Newly Hip

Newly Hip

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Say Hello to a Better Body!

Newly Hip

When I turned sixty, my aching left hip wouldn’t let me stand and have a conversation with my neighbors. So, I sat on the stoop. It may have been a bit rude but I chalked it up to aging.

Then my hip wouldn’t let me go for long walks, even with a cane. My dog didn’t like that but he was aging faster than I was, anyway.

Then, my hip did something I couldn’t rationalize away. It refused to let me ride my bike. And it started stabbing me like a knife whenever I took a step. I was an active person. I crawled around on the floor fixing computers for a living. I swam, biked, walked, did yoga and Pilates for fun. My hip wasn’t letting me do much more than limp to the bus stop, ride the bus to work, and struggle around on the floor as I did my job.

I went to a sports doctor. I expected exercises, stretches, physical therapy. He did a bunch of muscle testing and then sent me for an MRI. He said my muscles were fine. The problem was my hip. Then he sent me to see an orthopedic surgeon.

The surgeon said, “I won’t lie to you. There’s no point in giving you a local injection. You need a new hip.”

Freak Out City! Like I really wanted somebody to slice me open and install all of that gadgetry. My grandmother did that. She sat around and played cards. I hate playing cards.

I asked the surgeon, “Will I be able to ride my bike?”

He looked at me oddly. “After two weeks, you can ride a stationary bike.” Who did he think I was? An old lady? Just because I was in my sixties didn’t mean I wanted to ride a stationary bike.

“My real bike,” I said.

He looked at me with new respect. “You can ride that after four weeks.”

He even promised that he could get the new hip in without cutting any muscles, so I could have a quicker recovery. He’d practiced a new technique for two months on cadavers that uses a short incision on the front of the thigh. I didn’t care where the scar was. I wanted to ride my bike!

The surgeon came by to see me a few hours after I woke up from surgery. “Walk as much as possible.” I made an appointment to see him in his office in four weeks. He said, “I expect you’ll barely be limping by then, but you’ll probably still be using a cane.”

When I got home from the hospital, I wanted to walk around the block. I couldn’t do it. I made it to the corner and back. My neighbors were amazed that I was out of the house. “You were just in the hospital. Stay home. Rest.” I didn’t want to do that. I didn’t want to become a couch potato — not even for a day.

A few days later, I completed my first circuit around the block. My neighbors told me I was a lunatic. And surely my surgeon hadn’t meant for me to walk this much this quickly.

A week later, I was walking three blocks to the grocery store. By two weeks, I could walk half a mile to the gym, ride the stationary bike, and walk home. My neighbors stopped telling me I was pushing myself too hard and started congratulating me on my progress.

I wanted to go farther. Three weeks after the surgery, I asked a friend to meet me at one of our favorite Chinese restaurants. I took the bus, and I allowed myself to use the senior and handicap seats near the front. Those steep stairs on the bus were a struggle, but I’d promised to meet my friend. No way was I going to call her and cancel because of a few stairs.

My friend’s hip had begun hurting her. She was going to see an orthopedic surgeon. She was pleased to see me out and about so soon after getting a new hip.

I told her my surgeon’s advice: walk as much as possible; ride the stationary bike.

I saw my surgeon after four weeks. He advanced me from the stationary bike to the elliptical and officially gave me permission to start riding my bike. He had me start out on the sidewalk and only take short rides at first.

My friend got a new hip two months after I did. She told me she was the only one on her hospital ward who got a walker and walked the halls just to keep active. She hates stationary bikes. After she went home, she had a physical therapist come to her house to make sure she had the right exercises. And three weeks after her surgery, we met at our favorite Chinese restaurant. She rode the bus and I rode my bike.

Now she has a neighbor whose doctor says she needs a hip replacement. She gave her neighbor my number. Between the two of us, we’ll get her out and walking. What’s the point of a new hip if you aren’t going to use it?

I’m still going to the gym. I’ve graduated from the elliptical to the cross-trainer and the Helix. Even the gym owner comments on how gracefully I’m walking now. Yes, it does feel like a gadget in there, but that’s what it is. A gadget that lets me live my life — my active life.

~ Lois Wickstrom ~

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