At the young age of 23, one year ago TODAY (July 8, 2011), I underwent a full hip replacement that changed my life….
I can not believe how fast time has passed. It seems like just yesterday I was mentally preparing myself for the unknown. Now, I am playing hockey, and doing all the things I was not able to do this time last year.
I didnt have a summer last year. I had May and June, and then uncertainty. I had NO IDEA what to expect, in fact, I thought it would be easy, and that I would be able to bounce back quickly… That was NOT the case. My doctors did not warn me of how difficult life would be, and how intensive the recovery period would be. They told me that since I was young that “I would have an easy time recovering”…They were, unfortunately, very wrong.
At 7am on July 8, 2011 I was wheeled into the operating room, and four hours later, I had a brand new “shiny” titanium hip. I was scared to death while rolling down the white walled hallways. I saw parts of Mass. General that not many folks got to see, and that’s when I knew that my life would be forever changed once I woke up from the deep sleep. The problem, however, was that I had no idea to what extent my life would be different.
I woke up in utter agony. Words can not express the pain that surged through my body when I heard the doctor’s calling my name. I was trembling in pain, and absolutely freezing. As well, I could not move my leg or my body. I felt paralyzed by the pain. I was transfered from the operating table to a gurney, and wheeled into the ICU to await an X-Ray. This was the most uncomfortable hour of my life. I had to lay still and wait for an X-Ray to be taken, and then reviewed by the Doctors to make sure that everything “worked”. I was dehydrated, and was only allowed to wet my lips with a wet sponge. I could not move, and instantly began to regret this decision.
The X-Ray was OK, and I was then taken to my room. I must have fell asleep, because when I woke up I was surrounded by my family. I was so happy to see them, yet, I was still trembling in pain, and was trying to make sense of my new life.
Watch this video to better understand why I was in SO MUCH PAIN!
I could not move, breathe, eat, or drink without being in utter agony. Try laying down, and not being able to move your right leg. Try getting out of bed. Try sitting up. Try walking… This was an unreal feeling, and I quickly began to hate it. Sleeping was unbearable. I could only lay on my back, and was in so much pain, that I found myself setting my alarm clock to make sure I would wake up every three hours to take my medicine… It was brutal, and 100% different than what I was told by the Doctors…
The next day, I was awaken early by the maintainers sweeping my room, taking out the trash, and cleaning. 6am is an ungodly hour to be woken up while in the Hospital, but what was even worse, was when the nurse told me that I needed to get OUT of bed and try to walk.
I shimmied myself out of bed (it took about 15 minutes, all my stamina, and strength) and dangled my feet over the side. I put pressure on my legs for the first time, and was immediately reminded that my leg had just been ripped apart, and a foreign object had been inserted into my body. My first step (using a walker) was extremely uncomfortable and painful. I felt lopsided. Like my right leg was longer than the left, and felt extremely uncomfortable. I left the room, took a left, and walked to short end of the hallway and back to the room. I was out of breathe, dizzy, and in a lot of pain. I asked myself how I would be able to ever get back to normal, and was very upset that I thought my legs were uneven (which would have defeated the entire purpose of the surgery – Luckily they were not, and finally felt “even” about a month later).
My surgery was on a Friday, and I left Monday evening, undergoing many days of Physical Therapy (PT) in between. Each day I walked more (and even climbed stairs), and could feel the distortion of the muscles in my leg. I could tell that they had been cut open, moved, and then put back. Nothing felt normal, and I was questioning what I had done to myself. By the time I got home, I was still in agony, and sleeping remained a challenge. The heat of the summer, and my inability to move made life that much more difficult. I had Physical Therapy everyday for about a month, and was luckily able to return to my job about 6 weeks later (Mid-August). I had 45 staples removed from my incision, and began transitioning from a walker, to two crutches, and eventually to one.
I could not believe that I would ever make it to one crutch. I was walking with one crutch for about three months, and finally got rid of it in Mid-November, right before the Thanksgiving Holiday. I was amazed at the progress that I was making, but I was still nowhere near “normal”.
I continued to go to PT three times a week, and was working really hard at getting my life back. By the first week in December, I was done with PT, and could finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.
I hated leaving PT because of the great people and the amazing support they gave me. I now continue to perform the exercises recommended to me, but it is not the same as having to attend the facility and being able to get my questions and concerns answered. I must contribute my ability to walk, run, jump, and skate to the amazing folks at NovaCare in Bridgewater, for they gave me the courage to regain my strength and the ability to walk without assistance.
Fast forward to June 2012; I stepped on the Ice for the first time in more than three years, and was able to play hockey with my brother – A goal we both had for a very long time. It was a wonderful feeling, and I knew right then that this whole ordeal was well worth it. I was “pain free”, and it felt amazing.
Now it is one whole year since my surgery, and I am so thankful to have been able to persevere through some really tough times, while still being able to complete my first year of Graduate School! I have overcome something that not many 24 year-olds can relate to. I challenged myself to regain “normalcy” (what ever that is), and I think I have done it!
Everyday is still a challenge, but at least I know that I have the strength to accomplish anything that I set my mind to. I am careful of every step that I take, because it could be my last, but I know that deep in my heart, I am nothing without the support and care of my family and friends. This experience has put a lot into perspective. I know who my true friends are, and I know who I can count on when times get tough. I know that my family is amazing, and that I would not be who I am today without them. I know how difficult it is to be without the ability to walk, move, and do all of the “simple” things that are afforded to the able-bodied. The privilege that I have been given has not gone unoticed, and it motivates me each and every day to do my best, and to be thankful for what (and who) I have. I will never forget the struggles I have faced, and the reward of being dedicated and determined.
Cheers to another year of being pain free, and able bodied, and thank you (from the bottom of my heart) to all who supported me through this life-changing year!