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Total Hip Replacement: Early Recovery Chronicles.

Updated: Sep 1, 2020

Actual footage of my new DePuy hip prosthetic

“Hi, I’m Ronni, 31, Double hippie, DePuy.”

I feel like this is how Total Hip Replacement recipients need to start identifying themselves to each other. Name, Age, number of hips replaced and what brand prosthetic you’re rocking.

Coming Home:

The day I came home from surgery, I didn’t do much besides sleep. My appetite was basically non-existent.

They say you should sit on a firm chair with arms, that’s easy to get in and out of. You’re also supposed to sit with your hips elevated. I’m not exactly sure how you’re supposed to do these things simultaneously. So, I didn’t.

Our couch isn’t overly soft, so it turned out to be a perfect place for me to nest. One pillow behind my head, two pillows under my legs and I was good to go. This is where I spent the majority of my time for the first week after surgery. If I wasn’t on the couch, I was in bed.

I couldn’t lift my left leg up by myself, so I needed help getting up and down. It was literally impossible for my to lift my leg from my hip joint. It wouldn’t budge.

Tools I found useful:

Definitely the walker. I also have crutches I used before surgery (the forearm kind, not the armpit kind). But, that walker was my BFF. I was relatively stable while walking but I wasn't super alert thanks to the pain meds. Definitely safer to use the walker during the first week or so.

They tell you to acquire a raised toilet seat before surgery. I didn’t do that. Our toilet is higher than average to begin with. Had I put a raised toilet seat on top, I don’t think my feet would’ve touched the floor, which is saying a lot, considering I’m grazing 5’10”.

We did however, install handles on the toilet, which have made a world of difference. Honestly, I’ve grown quite fond of these handles. I think they’d be useful to have on the toilet all the time. It’s nice to have somewhere to rest your arms while you’re doing your business.

The next best thing was the bath seat. It was several days before I was ready to take a shower, but getting in and out of the tub was relatively easy. I have the kind that has two legs that sit outside of the tub, and two that sit in the tub. I found it easiest to sit down with my pants still on, then slide in. I don’t think a bare butt would slide very well. My mom also had to help me lift my legs up and over the side of the tub the first several times I showered.

I do strongly recommend buying a loofa on a stick. While I was allowed to bend forward, I was mostly incapable of bending very far. So, trying to wash my calves and feet would’ve been almost impossible without one. Also, it’s ideal if you have a detachable shower head. It would’ve been a real challenge to shower effectively had I not been able to maneuver the shower head.

I didn’t personally acquire an extended handle reacher or a sock helper. I was able to maneuver my shorts on by myself from day one, which is what a lot of people use the reacher for. I also didn’t have much of a need to reach for far off things. I was lucky because I’ve had someone here to help me 24/7, so I didn’t need to try and put my socks on by myself. If you are going to be on your own after a couple of days, you’ll probably want to buy or borrow those things.

The 411 on opioids:

Before this surgery, I had very little experience with opioids. I’d been given Vicodin as a youngin’ when I had my wisdom teeth taken out, but that’s about it.

All I know about my body and substance, is that I’m a light weight and I can’t handle much. For this surgery, I was prescribed Percocet and Morphine. The Percocet was an every 6-hour kind of deal. The Morphine was a slow-release, every 12-hour kind of deal.

I hated them. They made me nauseous and light-headed all the time. They also made me dream vividly and I woke up a lot during the night, so my quality of sleep plummeted. Absolute worst of all, the constipation was a fucking nightmare.

I have severely chronic constipation as it is. This is mostly due to my endometriosis. I thought any extra constipation I’d have because of the opioids wouldn’t be that bad, because I’m a pro.

I. Was. Wrong.

So, couple that with those heinous compression shorts I had to wear 24/7 and you’ve got yourself a recipe for high levels of discomfort. I’ll tell you what I did about this a little later.

I toyed around with different ways to take the pain meds for four or five days, in hopes of finding a combination that made me less miserable, but nothing worked. The best I could do, was to only take them at night and switch to Tylenol during the day.

The post-op pain is intense, but after all my failed attempts at making the opioids work, I ultimately gave up. I had more pain without them, but I was able to do way more walking, which I decided was better for me.

At my follow up appointment 12 days after surgery, they prescribed me Tramadol to take the place of the other pain killers. I’ve had more luck with this. The first night I took two, along with half a melatonin. I woke up in the wee hours of the morning with a wicked case of vertigo. So, the next night I took two, with no melatonin and things went wonderfully.

The Tramadol is only a 6-hour. So I keep an extra one by the bed. And, like clockwork, I would wake up around six hours later, take the pill and go back to sleep. I’m writing this, just shy of my three week post-op mark and I’m finally starting to sleep for longer stretches of time.

As far as the constipation goes, nothing I tried was working. Over the course of four days I took 12 Dulcolax capsules and nothing happened. Finally, I had to send my dad to the drugstore for a pack of enemas. Desperate times, folks.

After doing that two days in a row, I was noticeably less miserable.

Lesson: If you hate your prescribed opioids, ask for something else. Also, don’t think you’re above the constipation. You’re not.

Activity Level:

The day after I got home from the hospital, I was outside walking. The first couple of days, I was walking around 1000 ft once or twice a day (this doesn’t count walking around the house). Four days after surgery I was covering twice as much ground a couple times a day. By day ten I was walking .6 miles. And by day 13, I was going up and down stairs (one foot on each stair) and using the elliptical for 30 minutes.

I started getting in the shower without assistance about a week and a half after surgery. And, I was mostly able to put my socks on by myself around the two week mark. It wasn’t easy, and even now (three weeks later) it’s still a bit of a challenge, but it’s getting easier all the time.

In addition to the walking, I was also doing the exercises I got pre-surgery from my physical therapist. They recommend you do them twice a day, but I was doing them once a day. I don’t think this has stunted my recovery at all.

Getting Out and About:

I didn’t leave the house for the first time until ten days post-op. My girlfriend came to town for an early birthday celebration and we decided to go to my favorite sushi place for dinner.

Overall, things went pretty smoothly. I’ve found my body temperature difficult to regulate since surgery and this didn’t change when I left the house. So, a couple of times I started feeling overheated and a little nauseous. But mostly, it was fine.

I took my trusty book bag with me, stuffed with a chair cushion so I had something soft to sit on, just in case the chairs weren’t padded. I’m glad I did. I pulled that bad boy out and used it proudly.

We were out for around two hours, most of the time was spent sitting at a restaurant. But I was definitely hitting a wall and ready to go home. I slept a lot the next day.

I’ve gone on quite a few outings since then and my stamina is getting better and better and I need fewer breaks, but I’m still not going out for day-long adventures. My energy level is not fully back to normal.

I was off my walker and back on crutches just shy of the two week mark. After only a day or two, I was leaving the house with only one crutch and using no crutches inside the house as much as possible.

Other Random Tips & Observations:

  • Putting compression socks on another person is a team sport. If hospitals ever have relay races, compression sock application should definitely be an obstacle. I don’t know what to tell you if you don’t have someone to help with this. I can barely get a normal sock on my left foot, let alone one a knee-high compression sock.

  • DRINK WATER CONSTANTLY. Staying hydrated is imperative not only for helping with the constipation, but for your healing. It also helped me ward off the nausea.

  • Wearing compression shorts 24/7 is awful. And, to be totally honest, I started taking compression breaks for several hours a day around the seven or eight day mark. I kept my socks on, but I’d swap out my death trap shorts for sweat pants. There was some relief at night because at least I could take off my socks and only had to have the shorts on. Several nights, I fell asleep with my hand propped between abdomen and the waistband of my shorts. Whatever it took.

  • Buy all the ice packs. I bought two rectangular ACE ice packs and it wasn’t enough. I needed at least three. One of them bit the dust after two weeks and I replaced it with an ice bag. It’s kind of a pain in the ass to fill with ice, but it lasts a really long time.

  • You might not have much of an appetite for a while, so just eat whatever sounds good. The first week or so I lived on peaches, golden delicious apples, gluten-free muffins, corn Chex, scrambled eggs, chicken salad, NutThins crackers and dates. As more time passed, my appetite grew and diversified a bit.

  • They recommend changing your sheets every day. We did this for the first two weeks. It’s a pain in the ass. But, the reasoning is that, until your incision is fully healed, you’re more susceptible to infection. So, change those sheets, folks.

  • DO YOUR FOOT PUMPS! They recommend you do this throughout the day to avoid blood clots. It’s the easiest thing ever and since you will, undoubtedly, be lying around more than usual, you for sure need to be doing this regularly. I found myself doing them four and five times per day.

  • Leave your incision alone. I didn’t have any bandages to change or anything with mine. All I had to do was leave it alone and not scrub it at all in the shower. It’s healing beautifully. I’m officially three weeks post-op and it’s almost entirely healed… though my stitches haven’t dissolved yet.

Healing Anterior Hip Replacement Incision

I still don’t have any feeling along one side of my incision in an area that’s about five(ish) inches long and four inches wide. At my post-op check-up, the PA said to use a textured washcloth and gently rub that area to try and wake the nerves back up. My physical therapist said I may never have feeling in that area again. So, I guess only time will tell. I’m trying the washcloth thing, but so far, nothing has changed.

Final Thoughts:

The best things at this juncture are:

  • Even though I’m still healing, my range of motion is LEAPS AND BOUNDS better than what it was before my Total Hip Replacement. During one of my stretches at physical therapy I almost yelled out, “LOOK HOW FAR I CAN SPREAD MY LEGS!” But, I refrained.

  • After my post-op check-up, I got the go ahead to stop wearing my compression shorts and socks. It was one of the best days of my life. I still wear my shorts to physical therapy, and I have to wear them on long drives, but other than that, I’m free until my next surgery. It’s the little things, truly.

I’m realizing, as much as I felt like I was kicking recoveries ass between weeks two and three… I’m still, in fact, recovering. I’m having intense lower back pain and I’ve read an array of different reasons why this might be happening, some scarier than others. I don’t have any answers yet, but I meet with my surgeon again next week, so I’ll report back with my findings.

I’m learning this entire process is a practice in patience, which is a big pain in my ass, but regardless of how annoyed I get that I’m not functioning at 100% yet, or that I have to go through this again at the end of October… I’ll continue to warrior on.

#totalhipreplacement #DePuySynthes #BilateralHipReplacement #THRrecovery #CongenitalHipDysplasia

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