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Having Total Hip Replacement Surgery? My Story Of Two Hip Replacements & Survival Tips

Updated on October 29, 2014
SheilaSchnauzies profile image

SheilaSchnauzies is a Miniature Schnauzer rescuer, writer, crochet designer, gardener, crafter, wife, mom & friend living in Omaha, NE.

Before, During & After Hip Replacement - The Inside Scoop From A Real Patient... Me!

I spent 2011 having both of my hips replaced. That's the short story:) The right one was done in March.

My left hip was scheduled to be done in June, but had to be postponed four times for medical reasons and ended up being done in October, exactly 6 months to the day from the first one. I thought maybe some other folks would be interested to know what my two experiences have been like. I'm not going to go deep into a lot of medicalese or actual procedures here - there are plenty of sites out there for that info. What I will do is give you the patient's perspective on living with the procedure.

The photo says it all, taken before either surgery was done - what pain looks like. I had to endure three years of pain that could only be described as inhumane before a surgeon would agree to take my high-risk case.

The Hospital Stay Was Nothing Like I Expected – Welcome To "Joint Camp!"

I've been hospitalized many times over the years, and had many surgeries. It's always the same. You show up, you go through pre-op, you have your operation. Then you recover in either a private or semi-private room. Well, at the hospital I went to, that's where the similarity ended!

The hospital I went to, Bergan Mercy in Omaha, Nebraska, has what they call "Joint Camp." The first thing that set this experience apart is that we surgical candidates attended a class together well before the procedure was scheduled. The class was taught by a nurse who would be working with us during our stay. We were told everything down to the last detail to expect before the surgery and afterward as we recovered.

Everything in Joint Camp is done as a group. All the patients (knees and hips) are operated on Monday. On Tuesday morning, every patient is gotten up out of bed, most have their IVs removed already, and are rolled out to a central room where group physical therapy was held! All the patients are on virtually the same schedule of activities of exercise classes, meals, etc, and we did them all as a group. On Thursday, everyone leaves. You either go home or to rehab for further recovery. All meals except breakfast were served as a group in the exercise/dining room.

We were not allowed to wear pajamas or hospital gowns in Joint Camp. We had to dress in casual clothing all the way to shoes and socks from the first pre-op morning on. (Their philosophy is that we are healthy people, not sick patients). We were taught to dress ourselves using our helper tools like reachers and sock aids. By Thursday morning, we had to be able to completely shower and dress ourselves without assistance in order to be sent home, along with getting in and out of a simulated automobile and climbing up and down stairs.

On our final night, we were treated to a special gourmet dinner with our significant other or "coach." On dismissal, they gave us a commemorative t-shirt and graduation certificate. Everything possible was done to build camaraderie among the patients.

The only real difficulty I had was the first post-op night, when some doctor (not my surgeon) decided to discontinue all my pain meds. Until that got fixed, it was a very bad night.

Photo: The nurse got creative and tied up my long hair with a rubber glove! Hey... I forgot my hair ties!

What Have You Had To Endure?

How Long Did You Have To Wait For Your Hip Replacement?

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Survival Tools on Amazon - Stuff To Make Life Easier!

My Birthday "Choir" - The Nurses Sang "Happy Birthday" To Me!

Thanks to all the amazing staff at Joint Camp!
Thanks to all the amazing staff at Joint Camp!

Home From The Hospital – Preparation Is Survival!

  • The best advice I can give you about coming home is to do an actual walk-through before the surgery using your walker and reacher. Pretend that you can't bend over - because you won't be allowed to.
  • The time to find out your heating pad needs to plug in under your end table is before you go in, not after! Think... and walk... through as many of your activities of daily living as you possibly can beforehand and anticipate what you will need and where it needs to be.
  • If you install an elevated toilet seat (which you probably will have to do), install and test it before you come home! Coming home from my first hip surgery, my first few minutes ended up being very frightening. I went to do a simple thing, use the restroom. One of the clamps was not fastened on the toilet seat and when I sat on it, the whole unit... and me with it... fell off and crashed over to the left. If I had not stopped myself hitting a shelf on the way over, it could have been a total catastrophe and I could have been severely injured. As it was, I was terrified.
  • Check to make sure your new walker will fit through all your doorways.
  • Get TWO reacher devices. Keep one somewhere it can't get knocked off on the floor to use to pick up the first reacher when you drop it on the floor! Because you will.
  • If your walker doesn't come with a basket, get a walker bag or attachable basket. It's easier to carry some items with you everywhere.
  • Plan how you will get your meals and drinks from the kitchen to your table or chair using a walker. It's tricky but it can be done!
  • Make sure there is room in your freezer for your ice packs. You'll need to be rotating them in and out constantly for the first couple of weeks.
  • Photo: Here I am at Halloween, barely 3 weeks postop. I dressed up in costume for my surgeon appointment that day!
  • Don't be afraid to reach out for help. This is a big deal! One of the frustrating things for me was not being able to go out and get my mail every day. My mailman learned of my predicament and brought my mail up to my front porch every day for me from that point on.

Manage Your Expectations Of Yourself!

I'll never forget the moment when I came home from my second hip replacement. I'd already endured the first surgery, made a lot of progress, and was functioning at near-normal level again. The phrase "slammed back to the dirt" comes to mind. All that hard-earned ability was poof! Gone. Back to square one. Be prepared to feel helpless, frustrated, like you will never survive this – all of those feelings are normal. What you have to focus on is the next 5 minutes. Can you get through those? Because if you can manage your rehab in five-minute chunks, you will survive!

Time to set some very realistic expectations of yourself. Think about the minimum responsibilities you must take care of in a given day. The first responsibility is caring for yourself. You have to ice the hip as prescribed. You have to keep it elevated. You have to get enough nutrition and most importantly you have to rest. Allow yourself to just "be."

Realize that everyday tasks will take about 5-10 times longer to accomplish! For example, you don't just hop in the shower, toss on your clothes and go. You have to put the water protective sheet on your hip wound first. Toweling off becomes an art form of maneuvering without bending or twisting. You'll need to put your underwear and pants on with a reacher. You have many new skills to learn! All of that takes time. So if you need to get ready for a doctor's appointment, allow yourself a couple of hours to shower and dress.

Healing takes time. It's normal to feel exhausted for a very long time. Don't feel frustrated by that. Just realize it's part of the process and eventually your energy will return!

P.T. Is How You Get Your Strength Back!

You will probably undergo some form of Physical Therapy as part of your prescribed recovery. It will not always be comfortable. The harder you work, the faster you progress, and the sooner this is all in your rearview mirror!

See, I Survived! - You will, too!

Here I am on 11-7-11, four weeks to the day of my surgery! I'm doing great, getting around well, and things are going as well as expected. I'm to the point where it's very frustrating, you feel kind of good and you want to do all kinds of stuff - but you have to be careful not to overdo. Because then, you PAY. That's what happened to me.

Week-By-Week Summary

If I were to summarize each week, it'd go something like this:

  1. Week 1 – This SUCKS!!
  2. Week 2 - OK, I'm feeling pretty darn good - let's do some housework!
  3. Week 3 - I really, really should have not done all that last week. (Increased pain, swelling, payback time)
  4. Week 4 - Let's get real, manage your activity, you're feeling better, it'll be ok. Patience.
  5. Week 5 - Wow I really have improved a LOT! Let's try it with a cane instead of the walker... (with dr ok!!!)

Ice, Ice, Ice, & More Ice! It's your best post-op friend to reduce pain and swelling!

Where Do You Stand On Hip Replacement?

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The Worst Part... For Me

The "worst part" of any surgery or recovery will be different for everyone, as it's totally subjective. For me, the worst part was the staple removal! I happen to be allergic to them. By the time two weeks passed, my incision was like a big red boil that they had to pull the staples out of. It hurt like the dickens. So if you're allergic to nickel, tell your surgeon NO STAPLES! Wish I had known. On the next surgery, I had stitches instead of staples and those were a piece of cake.

Most Important...

Don't push yourself too hard. Don't try to put weight on the operated leg until your surgeon says to do so. I learned that the hard way, with a lot of unnecessary pain. Just take it easy. Follow the rules.

News Update, 11-20-11 - Watch Out, She's WALKING!

OK this was just me bragging:) On 11-18-11, I decided it was time to park my walker... permanently. I drove it into the other room, stored it, and walked out with a cane. And I didn't go back for it! It was all going very well. There were a few "twinges" here and there when I took a mis-step, usually when I was turning. But all in all, I was fine. YAY!!!

Here I Am In Late December 2011... - NO Walker, Just Cane, Now & Then Solo!!!

December 2011 update - I'm still having occasional twinges in the new left hip, but overall I feel so much better! I am getting lots stronger, getting those muscles in my legs all tough! Trying to walk steps whenever I can. Lucky we have lots of them here!! Here I am dressed up for the Christmas party. I felt great that day!

One Year Later... - I Have A Better Life!

I Look A Lot Happier Now!
I Look A Lot Happier Now!

My Surgeon – My Hero!

My Hero forever! Dr. Michael Morrison of Omaha Orthopedic Clinic, my Surgeon, was willing to take a chance on me despite my being a very high surgical risk. Thanks again, Doc!

I continued to improve my leg muscle strength over the next year. I remember in late March, I was trying to help my husband plant a little circle of annuals around a tree. I was doing it with a cane and having a pretty hard time of it, because I was still pretty weak.

By the end of this summer, I was doing whatever I wanted without a cane, watering all my gardens. I had not been able to be out in my gardens hardly at all for three years, so this was a huge gift. While I did still have major pain issues from back surgeries that failed, and will forever, at least the unbearable pain in both hips was gone.

If I were in the same situation again, I'd do it all over again in a minute because it is worth it!

What Do You Say?

If you need a hip replacement, what are your thoughts?

When I stood for the first time after each hip replacement, the virtual knife which had lived in my hip pointing upward was GONE. That moment is worth everything.

Thanks, Squidoo!

This lens was awarded the Purple Star, Squidoo's highest honor, on September 7, 2012. Thank you, Squidoo!

Writing Kept Me Sane During Recovery!

When I came home from the hospital after the first hip replacement, I was faced with my new reality! I would be stuck for days on end sitting with my leg up and could do very little. I decided to start writing and made a commitment to myself to write something every single day. I am proud of all the information I've been able to conserve for posterity such as my favorite recipes, many new crochet pattern designs, and lots of other personal stories and information I wanted to share with the world.

If I hadn't had my writing, I'm not sure how I would have survived all the long months of recovery!

Please Say Hey In My Guestbook! - We'll Be "Hippies" Together!

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    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      What a story...This is a tweetable.

    • profile image

      wendyfinn 4 years ago

      Thank you for sharing your story. My mum is about to have one and she's acting like it's nothing so I guess I wasn't worrying too much. It's good to have an idea of what the reality will be like and how I might be able to help her. Thanks again.

    • SheilaSchnauzies profile image
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      Sheila 4 years ago from Omaha, NE

      @Wednesday-Elf: Glad your sister is doing well! If she overdoes, unfortunately she will probably pay with pain, and it will slow her down. I know I had to learn the hard way! What a nice sister you are to care for her!

    • SheilaSchnauzies profile image
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      Sheila 4 years ago from Omaha, NE

      @HomeArtist1: Sorry for the belated response... wanted to thank you for your great comment! You have been through... a lot. They don't know what type of degenerative arthritis I have but it's slowly taking my major joints one at a time too. I'm about to consult a hand surgeon to have several of my fingers reconstructed if I can, they're a mess. Wishing you good health!

    • SheilaSchnauzies profile image
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      Sheila 4 years ago from Omaha, NE

      @Titia: It sounds like you received some really good care, and it went well for you - I'm so glad for you! Good luck with your second replacement when you have it.

    • SheilaSchnauzies profile image
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      Sheila 5 years ago from Omaha, NE

      @Titia: God bless you, I can imagine how much you are suffering waiting, but I certainly understand your choice. Wow. I thought I had it bad tending to seven Miniature Schnauzers during my rehab; at least I didn't have SHEEP! Hang in there.

    • Titia profile image

      Titia Geertman 5 years ago from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands

      The whole treatment you described is totally different as it's been done in my country, or rather Belgium, as I go to a Belgium hospital for treatments like these. If you live alone, you're not allowed to go home after surgery, then you have to go to a rehab for at least 6 weeks. I could go home, because my hubby was there to take care of me. I got a hospital bed in my house (one of the health care services overhere) and got daily home visits from a physiotherapist for several weeks (and weekly for months after at her office) and a nurse came daily to tend to my wound. I was not allowed to put any weight on my leg, so I had to walk with crutches. In my case it took fairly long before I could walk the stairs without any help and do all the things I used to do, like tending my sheep. My left hip is ok now, but my right hip needs to be replaced too. However it's up to me to say when and as I'm not in constant pain and have a 101 year old mom, I decided to wait till she is gone. I can't walk long and I'm limited in movements, but that's my choice, because I'm the only one in my family who can take care of my mom.

    • HomeArtist1 profile image

      Wendy Hughes 5 years ago from Charlotte

      I've had both hips done six months from each other as well. THEN 20 years after the first one I had to have my entire pelvis reconstructed. Don't anyone panic; I've had juvenile rheumatoid arthritis for nearly forty years--back when there were no meds to slow it down. I felt every last moment of your pain!! Hip replacement, in my opinion, is the most natural "feeling" joint replacement you can have. You'll regain nearly total range-of-motion. I know, I've had all my major joints replaced and then some. To anyone putting off their hip surgery: You're only making the destruction worse and suffering un-necessarily. GET IT DONE! You will survive--I promise! GREAT lens!!!

    • SheilaSchnauzies profile image
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      Sheila 5 years ago from Omaha, NE

      @Wednesday-Elf: Trouble is, you feel SO much better after the surgery that it is a real temptation to overdo! But the payback is not pleasant if you do. My best regards to your sister in law on her recovery!

    • Wednesday-Elf profile image

      Wednesday-Elf 5 years ago from Savannah, Georgia

      My sister-in-law just had hip surgery 10 days ago and I'm trying to keep her from 'over-doing' too soon. I'll show her your advice here -- 'maybe' it will slow her down. :). Thanks for sharing your story.

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      Thank you for your story. My brother had a hip replacement because of a bicycling accident and he is still bicycling today. I know what you mean about staple removal. I went through a similar experience when I broke my leg several years ago.

    • blessedmomto7 profile image

      blessedmomto7 5 years ago

      Congrats on your front page lens. Great read.

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      MintySea 5 years ago

      Thanks for sharing your story

    • BillyPilgrim LM profile image

      BillyPilgrim LM 5 years ago

      Glad you're finally on the mend! Keep it up x

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      pawpaw911 5 years ago

      Thanks for sharing your story. I'm sure it will help others. Hope it all works out well for you.

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      JoshK47 5 years ago

      thank you very much for sharing your experience with us - blessed by a SquidAngel.

    • RichLeighHD profile image

      RichLeighHD 5 years ago

      I'm glad the surgery was a success... Good luck in your continued recovery!

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 5 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      Good luck with your continued recovery and your good hips. That all sounds so painful!

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I am really sorry but happy, too, as you are taking this very well. Good to see you walking. Thanks for this info. It is inspiring.