Post-Surgery, Day Four!
Hello!!! I’m back! I’m sorry for the delay in posting post-surgery. I didn’t anticipate how hard it would be to get on the computer. I can’t stand for long at my desk, nor can I sit normally or for long, and the incision is on the front-lateral side of my right leg so my lap desk puts pressure on it. Today the swelling has come down enough that I’m giving the lap desk a go.
Modern medicine is amazing! My surgery began at 8:30 am on Friday, I was in recovery by 11 am, and home by 7:00 pm. I would have gone home even earlier but I couldn’t pee. Some people’s bladders are slower to wake up after anesthesia than others. Finally they catheterized me, emptied my bladder, and sent me home. Later in the evening I had no problem feeling the urge to pee and doing it on my own.
My surgeon is so cool. He’s the only one of four local Kaiser surgeons trained to do the anterior placement hip replacement surgery, as opposed to posterior, the more common method. I wanted anterior because he doesn’t cut through the hip and glute muscles, but rather goes in through the front and pulls apart the muscles to access the hip. It makes for a faster recovery and fewer restrictions on mobility (lower risk of dislocation) for the next three months of recovery.
Over the weekend, the main painful sensations were a muscle pull in the quads, adductors, abductors, and IT band. They were all swollen, pulled, and tight, though I didn’t really bruise. By Sunday morning I also had sharp hip pain when I put weight on my right leg, but it eventually passed.
The other main source of discomfort was my belly, which blew up to looking about six months pregnant and put pressure on my low back. Some people react this way to anesthesia and pain medication. My guts did not respond for three days to the laxatives they sent me home with, so it was pretty uncomfortable.
My physical therapy visit on Saturday morning went great. I walked with the walker and did the exercises he showed me. My vitals were good. But by Saturday night I had a fever and increased heart rate, pain, and still no bowel movement. When I woke up at 4:30 am on Sunday to take a dose of pain medication, and had another round of feverish sweating, something inside told me I had already passed through the worse of it and that my cells were cooking and healing everything, so I didn’t worry about it anymore and went back to sleep.
But when the PT arrived later on Sunday morning, my heart rate and temperature were still elevated, as was my pain and abdominal distention. So he had us consult with a nurse who recommended we go to the ER and get checked out. It was one of those moments where I trusted the inner voice I heard and felt I was fine and I also felt I should go with the nurse’s recommendation, if only to confirm my voice was right.
We ended up spending about six hours at the ER, while they denied me food and water in case a test showed I had to return to surgery. That sucked and I got exhausted. My fever came down while I was there and tests showed no clots and no infection. They said that some people have mysterious fevers after surgery, so they finally sent me home with an additional three kinds of laxatives. My voice was right after all.
Yesterday I woke up feeling like I’d turned a corner. My pain management was better, I could walk more easily again, the swelling and pulling in my thigh had gone down a bit, my temperature felt normal, and I passed gas, which helped relieve the belly and back pain. My main goal for the day was to have a bowel movement, which finally happened around 1 pm and again later on in the afternoon.
My partner and I have been through our own ups and downs since the surgery. Sometimes he’s right on top of the caregiving and I’m right on top of asking for what I need in a way that feels good. We smile at and love one another until it falls apart in a moment and feels terrible. Caregiving is no joke. I’ve done it before. I notice myself trying to caretake him, knowing how hard his role is, but that’s not my job, so I stop. My job is to heal and ask for help. I can suggest that he do his centering practices and connect with friends but he has to choose to do those things for himself.
I also need to be willing to stay connected and ask for help even after he’s hit the wall and we’ve disconnected. My default is to do what I can by myself and give him space until he’s ready to come back. But when I need his help right away and he hasn’t come back yet, I freeze and suffer until it feels like a better time to ask. At that point, my ask comes out with resentment and begins another cycle that doesn’t feel good. This experience is a powerful motivator for us both to work on our communications with each other and take care of ourselves. We’re getting to experience really clearly how we each act when we go into our involuntary and learning to be with each other there. It’s a potent practice for waking up.
As grateful as I was for coming home right after surgery, I had the thought last night that it’s cruel to expect an untrained family member to be able to provide the level of help that a patient needs in the first few days after surgery without taking anything personally and going down. Like they suddenly have to grow a new arm and learn to use it impeccably without anyone showing them how. I’m still glad I was sent home but I wonder if there could be more preparation or support for the caregiver in advance.
Yesterday I felt well enough to lie on a lounge chair in the shade and look at the sky for the first time. For two days now I’ve wanted solid food for breakfast. I’m out of bed and happy on my orange couch with my orange-encased laptop in our sun-bright living room. After this post I will return to bed to do my exercises and ice my leg. My partner and I worked it out this morning and our connection feels great again. A friend texted at the right time with the perfect message. Life is good. It’s a miracle to have a new hip. I’m healing. In so many ways, I’m healing.