Surviving Joint Implants
A whole new world with an artificial hip
You need a new hip,” the doctor shares with me. I wasn’t sure whether to be relieved or upset. Lumbar pain on the left side radiated down my leg, and I’d already tried pills from my internist, physical therapy and acupuncture. My pain management doctor was puzzled by my symptoms and sent me to Joint Implant Surgeons of Florida to figure out the right diagnosis. The bad news was that I had suffered for months and needed a walker to get around. The good news was that I now knew what the problem was and what had to be done to fix it! I approached the idea with both anticipation and dread. My rational side said, “You’ll be back to your old activities once this is over.” The other voice said, “They’re going to open you up and replace your hip with an artificial one. What if something goes wrong?”
I know that lots of experience is a key to selecting an excellent surgeon. Dr. Edward Humbert at Joint Implant Surgeons does the most knee and hip replacements in the state of Florida. Everyone told me, “He’s the guy.” The waiting-room walls are covered with poster-sized pictures of former patients, each engaging in a favorite active pastime: riding a horse, skiing, scuba diving or playing tennis. They all expressed being thrilled to be participating again in their sport of choice. Was it good PR? Was it true? Yes on both counts.
Because Dr. Humbert is so popular, the next hurdle was getting an appointment for surgery. Fortunately, high season was winding down. My surgery was scheduled about one month out. I was of two minds about waiting. One moment I wished it were happening the next day; the next I was happy to have time to prepare. Patients are encouraged to attend a preliminary lecture to understand what will be happening and receive a book with details about what to expect before and after the surgery.
As a night owl, I was not happy about the ungodly early hour I had to be at the hospital for surgery. Check-in went smoothly, and I was calm before the operation. Although I was foggy when I woke up in recovery, I snapped a thumbs-up selfie for my Facebook page.
I was out of bed the same day and sitting in a recliner, feeling happy it was over. The next day, we started physical therapy in a large room, along with other patients who were post-surgery. Lee Memorial has one of the top 10 most active joint-replacement centers in the U.S., with 41 beds in the orthopedic surgery section.
Back home, a physical therapist came three days a week. I’d planned to catch up on reading, but couldn’t really concentrate. My best piece of preparation had been renting a recliner, which became my cocoon during recovery. It was where I iced my hip, slept and watched TV. I’m not much of a TV watcher, but because I had little energy, I became a couch potato.
I was very fortunate to have an attentive husband who brought me things I needed, empathized appropriately and took care of household tasks. My worst mistake was cutting back on my opiate painkillers way too quickly. For 36 hours I was unable to sleep or even sit still. I’ll never make that mistake again.
I guess I’m becoming a bionic woman. Next month Dr. Humbert is replacing my right shoulder.
Sandy Teger lives on Sanibel and is a part-time technology consultant at System Dynamics Inc. She’s also a grandmother of four, organizes the annual Sanibel Captiva Heart Walk and is a garden and wine enthusiast.