23 July 2008

Hip Stuff

So - as you may know, I had a severe congenital dislocated hip, that was picked up really late (I was 20 months old). Between the ages of 2 and 7 I had an osteotomy and 3 open reductions on it, the final one (ie the only one that worked) was experimental surgery by Dr Southwick (a pioneer in the field) at Yale University Hospital.

That last sentence in no way sums up the utter horror of what I experienced as a small child, mostly while in hospital. True physical torture, carried out by strangers who - while they were helping me - were terrifying to a young child. In the late 60s your parents weren't allowed to stay with you overnight. When I refused to eat (as one way I could control what was happening to me when I was 3 or so), the nurses pinned me on the floor and force fed me. Suffocating black rubber oxygen masks were forcibly held down over my face on the various operating tables (they didn't give pre-op meds to kids in those bad old days). I nearly bled to death. I won't go on.

I have PTSD as a result; I can't watch medical shows, the smell of black rubber makes me ill, and I can barely talk about this stuff without crying.

I developed arthiritis in the joint about 15 years ago, as was expected; the repaired joint has lasted longer than anyone thought possible... after I'd had my 2 kids, my Mum remembered that the surgeon had said he thought the joint might collapse during pregnancy (and yup, it was painful enough both times!). My leg is also twisted and short.

So to the present day. My physio thinks I should have the joint replaced while I'm still young (for this type of surgery). Just back from seeing my specialist sports physician this morning, and he agrees. I now need yet more hip x-rays, and need to see an orthopedic surgeon to get 'an opinion' on hip replacement. Next Wednesday.

While I intellectually know that the whole thing - once I have it done, whenever that may be - will go smoothly, and it's a very successful surgery, and I won't be tortured, and hospitals are much nicer places than they were 40 years ago, and they can even fix my leg length difference, and the pain won't be too bad (and it's not the pain I'm worried about, really), and I should get a huge improvement in my quality of life .. despite all this, on a deep emotional level I am still a petrified 2 year old.

Not quite sure how I'm going to cope with it all ... one hour at a time, or even one minute at a time if needs be, I suppose, and with my Jon Kabat-Zinn Mindfulness sessions on my iPod, and all my dear friends and family, and yarn ... but MAN I wish they could just knock me out at home, and I could wake up in hospital with the whole damn thing done.


  1. Denise - this is totally understandable. Maybe you can talk to the surgeon about your past experiences so that they are aware of the trauma you suffered as a child. You are so brave going down the path at all. Best of luck to you.

  2. Oh a Mental Health Decade should be awarded to you. It's the anticipation that freaks me out too. The 'actual' thing is never so bad. Is there a nice professional you can talk to?? Or a pre-hip support group?? Good luck with the calmness.

  3. Good luck. A friend's husband had his hip replaced last year, rather young. And like you already know intellectually, he feels so much better now. I remember those black masks; I had surgeries at ages 2 and 4. Luckily it wasn't so traumatic. However, I had an ambulance ride at age 10 that was so traumatic I blacked it out. In college when the EMTs wanted to transport me in an ambulance I began hyperventilating at the thought and didn't know why, but I refused to let them. Later on, when I got ahold of my files from childhood, I figured out what was going on.

    I agree, talk to your doctor about your past experiences and see what they can recommend. I think they'd rather know this. Mental state is so important to recovery.

  4. My mother was a nurse in a maternity ward during the late 60's. I can only imagine what her patients went through.

    What you are feeling is absolutely justified, there are somethings that stay with you. Please keep up with your Jejune days. It sounds like there is an avalanche of stress coming your way. You are courageous just for keeping it together during this portion of the whole ordeal.

  5. Who knows? Maybe they CAN just knock you out at home. Print off this post, ask your doc to read it, and, with the fear naked in your eyes, ask him for help. You are one of the bravest people I know!

    What can you do for your inner two-year old to help her? Would she be comforted by taking a teddy bear with her? I had a small stuffed kitty with me when I went in for my hystrectomy, and no one said a word.

  6. oh god how horrid. i havent been to a dentist since i had my wisdom teeth out 25 years ago so i am no pillar of strength on this one. if it were me, i would be self medicating for some time beforehand so that i was well knocked out before i got there! but yes, having had surgery in the last few years i can of course tell you all the things you know intellectually. the drugs are excellent these days, but it doesnt help with the fear. jejune days sound like a good remedy, and knitting as much as possible before and after. take care. xx

  7. Oh hugs and more hugs!

    How awful! This (on a much more micro level happened to me - but I managed to throw up all over the doctor concerned - serves him right and did me a power of good!

    Zazen! And definitely ask your doctor and surgeon to help! You are so brave!

  8. Oh, I've met John Kabat-Zinn. I used to work with collaborators of his in Bangor, North Wales. Anyway...enough about me. I think your tactic of focussing on now is spot on and I agree with others that talking to your doctor about your fears will make a difference.

  9. I know this has been weighing on you for some time. I can't figure out whether talking about it helps you more or not. I've seen you become really, really distressed talking about it. I'm usually one for talking through things and yes, talking to the Dr will be vital.

    You're going to be a wreck. Lean on your friends to help you get through and take it from someone who knows, focusing on it doesn't help! Hugs.

  10. Oh, how bloody awful! Can't imagine what you went through as a small child and what you are going through now as all those feelings rise to the surface. What about learning some self-hypnosis/creative visualisation techniques so that you can 'escape' to a calm place when you need to. Also, and this may sound silly, but it could help to write a letter from your adult self to your child self telling her all the things she needed to hear at the time of the trauma and telling her you love her, honour her experience and will protect her - I KNOW this sounds weird but I have done this (for various reasons) in the past and it's really quite powerful. And if all else fails you should watch funny movies and eat chocolate!!

  11. Jejune

    Bravery is not the absence of fear - bravery is acknowledging fear and working with it. You are very brave. Remember that!


  12. Oh I'm not surprised that you are more than a bit nervous or worried about it. I have a complete dentist phobia due to childhood experiences that were not nearly as terrible as yours sounds.

    We're all sending hugs and strength over the internets and I'm sure your family and friends (and yarn) will be great supports to you - and hopefully you will feel so strong after it, both mentally as well as physically.

  13. Gah. Definitely tell every medical person who is involved what you went through, or print out your blog post and hand it to them -- good idea!

    I had the same as Rose Red, horrid dental procedures as a kid, and even though my dentist these days is excellent, my inner child still goes into panic mode when I walk in there.

    It is possible that they can prescribe something Valium-ish that you can take at home before you have anything done.

    And isn't it striking how much we still are our scared child selves about some things?

  14. My heart is aching for you. The feelings and fear are so real. I think the advice to let the med folks know what frightens you and why is good. When I had surgery recently, I talked to the team about my fears and they were very accomodating. I am thinking of you and sending as much strength to you as I can.

  15. Sounds like something you need to do both on a physical and emotional level ... travel this decision yourself. This time, you will call the shots. Not your parents or strangers. You have an opportunity to be an active, informed decision-maker ... what to do, when to do it, and so. That in and of itself may be EMPOWERING beyond believe once you go through the process. As a result, you may have an opportunity to pacify your own inner child.

    Wish you didn't have to go through it - but may you go through it ON YOUR OWN TERMS, as you need to, when you need to ...

  16. Damn, just finished a comment and blugger swallowed it.

    I'm with HGB and Penny and you've already said what you need to do, which is to take this only as each moment arrives. I think that writing that letter to your little girl-self is a great idea and I also think that your understanding that the choices are made repeastedly throughout this process is useful to know.

    Please make sure that your surgeon knows that if you decide 'no' at ANY point, up to and including when they anaesthetise you, then that choice needs to be respected and NOT cajoled.

    The nursing staff needs to know this as well, because we are absolute buggers/bullies when it comes to trying to get people to do things 'for their own good'! It has it's place on occasion but not with a person suffering PTSD. So, make a booking to see the CNC of the ward of where you're going to be getting the surgery done and discuss it so she knows to ensure that this is handed over to the pre-op nurse.

  17. As quite a few people have already pointed out, yes. Discuss this with your doctors. ESPECIALLY the PTSD triggers. If they're worth anything (and they sound like they are) they will pay attention and work with you on this stuff. They can't know unless you tell them. Even if it's in your medical records,they don't know how you FEEL about it. I know the first reaction in all of us is to be a brave little soldier and suck it up. You know what? As I learned from my own truamatic ortho surgery - I'd rather be a comfortable wuss than a tortured brave person. Demand drugs. Bravery is for firing squads and parenthood. When they're putting hardware in you, it's time for drugs.

    Big, big hugs. Hang in there.

  18. Big hugs...

    if you need anything - ANYTHING...you let me know...

    (I'm not afraid of dr's or hospitals, so if you want someone to knit with while you're there, just say!!)


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