What a difference three weeks make – PAO recovery weeks 5 – 7

After week 4, the rehabilitation work begins. My time is now increasingly taken up with physiotherapy exercises and attending hospital appointments.

Week 5 sees the first of my physiotherapy appointments.  Having seen all the amazing feats of athleticism that other PAO-ers are able to achieve after 5 weeks, I’m rather nervous that my physiotherapist will be disappointed with me.  But no – in fact, she’s really impressed!  This is a big relief to me, as I was starting to wonder if my pain levels at this stage were rather high.   She suggests I add in an abdominal exercise to the exercises I was given when I left the hospital, and books me in for hydrotherapy in week 7 (of which more later).

Pleasingly, she also marvelled at the rate at which my scar is healing, and at how neat it is.  You can judge for yourself here!

I did not pick the glue off this scar at ALL. Definitely not. No.

This photograph was taken in week 4.  I think it looks a lot worse in the photo than it does in real life, actually. You can see that the glue covering the incision is starting to peel off, and it’s very difficult to refrain from helping it along.  The peeling increases after I discover that I can wangle myself into the bathtub at last.  This is heaven.  I spend a long time in the bath every morning.   It really seems to help with the achey feelings I get when I wake up.   There is still some weird numbness along the incision site and radiating down my thigh – but the area affected by this is decreasing every week.

Week 6 sees me head up to London for my check-up at UCLH – and the surgeon also seems really pleased with my progress.  ‘I did that!’ he says with a rather endearing level of smugness, as he checks over my incision.  He’s also happy with the new X-rays, which show that my pelvis is starting to heal.

So, now I’m expected to put full weight through my operated leg – although still using two crutches.  ‘Let’s give you a test’, says the surgeon.  ‘Stand on your left leg.  Lift up your operated leg.  Good’, he says, as I wobble about.  ‘Now, try the same on your right leg’.  I attempt to lift my good leg off the floor and put all my weight through my operated leg.  Ouuch – but I manage it for about, ooh, half a second.  The surgeon actually chuckles.

He gives me some new physiotherapy exercises which, at first, I find really tough.  I wonder if he’s overestimated my recovery level, even though my mobility and energy are continuing to improve.

The new exercises I have to do are:

1) Lying on back, keep operated leg straight and raise it into the air.  Repeat 20 times

2) Lying on back, bend the knee on your operated side and lift your leg towards your chest.  Hold your knee and pull your leg towards your chest.  Hold for 20 seconds, repeat 15 times.

3) Lying on your side (operated leg upwards), keep your operated leg straight and raise your leg, keeping it parallel to the lower leg.  Repeat 25 times.

25 reps?  Oh please! The first time I tried this, I could barely do one.  After a week or so, however, it gets easier.  My hip starts to feel more stable, and I feel as if the movements are more controlled.

By week 7,  I’m used to the pain of carrying out the exercises and reassured that the hurt is not making my hips worse.   Of course, I’m still not improving as fast as I’d like, but my physiotherapist rolls her eyes at this.  ‘What do you want?’ she says.  ‘I’m amazed you can do those exercises and that number of reps.  Your pelvis was broken in 3 places!’.   She tells me that the pain is due to the inflammation still present and to the fact that the muscles and ligaments are being pulled and stretched differently now that my pelvis is screwed into a different position. She seems genuinely impressed with how I’m getting along, and tells me not to overdo it.  Nonetheless, I persuade her to let me try a few minutes on a stationary bike, and she gives me a new set of exercises that I can do at home with a gym ball.  So I have plenty to work on!  I also start hydrotherapy this week – and in chest-deep, warm water I discover I can walk without pain and without a limp.  It feels heavenly.

And finally – all the lounging in the bath and hydrotherapy sees off the last of the glue surrounding my incision.  Here it is – again, I think it looks rather more graphic in this photo than in real life, but what a difference from the photo above!  The ridge above the incision line is partly caused by the heads of the three screws holding my pelvis together – they do stick out a little, but that’s probably more to do with the fact that I’m quite slim.  I’ve been told that all the screws will be removed one my second PAO is done.  In the meantime, I’m starting to feel that I’m getting my life back!

Incision at 7 weeks.

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A woolly hug from my friends..PAO recovery week 4

I don’t know whether it’s the furious bouts of video game action, the increased confidence I have in my crutches, or the occasional sunny day that we’ve had recently, but week 4 sees a big improvement in my mobility and pain levels. It’s easier to get up and down the stairs, and I can sit, stand, and move about for longer. I am far less reliant on painkillers, although paracetamol still features rather heavily in my life! I celebrated my progress with a tentative glass of wine – and enjoyed it.

Highlight of the week was a visit from my my rudest and funniest friends from the local knit and knitter group, and we had a wonderful cup of tea and a gossip. It felt GREAT to be back hearing all the village gossip, and for the first time I could envisage myself knitting again.

And look! My friends brought with them a beautiful, hand-crocheted present! All my friends clubbed together and made squares for this beautiful blanket.

A woolly hug – definitely the best medicine!

I love how the use of red contrasts with the pastel tones – I would never have thought of doing this, but it really works. In fact the colours remind me of my favourite flowers, which are currently all over the house. I like to put little posies of them in vintage bottles. They brighten up dark corners of bookshelves and look gorgeous clustered with a little pile of books.

Who doesn’t love sweet peas?

Best of all though, my blanket has a secret message in one corner:

I did not cry at all when I read this, oh no.

‘Made with love from all your friends at Knit and Natter’. Oh, I wanted to sob! I’m so, so lucky to have such loving, and clever friends. If ever I needed some motivation to get moving and get back to my rather raucous and sweary evenings with the Hatherleigh Hookers, this was it. And with my first physiotherapy and rehabilitation appointment coming up next week, I think this motivation is going to come in rather handy…

PAO surgery and recovery – week 3

PAO Recovery Days 14 – 21

This is where the recovery starts to get interesting.  During this week, my mobility and stamina noticeably increase.  I don’t need an afternoon nap every single day. My ability to complete the physiotherapy exercises and stretches really improves.  I am sore and stiff, but I find that I can lie more comfortably, sit for longer, and when sitting, reach for things like the telephone or a glass of water without feeling an uncomfortable pull in my hip.  Hooray!

Some of my friends drop in at random points during this week, and we sit and chat for a couple of hours.  The normality is heavenly.  I learn to pace myself – I spend the morning in bed, and get up in the afternoon, or vice versa.    My appetite is returning, as is my ability to read and hold a plot line in my head.  I become a little more confident on crutches, and putting my right foot down at the ‘wrong moment’ becomes less of a drama and more of an annoyance.

This week I begin to wonder when I can start physio.  I start to feel that I can complete the exercises given to me in hospital competently enough to progress to..what?  I chase up my physiotherapy department at my local hospital – but grrr, despite having been sent a copy of a referral letter from UCLH, they are clueless.   ‘We’ll call you back’, they say.  They don’t.  This is really frustrating.  I decide just to up the repetitions and frequency of the physio exercises I have been doing so far, until I get an appointment.

On the frustration front, I start to wonder if I am progressing as quickly as some other PAO-ers.  I read blogs where other people have felt like going miles on their crutches by week 3 – not me.  I can just about manage to get to the end of the driveway and back – and this feels like a big step for me!  I need a big lie down afterwards.  Reading about the experiences of lots of other ‘hip women’ on their eponymous Yahoo Group gives me a lot of confidence and helps me to realise that my recovery is actually pretty good – not the fastest, but by no means the slowest!  I try to bear in mind the smiley physiotherapist girls from UCLH who kept reminding me that PAO-ers are by nature a rather competitive bunch, and that I don’t need to make a race out of this.  A PAO is a tough operation, but I can’t help it!  I am so eager to reduce the pain and improve my mobility – or at least, have the energy to deal with the mobility that’s left.

Here’s a weird thing that really helped me push through the pain barrier that prevented me moving from lying in bed to sitting on the sofa.  You think sitting on the sofa doesn’t need stamina?  Believe me, I needed lots of it in week 3.  Anyway, one of my friends suggested I try an Xbox game to relieve boredom and take my mind off being still all the time.  They recommended a game called Skyrim.  Hmm, I thought, it looks a bit dungeons and dragons-y.  This is not normally my thing.

Skyrim – it’s not what you think. Well it is, actually, but you might like it anyway..

But hey – I can’t move, I can’t go anywhere, and I’m too tired to knit or concentrate on small print in a book.  Surprisingly, this game was the most absorbing thing I found to do.  I’m no game expert – in fact, it took me ages to work out how to prevent my little elf character from running into walls, but once that was done, I had a lovely time collecting flowers, making potions and generally faffing about.  The game is supposed to be about killing dragons, and carrying out quests, but I think I’ll save that for later.

Dragon problems? Nothing compared to a PAO, honest..

My youngest (step)daughter (8) is most disappointed in my lack of dragon fighting ability.  ‘HipOptimist’, she says.  ‘Look over there.  A dragon!  Kill it!  With your big axe!’

‘Nahhh’, I say.  ‘Why don’t I just catch this beautiful blue butterfly instead?  Look, isn’t it pretty?

‘DRAGON!’ she yells.  ‘Get your bow and arrow out!  You need to kill the dragon or you’ll never level up!’.

Oh dear.  She is right, isn’t she?   You can tell that the smiley-but-demanding physio terrorists are nothing new to me.  I get this all the time.

I’m not a natural dragon-fighter.  However, I am not a natural sofa-surfer either and well, needs must.  When I’m feeling a bit better, I suspect I might well go back to knitting, gardening and baking.  But if you can’t find something to occupy yourself on the sofa and daytime TV just doesn’t cut it for you, you might find yourself resorting to this.  You have been warned!

PAO surgery and recovery update – week 2

Days 7 – 14

The relief to be home is overwhelming.  It’s not easy to get about though, and to be honest, I don’t think Irish or I realised the extent to which I’d be completely dependent on other people for a while.  I can’t even lift my leg in or out of bed by myself.  The pain radiates from my hip to my groin, and extends into my torso a little.  It is perfectly manageable on codeine and paracetamol (acetaminophen in the US), but I don’t really feel like doing much.  The exhaustion is the most surprising thing – despite having to sleep on my back, I slept all night, and most afternoons too.  The activities I’d normally do on a ‘bad hip day’ – like reading or knitting – are still beyond my concentration.  I’m gutted, because my good friends have leant me so many great books and I had been looking forward to getting stuck into them!  One sanity-saver is a good DVD box set.  We were recommended the Mad Men series and it’s great – gripping, but not so complicated that my dozy brain couldn’t follow the plot.  Even Irish was won over.  On the other hand, maybe I just like it because all those office politics make me feel better about legitimately not being at work!

Mad Men – because a PAO isn’t just another day at the office..

The stairs in our ancient house are pretty steep and unforgiving – so I limit myself to getting up and down them once a day, under full supervision.  I concentrate on the physio exercises I was given in the hospital – and gradually, my mobility starts to return.  It’s very difficult to even try to move my right leg out to the side and back in – but I notice that as the days pass, I can move it further and with less pain, which is very exciting and encouraging.  Once again, I find myself concentrating on the small wins – the day that I manage to hobble to the bathroom at night without waking Irish for help, the day that I decide to hobble outside and sit in the sun for five minutes.

Things to watch out for / not be surprised by:

1) Muscle twitches / weird feelings in your operated leg.  Because the nerves and muscles are healing too, my whole leg felt pretty weird sometimes.  The muscle twitches in my right thigh or glute were occasionally quite painful – and I could do nothing to stop them.    Once, I woke up with the feeling that cold water was dripping onto my right thigh – but when I rubbed my leg, I realised the sensation was just due to damaged nerves.  I am aware of a patch of numbness on my right thigh, from the incision downwards.  It feels pretty strange, but not overly painful.

2) Be careful on your crutches.  The first week I was home, I felt pretty unstable on my feet.  Just putting a crutch down too clumsily could send a bolt of pain into my pelvis, which took a few hours to recover from.  It’s nothing serious to worry about – but be prepared for the odd stumble – it will happen.

3) Be prepared to want / be able to do very little.   I mainly watched TV, cuddled my cat, leafed through magazines and watched endless episodes of Mad Men.

A house full of flowers…

My last few – rather infrequent – posts have focused on my major pelvic surgery and the rehabilitation process, which has taken up most of my energy for the last month.  A side effect of this is that my poor garden has also had to take some pain.  I took this photograph just before I left for the hospital – the sun was out, the flowers were in bloom, the weeds were under control (sort of), and I really felt that the garden was starting to fulfil its potential.

Home sweet home…

Unfortunately, in the four weeks since my operation, I really have neglected things.  I’m tired, I’m sore, and when it rains (and we have had our fair share of rain this summer), I worry about my crutches slipping.  But the biggest inhibitor is the fact that on crutches, I have NO carrying ability – something I never considered before surgery.  Fancy a cup of tea?  You’ll have to drink it leaning against the kitchen worktop next to the kettle, because you won’t be able to carry it into the sitting room.  And drink it quickly – before your standing ability runs out entirely!  Meh.

For the first couple of weeks, I was too tired even to sit in the garden.  I missed my flowers, I missed my daily walk around the garden checking for the new buds that are developing, brutally removing anything slug like, or identifying the latest tendrils of honeysuckle.  So we decided to bring the garden indoors!

Sweet Williams in posy vases – chicken optional

..and again…

Flowers were banned in the hospital ward that where I’d spent the past 6 days.  It was necessarily a clinical, sterile, grit-free place. It was so good to see green and growing things again, and even better to surround myself with them – a symbol of new beginnings and blossomings. We knew that the sweet Williams would be over by the time I could get out to enjoy them, so we cut them all down and filled the house with them.  It looked pretty, but it smelled even better.  Putting the flowers on high places meant they weren’t in the way of my crutches.

We carried the theme on with alliums in the dining room…and hydrangeas in the kitchen.  And I discovered a weird thing about hydrangeas – they can look a bit seventies suburbia in the garden, but look stunning indoors.

Allium Christophii

Blousy hydrangeas in the kitchen

Hopefully, it won’t be too long before I’m back up to no good in the garden again.  Until then, my house full of flowers is reminding me to keep up my rehabilitation and physiotherapy – the garden needs me and I can’t wait to get back to my favourite hobby!

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