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March 20, 2012 > Becoming a Bionic Woman - part 4

Becoming a Bionic Woman - part 4

By Margaret Thornberry

The deed is done! My old, worn hip bone has now been replaced by a state-of-the-art fixture, and the pelvic socket reamed out and lined - total hip arthroplasty. While my kids are a bit disappointed that the appliance is made of titanium, rather than adamantium (the fictional, indestructible alloy used for Captain America's shield and Wolverine's skeleton and claws) I'm satisfied that this hip will last me for as long as I'm likely to need it.

Technically, I've had the posterior approach, which means I have a longish line of staples down my left thigh, closing the incision which allowed the orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Barry Rose, full access. As I've been telling friends, with 36 staples, I feel as if I went 12 rounds with Office Depot, and came out the loser. Minimally invasive (small incisions) methods are also available, but I got a bit clammy when the doctor described how trying to squeeze the long shaft of the hip fixture through a tiny incision ran a risk of damage to the femur. I decided I didn't need to hear more about the advantages and disadvantages of each method - and it's been many years since I was bikini worthy anyhow!

2 nights in the Center for Joint Replacement later, I can't say enough good things about the staff... and the value of Percocet. While I am disappointed that I wasn't able to stride blithely across the hospital parking lot immediately after surgery, as some of the promotional material would lead one to believe, I'm more comfortable and more active with every day that passes.

Someone opined to me the other day that one of the many reason for the increased longevity of Americans is the prevalence of hip replacement in the US. I haven't found any studies from the medical literature to substantiate this, but it makes all kinds of intuitive sense. If you aren't in pain, you walk more, with benefits to heart, lungs and muscle tone. If you aren't in pain, you feel more like getting out, socializing, going to shows, getting things done and shopping, which engages your mind, improves your mood, and benefits the economy! So far I haven't done much to pump up the economy, aside from the medical establishment, but I am now back in my own home, exercising under the tutelage of an excellent physical therapist.

While I'm taking breaks from that hard work, I find myself thinking about some early warning signs of osteo-arthritis hip joint deterioration to pass on to you. Note: I'm not talking about rheumatoid arthritis, which is an auto-immune problem where your body attacks your own joints... my mother suffered from that, and it's truly awful. What I'm talking about is early hints that you are experiencing age-related wear and tear breakdown of the cushioning in the hip.

There's no doubt about the problem, once each step becomes painful, but is there any kind of early warning? In retrospect, one symptom I ignored was shrinkage - I used to be 5 ft. 5 1/2 inches... today, I'm 5 ft. 3 3/4 inches tall...yes, I've lost an impressive 1 3/4 inches in height over the past few years! And, although I've not heard this from anyone in the medical profession, I can't help but wonder if knock-you-out-of bed nighttime leg cramps isn't another symptom, if not directly then as a side effect of off kilter walking. The physical therapist feels I've been walking from my knees, rather than my hips, for a long time; shorter steps mean shorter range of motion and more wear on a smaller bone surface. She's teaching me to sway my hips and stride from my pelvis. Perhaps strolling the beach in a sarong, if not a bikini, isn't so far-fetched, and a goal to keep in mind as she puts me through my paces!

Once I feel fully comfortable and have had a chance to experience airport and court-house security a time or two, I'll fill you in on life with a titanium hip. In the meantime, thank you for all the positive thoughts, kind wishes and prayers, it's helped me to know I've not had to go through this rather harrowing experience alone!

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