The time had come for the other hip swap out. Barely six months after the first and happily, if ever one can be happy about having a fairly major part of your body ripped out , I had managed to wrangle the same surgeon in the same small, country hospital. He had done such a good job that after the first one, I had decided to stay with the public system, so long as I could stick with the same theatre ‘dream team’
Having one hip replaced in your (early) 50’s brings a raised eyebrow, but two at the same country town hospital within living memory is positively shocking with “but you’re too young” being the common refrain. It also brings with it a degree of notoriety and given my previously demonstrated desire for exploring the town on crutches following my last op, my card was marked from the get go. I could see the hospital administrators whispering to each other as I passed ‘yes, that’s him, we’d better lock the doors this time’ Nurses smiled knowingly muttering ‘he’ll not get out this time’…
Of course, that was like a red rag to a bull and as I passed Princess Margaret’s picture on the wall, I looked up thinking ‘ I bet they couldn’t keep you in’ and winked at her. Actually, having seen the latest episodes of “The Crown” she would no doubt have been a lot of fun to sneak in, or out of a ward with. It actually wasn’t that I wanted to leave the hospital and go downtown before I should have done last time, it was just that I wanted a hot chocolate, the hospital coffee shop had closed some ten minutes earlier and I had enthusiastically bought into the ‘opiates are your friend’ nurse/pushers spiel. I’m sure its something to do with shift changes, but honestly, who closes their coffee shop at 2:30pm when folks are bound to have the munchies?
After having set ourselves up in the pre op administration area and been issued my stockings and gown (‘sorry, we’ve still only got it in blue’), I downed the pre op pills but despite my looking forward to a bit of a lift, I just felt a bit ‘flat’ Mrs. Jerry and I had discussed that the last time I was here we’d had the pups with us and we’d been a lot more animated in what was (potentially) our last moments together. So much so, that when I was wheeled into the waiting area, the same theatre sister who had wryly observed my embarrassingly tumescent state some six months earlier was staring at my flat, rather than tented sheets and asked “not looking forward to this one quite so much then?”
I ended up waiting for almost two hours in that room listening to the music of my youth, minus the Clash, of course and the noises of the preceding hip replacement. Hammering and drilling were the two dominant sounds, competing valiantly with REO speed wagon blasting out through the doors. My over observant theatre nurse commented, “you can tell what kind of mood he’s in by the music he plays” peaking my interest she added “when he likes the way the operation is going, he’ll play an 80’s compilation; but when he’s not happy; it’s Lady Gaga at full blast” Interesting, I thought, just hoping that he’d had a good night sleep, not argued with this wife and had a healthy breakfast – all of the things I also want to ask my long haul pilot whilst holding his a hand and maintaining steady eye contact before taking off.
The anaesthetist, with whom I had reached a humorous accord during my pre admission interviews, entered the room and asked ‘ what’s it going to be, conscious or unconscious?’ He’d previously sold me on going with the epidural without the additional knock out gas on the grounds that it was healthier, more interesting and that I could make requests for the music to be changed if I didn’t like it. I decided that it probably would be an interesting experience and so I chose the ‘conscious uncoupling’ option. He nodded knowingly, clearly appreciating my pop cultural reference and marked my back with a pen, then injecting the epidural as the song changed to ‘ma ma ma poker face’… we half jokingly speculated as to what could possibly be going wrong in there.
A bout of determined hammering accelerated that train of thought and I settled back to contemplate my gradually numbing lower body and how it would be if the wind changed and I stayed like that – that’s a normal waking nightmare, right? After a while, there was a swish of the curtains and what seemed like a dozen or more people trooping in and out of the operating theatre. My surgeon, all smiles and bonhomie shook my hand and enquired as to my decision vis-a-vis being asleep or awake. When I told him, he asked what my favourite music was – “anything but Lady Ga Ga” I replied. “Good choice” he nodded sagely…
Upon being wheeled into the theatre, I realised that a hip replacement was a spectator sport. I actually lost count of the number of gloved and gowned people milling around. A couple of them were wearing what I can only describe as ebola suits and it dawned on me that inside one of them was now my surgeon and he was advancing on me. By this time, several of the multiple players in the room had transferred me to a table, hooked me up to machines that made strange noises and erected a sheet screen, preventing me from observing first hand what was going on. There was however a TV screen focusing, in some detail, on my junk. Well, truthfully, I doubt that was the intention, although I swear I did see the theatre nurse smirking in my direction. By now I was feeling more like a side of beef being washed down with gravy (disinfectant) and prepared for roasting – if you’d wrap your roast in a roasting bag that is. The clear film was apparently to help prevent infections and then layer after layer of tablecloth was laid over me with just a small work area for the surgeon to get cracking in.
My relaxing view of the operation and unfortunately, my junk in the x-ray. In my defence, it was a cold room…
Having tried hard to forget the smell of my cauterizing vas deferens as part of having my undercarriage converted from sports to utility, I was however quite unprepared for the strange similarity in smell of the laser scalpel slicing my buttock and the roast shoulder of pork we’d had for last Sunday lunch wafting over the screen. I glanced over at the TV monitor and watched my dissection in glorious technicolour. I did note the rather confronting X-ray of my hips just below the screen that took me back to a recent car journey with Ms Jerry Jnr. I had just exited the local hospital after a pre op X-ray and my daughter grabbed the envelope and pulled out the film. There, shockingly in the centre was a perfect outline of the equipment that created her. With an embarrassed squeal she dropped the film back in the envelope and primly said, “well, there’s something I can never unsee” Serves her right, I thought…
As Bruce Springsteen’s ‘born to run’ cranked up over the speakers, my hip joint was being assaulted by what looked like and probably was, a Dremel multi saw. I watched fascinated, as the leg was dislocated and the ball was chiselled off (literally) by several hard several whacks from a ball peen hammer, then realised that the thuds I was feeling through the table were actually resonating through my body. It’s actually quite shocking how brutal a hip replacement is when you ‘feel’ it first hand. If someone hit you that hard with a hammer under normal circumstances, you’d have to hope to goodness that there would be a copper nearby to drag them off you. This time however, the ball skittled out of the (new) hole in my backside and defying the attempt of one of the gowned wicket keepers, managed to hit the floor with exactly the same noise that a billiard ball makes when it hits a solid floor. There you go, three ball sports allusions in as many sentences, I’m obviously still in the grasp of the painkillers.
The other side of the screen – calm spacemen working on my strangely angled hip.
Prior to the operation, I had once again, unsuccessfully tried to persuade the surgeon to give me the joint as a ‘take away’ I had no intention of giving it to the dogs, of course, but a friend who shall remain nameless (Eric) had stated his intent to make it into the handle for a walking stick – “still not going to happen” the surgeon said with a smile. Bugger, I muttered. That would have been fun, or at least a talking point at parties.
The anaesthetist proved to be a born raconteur and we chatted throughout the procedure. I actually had to be told to keep still at one point as apparently my chuckling was vibrating through the table. I quietened somewhat when I saw the rasp like implement that was being used to route out the femur and how it was used. It looked like a curved cheese grater on a handle and it was worked vigorously in and out of the open bone end to make the room for the implant. The receiving socket on the hip was being ground out at high speed by something else that looked like it came from Bunnings so as to fit the ball joint exactly. One thing’s for sure, I’ll never look at Oso Bucco the same way again.
My surgeon was obviously happy with the way that things were going, as the Beach Boys sang a song about having their car taken away from them. “How did you go with not being able to drive for eight weeks then?” he asked. Actually, quite well I answered and drifting away from the conversation, apropos of the song that had just been playing, recounted a story about my taking Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys diving on the Great Barrier Reef some years earlier. The anaesthetist got it, but I think that it got lost on the telling for the bloke hammering away in my innards.
We’re nearly there, said my new mate the anaesthetist, as the surgeon tidied up the implants by stitching up the layers of fat and tissue around the joint. At my request, he had taken some pictures during the operation and I had thanked him for getting my best side (the top of my head) in focus. Before I knew it, I was taken into the recovery room and poked and prodded to check on my vitals. All must have been satisfactory as I was wheeled into a shared ward of four beds and listened to a frogs chorus of the occupants opposite farting and burping behind their curtains. I joined in myself for a few moments until propriety suggested that I stop while the nurses did their rounds. “Let’s get you out of here and into a room of your own dear” said one of them to the patient in the bed next to mine. “Oh, thank goodness for that” said the educated and very female voice back through the curtain. Oops, I thought.
After another x-ray, blood test and crappy nights sleep, I decided to stretch my legs. It seemed as though the entire staff on that floor popped their heads out of doorways and stared at me. Yes, the word had obviously passed around that I was up. I greeted them all and went for a crutch assisted wander around the floor and found the bathroom. I managed to negotiate the shower and following that, the physio staff took me through my paces in their gymnasium. I seemed to have met all of the benchmarks for immediate recovery from the operation as with almost indecent haste, I was discharged and sent home.
It seems that recovery is pretty much down to me now that the experts have done their bit. Thankfully, I only have the two hips. Hopefully, I don’t stuff them up by overdoing things…