Monthly Archives: July 2013

Moving On

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Five weeks post surgery today. I’m feeling rather guilty because I made the decision this morning not to have my surgical TED stockings on. I know I am really supposed to have them on for another week, but I am SO fed up of them. They are itchy, uncomfortable and I have an uncomfortable, painful sensation in my left foot and toe that is much easier when they are not irritating it. The promise is that I will do my exercises every hour to compensate.

The last blood thinning tablets were taken last night. That might make some things easier anyway, but after five weeks certainly feels like a step forwards.

And talking of steps, I went out for the first time yesterday to the dentist, where I had to walk from the car across a road – and therefore further than I have walked outdoors so far other than the garden. Later I was like a toddler taking first steps – managing the length of the kitchen and back completely unsupported with my husband in front of me ready to catch if necessary 🙂 My hip still feels weak but not nearly as wobbly as it has been. It is more lack of confidence in case something ‘goes’ more than anything. A couple of days ago I tried just my stick in the house, but it really didn’t feel safe. I went back to a crutch. But today I have returned just to the stick in the hope of relying much more on my own rapidly strengthening leg rather than support and so far it is going well.

Discomfort – mostly I’m taking ibuprofen and paracetamol just at night and in the morning but, I guess as a result of doing more and also risking a bit more (careful) bending and twisting, I’m aching much more and sometimes needing an early evening dose. I also ached during the night and found it difficult to sleep. The sleeping on my back is making my left knee and hip hurt and that is what is waking me.

The fun thing yesterday !! My husband was barely out of the door when I was stung by a bee. I could hear buzzing but couldn’t work out where it was – until I felt the sting on my inner thigh where it had obviously somehow got itself caught in my dress. I dropped my crutch, had no phone, still didn’t know where this bloody bee was and had a rapidly swelling thigh at a point where, following a hip replacement, I could barely see or reach. There were a few tears as I struggled crutch free to another room to get to a phone then tried in vain to call my husband for help – at that time only minutes away – and for him not to answer. Anyway, the book about home remedies I almost put in the charity box the day before paid off. I found soda bic and dissolved it in water, soaked a plaster in it and covered what seemed to be the sorest bit. It worked almost immediately and made such a difference. The first good use for surgical stockings perhaps – a bee sting only just penetrates and does significantly less damage than it might!

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Flotsam and Jetsam

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I’m managing to do more and more all the time. It takes a while to set the table and clear it one item at a time, and to make coffee, but at least I can do it. I can get up and downstairs without much thought if I need something and not have to send someone else. I’ve just read through my blog posts to date and seen just how different things are already to before my surgery – I can stand up straight for a start – and how things have changed over such a short time. This is heartening when it feels frustrating still with the limitations I have – they are now improving.

A few days ago I took another look at the patient.co.uk site I’d found pre op to see how things were going and if people were still writing there, to find they’d set up a Facebook group. It great now to be part of a group of people who have been, or are about to go, through the same procedures – what they are like now, what they found difficult, what they would do differently next time – and generally just feel much less isolated when I’m pretty much tied to the house by myself.

I also owe this blog my last 10 of my 50 uses for crutches, so here goes:

41. Propping open a patio door that is determined to close in the breeze despite it being ridiculously hot.

42. For pulling back branches and searching for a black pussycat in the undergrowth. I don’t know what happened to here a couple of nights ago, but she failed to come home when called, or even through the window I left open for her all night. In the morning I was out in the garden calling for her with no success to turn and find her lying in the edge of the bushes behind me and ignoring me. She was very quiet and didn’t come in for food – all very much unlike her usual behaviour and I was concerned. Numerous occasions had me out poking at the bushes to see if she was still there. Come the evening she was back to her old self. Very odd!

43. A not very good use – lying uselessly where it has fallen while I tried to get up from a garden chair which, strictly speaking, was too low and unstable leaving me stranded with nothing to hold onto and far too far away for me to hook with my ‘good’ foot. Thank goodness I had my mobile phone and my son close by!

44. My husband has become a house elf. I think he thought this is who did all the washing, cooking and cleaning previously anyway and he has now had over 3 weeks of my world – working and looking after the house and family. His suggestion is a crutch for beating the house elf (him) with. Well, if he insists …… ! 

45. Acting as a helping hand when the helping hand is out of reach 🙂

46. Acting as a support for exercises when a dodgy knee cannot be that support, as it will lock painfully, and needs to be placed on a chair in order to exercise an equally dodgy opposite hip.

47. Used for balance – I’m able to put more and more weight on my operated side and less on my crutch, but still feel it needs to be there to correct the wobble and build confidence.

48. Knocking down a book I cannot reach from the top shelf of the bookcase.

49. Picking up clothes and towels that have dropped onto the floor and I cannot bend down to – have I used that before? – Well I’m still doing it and it is still useful!

50. Phew! Holding me upright in the shower! – it was necessary at first, even though they filled up with water from the shower, but not now as I can get in and out myself – yippee! However, water filled crutches make a great water ‘gun’ 🙂

What else has changed? Well my husband has been back at work full time for 2 weeks.  A week ahead still feels a bit like a big black and bleak hole of 5 days on my own unable to go out or do anything very much though. My student group have ended so there is little to do there now and I ended with clients pre surgery. Thank goodness for Kindle books!

Progress:

The wound is beautifully healed – a bit red and puckered and a little tender towards the bottom but good as 9 inch wounds with 36 staple marks go!

The swelling is pretty much gone now. I can sit and it feels mostly even – and the wound now goes down my leg too, not just across a huge swollen bum!

The bruising – confined pretty much to the front of my calf. That is still Kermit green and a little tender too, but mostly gone. I do bruise easily though. This is not unusual but I just have to roll down my stockings to bruise around my leg under my knee. There is also a very interesting effect for those of us who are still pre menopausal from the blood thinning tablets 😦

I can walk downstairs but not up without any crutches – the support is on the wrong side going up.

I slept for 4 hours, or at least I woke and went back to sleep again over a 4 hour stretch, on my back.

The exercises are getting easier – I’m doing 20 repetitions each time and I can stretch further all the time. I’m just a little wary of stretching beyond what I still should.

Mostly my hip has stopped clicking when I walk and exercise it.

I should have had my post op check yesterday but unfortunately it was cancelled. It may be as well because it should be a 6 week check and it’s only been 4 weeks. I was hoping to have news of when I could rid myself of these stockings and some idea of when I would have my next op – and which it would be – but that is not to be until the 12th of August now.

50 uses for crutches Part 2

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I went down to 1 crutch around the house on Saturday, which feels like quite an achievement. I feel a little wobbly but the strength is building nicely in my right leg again and it’s more a lack of confidence than anything else. There is also the arthritis in my left side of course, for which I had already begun to use a stick on my right side to support – but the crutch is on my left side now to support the slightly wobbly right hip. We’re getting there though, and so much more can be achieved with a free hand. I just made and carried a cup of coffee for myself for example. I can also stand more upright and stretch my muscles and stand evenly on both legs fully weight bearing with no support. Getting up and down from a chair or bed is easier without crutches at all because my left leg is also getting stronger to compensate.

So on with the uses for crutches. A few more found this weekend.

26. Opening doors which have closed in the breeze from a still seated position for a mewling moggy. I know, she should be able to open the door herself. You haven’t met my cat. More fur in the brain than outside.Black_Cat 1

27. Closing the door again when she has left it open (of course) to prevent drafts. Although this summer is the first time I have felt grateful for a dark and cold house.

28. Ok I haven’t actually done this one – but poking said moggy when she carefully jumps down right in front of me as I am moving around and stops dead to do her forward and backward sun salutations then settles down on the floor and looks at me as I try now to get around her.

29. To hold a towel while I am in the shower (yes – dressings off and back in the shower every day – yippee!) as I can’t bend to the floor for it.

30. To help me move/poke throws and cushions into place on chairs to tidy up when I can’t bend and twist to reach. Fed up of always having to ask someone else to do it.

31. Opening the zip on the front of a plastic greenhouse to stop the tomato plants inside cooking in this heatwave.

32. Breaking up spider’s webs in the garden to free the trapped hover flies.

33. Cat toy – lying on back trying to wrap her paws around to catch the other – or better still a bird feather dropped on the grass.

34. Taking some of my weight as I stand on the scales to make me lighter – this new metal hip must weigh at least 1/2 a stone!

35. Decorative feature in the hallway. I’m getting sufficiently confident moving around with just one crutch that the other hasn’t moved from being propped up against the hallway wall for at least 3 days.

36. Helping me get my leg over the cross trainer. I have found, if I am very careful, that I can add to my exercise regime by easing my operated leg over the trainer without bending it too far, then standing between the footplates, climb up – good foot first – onto the footplates while holding crutch and handles. With the resistance turned down as far as it will go I can slowly and carefully do 100 rotations (50 per leg) without my hip being raised too high, building the strength and trying to push some of the stiffness from my muscles.

37. Lifting cat fur from the floor dropped by a moulting pussycat and getting it outside.

38. Holding the bag I am using to move things around the house, including my mobile phone in case I fall over now my husband is back at work full time and my son is 2 floors away.

39. A prop while I now brew my own coffee again – yippee!

40. With spiders in mind (Yuk!) it is nearly spider season here and some of them I swear are the size of mice. The crutch may well ‘accidentally’ be squashing some of them.

Golly this is getting hard now. 10 to go! Maybe tomorrow 😉

50 uses for crutches Part 1

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50? – Well we’ll see how we get on!

1. Walking – now there’s a novelty! 1 is walking with both crutches forward like an old lady zimmer frame.

2. Walking again – but on 4 points – only 1 of which is lifted at a time – managed 3 days ago on Day 14.

3. Walking yet again – but on 2 points – opposite leg and crutch being lifted and, when I can get the co ordination we’re pretty much there now. The only stopping points are steps, turns and small gaps to squeeze through. Managed on Day 16 – yesterday and now practiced on Day 17 walking around the perimeter of the garden.

4. 1 crutch can flick up another fallen one – which happens all too frequently. I might be walking but I have a knack of managing to knock over one or the other – or both!

5. Lifting clothes from the floor when I am not allowed to bend more than 90 degrees and so can’t reach the floor.

6. Scratching an itchy leg or foot – for the same reason as above.

7. Used as a sort of hockey stick to flick dropped mobile phone (!) along the tiled kitchen floor to the living room where I left my helping hand grabber to pick it up again. It’s a bit tricky to call someone else to help when your phone is on the floor.

8. Used like chop sticks to pick up a bottle of water from the floor – sometimes the only way to get a drink around here.

9. To lever oneself up from bed or chair – especially when you’ve chosen to sit in one which strictly speaking is lower than you should be in.

10. To poke the husband who suggests you might want to get up off your bum and do something yourself! (He was joking 🙂 – but got a poke anyway)

11. To turn on a fan in this sudden heatwave we’re having.

12. To move a box back under the coffee table out of the way.

13. To push down on so I can wriggle bum onto a bar stool which is slightly higher than it could be but would be utterly useless for the breakfast bar if it was any lower.

14. To push down on to get back off said bar stool carefully as it springs back up against sore hip once weight is off it.

15. To pull a cushion under feet when sitting a) to keep feet warm on cold wooden flooring (even in a heat wave) and b) to make comfortable a person with shorter than average legs even when sitting on a chair which is supposed to be too low. You should see how far off the floor my feet are when I sit back in the 40″ off the floor seat I’m supposed to be using!

16. To poke washing into the washing machine before closing the door.

17. To hang helping hand from when moving from one area to another.

18. To take weight off arthritic left hip and especially knee when trying to complete right hip joint replacement exercise regime.

19. To lean on when trying to peep inside parents-in-law’s new Camper Van but can’t actually climb the steep steps to get inside.

20. To lean on to stretch and take pressure off increasing sore bum from sitting.

21. To hang straw sunhat on when not wearing. I can’t tan my legs through these stockings but the rest of me might as well get a little benefit.

22. To turn slowly and safely and avoid twisting.

23. To turn post and push against a hard surface and lift slightly so the helping hand can then get under it and grab it – something it cannot do when items like letters are flat on the floor.

24. To lever up from a seated position (like the downstairs loo) when there is nothing else to grab hold of.

25. To pull items within reach of the helping hand to grab them because they are considerably longer.

… we’re 1/2 way there! 

To be continued …..

The surgical stocking reprieve

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We finally have a summer – 30 degrees, sunshine, baking hot – and I’m wearing full length dark green surgical stockings 24 hours a day with a 1/2 hour reprieve for washing.

That 1/2 hour a day is heavenly, but it goes so fast. The feeling when they are taken off is such a relief. I can almost feel the blood draining back into my legs and feet – even though my legs are swollen and my little feet look like hobbit feet.

The theory is, and I quote from Wikipedia, “compression stockings use stronger elastics to create significant pressure on the legs, ankles and feet. Compression stockings are tightest at the ankles and gradually become less constrictive towards the knees and thighs. By compressing the surface veins, arteries and muscles, the circulating blood is forced through narrower circulatory channels. As a result, the arterial pressure is increased, which causes more blood to return to the heart and less blood to pool in the feet.”

Apparently surgery on the pelvis and legs can significantly increase the risk of DVT, even though I’m probably exercising and moving about as much as I usually do, given that my job is online based so I don’t move much anyway. I was back at work on Day 6 post hip replacement surgery!

I tried tanning my legs in the little sun there was pre op, knowing I was going to have to wear these for 6 weeks or so post op, but isn’t it just typical that, given our ghastly summer last year, that this year would be glorious while I was having to wear them. They are hot, tight and dig into my swelling and bruises. Talc was suggested, but it really doesn’t seen to make much difference, with the possible exception being to my bedroom carpet. I was bruised from waist to ankle, but it is clearing gradually now. My right leg unfortunately is a greenish yellow all over now that clashes nastily with the jade green of the stockings. Just as well no one can see it when they are on!

I had a little trip out yesterday. I know I’m supposed to be confined to barracks for 3 weeks and then just close to home, but I was going stir crazy. We had an exciting (!!) trip to Waitrose. My husband went in for a wheelchair. Now that is like being on a fairground ride without the confidence that the ride has been security and safety tested! I then had a wheel chair trolley attached to the front so my husband could collect the shopping. What fun we had! Me in a pretty summer dress with jade green thick surgical stockings on a baking hot day being pushed around in an ultra long unwieldy vehicle by my, fortunately better driver, husband. What a sight we must have looked 🙂

But here I am again today, on a rare day when I am thankful we have a cool dark shady living room, with a fan blowing, and the ever present stockings. I should be thankful. Lovely weather and also only 4 weeks to go! ….. and maybe just an extra sneaking 1/2 hour off this evening …..

The exercise regime

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There are a lot of exercises to keep up with each day to strengthen the muscles around the hip joint and prevent dislocation. This seems to be a good thing. Most of the pain in the joint feels very much as though it comes from crampy muscles more than anything else. The exercise, while they pull and are sore, make it all feel SO much better afterwards.

I found the same in hospital In my work I make a lot of use of scales and the same is done with pain. Post op I had a spinal, so very little difficulty. Day and evening 2 – 3 was a very different matter. If childbirth with no pain relief is a 10 then this is way up there with it – certainly an 8. Morphine wasn’t touching it. However, following finally being able to get up and start doing some exercises on Day 3 on my feet made such a difference and it has just improved daily from there. For a few days now I have been waking pain free when relaxed. The only issue is those times I wake (or can’t sleep) with muscles in spasm and just cannot shift it. The thigh muscle will just suddenly tighten painfully of it’s own accord seemingly and be very hard to relax again. Pain scale wise, paracetamol and ibuprofen 3 times a day are keeping it under control. When it is time to take them it is no worse than the old arthritis pain.

The exercises standing have taken a little bit of imagination. I still have severe arthritis in my left hip and knee and so don’t much like bearing my weight for me to exercise my right hip. Suddenly one morning 3 days ago, inspiration struck. I now do those exercises at the kitchen table with a dining chair. One hand on the back of the chair facing the table, one hand on the table, I kneel carefully on the dining chair with my left knee – no more weight bearing and locking! I can do the back leg swing and side leg swing from this position. Bending knees and tiptoes are done together (the tiptoes I save to last because this releases all the tension again) and leaves only the upwards knee bend where I have little choice but to brace myself and hold my weight on my left leg – but at least it’s only 1 exercise from 3 and I don’t have to do them all at once if I can’t manage it. 

I just hope I’m doing enough and must check. Now, if only I can stretch down to under the coffee table where my husband has neatly stashed all of my information from the hospital – just out of my reach ………..

Sleep

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Sleep … it would be SO lovely if I could do this!

The hip replacement means there are a variety of movements and manoeuvres that just cannot be allowed to prevent dislocation and excess stress on the new joint. These are bending more than 90 degrees at the hip – so no reaching below the knee, no twisting and no allowing the leg to cross the centre point of the body – hence no lying on my side. 

I always lie on my side and also partly onto my front and change sides every couple of hours. Lying on my back is driving me mad. Quite apart from making my as yet untreated side ache it keeps me on my swollen sore areas and clips and is just uncomfortable. Two nights ago I went to bed tired and tried to relax. I listened to natural sea sounds – to the end, I got up to the loo and stretched, I read my book … Eventually I got to sleep around 1 am but still woke every couple of hours. Yesterday afternoon I went to bed for my ‘lying flat for an hour to stretch out my muscles at the front of my leg’ exercise and finally dozed off with a relaxation.

Last night was even worse. I feel so tired when I go to bed. By the time my husband gets up there too I’m wide awake. He and the cat go straight off to sleep and I’m left with internal twitches I can’t untwitch, though I just know if I curled on my side they would go away and I’d go straight off. 11:30 and The Sea finishes – loo and back to bed. Midnight – sit up and read. 1 am loo and back to bed. 2am – I’ve tried stretching and relaxing, the relaxation on my phone track and now I’ve managed to wake my husband – and the cat – who goes down to make hot chocolate for us both while I sit and cry.

3am – we settle down again and he strokes my head but he still goes back to sleep first. 6.30 loo and 7.30 awake again. 7.45 and the alarm is going off. 

I just don’t have an answer. I’m usually very good at yoga, meditation, relaxation, mindfulness – but this one is defeating me. I just can’t untwitch that twitch!