Total Hip Replacement: Surgery Day

Updated: Sep 1, 2020


On the left you can see my hip joint pre-surgery compared to that of a similarly aged female's healthy hip joint.


Surgery day has arrived


I woke up the morning of surgery filled with an apprehensive excitement. It was almost time for me to say goodbye to my granny hip. The same granny hip that’d been with me for 30 years. We’ve done a lot together. We’ve put in many a mile. And for the past six years, when she was rapidly deteriorating, there were many times I succumbed to the thought that I’d have to live with her the rest of my life. I thought she’d always be there.


She and I had many pep-talks. A lot of, “Hang in there, granny, we’re almost there,” reassurances. Much of the time, I managed to overcome her limitations. I pushed her further than I probably should have, but she won her fair share too. Some days she said, “Screw you,” and would simply stop working altogether. I stopped keeping score somewhere along the way.


I felt a little like I’d fallen victim to Stockholm syndrome.


I’d become attached to the chronic pain that had been holding me prisoner all this time. Who would I be without it? What would my life look like without my constant companion? My life has changed immensely in the six years since granny hip came along. But not her. She was my one constant. The one thing that could always be relied on. Wherever I was, there she was. Granny hip was mine and I was hers.


And then, it was time to say goodbye. Whatever a life without pain looked like, I was ready for it.


So, total hip replacement surgery morning arrived...


And with it, I took my second of two Hibiclens showers, packed my bag for the hospital, put on my favorite Harry Potter pajama pants, black Adidas t-shirt and my trusty slip-on Vans and headed to the hospital.


The latest in pre-surgery fashion trends

For those of you wondering what I packed in my hospital bag, I kept it simple:

  • Compression shorts for after surgery

  • Snacks, because my diet is limited and I thought I might be hungry after surgery

  • A library book just in case there were long periods of waiting

  • My drivers license

  • Chapstick

  • Lotion

  • Deodorant

I’d say I wasn’t all that nervous, but my anxiety betrayed me and I struggled to keep my hands from shaking on the short drive to the hospital.


What to Expect at the Hospital:


Obviously I can’t say for sure what your check-in process will look like, because I’m sure every hospital is different. But at mine, the check-in process was no muss, no fuss.


They took my name and the paperwork I was asked to bring with me. I signed a couple of forms and that was that. It wasn’t more than fifteen minutes after we sat down in the waiting area, before I was called back.


One of the things I’m happiest about, in terms of the care I received, was that every person I came in contact with, seemed to take a genuine interest in me and making sure I was well taken care of. I recommend looking into your hospital’s ratings prior to surgery. My hospital has been voted best in terms of nurse care, for years.


When your nurses are happy and well taken care of, you too will be happy and well taken care of.


What to expect in surgery prep


Once they took me back to prep, there were more questions and papers to sign. Then, they collected a urine sample, and took so many blood samples I started losing track. At some point I changed into my hospital gown, got measured for my compression socks and they put in my IV line. She put one of the compression socks on my non-surgery leg, but left the other off until after surgery.


Look at those fancy hospital socks though!

The anesthesiologist and another staff member came by to talk for a bit. At that point, we started making a game plan for my nausea problem. Like I’ve said in other posts, pretty much everything makes me nauseous, especially anesthesia, so preventative measures were a must. Don’t be afraid to tell your care team what you know you’re going to need.


They took every preventative measure they could, which included something in my IV as well as a patch behind my left ear and if I remember correctly, a tablet of some kind. Unfortunately, the anesthesia still had its way with me, and I spent a very long time in recovery before they could move me to my room.


Time for my opioid cocktail!


Soon after that, I was given a paper cup with six or seven pills inside. I’m not entirely sure what my little pill cocktail consisted of. I know they told me, but I promptly forgot. I do know there were blood thinners, opioids to get ahead of the pain as well as antibiotics. I’m not sure what else. I’ll write it down when I go in for my other hip replacement (which is on Oct. 31. Happy Halloween to me).


Not long after my cocktail was setting in, they had me roll onto my side and gave me a shot in my mid-lower back to block all feeling from my waist down. I was relatively out of it by then. If it hadn’t been for the bandaid I found stuck to my back three days later, I might’ve forgotten about it altogether.


Bottoms up! Pre-surgery cocktail.

Look out surgeon, here I come!


I’m not sure how much time passed once I stopped feeling everything from the waist down. But, before I knew it, they said it was time and wheeled me back to surgery. Things were running more on time than I’d ever expected for a busy hospital.


I remember being wheeled into the surgical room and told to cross my arms over my chest while they counted to three and then moved me from the hospital bed, onto the surgery table. Some kind of divider was put between my legs, though I never actually saw it.


They had to get as much of my body out of the way as possible from my hip. Which meant packaging my left arm out of the way and clear across my chest. They kept talking about how easy it was to prep me. I guess some body types are easier than others. I have a long torso. Well, a long body in general. It’s easier to move limbs out of the way when you’re working with so much length (that’s what she said?).


I don’t remember much else after that. The anesthesia set in and I was off to La-La-Land. I will say (and this is going to sound way more horrifying than it was), I’m about 90% sure I remember “feeling” the force of the socket part of my new hip joint being hammered into my hip socket. I didn’t actually “feel” anything, but I remember my upper body moving a lot at some point, and that’s all I can deduce was going on. I guess I could’ve dreamt it, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t.


The surgery took all of an hour. Crazy, right? You'd think it would take longer to replace a major joint, but no. 60 minutes and I was officially part bionic.


Waking Up from total hip replacement surgery:


The next thing I remember is waking up in recovery and being very nauseous, very dizzy and very cold. My nurse, Kari, was awesome. She put something through my IV that eradicated my nausea within minutes, and she kept getting me one heated blanket after then next when I couldn’t get warm. And, no matter how much fluid she pumped through my IV, the dizziness wouldn’t subside. She made a valiant effort, but nothing was working. Anesthesia hates me.


I might've been dizzy and nauseous, but there's always a grin in there somewhere.

This went on for several hours. At one point, after pumping so much fluid through my IV, she brought in an ultrasound machine to check my bladder, which she found alarmingly full. I felt a little like I had to pee, but you have to remember, I was still mostly numb from the waist down, so the feeling barely registered.


And then things got even more interesting...


Never in my life have I encountered the need to use a bed pan. Not even when I was hospitalized for my appendix when I was a kid. The concept seemed outrageous, but there was zero chance of my being able to get out of bed to go pee, so nurse Kari arranged the bed pan under me, then she and my mom left the room and I was left there to, essentially, pee the bed.

I remember trying to give myself a mental pep-talk.


Okay, Ronni. Just relax. You’ve totally got this. I know it feels like you’re about to pee all over yourself, but they do this all the time, so certainly they know how to set this up so you don’t actually get pee everywhere. So just, be cool. Relaaax. Just relax.


I took a few deep, cleansing breaths and willed my bladder to let loose.


Nothing.


I waited a few more breaths and tried again.


Nothing.


No matter how hard I tried to tell convince myself it was okay to pee the bed, I couldn’t get my bladder to understand.


Umm… Kari? I don’t think this is gonna happen.


She came back in and decided the only option left was a catheter. She said it was called a Straight Line Catheter. I’m no expert on catheters, so I couldn’t tell you exactly how this particular one was different than another, but regardless, I knew this meant emptying my bladder without me having to pee into a bed pan, and I was game for that.


It was an interesting experience to say the least. It kind of blows my mind that she could stick this tube up my urethra and into my bladder and suddenly I didn’t have to pee anymore. And she was right about how full it was. I suppose 3-4 IV bags of fluid will do that to a woman.


Unfortunately, having an empty bladder didn’t remedy my dizziness. So, after exhausting all other options, it was agreed upon amongst my surgical team, that I needed to stay the night in the hospital, despite them hoping I might be able to go home the same day.


That first night after surgery would’ve been quite challenging at home. I wasn’t able to get up without assistance at all. I was way too dizzy.


The first few times I had to use the bathroom that night, they wheeled a portable toilet up next to the bed, and helped me onto it. At first, I almost thought we were going to have another bed pan situation on our hands. I was worried I was gun shy to pee in front of strangers. Which, is unlike me, because I honestly couldn’t care less about that kind of thing. But, as it turns out, I had trouble peeing for the first several days after surgery. I’m not entirely sure why. Maybe because of still being kind of numb. All I know is, it took a lot of effort, which I didn’t expect.


Feeling much better!

Through the night...


My temperature started to normalize, and my BP started steadily increasing back to what’s normal for me. Despite being woken up often through the night, I was able to sleep a lot, which helped the dizziness immensely. And by the wee hours of the morning, I was able to make it to the bathroom with my walker, a fall belt and two helpers.


Besides the nurse, who came in every couple of hours to take my temperature, blood pressure and administer more pain killers, someone else came in to get me new ice packs all night. Those ice packs were divine. Also, because I stayed the night, I didn’t have to put on my compression shorts yet, which I’d later find out was a blessing. Going commando the first night after surgery… I can’t recommend it enough.


The Next Morning:


Around 6:30 a.m. my surgeon came in to check on me. He asked how I was feeling, said he was happy to hear I was up out of bed to use the bathroom and we briefly discussed my next surgery date for hip number two. Then, he was off to check on his other patients and I was left to order my breakfast.


The hospital had quite an extensive menu. I built my own omelet, got some potatoes and they even had gluten-free toast, which was a welcomed surprise.


The absolute best thing that happened to me the next morning was putting on deodorant, slathering my skin with body lotion and brushing my teeth. I’m telling you, it was magnificent. When I remembered I’d put deodorant and lotion in my overnight bag, I almost wept with joy.


Another nurse came in at one point to take off my compression socks, wash my feet and legs, and put on a fresh pair of socks. I was feeling all kinds of fresh and clean by then.

I also had to spend time with both an occupational therapist and a physical therapist. They came in together, helped me get dressed and then we went down to the therapy room. I opted to use a walker to get down to the room, rather than a wheelchair.


Number one piece of advice for your post-op Total Hip Replacement recovery:


GET MOVING!!!


In the therapy room they had a makeshift car that I had to get into and back out of. They gave me some tips for making it easier. Next we went into a bathroom they had set up with a bathtub that I also had to get into and back out of. After that, we went back to my room and I went through several exercises with the physical therapist. Once they had both signed off, I was ready to be discharged.


Time to go home!

A painkiller and an anti-nausea pill later, we were packing up my stuff and preparing to head home, where I’d get situated on the couch and sleep for the rest of the day.


Aside from a (mostly expected) negative reaction to the anesthesia, everything went incredibly smoothly. I can only hope when I head back in October to get my other hip done, everything goes as well. Next time, I will see a few things coming (like the catheter and staying over night).


I truly don’t foresee myself being very nervous when I go in next. I don’t love being stuck with needles and having to hang out with an IV in my arm, but all things considered, it was a pretty pleasant experience.


The Incision:


One of the things I was most anticipating, was seeing my incision. Prior to surgery, I asked multiple people (and Google), “How long is the incision for an anterior total hip replacement?” I got answers that varied from three inches to ten. Needless to say, I was eager for the big reveal.


There was no covering or bandage of any kind. My stitches, which are under the skin, with the two ends sticking out on either end, are dissolvable. And everything is held together with glue.


Anterior total hip replacement incision: 1 day post-op

My scar is exactly five inches long. This is one of the reasons many people prefer to receive anterior hip replacements over posterior. Because, in addition to having much fewer post-surgery limitations, the scar is also significantly smaller.


Final Thoughts:


If you’re about to face Total Hip Replacement surgery, I certainly can’t guarantee it will go as smoothly as mine did. But as far as needing a major surgery, this is probably one of the easiest. Especially if your surgeon is doing an anterior replacement.


When my surgeon went out to update my parents after surgery he told them, “She’s allowed to do whatever she feels up to doing.” That was it. No restriction on bending forward, how much or how little I could move, or how far I could walk. Just, whatever I felt strong enough to do, which as been a lot more than I expected.


My next entry will cover all things recovery from weeks one through three. So, stay tuned for that post, coming in the next couple of days. And as always, if you have any questions or are looking for some emotional support as you prepare for your own Total Hip Replacement, don’t hesitate to reach out.




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RONNI MORGAN

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