25 November 2009

Jiggity jig

I came home today, on Day 8 after surgery, to the gentle ministrations of Dr Petal (licks and cuddles a speciality). It is very very good to be home, despite feeling a bit anxious at times with no nurses to ask about things. I'm pretty wiped out, but hope to have a much better night's sleep tonight than I've had in over a week, and having my MIL here is helping no end, with housework and delicious meals (and good company!).

There is still a lot to do in the weeks ahead - frequent blood tests, GP appointments, checking my INR (blood viscosity) levels, making sure my Warfarin doses are right, physio appointments at the hospital twice a week, and so on. But being home is just wonderful.

For the incurably curious, those going in for THR, or those who just like medical stuff (I know, it's weird, but they do exist apparently!), you can see a photo of about half of my wound here. This was taken at about a week post-op; the metal staples will be removed next Tuesday (14 days post-op). The old scars running along the top of my leg are from my childhood surgeries, 40+ years ago.

You have been warned ... it's not bloody, just a fairly radical piercing!

ETA : The wound is healing very well; it's basically covered all the time, apart from when the dressings are changed, which has only been 2 or 3 times so far (so the photo was snapped in mid-change). It's dry, and doing all the right things, which is a relief.

23 November 2009

... and back again

Good grief, it's been a rough week, one I don't care to repeat. Ever. Here's a summary of where things are up to, from my hospital bed. I'm on Day 6 post op now.

The THR took around 4 hours, twice as long as expected. Despite planning on a ceramic/ceramic joint, in the end I've got a ceramic femur head (48 mm very small), a short stem into the femur, and a plastic (polycarbonate?) acetabulum, which gives better coverage.

Some surgeon told me on Day 1 that I've been ordered permanent hip restrictions, because of the smallness of my bones and replacement and weird anatomy. But when I checked with my surgical team this morning they had no record of this! So I'll need to wait to hear back from Dr Smith about this (he's on holidays).

Main problems have been :

Low blood pressure (still a problem), I get very dizzy and nauseated when I sit and stand up. I'm often on oxygen to help with this.

My left knee is very swollen and extremely painful, can tell when meds are wearing off by the state of my knee! Have had it x-rayed, still waiting on the report.

Pain management - I couldn't have a femoral nerve block, and my dear surgeon stopped my PCA after 12 hours (don't know why, nurses weren't impressed either!), there was some miscommunication about getting me onto alternative pain relief, the first few days were hellish.

I got a small blood clot in my lungs. My legs are all clear (had an ultrasound). My chest x-ray was clear, but my chest CT scan showed a clot. Am on Warfrin now for 6 months, and now have a lifelong risk of future blood clots too :/ For joy.

Crazed woman with severe dementia is in the bed across from me (I'm in a 4 bed room), who is 94, and talks / yells / demands non-stop when awake. Which seems to be most of the time, especially overnight. Even the saintly nurses can't stand her, which is saying something. She is making an already difficult situation much more unpleasant and distressing.

The good things :

My surgeon is happy with how the operation went, I didn't lose much blood, and didn't need a transfusion.

My leg length difference has probably been fixed (about 1 cm increase).

I'm starting to be able to sleep through the night, which is helping hugely. When said roommate is not ranting all night. Ear plugs are essential!

I'm off the walker already and onto my elbow crutches.

My pain meds are being reduced slowly, to see how things go, and I'm not needing oxygen as much.

My next door bed buddy W is lovely. She had a THR some years ago, but fell this week, and has just had another THR on the other hip. She's 81. Early Saturday morning (6 am) they were prepping her for surgery, and while the nurses were saying "You'll be fine" it was clear she was terrified and feeling very alone.

I introduced myself, sat with her for an hour, held her hand, and talked with her about her fear, not just dismissing it (having been there myself!!!) and talked with her about distracting things too, and then lent her my iPod with some calming music. It made a huge difference to her, and I was so glad I could help her out - another hip sister :)

Each day I can see that my mobility is getting better, it's less painful to move my left leg, and things are getting better. But it has been a much more painful experience than I was expecting.

The wound is very clean, only needed the dressing changed on Saturday for the first time. It's a posterior approach, cutting around my hip into my bum. Around 20-25 staples, just saw them for the first time, big metal - yup - staples. Horrible. They'll come out in another week or so. Looks like I've been attacked by a shark.

So that's me ... it's bloody hard and painful, I wasn't really prepared for recovery very well, as I was so focussed on the surgery itself! But the bad bits are mostly behind me now ...

Thank you everyone for all your kind messages and thoughts!

xxxooo Denise

16 November 2009

Nearly there ...

So, it's Monday 16 November, the day before the Big Day for my left hip replacement. I'll probably be in surgery in less than 24 hours from now! My surgeon has allotted 2 hours for the surgery, give or take a bit, I presume. I'm fasting from midnight on, and arriving at hospital at 9am, surgery early afternoon most likely.

My bag is packed, my super easy knitting projects have been started (a washcloth and Yarn Harlot's One Row Scarf), the bills have been paid, everything's ready.

I'm not feeling too bad today - mind you, a regular diet of Diazepam is helping enormously. Wouldn't be coping otherwise! Bit fuzzy in the head, not to be trusted with scissors or knives (my family's decision once they saw me trying to cook last night!), but am more or less okay, mostly. In many ways it will be quite a relief to just get on with it, after roughly 18 months of discussions, planning, medical appointments, waiting, pain, disability, and far too much worrying.

This is my before photo - how the outer side of my left leg looks now, as a result of my childhood surgeries. They're thick in parts because they were cut several times in the same places. I've grown up with these scars, so am very comfortable with them. There's also significant scarring, weird anatomy, and loss of muscle all around my groin, but you ain't getting photos of that!

I'm expecting that Tuesday and Wednesday will be a bit grim ... or at least that I'll be rather doped out on morphine and not coherent. Probably won't be able to knit for a few days, too, depending on where the IV line is put in (hand or elbow being the most likely candidates).

I hope I'll be able to update my blog from hospital (using a nifty little USB modem and hubby's Eee-PC) later on this week. I'll eventually post photos of my leg post-op, too, but will put them in as a link, so you won't have to see them if you don't want to. Could be rather bloody.

Thank you everyone for all your very kind wishes, and sending love, and everything. I really appreciate them all :)

Catch you on the other side - and won't THAT be a good feeling??!!

12 November 2009

Hip Ginger Beret

Hip News

I attended my Pre-Admission Clinic for my hip replacement this week, which took about 3 hours. I had blood and urine tests, baseline readings for blood pressure and so on, hip x-rays (so my surgeon can measure what size implant to have ready), and spoke with a nurse, anaesthetist, and my surgeon's intern. It all went smoothly, and I managed to be surprisingly calm throughout.

The main problem is I can't have a femoral nerve block for pain relief post-op. As I suspected, my hip/groin area is too mangled and abnormal from previous surgeries, with a lot of scar tissue, and very little muscle - the anaesthetist couldn't even find my femoral vein, let alone the nerve. And an epidural isn't recommended; apart from the risk of permanent paralysis, it reacts badly with the DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis) anti-clotting med Clexane which I'll be on for a month. So that means nothing that will numb just my leg for the first 2 days. My surgeon can flood the hip with local anaesthetic which will give me about 12 hours coverage after surgery, and I'll have to rely on PCA (Patient Controlled Analgesia) for the rest.

The one slight up side of this is I won't have an entirely numb leg, and this may make getting mobile (which happens very fast, the day after surgery) a bit easier. But my pain levels may be higher. For joy.

Anxiety is setting in pretty badly now, have started on Diazepam at the lowest dose, but it's probably not enough ... They'll give me a couple of Temazepam as soon as I get to hospital next Tuesday to hopefully knock me out for the 3-4 hour wait for my turn. Surgery will probably be early afternoon, and last several hours.

My bag is packed and ready to go - my main task now is to figure out some good hospital knitting projects! Morphine Lace probably isn't a good option ... I'm thinking a wash cloth or two, a pair of socks, and maybe another brioche stitch beret for when I'm more with it? Any other ideas?

Windmill Beret

It's done, and it's gorgeous! I did the bind off about 5 times ... the main problem was getting the diameter just right to fit my little head. I used the pretty braided bind off that the pattern specifies. It's rather inflexible, though (hence needing to redo it to get the size just right).

Glacé Ginger
This was a bit of fun, trying to make candied ginger at home. I finally managed it on the third recipe. This one works the best. The key is repeated overnight soaking in sugar syrup. The recipe takes 5 days, but only has around 2 hours of cooking time, which is much better energy-wise than many recipes which call for 5+ hours of simmering. It tastes wonderful, too - but basically the same as store-bought ginger.

Did you know you can peel ginger with the rim of a spoon? It's true, and it works well! Hold it so the bowl of the spoon faces away from you. Takes a fair bit of strength, but it goes around all the lumps and bumps, and you lose very little ginger in the process.

My only adjustments to the recipe : I added some water to the syrup each day, around 100-200 ml, otherwise it gets too thick and can caramelise/burn (ask me how I know!). I recommend cutting the ginger into thin slices, around 2-3 mm (not chunks like you buy). Use the youngest ginger you can find, too. Breaking down the thick cellulose fibres is the main obstacle to good candied ginger.

This is how it looked on Day 2 :

And on Day 4 :

But you know what - as fun as this was to make - and OMG the leftover syrup forms the most amazing ginger "toffee" - it's not cost effective, unless you grow your own ginger, or have a very cheap source. I priced crystallised ginger from Woolies at $16/kg, and glacé ginger (on sale) at $24/kg. My batch cost around $20/kg to make ($6 for 300g).

Economies of scale win here - I'm sure the commercial suppliers pay much less than $15/kg for their raw ginger root!

07 November 2009

Happy Book Day

This morning the kids and I went out to visit Joviva Chihuahuas, to meet her latest litter ... just for fun - Dotter was especially taken with this little sweetie pie ... so tiny!

When we got back, look what was waiting for me! A Saturday delivery, no less (very unusual in Australia).

There's really nothing like it, holding your own book in your hands for the first time. Super exciting. Big thanks for Mark Koltko-Rivera for being such an awesome coauthor too! I think that between the two of us we've created something better than either of us could have done alone (well, it's certainly the case for me, at least!).

If you'd like to be a reviewer, and get a free copy, head on over to my Facebook Page for instructions :)

PS I have turned on verification on posting as I've been getting comment spam, hopefully this will fix the problem :p

04 November 2009

Crutch Cosies

Crutches have been an inevitable part of my life in recent months, and the trend is set to continue for a while yet ... I've got my own elbow crutches, which I find more convenient and comfortable than a walking stick or 'normal' underarm crutches - you can at least do stuff with your hands without the blasted things falling over! Very handy when out shopping, or doing stuff in the kitchen.

Apart from plain grey crutches being the bottom of the list of attractive accessories, elbow crutches have the added complication of having a Right and Left crutch. To avoid gauche fumbling when out, it's good to have help in quickly identifying which crutch is which, so one can look suave and in control, LOL. Well, we all have our dreams .... ;)

So these cosies double as awesome decoration, and quick identification (the right one has the purple section on it). The knitted fabric also helps them to stay put when leaning them against things - a bit more friction than a metal surface.

Coming to the rescue - Missability's Walking Stick Cosy pattern! Because of the shape of my elbow crutches I had to knit a flat piece and sew it on (under the elbow cuff and above the hand rests). Actually, I tell a lie. I knitted them, and Dotter sewed them on, after throwing her hands up in horror and unpicking my pathetic attempts at invisible mattress stitch, LOL. She's much better at it than I am!

My adaptation for elbow crutches (knit flat and sewn on) :

Use 4 ply sock yarn and 2.5 mm needles
I used Regia's Kaffe Fasset sock yarn, gorgeous colours!

• Cast on 24 stitches
• Work 8 rows of 1 x 1 ribbing
• Knit to ~ 1 cm short of desired length in stocking stitch / stockinette (or whatever pattern you like)
• Work 8 rows of 1 x 1 ribbing
• Bind off
• Attach to crutch with invisible mattress stitch, preferably using clever daughter

NB : The cosies will generally sit lower than you're expecting. My first cosies ended up being way too short, and even these second ones, which I really thought would be long enough, still sort of scrunch up and sit shorter than I'd like. So if in doubt, knit a bit more!

And isn't this pink fuchsia gorgeous? Fuchsias are one of the few flowers I seem to be able to grow - but I've only ever had the 'classic' coloured one. Bunnings got in this batch of pink ones last week - yummy!

02 November 2009

Would you like a date?

Well, I suppose I would. I guess. How does 17 November sound? Oh, OK, if I have to.

By 18 November the worst will be over, I'll have a ceramic hip, and can start working on that recovery thing ... I'm closing the business for three weeks from next Monday, and starting the Valium around 15 November!

Petal has been brave and had her surgery too, last Friday (desexing and microchipping). She's making a speedy recovery, and I hope I can do the same!

A courier came to the door this morning, with a slender package from Wiley - ooooh, the book??! No - it contained a gift from Laura, the lovely editorial assistant who has interviewed my coauthor Mark and myself for the Dummies' Authors Newsletter - Mark and I each got one of these 'Dummies Authors' kits :

A nice zippered folder, with handy pockets, containing :

A couple of Dummies pens, Post-It notes, a real pad of American US Letter-sized paper, a tiny sewing kit, Dummies bookmarks ...

... a Dummies 1 Gb USB thumb drive ...

... and a Dummies keyring!

I'm all set!