A month after my hip replacement surgery
I have not posted any bicycle journeys for 2 years. This was because I had developed an increasingly severe, crippling pain in my left leg and hip. I had begun walking with a limp. I figured that in my late 60’s, this was arthritis and simply the price of aging and that the bear had not caught me. In the archaeological record, men rarely lived beyond 40. So, be it.
A doctor examined my leg and told me I had a torn groin muscle. Ow, because by the Spring of 2015, it was beginning to hurt terribly. I was teaching at Missouri State in Springfield, Missouri and I had managed to ride my bicycle the two miles EVERY day (like in EVERY) for the first seven months of school. I had also climbed the 94 stairs to my office EVERY day without taking the elevator once.
But then one day in late March of 2015, it happened. I could not get out of bed. The pain was too bad. I have always thought that I could take pain with the best of them. But now I found myself paralyzed. I could no longer walk without crutches. Time to get an MRI.
The results came back with urgency. I had no torn groin muscle. I had a completely deteriorated head of my left femur bone. No cartilage remaining, with floating bone chips and a deteriorated acetabulum on my hip. I also had some internal bleeding. This explained the bruising on my left thigh.
My choices were simple: walk with crutches and a walker, in pain, for the rest of my life, or hip replacement surgery. The radiologist and doctor said that I had waited too long before getting my MRI and I now needed emergency surgery. There was no other choice. When would I be ready? Right now. They put me on a waiting list.
They had to first test me to see if I were a good candidate for surgery. The EKG, urine, and blood tests were all fine. Good basic systemic health. My problem has always been wearing parts out: cartilage surgery on both knees, double hernia surgery, trigger fingers. Just too much much running, jumping, climbing, hiking, and pedaling in my life. I wear joints out, but I guess I would not have it any other way. I would not give up activity.
A few days later, the hospital calls me back. They have a break in their schedule. Could I be ready in two days? Sure. So I show up at sunrise, and after many details, I am anesthetized. And then in the next hours, they cut off the end of my femur, reem out my hip joint, put a titanium insert into my femur, attach a chrome-alloy femur arm onto it, put a stainless steel femur head on the end of that arm, and attach a polyurethane acetabulum in my hip, along with a few screws to hold it all in place. I also come out of surgery with a deep, 6-inch-long forever-scar on my left thigh.
For the first week of recovery, I am mostly on my back, taking pain pills for the first time in my life. I experiment with not taking them, and ohhh it does hurt. I can count my heartbeat in my hip. I find myself in a state of suspended animation, waiting for the pain and swelling to go down. After a week, I begin doing mild exercises. I can only walk with crutches or my walker.
Then I start going to physical therapy. I decide that I am going to be the world’s best patient. I will do everything they say, every exercise, as many repetitions as they say. And I do. I add to this by going to the gym. After a month of physical therapy, they sent me home early and told me not to come back. They said I did not need them or the crutches or walker anymore.
So I worked out more at the gym, doing very specific exercises to build up my still weakened, somewhat atrophied, left leg. The doctor forbade bicycling for three months. His main worry was that I would fall hard on my left side and do damage the the healing muscles and joints.
Finally, after 3 months, I started cycling again. But I had a new problem. I could not lift my leg high enough over my Cannondale touring bike. It had a standard men’s top bar, and my left side was just too stiff to lift my leg that high. So I bought this. .
My new ‘step-thru’ girl bike — NOT a girl’s bike.