises I'd been hearing when I moved.
The doctor was explaining that the only option was surgery.
In the weeks that followed, my condition deteriorated. Towards the end, movement became so awkward and painful that I could not work even close to a normal eight-hour day. Prescription painkillers were what kept me going, to the extent that I even was
"going". My health was deteriorating in other ways, too. After my energetic vacation last year, I found that my weight was down
to 190, not much above the maximum healthy figure for a man of my height; during the months before the surgery it ballooned to 210, since I essentially stopped walking for exercise, leaving me feeling bloated and flabby. My initial anxiety about the operation, which was considerable, eventually yielded to impatience to get it done and get myself out of this nightmare.
When the surgeon came in to see me as I was being prepped, to talk about anesthesia, I said, "I don't want to know anything. I want to not be there while it's happening, and come back when it's over." He said, "I think we can accommodate that." They did.
They started an IV. I vaguely remember being wheeled out of the preparation area and into someplace with bright lights on the ceiling (whether that was the OR or not, I have no idea). Then there was just nothingness
. It was not like being asleep at all; I was simply not there. My next memory was of fuzzily waking up and noticing a large clock that said 3:30, almost six hours later. I was aware, barely, but inert; an organism to be kept alive and stable, not a person to do or think anything. That
came back gradually, hour by hour.
You measure your return to autonomous humanity by the tubes they take out of you. When I woke up, I had at least three tubes connecting me to various things, and it wasn't until late the next day that I was fully untethered. Even then, they keep an IV socket plugged into you, just in case there's an emergency and they need to "feed" you something quickly. I still had that attached to my hand through Friday night.
I should mention that OHSU's doctors and staff were thoroughly professional and impressive in everything they did.
For such invasive surgery, recovery is remarkably pain-free. The main issue in recovery is that there are certain positions into which the leg must not be moved, because they could dislocate the new artificial hip joint or strain the soft tissues which had to be cut through during the operation and are still healing. Most of the "rehabilitation" period consisted of teaching me how to sit down, stand up, dress, climb stairs, get in and out of cars, etc., without letting my leg get into one of the forbidden positions.
I walk with a walker, the kind you see old people using. The left hip is far less painful than before surgery, but it will not support full body weight as it needs to do for me to walk autonomously. It was explained to me that the human system reacts to this surgery the way it would react to a broken bone. After all, they sawed
the top part of my left thighbone completely off and replaced it with a metal prosthesis, and they had to cut through a lot of muscle to get at the bone to do so. It will take a while for the hip area to completely heal and get back to normal after that.
In the meantime, I move slowly and tire quickly. The biggest nuisance is a persistent swelling in one foot, caused (I'm told) by the days of lying still in bed after the operation. But strength returns day by day. I'll be back at work part-time during the first week of November, and probably back to 100% normal function around the end of the year. Already the torments of the last few months are fading into memory.
I feel fortunate to live in a modern society where technology, and human knowledge and skill, are advanced enough to have made my deliverance possible.