My bionic hip

Those who have seen me in the last year or two know that I had difficulty walking because of the terrible effects of arthritis (which is one of the blessings acromegaly bestowed upon me) in my left hip and knee. The right hip is not far behind, but it had the advantage of a supportive knee. It got to the point where pain kept me awake at night and prevented me from taking long walks or gardening. In 2021 I had physiotherapy for an extensive period of time. In 2022, I tried acupuncture and after many sessions, the pain diminished. I finally managed to persuade my doctor that I need to see an orthopaedic surgeon who confirmed my guess that my hip and knee were beyond any non-surgical options. This was in June last year. By August I had a plan: to get my hip replaced at the end of the autumn semester, recover at home while marking, and then take an extended Christmas break.

I joined not one, but two patient groups on Facebook talking about hip and knee replacements. It was a whole new education: I found out that Amazon has a hip replacement kit for sale, and that the best place to rest after surgery is not one’s bed, but a recliner. I heard horror stories and miraculous recovery ones.

Unfortunately, a tooth infection that started bothering me a week before the surgery date led to a major change of plans. Surgery had to be postponed until we were sure that the infection was gone. In a way, it was a fantastic present to get to spend the holiday season with my family before having surgery, but I was terribly worried about my capacity to go back teaching after the surgery.

When I finally got my new surgery date, it was the Friday before the start of the semester. The book says recovery takes 6-8 weeks. That meant that my teaching would be completely messed up. I pre-recorded lectures and tutorials for two weeks, marked interim reports of final year students, finished all my cooperative education “visits” (on line meetings with students who are working mostly online and with their employers), and put on an out-of-office.


Ray drove me to Bon Secours in Galway, and put me in the skilled hands of the medical staff there. Paperwork, XRays, ECG, and then I was off to the theatre. I was a bit worried about the epidural injection (never had one before) and the sedation. I asked the anaesthesiologist to make sure I’ll be asleep – people were talking about hearing hammering and sawing, and I didn’t want this to happen to me. I spoke about my previous bad reaction to morphine, and I was given a red hair net (as opposed to the ordinary blue ones) to signal the team I had an allergy of some sort.

I woke up in the recovery hall approximately 3h later. Someone was speaking Romanian to me, and I thought I was dreaming. No – my nurse’s name was Mihai , and he was indeed Romanian. On my other side was Catalina, another Romanian nurse. I couldn’t feel my legs nor wiggle my toes – actually I felt nothing at all, but this was all normal. Someone with a mobile X Ray machine showed up, and they took a picture of my new hip. And then “off I went” to the ward, wheeled over with my bed by Catalina. I slept a bit, then it was time for more toe wiggling attempts and a visit of the surgeon, who told me it all went well. I was a bit cold and asked for another blanket, but my lovely nurse brought a Bair Hugger to my bed. What a magic machine! I wish I had one at home to blow warm air under my duvet! In the afternoon I got tea and toast, and I got to choose my dinner from the menu. A pair of booties connected to my bed that were inflating alternatively at regular intervals were another treat – they massaged my feet, and together with the surgical socks, they were working to prevent the formation of blood cloths, which are one of the dangers of this type of surgery.

Before long, I got to stand up on my two legs, and I was told to put my weight on the operated leg. If you’ve never looked up what happens during a hip replacement surgery, I must tell you it’s pretty brutal. The fact that you can stand up immediately after is nothing short of a miracle.


On Saturday morning I got to wash myself in a tiny bowl with about 100 ml of water ( I was really grateful after that!) I changed into my own clothes and took another trip to Radiology, being wheeled with my bed by a porter. The XRay technician was Serbian, and he asked the usual: where are you from? On our way back, the porter got new marching orders and I was brought straight to the regular ward, sign that all was going well and they weren’t worried about me anymore. I got a room with a view to the world outside, and my ward mate left on the same afternoon. So I was on my own, watching telly, dozing off, taking pills, getting infusions, chatting to the nurses and eating fabulous food. The caterer had a tablet for reading the menu and ticking my options, which was really impressive. Never got one thing wrong! I was able to use a frame and go to the bathroom on my own, but in the afternoon I got a visit from my physiotherapist who gave me my crutches. I had no difficulty walking, I actually enjoyed it.


On Sunday I was feeling a lot better and I got dressed with a bit of help from the nurse. See, I was hoping I could go home. Some of the US patients in my group were sent home on the same day!


Monday was busy. A new nurse, a bit bossy, saw immediately that I knew far too much and I had “notions”. But she agreed to cooperate and help me have a shower and change into my street clothes again. Without the ton of painkillers from the previous days, I was able to read the novel I had brought with me. I was told to book my lift home for 1pm, and Ray arrived promptly after lunch. I got not one, but two porters to see me off. They waited for Ray to pull the car at the front and helped me into the car. This was the moment I dreaded – some hospitals run short courses for patients before surgery to teach them to get in and out of the bed, in and out of the car… But I made it! A plastic bag on the seat made all the difference! Thank you, thank you, thank you, Facebook buddies!

February 10 2023 09:27 pm | Limerick

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