My Auntie Donna and her hip replacement

My Auntie Donna had a hip replacement and I wanted to interview her! I think it’s a hard road for recovery but she’s feeling good again! I look up to my Auntie Donna who is doing everything for her family and friends! I don’t know what it is like having a hip replacement surgery! I always get to sleep during surgery and she was awake for her hip replacement surgery!   We had made some of memories! I remember going to her place for Christmas for one year! We played Mad Gab with the cousins! She was here in the summer and we played Qwirkle.

Hip replacement is a surgical procedure in which the hip joint is replaced by a prosthetic implant, that is, a hip prosthesis. Hip replacement surgery can be performed as a total replacement or a hemi (half) replacement. Such joint replacement orthopedic surgery is generally conducted to relieve arthritis pain or in some hip fractures. A total hip replacement (total hip arthroplasty or THA) consists of replacing both the acetabulum and the femoral head while hemiarthroplasty generally only replaces the femoral head. Hip replacement is currently one of the most common orthopedic .

Kelsey: When did you notice something was wrong with your hip?             

Donna: Our daughter Kaitlyn worked in Finland for a year and in July 2012 we went to visit her.  We did a lot of walking and every night when I went to bed, my left leg would throb like a toothache all from my hip to my ankle.  I thought it was because I was overweight and out of shape.  However, I realized it didn’t matter if I was active or still – my leg always seemed to ache.  That September I joined Pilates because I am very rigid and hoped my flexibility would increase.  It didn’t, and I was frustrated because there were certain movements I couldn’t do because I just didn’t have the range of motion.  That fall I had my yearly physical with my family doctor and after telling her my concerns she suggested we start with x-rays.  The x-ray tech looked at them and said, “No wonder your hip hurts!”

I met with the orthopaedic surgeon in Saskatoon in the spring of 2013.  He told me there was degeneration of the hip, but at 51, I was young to have a hip replacement.  By April 2014 when I saw him again, the degeneration was worse – practically bone on bone, and he said it was time for surgery.  I could have had surgery in August, but we had a holiday planned to go to Virginia. I got a call in the fall and had my surgery November 5, 2014.            

Kelsey: Did you try anything else to relieve your pain before surgery, like physio or cortisone shots? 

Donna: I did not have physio or cortisone, and neither was ever suggested to me.

Kelsey: What was the pain like before surgery? 

Donna: The pain was like a toothache down the left side of my left leg.  I think I have a low threshold for pain, so it was often a level 8.  I often didn’t realize it myself, but friends at school would know when it was bothering me because I would limp.  While Bob and I were waiting during one of my appointments I saw someone walking on a path toward the hospital.  I commented that they must need a new knee or hip because they were limping so severely.  Bob told me that was exactly how I walked sometimes, but I didn’t realize it. 

I still participated in activities such as Pilates, going to the gym, and walking but had limited range of motion.  The pain seemed to be bad whether I sat, stood or walked.

Kelsey: Tell us about your surgery.

Donna: I told the surgeon and anesthesiologist I wanted to be completely out during my surgery because I didn’t want to hear power tools!  I took along my iPhone and my earbuds so I could listen to music.  There was a sheet draped across so I couldn’t see below my chest.  I thought of holding my phone up and getting a picture, but I didn’t.  I did take a selfie, plus one of the surgeon, though.  I don’t recall how long the surgery took.

At one point during surgery I was aware that I could see my leg and it appeared to be raised completely straight up and hanging from the ceiling.  I thought “Cool!” because I know I just couldn’t do that.  I also remember hearing what sounded like a hammer hitting copper pipe, but thought I must have imagined it.  However, on last season of Grey’s Anatomy, Dr. Richard Weber needed hip surgery, and during the episode it was the exact same sound!!  Proof the sound I remembered hadn’t been a drug-induced hallucination!! 

Before my surgery I told the kids at school that I was going to be away because I was having a hip replacement and would now have titanium in my leg.  One of the kids was heard saying “Our librarian is going to be a Cyborg!”  Another asked why I was going to be gone, and a fellow student said “She’s going to get a new leg.” 

Kelsey: How did you feel after surgery?

Donna: After surgery when I was still numb from the spinal it was awesome!!  Absolutely pain free!! However, things changed as the anesthetic wore off.  I am allergic to a couple different drugs and medical staff weren’t sure what I could take for the pain, nor how much they could give me.  My pain was off the charts for about 9 hours, and if it wasn’t for my Pilates breathing, I would have lost my mind!  I apologized to my roommate the next morning because she must have thought I was dying.  I do admit I dropped a LOT of F-bombs!  I don’t remember what I was finally given for the pain, but after they found the correct dose, I felt so much better. 

My surgery was on Wednesday at noon.  I was up the next morning after they’d removed the catheter, and when the nurse helped me to the washroom I was surprised how sturdy and solid my leg felt.  Thursday I was walking with a walker, and Friday the physiotherapist had me going up and down stairs.  Saturday I had another physio session, and was out of the hospital by noon and on my way home. 

Kelsey: How was your recovery?

Donna: At home I had lots of support.  A physiotherapist visited me on Monday after a teary phone call when I told her I was sure my left leg was now about 6 inches longer than my right – a normal reaction I was told.  Bob was very good about helping me with my exercises and when friends came to visit they became my coaches.  I used a walker and then graduated to a cane.  I had a raised toilet seat and for extra safety had handrails in the shower.  I was diligent about doing my exercises and after the staples were removed friends took me swimming to North Battleford twice a week.  I was grateful for this as I couldn’t drive for 6 weeks after my surgery.  I found the water therapy to be very beneficial, noticing an increased range of motion immediately.  At first I just walked in the lazy river using a paddle board for support, but then graduated to an aqua bike, and then swimming. 

At home I took my pain medication as prescribed but soon found I had very little need for it. After I recovered, I was happy to have full range of motion but was happiest to be pain-free with none of the throbbing, deep aching. 

Kelsey: How long were you off work?

Donna: My surgery was in November and I went back to work the end of February.  While recovering at home I relaxed in bed, had lots of afternoon naps, watched Netflix, read and practiced Spanish using Duolingo.

Kelsey: Any cons to having surgery?

Donna: Since my hip replacement, any time I am flying, I always set off the metal detector. 

Kelsey: How is your other hip?

Donna: My right hip has now started to give me trouble, and I had x-rays two years ago so we could have a base-line to see how the osteoarthritis is progressing.  As of today, my right knee has been worse than my hip.  I recently saw my surgeon and he told me hip problems often show up in knees.  From x-rays my right knee is showing 30% wear, but my hip is at 90%.  My surgeon asked if I was ready for surgery again, but the pain isn’t unbearable, plus I’m not limping.  I will use those two factors to determine when I make the call to be put on the waiting list. 

Kelsey: What do you do for work?  What other jobs have you had?

Donna: I am a librarian at Unity Public School and have loved my work for over 15 years.  I took my library technician program via distance education from SAIT in Calgary.  I had previously worked as an Educational Assistant and had also worked for the Mental Health Association of Saskatchewan.  For a time I worked at Curves, a fitness center for women; I worked at a funeral home doing after-care and pre-planning funerals; I was a village administrator; I have been a Mary Kay beauty consultant for 32 years.  In high school I worked at an ice cream shop which is why ice cream is one thing I can stay away from. 

Kelsey: Do you have kids?

Donna: I have three children.  Grant is a navigator with the Canadian Armed Forces and works with Search and Rescue.  Interesting point is that Grant is on the waiting list for a hip replacement, even though he is only 39.  Sorry about those bad genes, Grant!  Kaitlyn works for the Saskatchewan provincial government in communications.  She was working for the Ministry of Health when COVID began, and that was a very busy, interesting time for her.  Courtney is a dental assistant but is just completing classes in Dental Hygiene in Toronto.  My husband Bob is a regional manager with Farm Link, a grain marketing company. 

Kelsey: What do you do in your spare time?

Donna: In my spare time, and before COVID, I like to read, cook, bake, swim and entertain friends and family. Since COVID I have gotten hooked on paint-by-numbers and diamond art.  I’ve recently lost 30 pounds and have gotten much more active, working on the elliptical, doing work-out videos, Pilates and yacking on the phone while I’m on the treadmill. 

I hope you learned something interesting about hip replacement and thank you Auntie Donna for your interview.

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