I didn’t watch the YouTube video showing how an anterior hip replacement surgery is done.
Shortly after he found out in late November that the cure for his pain was going to involve something more drastic than therapy, Dear Husband did what anyone with a smart phone would. He googled it.
He then proceeded to tell me in detail how the surgery is performed. How the leg is held in a ski-boot-like fitting on a moveable table that can position the whole leg and keep it in place. While the surgeon takes an electric saw and cuts off the head of the femur.
The surgeon had explained how they remove the arthritic bone and replace it with a titanium ball, plastic cushioning instead of cartilage, and fit a new socket into the bone of the hip.
His explanation, unlike Dear Husband’s, did not include pounding a stake-like piece of metal down into the center of the femur, and then attaching the new ball on top.
The colorful portrayal may be a little too much for some people. But it was not inaccurate. And while I’m not squeamish at all, I could tell it was a necessary part of wrapping his mind around it, that Dear Husband needed to make this inevitable change real.
The day finally came last Thursday. We set off at a decent hour in the morning for what is now considered out-patient surgery.
Three months had passed between the initial diagnosis and the big day. During that time they had discovered an unrelated medical condition that needed to be dealt with, and then we were back on the schedule for the hip replacement.
And we both had time to digest what we could of the changes to come.
I can’t really speak for Dear Husband, though I know a lot about how his mind works.
I’m not even sure I can articulate the range of thoughts that have gone through my own head since that day in the surgeon’s office.
Months earlier at his annual checkup Dear Husband’s primary care had strongly recommended a hip x-ray, which he eventually got to. But for years before that we had known there was an escalating problem.
“Ken strings” is what we called it. With more than forty years working with garage doors and openers, up and down ladders and scaffolding, balancing long sections while doing it, DH had developed chronic pain in his right hip.
Years of chiropractic and massage therapies gave him temporary relief, but never got rid of the pain. He’d even tried rolfing, which is a very deep tissue and organ massage.
And after a long day’s work, settling down into a comfortable chair ended up bringing on discomfort that he had avoided during his more active days.
At some point in my childhood I had discovered that if I tried hard enough I could take my Barbie dolls apart. Putting them back together was much tougher. There was a time when the legs and arms were basically held in place by little bands that caught on something inside the body of the doll as well as the end of the limb.
But once you worked an arm or leg out of the doll, it was almost impossible to put it back together and be able to keep it in place.
So years ago, when it was just an occasional twinge, DH would say if he were a Ken doll, it felt like his “string” was stretched too tight, or broken, or twisted, or some other descriptive word.
I’ve carried that picture around in my head for years.
When the surgeon put up his x-rays and pointed out how healthy the left side joint was, and then contrasted that with the right, I was looking for the Ken strings.
Arthritis had distorted the healthy design of the top of the right femur, which should be very much like a ball. The normal pinched in neck had layers of bonelike buildup that didn’t allow for much smooth movement. There was even a little hook underneath, a curious sight.
The hook for the Ken string.
And the cartilage was about half what it should be on the inside of the joint, diminishing to nothing on the outside. He was bone on bone.
Now that we could see what his hip actually looked like, I tried to put our word picture into play. The cartilage seemed to be the thing that allowed the joint to function, and since the long muscles of the quadriceps and hamstrings attach at various places on the hips and pelvis it made sense that when the cartilage didn’t function well, neither would all those muscles.
The cartilage must be the blasted Ken strings.
So now, though I haven’t figured out how I feel about all this yet, I get the basic anatomy.
As I thought about what the surgery would involve, I tried to put myself in my husband’s place. If I were in constant pain and there was a way to pretty much guarantee that pain would be gone, would I do it?
I couldn’t decide. Because it isn’t me, and I can’t make a decision like that without knowing how bad it feels and what I’m willing to endure.
Both Dear Husband and I have high pain tolerances, so for him to agree to having surgery told me that he had reached his own personal limit.
And now he’s home, a week after the surgery, and trying to get the new Ken strings to allow the muscles that have grown weak from years of not being able to stretch or contract fully working again.
Baby steps is his motto.
And like when our children were learning to take their first steps, tackle new skills, I watch in anticipation of the missteps.
Because while I know he’s determined to get back to a work as soon as possible, I want to guard against anything that could undo the good we hope the surgery has done.
The most amazing thing has already happened. The pain is gone.
I’m in no rush to test the limits of this new bionic hip. At least not until Dear Husband has been able to heal enough to enjoy his new normal of everything working together, put back in place and not likely to cause trouble for a long long time.