6 month check-up – all good!

On 1st Feb 2013, it was 6 months and 1 day since Mr Witt sawed and chiselled his expert way through my pelvis and pinned me back together during my RPAO.  And of course, the only way to celebrate this is with an X-ray at UCLH (apparently my second home).  One of the most exciting parts of this adventure was travelling on the London Underground – I haven’t been mobile enough to do that for years! Now I can cope with just one crutch, to support my left (unoperated) hip.

And the good news is, everything on the surface is healed (see below for non-gruesome scar pic) and on the X-ray everything looks fine!  One of Mr Witt’s registrars showed me just how much more coverage my hip socket has following the operation – no wonder I’m getting less pain on that side when I walk these days!  There is one fracture which had to be shifted so far that it’s unlikely the two sides will unite fully – and apparently this is quite common and not a problem as it’s a non-weight-bearing part of the pelvis.  But the hip is officially fixed.  Woop!

We discussed one niggle that has been frustrating me for the last few weeks – when I try to do certain yoga poses (bridges, clamshell exercises), I get an intense pain low down in my pelvis, kind of between my butt and my pubic bone (nice).  It’s impossible to point out without looking extremely rude, so that was kind of embarassing.  Anyway, it’s so sore that I have to stop whatever I’m doing, and it takes several days to recover again – during which time it hurts when I walk, go up stairs, do my physiotherapy, turn over in bed  – well, during everything.

Mr Witt and his team told me that this is reasonably common and can be caused by a tiny stress fracture in the pelvis – but on a non-weight-bearing part which is why I can’t feel it when I walk around (unless it’s after I attempt said bridges, clamshells etc). They inspected my X-rays thoroughly and found no evidence of a fracture, and so they’ve put it down to a muscle (probably hamstring) which is rubbing or catching on one of the fractured sites.    They gave me more hamstring stretches to do, and told me that if it doesn’t improve in 6-8 weeks, they can give me a cortisone injection under sedation, to ease it.  This is something that happens quite often post-PAO, and apparently cortisone tends to sort it out for good.

So, that leaves Hip Number 2 – the left one!  Mr Witt put me on the waiting list for my LPAO at the same appointment, so I just have to cross my fingers I won’t have to wait too long.  I suspect August will be an interesting month for the second year running.

In the meantime, here is a picture of my scar, on its 6-month birthday.

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Stripes – I’ve earned a few..

I’m quite proud of it – it’s fading to a pretty silvery colour, and sits right along the natural crease in my hip joint.  It’s invisible under my knickers or a bikini.  And it’s only about 4 inches long.  The little screw bumps above the incision are not really visible in this picture, but I’m rather fond of them too.  It’s nice to have a reminder of the operation that is helping me walk again.  Almost like people get tattoos to mark important times in their life.  Tattoos aren’t my thing, but I like to think I’ve earned this particular stripe!

Back in the saddle…

Hooray!  Just don't make any sudden movements

Hooray! Just don’t make any sudden movements

Well, it’s been 4.5 months since my PAO, and I seem to have let the blog go a little bit. I am sorry – but unsurprisingly, the drop in posts coincided with my return to work – and something had to give! I found going back to work quite tough at first, but I’m properly back in the swing now. Luckily, my employers have been tremendously supportive and during my first few weeks, I worked reduced hours until I’d got my energy back.

Since my last PAO post, my recovery has been pretty smooth and steady. I no longer have to attend hyrotherapy but have kept up with the physiotherapy, attending a series of gym classes at my local hospital for people with lower limb problems. This has really helped with my strength and as a result, I can now:

Walk without a limp for a lot longer (but I still need a crutch or a stick because of my other hip)

Do several wobbly lunges (this does hurt), dips, squats, and bridges

Do about 20 minutes on a stationary bike and 3 or so minutes on a rower.

I’ve been cleared by Mr Witt to do some low impact weight-bearing exercises now, but of course, there’ll always be a limit to my mobility until I get my left hip done. Most of the time, though, it’s the left (unoperated) hip, that is giving me more trouble now. I am amazed and delighted with the difference to how my right hip feels. I don’t feel so unsteady on my right hand side, although there are times when I still feel real, acute pain low down in my butt and in my groin from the pelvic breaks, and that makes me really wince.

One of the best milestones in my recovery was my first riding lesson – check out my smile in the photo above! I spent 15 minutes walking and trotting around in circles on a very safe, lovely pony, and my instructor was amazed at the difference in position and strength of my operated leg. When I ride these days, I’m a bit lop-sided because my left leg (which previously was always the stronger one) is now holding me back. Woop (although I do feel sorry for the poor pony)!

Trot on! Riding again at last.

Trot on! Riding again at last.

For the past year or so (pre-op), riding was a life-saver for me. I missed my mobility, I missed running around the hills of Devon, and discovering a riding stables where the instructors were willing to let me have a go was such a blessing. I adore borrowing my ‘spare legs’ and I’ve turned out to be quite good at it (with limits – getting on and off is always a challenge). Doing so much core stability in my physio seems to have been a big help. I also seem to be ‘liked’ by horses, and the instructors say ‘oh look, they recognise that you are lame’. Sure enough, the first time I returned to the stables, the horses and ponies took a massive interest in my operated leg, sniffing it, nickering at me, trying to ‘groom’ my hip through my clothes.

I’m not the only horsey addict in the family – the two girls are also having lessons, which has led to lots of imaginative play. And Irish and I are rather happy about that – riding is an expensive hobby, but preferable to an interest in boys at this age!

Playing horses - a lot cheaper than boys (potentially)

Playing horses – a lot cheaper than boys (potentially)

Irish has promised (rashly, I believe) we can look into loaning a horse/pony once all my PAOs are out of the way. Hmmm – I wonder..?

PAO recovery week 11: Sciatica sucks

I haven’t been posting too much this week – my Way of the Dress blogging routine has been completely upset by the recent setback in my recovery. A week ago, I discussed it with my GP who decided a new X-ray would be sensible. I ended up waiting in A&E whilst three different orthopaedic doctors reviewed the new X-ray and compared it with one from my 6 week check up, which had been sent down from UCLH. This was necessary because the X-ray showed lots of fractures, but the doctors couldn’t tell which ones had happened during the PAO and which ones might be new – how reassuring!

In the end the consensus was that there were no fresh fractures, but Mr Witt has agreed to review the X-rays to be sure. In the meantime, my physiotherapist’s best bet is that my central nervous system has been aggravated by the trauma of the surgery and is reacting to the increasing levels of activity and weight bearing by responding more strongly to pain. This is why the pain moves down my leg from my hip – it’s traveling along the sciatic nerve. I’ve been banned from physio and told to go back to using two crutches. Grrr – I’m so frustrated!

In the meantime, here are some sciatica-busting moves I’ve found useful…

1) Bouncing gently on a gym ball to keep my core engaged and stop my back muscles from getting weaker

2) The ‘tennis ball’ sciatica treatment as recommended by many Hip Women!

Lie on your back with your knees bent. Place a tennis ball under the small of your back and using your hips, manoeuvre it slowly around your sacroiliac joints until you find a tender spot. Then relax against the tennis ball and you’ll start to feel the pain dissipate a little.

3) Very gentle hamstring stretches: the sciatic nerve runs down the hamstring so by stretching the hamstring you can release pressure on this nerve. I was taught one gentle exercise that I can do whilst sitting:

Sit on the front edge of a dining chair, with your heels on the floor but keeping your knees relatively straight. Holding onto the edge of the chair, lean forward from your pelvis, keeping your back straight. You should feel a stretch at the back of your legs. When the stretch becomes more comfortable, lean forward a little more and hold for up to 20 seconds. You can do this one leg at a time if it’s more comfortable – just keep one leg bent at the knee, and stretch the other one.

4) Lots of yoga ‘cat’ poses, moving into ‘downward dog’ when I feel able to.

Like this:

…and not like this!

Don’t try this at home – or with your cat.

Downward dog – I can do it JUST LIKE THIS. Ahem. Photo from http://www.yogajournal.com

5) Saving the best till last – this exercise was the most helpful in reducing my pain levels.

Lie on your back with knees bent, and let your knees fall gently to one side, then lift them back to centre. Let them fall to the other side, then back to centre. Repeat until horrible nauseating pain has gone away.

Reclining twist – from http://www.diveintampabay.com

After a week or two of awful pain, I’m now on reduced levels of painkillers and starting to walk around the house without crutches – although with a little less confidence than before. My next physio appointment is tomorrow so hopefully I’ll be starting a more comprehensive rehabilitation programme again soon. I’m keeping my fingers crossed, and sending a BIIIG thank you to the hip women who helped me through a wretched couple of weeks. Being happy with wonky hips would be a lot harder without you!

PAO Recovery Week 10: A Setback.

Dammit – things were going so well!  Until a week or so ago, I was making great progress.  As I wrote in my previous PAO update, I was beginning to do some weight bearing physiotherapy , trying to move away from crutches, and generally enjoying being in much less pain and much more mobile.  So much so, that I think I got too confident and…oops.

*Sniff*

I was trying to do some one legged bridges (raising myself up on my operated leg) and it felt sore.  Well, I thought to myself, physiotherapy exercises do hurt.  Every physiotherapy exercise I’ve ever been given has hurt when I first tried it.  So I did a few more.  And that night, when I went to bed, I noticed a soreness down the side / back of my right thigh.  It hurt when I bear weight through my leg, when I squat, when I sit down, when I stand up – and over the next few days, it didn’t get any better.

After an uncomfortable hydrotherapy session I decided to take it up with my GP, who sent me to the Accident and Emergency Department for an urgent X-Ray.  Three different orthopaedic doctors compared the X-ray with the previous ones taken at my 6-week checkup, and decided that there were no changes between the two.  This is good news, because it means my adventurousness hasn’t resulted in a fracture.  Blood tests revealed nothing unusual so infection is also ruled out – hooray.   Unfortuately though, it has left me with a series of guesses as to what is causing the problem.  Sciatica?  Bursitis?  Iliotibial band?  I’m not sure.

Ouch…what have I done?

But still – meh.  In terms of pain and mobility levels I have regressed weeks.  I am back on two crutches, need serious amounts of codeine to help me sleep through the pain, and can’t sit, stand, walk or sleep for long. And I’m still at a loss as to what is causing the pain.  It isn’t localised to my joint – in fact the mobility in my hip joint is continuing to improve.   This pain radiates down the back and outside of my thigh, even as far as the outside of my knee.   And because I don’t know what the matter is, I don’t know how to try and fix it.  I’ve been told to lay off the physio and wait to see if things improve without any weight bearing or other kind of aggravation.  Grrrrrr!

Thankfully I have another physio appointment in two days, so I am really hoping for a) some answers and b) some exercises that can help me reduce the pain.  I feel like I’ve retreated back to a codeine-induced zombified haze, and I just don’t want it to be like this any more. Last week, I was getting excited about  returning to work soon, and now I’ve been signed off for at least another four weeks.

Are there any PAO-ers or ‘hip women’ out there who can give me some advice?  Does this sound like anything you experienced or have heard of?  I’d be so grateful if you could help me get rid of this pain and put me back on the track to becoming the bionic woman (minus one-legged bridges, which I may very well never attempt again.  Ever).

Week 9 post-PAO – hydrotherapy rules

9 weeks into my PAO recovery and things are definitely looking up!  I have been working hard at the physio and am now happily doing exercises that I found impossible in week 6 – and more besides.  My physio has been really helpful at finding me new exercises that challenge me (for which read: that hurt like hell). For the first day or two, they are beyond difficult, but gradually I am finding myself getting stronger and stronger.  It’s a small difference which I can’t notice day by day, but when I look back each week, the improvement is undeniable.

My scar is continuing to heal and my mum bought me this stuff:

I am bio-oiling the hell out of myself.

I have no idea if it works, but it smells innocuous and feels nice when I smooth it into the incision and surrounding area.  My GP friend suggested I try it, so I will continue to report back on the healing process.

Some things I can now do:

  1. Stand on my operated leg for  about 5 wobbly seconds
  2. Do a few dips on my operated leg whilst holding onto a chair or whilst using my crutch for balance
  3. Lift my operated leg until it’s perpendicular to my body (when lying down) and hold it there quite happily
  4. Walk around inside the house without a crutch – albeit with a significant limp, and very slowly.  The more I walk, the more noticeable the limp is.  And in the morning and evening it hurts because it all feels so stiff.
  5. Bring my operated leg up and cross my ankle over my other knee so my legs are in a ‘number four ‘position.
  6. Sleep on my operated side for several hours
  7. I had a teeny little practice driving again yesterday – hooray!  I wouldn’t want to drive more than a few miles yet, but it felt good to get behind the wheel and to practice some emergency stops / harsh braking to reassure myself I could do it if necessary.

These are small triumphs that please me every day.  I am less reliant on painkillers but still take paracetomol (and sometimes codeine) before heading off to physio or hydrotherapy.  This week at physio I spent 5 minutes on a bike and discovered that if I worked at it, the limp I have when using one crutch will go away.  At hydrotherapy I was given some very tailored exercises that will help me with the things I still find difficult (reaching to put shoes, socks, jeans, underwear on, lifting my knee up in front of my hip, pushing down with my heel).

The issue with hydro is that people assume it’s a lovely spa treatment and offer up comments like ‘ooh, lucky you!’.  Unfortunately, this isn’t the case – at my hydro session, it feels more like getting into a warm bath with your physio and perhaps one other patient, and splashing about doing exercises that hurt you but which you are assured will aid your recovery.  That said, it is blissful to let the warm water take the strain off my body for a while – and so freeing to be able to walk in chest deep water with no limp and no significant pain.  I am always a bit reluctant to come out of the pool after my time is up, but it is exhausting work!

In general, the tiredness is where I feel I am getting stuck at the moment.  If I go out and I’m out of my comfort zone, I get tired after a couple of hours.  The pain creeps up on me and my brain gets all foggy with tiredness and soreness.  It’s this which makes me feel I’m not ready to go back to work yet.

I’ve also noticed that I’m continuing to have some very mild hair loss.  It started during week 2 post-op.  Every time I brush or wash my hair, I lose about a handful’s worth (scrunched up) of strands from the root.  I also shed strands of hair over the carpets, etc (nice).  I’m not too worried about this – I have a lot of hair, and I’ve heard this can happen after major surgery or a physical trauma.    To be honest, there are so many people who lose all their hair through chemotherapy, etc, that I can’t really get upset about this.

On the plus side, I’m getting quite fond of my new ‘dinosaur spines’, as I’m calling the screw bumps just above the incision.  They are starting to become more obvious – you can see in this picture.  They do press into tight clothing like jeans, but wearing dresses is proving to be an easy alternative for now.

‘Dinosaur spines’ – I actually quite like them. I am weird.

The screws will be taken out with the ones from next year’s LPAO, probably in 2014.  That seems like a looong time away, so perhaps it’s a good thing I’m happy with them.  They make me feel like a bionic woman!  Watch this space for future feats of athleticism…I’ll just have a quite nap first!

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.

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…

Days 3-5: Moving on from the post-PAO blues

Day 3 was the toughest day of my hospital stay. It took me a while to get the fentanyl out of my system, so I still felt pretty dizzy, but I was  more aware of the pain than before. I struggled a bit with the noise and general hustle and bustle on the ward. It felt rather overwhelming and just ‘too much’. I felt a bit weepy, but it didn’t last long. By the end of the day, I felt better.

Once again I was disappointed with my lack of walking ability. I had hoped that today I’d get onto crutches, but all I managed was about seven steps with a walker before collapsing into a chair. I couldn’t lift myself back into bed and by the time I lay down, my ears were ringing, the nausea had returned, and I was sweating like I’d just finished a six mile run!

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Note matching DVT socks and regulation hospital gown – classy!

The good news is that from that night, things began to get a little easier. I started to get some proper sleep. And on day 4, I finally got onto my crutches! I made it to the bathroom where Irish helped me have a sit-down shower and a proper hair wash. Since I wasn’t attached to any drips or pumps any more, I changed into my own nightie. I cannot tell you how good this felt – it felt like a huge step forward in my progress as I’d never have managed all that on day 3!

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A hair wash and my own clothes – that’s better!

The nausea and breathlessness rescinded gradually. I ate more, I slept more. I even read a chapter or two of my novel and began to enjoy my visitors. I still felt very wobbly on my crutches and had one stumble in the bathroom where I had to put my weight through my operated side to avoid falling – ouch, but no real harm done. On day 5, we borrowed a wheelchair and Irish wheeled me around the hospital. It felt so disorientating – amazing how your world shrinks when you can’t move easily. I practiced on my crutches knowing that the smiley physio girls would give me the all clear to go home on day 6 if I could move safely on them.

I began to be aware of things I’d found helpful and things that I didn’t – so here are my list of Do’s and Dont’s for post-op recovery.

DO:
1) Take laxatives from day 2. You will need them. I asked the nurses for some, and I ate a lot of dried apricots.

2) Count up all the tiny wins – the first time you sit in a chair, the first time you brush your own teeth. This helped me realise I was making progress even though it wasn’t always as fast as I liked.

3) Tell the nurses if you have pain, nausea, or itching from the medication. They do not want you to suffer.

DON’T
1) Be too ambitious. I felt exhausted for about 3 days after surgery. My body needed rest and didn’t react well to the meds. Don’t punish yourself if you don’t hit your self-imposed goals. Nobody cares about them except you. Let your body recover in its own time.

2) Take too much stuff. I didn’t need half the clothes or books I brought. There is a tv attached to the hospital bed which costs a fortune but which gives you a bundle of about 20 channels plus about 20 movies and Internet / landline calls. It’s worth the money in my opinion.

3) Worry about being self conscious. These nurses have seen EVERYTHING. They have cleaned up, measured, and thrown away every bodily excretion you could think of. There is a time to worry about dignity and this is not it. That said, the staff were great at giving me as much privacy as is safe. Those hospital curtains are not pretty, but they serve a purpose.

Day 1 and 2 post right PAO

The first couple of nights post-op are rather unsettled. I grab a half hour sleep every now and then, but it’s not easy to sleep – very sore, rather than very painful though. I find it hard to sleep through the soreness and with the tubes sticking into my arm and right side. I am quite glad when the ward starts to wake up and bustle again. Days start early in hospital. The meds are brought around at about 6.30am, and the first cup of tea comes at about 7 – and I’m really grateful for it.

Irish is staying with his sister and I’m so glad to see him at about 8am. He tries to persuade me to eat a piece of toast – I manage half a piece but don’t feel hungry. Tea is good though! He sits next to me as I doze on and off. Upping the PCA helps me to nap, but the payoff is more nausea so I get another tablet from the nurse to help with that. It does work – phew.

At about 9am Mr Witt arrives to look at my wound and pronounces everything to have gone very well and tells me the wound is looking great. I am rather transfixed by the incision and rainbow bruising – you can judge for yourself here:

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Looking good? Well I have just been sawn apart , chiselled and screwed back together! Irish’s hand gives you a bit of a guide as to the length of the wound.

I am given a bed bath. The nurses let me do as much as I can by myself, but I can’t sit up without help and I can’t reach my legs easily. They help me so kindly and offer to use my own shower gel etc if I want. It’s lovely to be clean again.

My parents also arrive in the morning and it’s another little slice of normality. Lovely and so welcome…but I’m too tired to do more than hold their hand, smile at them, and accept offers of tea. I try to eat but am not really interested in food.

The physiotherapists also arrive on the morning of day 1. They are lovely, young, smiley women who are so encouraging. ‘Oh, you’re a PAO’, they say. ‘We like PAOs, they are always so keen and competitive’. Maybe that’s because we can’t wait to get back to a life of mobility!

In a keen and competitive manner, I have been trying out the physio exercises given to me pre-op, and they hurt like hell and are so hard to do! I can’t move my leg out to the right at all – ouch. I realise this is because the outside hip muscles were cut through in the surgery, so it’s not surprising and apparently completely normal. I am keen to try to stand up using a walker, but am amazed at how difficult it is. I manage about 20 seconds before collapsing, panting, on the bed, with my ears ringing. The smiley physio girls help me get my legs back on the bed. I am gutted. I wanted to be the one doing stairs on crutches day one after surgery – but clearly that’s not going to happen. ‘Never mind’, say the smiley physio girls. ‘It’s a common reaction to the meds. When you’re taken off the PCA you’ll feel less dizzy.’

They leave the walking frame behind and of course I can’t resist a couple more efforts at standing up with Irish’s help – but am shattered after 20 seconds or so and have to lie down for several minutes afterwards.

On day 2, I feel much the same. Everything is a tiny bit better. I eat a little bit more. I can move my right foot a little bit more (but still -oooww). I feel up to leafing through the magazines my mum brings me. I am told I am not relying on the PCA enough, so I try pressing the button more – this didn’t work for me, I just ended up feeling sick and have to get more meds from the nurse. The anti sickness meds do work though! In the end the nurse injects some into my vein rather than offering me tablets, and the difference is amazing. I feel human.

I begin to be very grateful for the Olympics on TV. I brought a DVD box set with me but don’t feel up to following a plot. But London 2012 is perfect. I can doze off, wake up – and yes, it’s still the Olympics. On day 2 I am moved to another ward where I can see the Olympic park from my bedside. It looks amazing lit up at night.

In the morning, a nurse removes the local anaesthetic tube from my right side. For some reason the thought of this freaks me out, but my mum holds my hand and actually, it was nothing at all. Doesn’t hurt, nothing. I have no idea why I was so nervous and put it down to post-anaesthetic exhaustion. I expect to feel more pain as the local wears off – but I don’t.

An orthopaedic consultant visits every morning and tells me I’m doing really well and that I’m on track to go home soon. I find out there are 3 screws in my hip. I am visited again by smiley physio girls, who get me to stand up a little longer. They tell me I can put 30kg of weight through my operated leg and ask me to stand with my right foot on a scale so that I can feel what that’s like. I can’t even press hard enough on the scale to get up to 30kg! I find this quite reassuring. However, efforts to walk using the walking frame are less fruitful. The nausea comes back and I feel so faint. I try not to get downhearted.

That afternoon, the PCA is taken down and I start using codeine and paracetamol for pain relief. I still feel very sore so am nervous about how I will cope – but I do cope. In fact it’s great to be free of all the tubes! Just the cannula in my hand now, nothing else. I ask for something stronger pain relief-wise at night, and am given oral morphine. It gives me judders all night so I decide to stick with codeine and paracetamol in future.

So the summary of day 1 and 2 post-op is:
1) I was pretty out of it.
2) the meds affected my ability to progress with physio.
3) I was pretty sore, but not unbearably so.
4) The nursing and medical care was faultless.
5) It felt great to have my family around me.
6) It wasn’t pleasant – but it wasn’t as bad as I’d imagined.

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