You would think that 31 years of yoga would safeguard a person against having a full hip replacement at the age of 49. I would have hoped so but for me it was not meant to be. I share many of the features of my mother, and arthritic hips, as well as a tendency towards hyper-mobility, seem to be one of the less glamorous genetic codes of hers I’ve inherited. I can find myself falling into the trap of actually blaming the 30 years of yoga, making me ask myself, have I pushed my joints to the extreme? Am I to blame for the pain I find myself in? Well, maybe but what would have become of me had I chosen a life of the sloth, or couch potato. Or equally, that of a marathon runner, or taken up golf or tennis? Yoga has been my sport, my health, my refuge and my life. And my left hip has needed to be replaced. I guess it just is as it is.
3 years I’ve fought with the notion of replacement. Stubborn denial, focused rehab, dedicated practice and present precise movement have kept me going as my hip slowly deteriorated right under my nose. It’s a blessing and a challenge to be so body aware. For years I’ve felt the embodiment of my bones, my muscles, and myofascial muscle trains. I’ve explored the internal world in depth, studied with some somatic experts, explored ideas and concepts at length to learn more about how and why we move in the way we do. It can be honestly quite exhausting to be so present to the very day, very real pain of a single joint. To know that symmetry and structure is what is required even when you what you would really like to do is slouch and slope out.
So when my consultant told me I would be very lucky not to need a replacement within one year I scoffed. No, I said, I’ll be fine. I’m working on it, I’ll yoga my way out of this one I decided. And work on it I did. With the help of a friend and local PT expert (Sarah Gorman – Blendfit ) I strengthened my glutes, worked on my core and lengthened my quads. With the help of my husband (Ben Parker -Osteopath ) I was straightened, stretched and massaged on a weekly basis. I have this I thought as I dipped into chair and lunged into Warrior I. Then I didn’t. The pain was too much, I started to struggle not to walk with a limp. I stopped walking. Stairs became a problem. I need to push down on the table to stand up. I felt older than my years as Warrior II became simply impossible. The time had come to face facts and a telephone call secured my next appointment, brought forward by 3 months.
He was not surprised, of course. I had lasted 6 months of his prediction, and I signed the consent form to go onto the waiting list for a full replacement. I was too young for this everyone kept telling me, along with all the many stories of older mothers doing oh so well. I braced myself for d-day and carried on doing daily squats, bridge and dancer pose. The degeneration seemed to speed up. Was it because I knew surgery was on the horizon or was it because it was a slippery slope to worn cartilage and loss of bone density? I waited, ever present to the long waiting lists and the echo of my GP telling me that due to a backlog caused by the covid crisis the wait could be as long as 3 years!
Just 2 months later I got a date, 11 September, (troubling date). I had to bite my lip to stop myself politely declining. “Sorry, it’s really not necessary anymore”, I silently spoke in my head whilst agreeing out-loud that that date would be fine, thank you. 11 September, along with being the date of one of the most catastrophic events in history, meant compromise. I would miss taking my son to his first day at Uni, I would miss the first day of my own new MA course, I would miss a party. But hey, small price to pay for a new hip and the new freedoms it would bring. I geared up, focused, tunnel vision in the gym, appointments changed, schedules adapted, I organised the rest of September like a military operation, ready for my first ever operation. Two days before I was due in hospital I reached that wonderful place where I felt ready and full prepared. Like the day or so before Christmas when you’ve bought all you’re willing to buy and wrapped all that needs wrapping and to hell with it if anything else has been forgotten. I surrendered to the process and poured myself a drink . Then the process was cancelled. Shortage of staff I was told, another covid casualty.
Sometimes I think that if didn’t instinctively know, after years of conscious practice, to breath myself better I would be a mess. This was one of those moments. Stop, Lucy and just breathe. So breathe I did and 20 minutes of silent meditation later I got back onto the wheel. Reinstated my diary and rescheduled my clients. Hell, it’s not even that bad I told myself, I’ve got this. Although, I had already missed the party.
I’m fortunate to have only waited a further month until the next call came in. 2nd November if that’s ok for you Mrs Parker? Wonderful, I would love to, yes please, count me in. The new date loomed with me in this weird twilight mixture of fear, anticipation and denial. If you can cancel once, you can cancel again I surmised. But cancel again they did not and on Tuesday 2nd November at 7.30am I kissed goodby to my wonderful husband, bid him farewell in the hospital car park, and hobbled alone and masked up onto the ward. In so many ways I had lucked in. I was on an NHS waiting list but due to the strains and stresses on the NHS hospitals my surgery was farmed out to a local private hospital The Spire. How glad was I, as having sampled the care of our local emergency ward a year or so earlier, I did not feel overjoyed at the thought of returning.
My room was simple, bland, but clean and functional. And importantly all mine. My bathroom bright and white, my bed electric and the lighting a little too bold. I unpacked my PJ’s, propped up my books by my bed, unfolded my laptop and sat down to wait. Having had nil by mouth since the previous night I was a tad peckish but was given only measured half cup of water every hour. With a 7.30am arrival time I guessed a morning surgery was likely. Little did I know it was not going to be till 7.5 hours later, at 3pm that I would be called to theatre. We used the time as best we could. My wonderful nurse Diana took care to check my notes, to take to an X-ray to guide the surgery and aid me with the snazzy surgical socks that are a norm these days to ward off blood clots. She tells me I’m too young to have a hip replacement. She say it as if she’s fearful she could be next, apparently she too practices yoga and has a tendency towards hyper -mobility. I breathed and meditated, I watched a few You Tube videos on embodiment, I calmed my nervous stem and said my final words of thanks to my left femoral head. It was a long wait and the hunger did not help the butterflies in my stomach.
Soon after what should have been lunch a robed-up Mr Ahmed appeared un-announced. When it comes to the crunch there doesn’t seem to be an awful lot to say just moments before someone consensually removes your hip. I teach anatomy with my husband as part of my yoga teacher training and the voice of Ben saying that surgery is part butchery and part finesse lingers in my ear. “Do I have any questions?‘ he asks. I think of about a million all at once and say none. It seems trite to ask him to take care, to be gentle and to keep both my legs the same length, please. He reassures me, draws an extra large arrow on my left leg in permanent maker and gets me to sign a very long multi-page consent document. 5 mins later he’s off to remove another one, four in a row today. That went well I try to convince myself. I stop, breath and sip some more water.
Next comes the anaesthetist. He’s a jolly old soul and looks like he could knock someone out in his sleep. You’re too young to have a hip replacement he tells me, like it’s the first time I’ve heard such a notion. Research states that recovery is enhanced if a patient undergoes full hip arthroplasty without a general anaesthetic but taken under a spinal tap, or lumbar puncture alone. So it seems I could choose to be awake enough to hear the sound of the saw and the thud of the hip as it hits the bucket, metaphorically speaking of course. Although I have a slight macabre thought of the bright lights of the theatres and the ‘thill of it all’ I opt to be as sedated as possible. I managed to have my babies with gas and air alone, but this one I would rather not witness first-hand. By way of comforting me I am told, as a post script, that the hip will not ‘hit the bucket’ anyway until it’s endured it’s final measuring and testing post being useful to move my leg around. I sign the next set of consent forms and he’s off. I think I hear a merry tune being whistled as he leaves my room and softly closes the door behind him.
When the final call came I wasn’t ready. I needed a wee and had to finish off a few text messages. I walked down the corridor in my gown and turned left at the end of the hall. Security coded double doors open and we enter what must be the pre–op room. We meet another nurse, she tells me I’m too young to have a hip replacement, I say it’s a bit late for that. The surreal enters my thoughts, why must I wear a read writs band to show the ‘danger’ of my allergies, to cats? Will there be a cat in there? Next door the operating theatre is noisy, full of laughter, chat and a few bangs and crashes. “They’re just finishing off the last one”, I’m told. I’m asked to sit on the edge of the trolly, to assume the pose of an ‘angry prawn’. I sit, gown open, naked from behind to fold forward exposing my vertebrae, readying for the needle, arms draped over my knees. It goes in and I’m grateful for the certainly of the recent final wee in my room as the warm sensation of the anastatic pours down my thighs to numb my legs. I’m lowered onto my right side, propped up and wedged in as if I were being held in a vice. Which I guess I was. “How are the drugs?”, I was asked, “I’ve had better”, I said as a joke but perhaps it was heard of as more of a challenge as the very next moment I was out cold.
Earlier in the day I was told the procure routinely took about an hour and that my surgeon was pretty speedy. So it was surprising that the clock showed nearly 5.30 as I blinked myself awake in the post op waiting area. “You’ve got metal in you now”, my nurse told me. “Good job”, the anaesthetist cheered on his way out, already dressed in his civvies. My surgeon appeared looking like the cat who had just got the cream. Your replacement has been a huge success he tells me, I’ll be sending a photographer in the morning and you’ll be walking unaided by tea time. And whoosh he was gone. I felt woozy and pretty sure I was hallucinating. As I was trundled back to my room I tried to wriggle toes, I wanted to bend my knee, to touch my thigh. Nothing, no sensation, I literally was paralysed from the pelvis down.
So I waited again, lying there like a limp rabbit I waited for my legs to return looking around me at the new things that had appeared. The canular in the back of my hand, the high tec hot blanket over my body, the glow of the red ‘ready’ light on the TV, the extra large plater on my left thigh. I must have drifted off as my nurse bid me good night and the shift changed at 7.30pm. A new, bright and assured nurse appeared to check my feet for signs of life. She tells me I’m too young to have a hip replacement, I close my eyes again and will my legs to wake up as she feeds me anaesthetic through the tubes and offers tea & biscuits. Perhaps it’s a sign of good hospital if you’re offered a high standard of biscuit on a regular basis? It takes two nurses to yank me up the slippery surface of the bed. I am an awkward kind of upright, sitting on creased sheets and propped up by plastic pillows. Back resting on the bed, legs useless, canular poking into my wrist. I dutifully sip my tea and crunch down on my biscuit grateful for something to eat at last.
Next comes a cheese sandwich. Still no legs, but the soft bread and salty cheese are a good antidote to the super sweet Viennese swirl. I’ve not thus far mentioned the routinely obs. Heart function, oxygen count, temperature. Every 30 mins. It’s more regular than a hot meal and not so comforting. I’m told my legs will return to me soon along with my bionic hip but sleep will be nigh on impossible as hourly interruptions during the night are required. Fair enough I think, it’s not everyday a piece of you is replaced with titanium and ceramic. I’m ‘put to bed’ at 10pm. Which is basically where I’ve been all day but finally official. I settle down for a troubled night and test my toes, maybe I can feel something in my right big toe?
The night involves, obs, drugs, more drugs, extra drugs and drugs. It’s a veritable Ibiza silent disco with two left feet. I’m woozy and a bit blind drunk as I rest through to morning. Morning starts briskly at 6am with tea and more biscuits, it’s a very English affair. A new nurse arrives for new obs, she tells me I’m too young to have a hip replacement. I know it sounds like a joke by now but really it’s true. As if I could change it by repetition or word as if my new bionic hip was not meant to be and might not actually fit inside my ever so young frame. I eat breakfast at 8am, a feats of poached eggs on toast, yogurt and fruit salad. It’ fresh and delicious. My legs have returned to me overnight and the future looks bright. I message my husband, a bright cheery message about how I am and my weird, hilarious hallucinations about Mr Ahmed sending down PR to cover my success story.
Yesterdays nurse Diana arrives with a familiar mini paper cup full of drugs. Two white ones and a special looking yellow number. I swallow them down and call Ben to tell him more of my triumphant return from surgery to recovery and then feel my temperature rise at the pace of a forest fire. 30 seconds later I’m sicker than a dog and in so much pain I need to stop and breath to stay alive again. I discover the magical yellow pill is actually a slow releasing opioid that might be worth £100’s on the black market. Expensive as it may be it’s knocked me totally off my rocker and I’ll not be having another one anytime soon. It’s going to be a long day I conclude.
Next up is physio. An alluring Zimmer frame and booster seat for my W.C are installed. I’m beginning to feel very much old enough for this. Remember I’ve been practicing yoga for over 30 years and have been teaching for almost half of that now so naturally I’ve been doing some sneaky stretches under the sheets. I’ve checked my ankle mobility, began to work my quads, squeezed my glutes and experimented with bending and straightening my operated leg. All good so far, now for the next stage of getting out of bed. It’s a delicate balance of courage and care. Once upright I’m presented with my Zimmer. Honestly my first feeling is one of disgust. I know it’s an irrational thing, and one day a zimmer might just represent my final thread of freedom but for now, at 49, I’m very much less than keen. I stand, zimmer in hand and take my fist steps. Once we reach the corridor and are about 5 steps outside of my room it thankfully becomes pretty obvious I’ve already reached advanced zimmer stage. My physio retreats to her office to retrieve some crutches leaving me feeling rather helpless and stupid in my dressing down and trainers down the hall. Once sized up I find the crutches less of an assault on my dignity and more of a challenge. Right then, lets do this.
It’s slow but manageable and my main focus is staying balanced with good posture. I notice my glutes feel deadened & swollen, my quads twinge, my knee pings, my ankle buckles and my wound prickles but I’m back. I’m on my feet and ready to fly. I walk half day down the hall and back and I’m spent. Back to bed and a sleep is needed from all the energy spent. Maybe this is gong to take a little longer than a day? I’m thankful for my lunch and for the messages from my friends & family. I reach for my homeopathic remedies from Helios and am thankful for the more holistic approach to healing they offer. I’m grateful for the care from the hospital. I’m grateful my obs are so consistently ‘spot on’. I think I need another little snooze.
Less than 24 hours after the op my surgeon Mr Ahmed wakes me from my more recent slumber. He’s dressed more in Armani than PPE now and he’s all groomed and glossy. I feel a little sweaty and unclean. It sets the scene for an odd conversation to come. Turn’s out he’s delighted with the way the replacement went. Mainly due to fact that he had taken the time to carry out a ‘minimally invasive, piriformis saving’ procedure that was robotically assisted and pretty cutting edge. I smiled. He’s so happy in fact that indeed it is his intention, with my permission of course, to send down marketing to record my progress. I wasn’t hallucinating after all, I am this months hip replacement cover girl!
It pains me to say the second evening night nurse was a bit more brusque. I guess it’s a personality thing, or a training thing, or more about expectations and previous experience but I felt a little less like a princess and a little more patient under her care. At least she doesn’t tell me I’m too young for this and we muddle through the night dancing around each others requests as if we’re playing chess.
A highlight of the day being when I was presented with a mighty fine cheese and egg salad that eased my mood a little owning to the bright colours on the plate and freshness of the tomatoes. Thanks to the attentive catering team for managing my vegetarian needs.
The next day comes with the promise of a return home. Straight after the marketing lady from upstairs has jotted down notes from my interview and taken a few shots of me walking down the hall with just one single crutch. I’m feeling far from glamorous but I’ve managed to change out of my Pjs at least. A visit from the pharmacist brings a bag of drugs, drugs to combat pain, drugs to thin my blood and drugs to take to minimise the side effects of all the drugs. It’s a big bag! “Thank you” I say, feeling less than holistic about the pharmaceuticals, and keeping a tight hold on my remedies. I’m helped to pack up my bits and bobs, helped to box up the loo seat booster and armed with my crutches and drugs I sit to wait for the moment my husband appears to whisk me home.
Seeing Bens face waiting patiently outside the ward at the end of the corridor is one of my happiest moments, ever. I stumble a little, (back on two for crutches now), and walk gracelessly towards him and out into the November air. Seconds later my stuff has been packed into the car boot and I’m on my way home. I wave goodbye to the friendly nurses and promptly start to cry. They’re the first tears since I was dropped off two day ago. They’re tears of relief and need to be shed. We drive home silently, the car warm and our breath matching each others as we subliminally calm each other down. Tomorrow is a new day and I’m getting ready to embrace it for all it has in store.
I’m delighted to say that just 14 days on I’m up and walking crutch free. I’ve been delving into my homeopathic remedies daily (thanks to John at Helios) and I’m also rolling out my mat once again and moving back into somatic sensing and mindful re-balancing. I know it’s going to be a long road with many twist and turns but isn’t that always the case. Even when we don’t want it t be or especially when we refuse to accept the truth. There will be highs and there will be lows, it’s just the way the pendulum swings and I had better remember that on my path back to health.
If you’re interested in the process, or want to read more about my experience then do keep your eyes peeled for my updates and videos over the following weeks. For as we all know, it is our experiences that become our teachers and our knowledge that leads to a deeper understanding .
It’s been three weeks now since my surgery. I started walking crutch free after just two and was actually excited to see how well my scar is healing on my thigh. I’m navigating the healing progress slowly and steadily with only a few set backs of pain, mainly deferred from my awkward seated posture and uneven gait. I’m rolling out the mat daily and am forever grateful for the patience of Ben who’s cooking me delicious food as well as supporting me through regular osteopathy sessions to straighten me out, which feels quite frankly vital!
If you’re facing a similar procedure and would like some help, advice and support do get in touch with me through FLOW 1-2-1. I’ll soon be offering a bespoke Hip Rehab Plan, in partnership with Ben, to help you get the very best out of your own experience and process. Learning from my first hand experiences and pulling from our shared years of practice and know-how. In fact, here is a testimonial from one client Diana who I’ve already had the pleasure of helping, (soon after her hip replacement and not long before mine!) ….
“Thank you a fabulous session today. It was just what I needed and looking for. Feeling very good afterwards.” Diana
“The 1-2-1 online class with Lucy was spot on – tailored to what I needed. Thank you!” Pauline
GET IN TOUCH WITH LUCY TO DISCUSS YOUR OWN HIP ISSUES AND SEE HOW WE CAN WORK TOGETHER BEFORE AND AFTER YOUR SURGERY TO ENSURE THE VERY BEST RECOVERY FOR YOU TOO! https://flowtunbridgewells.com/1-2-1-yoga/
Go easy people and take good care of your joints!
AND NOW FOR THE UPDATES….
4 weeks on this….
And then this…
PS> I wanted to add a very special thanks to my surgeon Mr Ahmed and the wonderful nursing and catering team at The Spire. Heartfelt thanks to Ben Parker, (Osteopathy) Sarah Gorman, (Blendfit) and Maya & John at Helios for all the excellent treatments, classes and remedies. Also, to my wonderful teachers at Flow who gladly covered my classes during my rehab and my children for making me tea and giving regular hugs. Finally, many thanks to my left hip, for being there when I needed it and for surrendering gracefully when the time came.
PPS> IMPORTANT CAVEAT.….Please note that the events expressed above are my events, and mine only. They are my experience, based on my own very unique set of circumstances and should not be confused or connected in anyway with anyone else. This blog is in no way meant to be offering any suggestions, advice or recommendations to you. I am not a surgeon and do not at any time, ever wish to offer you advice as to whether you should or should not choose to undergo your own hip replacement surgery. That said, I am very happy to hear from you and hear where you are at on your journey. Maybe we can help each other out somehow?
UPDATES: & OBSERVATIONS…
Since writing this blog time has passes, as it does and things have changed, as they do. So I thought it might be interesting / useful for me to record some of my progress as I go. Please note that these timelines are my experience, based on my own set of circumstances, my support network and my body. This does not mean that you should or will experience the same thing. However, it still might be beneficial to see what could be on the horizon for you.
Week 1 – Manage to walk first with two crutches then by day 5 just with one. Keeping up with the homeopathy pills (Hypericum for pain, phosphorus for healing, Calendula for skin and Arnica for everything!) Only walking up and down stairs once a day and super tired. Bit emotional and grumpy! Being very well looked after by my family and being very good with the regular pain killers and keeping my surgical socks on!
Week 2 – I start to march on the spot and it makes me realise I don’t need my crutches at all! I need to ‘march’ to get started but still it’s progress to walk unaided. At the 2 week mark I get my dressing removed by the nurse in my GP surgery. Hallelujah! It feels great to have this off and to be able to see my scar at last. The healing process has been really good and my skin is healed. Onto the Calendar cream for skin healing. By the end of this week I treat myself to a luxurious soak in the bath. Pure Bliss,, especially after a much needed brush down with my dry skin brush followed by lots of oils ….(Tip, step in with good leg and bring operated leg in backwards!)
Week 3 – I take a trip out to town and walking around outside finally feels so great! I also manage a trip up to London with the family to see the Van Gogh expo. I’ve rolled out my mat and have started moving. So, so good to move, carefully and super mindfully. I can manage cat / cow, and low lunges. Great to be in spinx working glutes on my front. Also, enjoying careful chair pose and some balances. Later this week I have a relapse. Think I’ve pushed it too far and have to spend a much needed day in bed. Flexion is really the challenge here….However, by the end of the week I can put on my own sock and am taking no more pain killers!
Week 4 – Back to work week! After much thought I’ve started teaching again. I can get down onto my mat and back again through cat and kneeing with blocks to sit on. It’s all pretty good and the movement is better than staying still all day. Actually, sitting at my desk with my hip in flexion for hours on end is defo the worst of it. Starting to use an exercise ball and light resistance bands. By the end of this week I’m off to my gym for a swim. I can’t manage breast-stroke legs but some crawl kicks feel good and I sneak in lots of stretches and strength work in the pool. I slip into the jacuzzi and the steam room and they feel super nurturing and supportive of both my body as well as my mind.
Week 5 – Things are really beginning to feel much better. My walking is less laboured and I can walk up and down the stairs unaided! (Very handy when you’re carrying up two cups of tea!). I’m still a bit sore and know that there is still a long way to go before I can consider myself ‘fixed’ but I would imagine that the worst of it is over and I’m ready to see where my new hip takes me next!
Week 7 – I’ve discovered yoga in the pool! The other members of my gym must think I’m a bit bonkers but it’s just so brilliant to explore my range of movement, rotation, flexion and extension in the water. It’s getting better by the day and noticeably the range of movement is improving and developing so well. I’m also able to swim breast stroke which offers a great rotation of the hips and encourages me to stabilise the movement with my core.
Week 9 – It’s truly amazing what I can do now. I had the most emotional hour on my mat (out of the water) this morning realising that I could move ease-fully and painlessly into so many postures I’ve been avoiding for almost 2 years! For the yogi’s reading these are postures like horse, warrior II and cobblers pose. Basically anything with an exterior rotation and made worse with a horizontal abduction. I’m driving as much as I like, I’m in and out of the car easily and taking long walks for the fun of it!!!
Week 11 – Look who I saw! Mr Ahmed invited me in for a review. He was very impressed with my recovery and I had to confess I was very impressed with his surgery so it was win win!
Week 12 – In response to Mr Ahmed’s suggestions and I’m now starting to get onto a bike trainer and build my cardio back. I’m still swimming and increasing my strength and stamina. I’m also ease fully gliding around a yoga mat, both in teaching as well as self practice. My most exciting revelation today was to be able to sit down onto the floor and get back up again hands free. Try it, it’s perhaps not as easy as it sounds, especially with a synthetic left hip!
I’m now 4 months post surgery and wish to give you my final update. Honestly I feel better than ever, have full mobility back in my hip, am walking pain free and can move through my regular yoga practice, and life, with ease!
If you’re thinking about having a hip replacement and are still feeling a bit anxious, nervous or unsure, please do feel free to drop me a line and I’ll be very happy to share my experience with you. You might even want to set up some tailored sessions with me before or after surgery to get you back to full health, happiness and vitality.
Until next time.