I went to the grocery store this morning. Stocked up for the week. A normal chore.
Except it wasn’t.
It was my first time out in public, walking, since I underwent my second total hip replacement surgery two weeks ago today.
A few years ago, after I’d completed treatment for cancer in my neck, I decided to embark on a program of fixing up all the things that resulted in me being, essentially, a cripple. Both my hips were diagnosed with Category 4 osteoarthritis, leading me to walk (or, try to walk) like a grizzled old tar on a pirate ship.
Standing up from a sitting position took long moments. Sitting down in the first place took even longer. I timed how long it took me to put on my socks and shoes once: six minutes. All this dilly-dallying was in service of me trying to dodge screaming pain. The cats and The Loved One countless times were scared out of their fur by me shrieking in agony because I’d moved one or the other hip joint just the merest fraction of a millimeter wrongly.
My first hip should have been done some time in early spring 2020, but you may recall what was going on in the world at that time. That surgery was delayed for some nine months before my surgeon felt the pandemic was controlled enough so he could resume elective operations. As he threw me out of the hospital after I woke from anesthesia, he said we’d have to wait at least six months before we could re-jigger the other hip.
Next thing I knew, one of my teeth started getting a little funky thanks to cancer radiation therapy, every weekday for six weeks, back in 2016. My oral surgeon said the blood flow through my jaw had been compromised by the daily linear X-ray beam zapping and he wouldn’t yank said tooth until I’d gone through another six weeks, every weekday, of lying in a hyperbaric chamber.
I wrote about the hyperbaric chamber back in the late fall of ’21. Trust me, if you’re claustrophobic, you won’t survive a minute in one of those tubes. The casing is clear, sure, but the space to move around in is only about 36 inches in diameter. The machine creates a high-pressure atmosphere of pure oxygen, forcing billions of O2 molecules into me and engorging my arteries with supercharged, highly-oxygenated blood.
Along about the same time, I visited another surgeon to take care of the enormous hole I had in my abdominal wall. This hernia had led to what’s called an incarceration. No, I didn’t have to go to jail, but the pain caused by this medical incarceration was no less bearable than a nickel stint in Monroe County jail. I’d already decided to juggle the order of my surgeries to take care of the hernia first because, frankly, if the hernia and incarceration got any worse the fallout would be devastating. As in send flowers. He, too, said he wouldn’t touch me without me having been locked in the hyperbaric tube for a good long time.
So, I got my tooth excavated in February 2021 and my abdominal wall patched up ( and the incarcerated organ pushed back where it belongs that April.
Now I could have the orthopedic surgeon tackle my left hip. And, by the way, that left hip originally was diagnosed as the worse of the two. As far back as 2019, X-rays showed the left hip completely without any cartilage lining at all. The surgeon suggested we get on it without delay. I told him my right hip was the one that hurt worse, so he deferred to my wishes.
He sliced me open and sawed off the bone ends (ball head of the femur and the acetabulum, or hip socket), screwed and glued replacements for them made of titanium and plastic, and sent me on my way. After I woke up, of course.
Now that my first hip had been done, I started walking around like there was no tomorrow. Unfortunately, tomorrow came. Because I was gamboling about so much I wore down the bone ends in my right hip to the point that they were shrinking, much like the eraser on the tip of a pencil. The pain was insane.
I finally was able to get the left hip done on April 10th. Recovery from total hip replacement surgery is no picnic, I assure you, but no matter how much swelling and soreness there is, I feel 22 times better now than I did on April 9th.
At last my campaign of multiple surgeries is complete. When I started it, I didn’t even have confidence I’d live long enough to get them all done because, well, I have a couple of other medical issues that could, at any time, turn dire.
I recount all this not to elicit sympathy (although if you want to toss a little my way, I won’t fling it back in your face) but to remind you it’s almost always preferable to live and to get your body repaired quickly and properly.
There are exceptions, of course. People suffering with unbearable cancer pain and who’ve been told there’s no hope rightly would prefer to be wrapped in the arms of Mors, the Roman god of death. A dear friend of mine, who’s a citizen of another country, lost both her parents to cancer. Or, more accurately, suicide. The country they live in allows physician-assisted suicide for people who are suffering and for whom there’s no other way out. Her parents threw themselves a nice party, said goodbye to all their loved ones and friends, and then took the gas pipe or the pill or whatever they do in that country.
That’s an awfully good way to go. And their kids were thankful their parents didn’t have to endure the torture of pain and hopelessness.
Anyway, I’m a million miles away from wishing I could die (although there’ve been moments now and again). I’m all taped and sewed up. My hips don’t hurt. My hernia isn’t burning. My tooth isn’t threatening to turn infected.
The conclusion: Life’s pretty good even if it does kick the shit out of us every once in a while.