30 July 2008

When to jump?

This is my family at Hughes (Canberra) in March 1967 - me in frog leg plaster, age 2 1/2 - one of many double hip spica casts (the brown thing on my knee is a leather pad my dad made to protect the plaster cast when I was pulling myself around - I got very strong arms!). Don't you love my mum's cooool glasses and hairdo?! And don't even look at my pesky little brother in the bassinette - he's a lovely guy now, but it took a while ;)

So yeah. Saw the surgeon today. Nice young man, really liked him. He agrees that my hip joint needs full replacement. There's a slight possibility that reshaping & resurfacing the femur head might be best - still major surgery, but not a full joint replacement. But really, the writing is on the wall, there is moderate osteoarthritis in the joint, and it needs to be replaced.

The problem with a joint replacement is that once it's done, that's it - if (when) it fails, you have to have more surgery to replace it. And the life of a replacement is finite. 10-15 years, at a guess. 20 years if you're lucky. So once I have this done, I have to KEEP having it done. The average age for this sort of surgery is the mid-70s - I'm 30 years below that, and looking at repeat surgeries.

He was very sympathetic, and said it was hardly surprising that I had PTSD. He said the anaesthetist can help there, and make sure I'm doped out well before leaving my room for surgery, and sedated / calmed as I require.

(Me in the Royal Canberra Hospital with a pretty nurse and a pile of new toys - this photo was in The Canberra Times newspaper; I think it was to illustrate a story on the newly opened Children's Ward. May 1966?).

The unexpected thing is that since Dr Smith (really his name!) is only just back in Australia after working in the UK, his list is short, and basically, there's practically no wait 0_o . So once I make a decision, it's all on. Erk. I was expecting a 1-2 year waiting list...

The ball is entirely in my court now, no pressure at all. I have some scary stuff to read, about what happens before, during and after the surgery, and all the associated medical risks of such an operation, and the lengthy rehab afterwards. I want to talk with my other doctors / physio / family too.

It's basically a decision about quality of life. How much more pain, weakness, and restricted movement do I want to put up with? I'm used to the weakness and restricted movement - I've had those life long, but the pain is becoming pretty constant, despite my medications and physio. Offset that with the risks of surgery. At least there's no cost - thank goodness for Medicare!

Well, I'll (eventually) have an excuse to never ever go jogging or play high impact sports - some of the things you can't do with an artificial hip. Not that I do them anyway, but, y'know ... nice to have an excuse ... And I can make all the security screeny thingies go beep.


  1. Those are both such gorgeous photos!

    It seems like kind of a miracle - covered by medicare, no waiting time! Yet I do understand why it feels like the opposite. Give yourself a bit of time to jumble all the elements around in your mind (I think it helps to allow yourself to NOT consciously try think about it/decide, for a while) and you'll come to the right choice for you.

  2. I love those photos! What a cutie you are/were. And I can totally see you in your dad's face.

    It's a huge decision, but the surgeon sounds lovely and he also sounds like he understands. I would imagine that he would have quite a few younger patients who have gone through the same kind of hell that you have.

    I'll form a casserole committee from the Canberra Stitch n Bitchers when/if it comes time, OK?


  3. Well first, bearing in mind what you have said: resist the urge to jump from now on!! It's good luck there is a spot, and that it is FREE!!
    Lovely photos, I remember my mum looking like that: the hair, etc!!!

  4. Agree(1) to Michelle's post.

    The question of whether to undergo the trauma of surgery and recovery a number of times vs relative the pain-free-ness of having things fixed and no osteoarthritis is a decision that can only be made by you. The thing is not to panic too much, and to have some "my time" to really let the universe give you the answer.

    And if the time does come, I'll be making casseroles with Mick. :)

  5. Oh yes, your mum could be my mum - that hair, those glasses!!

    And aren't you a cutie with all those toys! Hope they didn't take them all away from you after the photo shoot!

    I'm one of those people who prefers not to read all the literature and especially the risks - it just scares me more. Lots of people also find it more comforting to know that stuff - you'll find your happy medium in it all and come to the right decision in the end I'm sure.

  6. The universe has opened this right up hasn't it?! It all seems to be falling into place, but you need to feel ready. My casseroles taste like crap, but I can help Michelle! Take care.

    On a different note - Starbucks is closing this weekend!!! Where to now?!

  7. Great photos! Did all our mums have that hair and those glasses at some point cos mine did too! As for the operation stuff, it does all sound very positive - nice understanding surgeon, no waiting lists and Medicare funded. Take the time you need to make your decision but in the end it does sound like something you are just going to have to go through - and aren't you lucky having people already offering to cook meals for you!

  8. I've seen 3 of the 'girls' in QLD go for hip/knee replacements...

    ALL of them were better off...

    and the woman who had the knee done said that if she had the choice in the future she'd go for the replacement first, without the "repair" measures 5 years previous...

    as for casseroles...I *can* do one of those, but if you'd prefer wine and someone to drink it with!


  9. Dear jejune, one of my old coworkers had a double hip replacement in his early 40's around 2003. The doctor told him he had the hips of an 80 year old! An active fellow, he wanted to regain pain-free mobility. And so he took the plunge and had the work done.

    I agree with Olivia that "it seems like kind of a miracle - covered by Medicare, no waiting time!" And no pressure, too. Even though the stars are all in alignment for the surgery, it has to be when YOU are ready, too.

    From your post, it sounds like you are getting ready to make your decision.

    Whatever you decide, it will be right for YOU. Your body is amazing - it will adapt, heal, and do wonderful things for you. I learned that from my last surgery which while very much needed was still elective, my choice. I am so glad I made the choice to have my surgery - but equally important, I had an excellent doctor.

    Another thing is to prepare yourself physically for the surgery. Make sure you're well hydrated, etc.

    Best regards! Hugs ...

  10. A family friend, an old cowboy, has had both hips replaced twice and is getting ready for a third go around. (He's in his mid 80s) He hates the recuperation time, but it's worth it for the pain-free mobility. I'm sending peace and courage your way.

  11. I'm sure I don't have to state the obvious, but I will anyway because we all need to hear it, over and over: Only YOU can decide quality of life issues for YOU. Sure, listen to advice, learn all you can, talk to everyone. But then YOU do what YOU know is best for YOURSELF.

    That said, I can't think of anyone I know who had joint replacement and regretted it. And I did have someone on their second knee (third, counting the original he was born with) tell me to get the joint done as soon as you know it is needed. He said waiting only made the muscles and other tissues around the joint worse, and lengthened recovery time on the other side of the surgery.

    Glad the surgeon is understanding about the PTSD. Better living through chemistry. Oh - if you can, talk to the anesthesiologist ahead. Many of them are trained for situations like yours, and even if THEY don't learn anything new from you (which I doubt), you'll come away feeling reassured. Which is always a good thing.

    And big hugs.

  12. I was 17 in 1967 and looked just like your Mom. Your pictures are great. What a cute and happy little girl you were despite what you were going through.
    I can't help out with the casserole committee but what ever decision you make will be the one best for you. You are young and speaking from recent knee surgery the older you get the harder it is to get back up & going.

  13. Hi there
    I just read your post and I feel for you. What a decision to make. My daughter had a spica cast when she was 2 and a half and I used to drag her around on a skateboard. She fell off a few times so I put some trolley wheels on a wider board.She broke her femur whilst tripping on the curtains ( yes kids, you really shouldnt run through the house)so its not nearly the same. I just remember that cast. *shudder* I hope whatever you decide gives you the result you want. Best wishes.

  14. What beautiful photos. You really are a slice of Canberra aren't you, between the Stromlo stuff, the new children's ward photo etc. I love it.

    This is such a scary thing for you, I know. Hang in there.

  15. How cute you are!!

    But your decision - although the bit about never jogging would possibly tilt me in favour....

  16. I love seeing pictures from the late sixties of parents. All moms wore their hair that way, wore the same type of dress and had those glasses.

    Sounds like you lucked out with your surgeon. Having someone like that on your side will help make the whole process go a lot smoother.

    It seems like the ball is in your court. You can control the situation and make the right decisions for yourself.

    Big Hugs:)

  17. Your child self does look very cheerful and spunky considering what she was going through!

  18. crapola. i dont think there is any list of pros that is going to outweigh the con list with fear at the top of it. altho tink is right, the no jogging thing, i like that. still, huge decision, nothing i say will help except that i am thinking of you xx

  19. Wonderful photos.I had thought of dragging out some myself,LOL
    So sorry to read of your surgery! Ill stop whinging about my fingers now!

  20. In the 15 years before you'll need a new hip, the process could be so advanced that it will be completely different. To be able to have all those years without the pain would be such a gift. A coworker just came back from the same surgery (degenerative disease in the hip and full replacement) and she's so glad she did it. She walks without pain for the first time in years. I'm thinking all kinds of positive thoughts for you.

  21. Prof Smith is a fantastic surgeon, the only thing I don't like is that he is so tall I have to stand on tippy toes to do up his gown for surgery! I would wish you luck, but I know in his hands you won't need it - you'll do great

    The photos are really cute, we have a similar one of my parents, me and my sister in Adelaide in the early 70's.


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