Hips and Other Broken Things

So, I am doing a lot of sitting these days; actually, I have done more sitting in the past six months than I have in probably my entire life. Because I’ve been broken and am now on the mend.  I have had two total hip replacements, one in June and one in September.  Yep.  I am bionic, ya’ll.

It’s been a journey; starting in January, 2015.  My long-term relationship split; and the pain in my body began.

So, I figured it was an energetic thing; connected to the heartbreak and devastation. I did ALL of the holistic practices and plenty of woo-woo.  Started with Rolfing, which is what I still would suggest is the go-to with big body issues.  I tried massage (deep tissue; Swedish; Thai Yoga; shiatsu); I tried acupuncture.  Reiki.  Sound healing.

I went to a sports medicine doc; after more than a year of struggles, it was time to try Western Medicine.  Even though he was recommended by a dear friend, my experience was not good.  He walked into the room and without looking at me or talking to me, just reading my chart … suggested I had a torn labrum and told me I would probably just have to wait it out for 10 years and get a hip replacement at 60.  Told me I was in such great shape from doing yoga; even though I was still just sitting on the edge of the table and he didn’t know me at all.  It was a very strange experience.

He told me about a guy in Blacksburg doing something experimental that I might want to try … ?  Ordered x-rays; I never heard back about the results.  So I called his office a month later – um, remember, x-rays?  His nurse returned my call.   “The doctor says you have mild arthritis; let us know if you want a prescription for physical therapy.”  I truly wonder if he ever looked at my x-rays.

Another year goes by while I try EVERYTHING else.  I modify my yoga practice; keep up the massage and acupuncture.  I try turmeric and arnica and essential oils and gemstones and forgiveness rituals and meditation and salt water and prayer.  I do a ritualistic vaginal steam with herbs with my Mayan healer friend Heather to ban the bad ju-ju from past sexual relationships (that’s actually a good thing and I would highly recommend ….).

I get on a waiting list for an osteopath; she is so busy that it took three months on the cancellation list to get in to see her.  And she is very clear and very kind.  “If I cannot help you in three visits, something else is going on.” Three visits; extreme pain.  She orders x-rays and an MRI.  She calls me up.  “You need to go see an orthopedic doctor.”

She recommends one and I make the appointment; get the x-rays.  The doctor walks into the room.  She looks at me and her first sentence is “You need two total hip replacements.”  And I start sobbing.  While I’m sobbing, she’s talking; telling me she isn’t the right surgeon for me; that I need someone who specializes in the anterior approach (whatever the hell that means …).  She is very nice; very professional.  I actually believe her more because she tells me she is NOT the right person to do the surgery.

I sit with this notion of a difficult surgery; a surgery that will more than likely have to be repeated in 15 years when the implants wear out.

I get a cortisone shot so I can walk; to delay the inevitable.  It helps.  I go to Scotland and limp around; my (then) boyfriend literally pushing me up hills when we are walking.  I return and get a shot in the other hip.  And I begin consulting surgeons.

You know, sometimes living in Roanoke, VA makes me feel like we live a long way from civilization.  But I discovered we are actually one of the better places to find an experienced doctor. I had many good options for surgeons; and once I started talking about my problem, I found many friends who knew people who had had the same surgery and were SO glad they did.

I think it was actually surgical appointment number four before someone told me what was wrong with me; I kept wondering; was it the yoga?  Was it the running when my body didn’t like to run?  Was it the pounding of gymnastics as a child on a concrete floor with an inch-thick pathetic mat?  Was it the cheerleading on a hard track?  Having my babies?  What I ate?  Too much cheese?  Too much wine?  What the hell is wrong with me?

The surgeon’s PA looked at me; “No one has ever told you what is wrong, have they?”  I’m scared, alone; crying.  Crying, again.  “No.”  And then he said, “You have congenital hip dysplasia.”  He went on to explain it further.  Every movement of my femur ground away the cartilage and the lining of my hip socket.

Oh.  Okay.

Wow.

At the end of the day, though, it doesn’t matter why; what matters is that you have to move forward.  I decide to do each hip separately; one at a time. Two massive, serious surgeries.

It is a head game to have someone give you a pamphlet that reminds you – you will never run again.  Ever.  You will never jump again.  Ever.  You cannot lift more than 50 pounds.  You shouldn’t do this, this and this.

It messes with your sense of strength and self.

First hip replaced on June 6.  Not bad; my fear worse than the experience (hey, is this a life theme?) although it was still very intense and difficult.  The boyfriend came to stay with me; which helped and hurt at the same time.  Our relationship was slowing dying.  My kids helped; my Uttara tribe stepped up in huge ways and showered me with gifts and flowers and visits and enough food to fill my refrigerator AND stock my freezer.

But still at the end of the day, it was me; sitting on the couch with a slice down my leg; my compression socks; a walker; and the inability to lift my own leg to get into bed each night.  *Sigh*

Week by week, I got better; and the other hip got worse.  The relationship got worse too.

Oh, and we moved Uttara.  Dear friends, generous instructors and total strangers stepped up and that’s a whole other story friends.  So grateful.

Second surgery, September 6.  The boyfriend is gone by then.  My kids still around to help and the beautiful Uttara tribe at the ready.  It was easier, knowing what I would face.  And for whatever reason, an easier surgery all around.  A much smaller incision; the incision is not down the center of my thigh but more to the side and less invasive.  I had re-arranged my house knowing what I could and could not do to move around.

Easier; better.  Still, hard.

I’m eight weeks post-surgery now.  I stopped all pain meds, even just regular over-the-counter meds, at about one week.  Could walk without help at two weeks.  Started back to teaching at Roanoke College at less than one month.

I gardened a little last week.  Took my first yoga class Friday night.  Every day is a little better.

There is still a huge process to be experienced in my healing.  I am re-learning how to walk.  I am looking forward to my first stroll down my road.  Looking forward to my first full sun salutation.  Looking forward to the first hour that I don’t remember that I had my hips replaced.  Looking forward to returning to my meditation cushion instead of a chair….

What have I learned?  Cause it is all about learning.

I have learned about chronic pain.  How debilitating and humbling it can be.  How chronic pain can steal your joy and steal your faith; chronic pain can make you lose your will to live.  I have learned about accepting help.  I have learned about asking for what I need.  Learned about surrendering control.  Learned to be grateful for Western Medicine and realize it is capable of miraculous results.  I have learned that I am never alone.  At every moment, precisely who and what I have needed has appeared.  I am learning a deeper level of trust.

I am healing.

Shanti,

Jill