Total hip replacement, 3 weeks on
3 weeks ago I had my right hip replaced following a number of years of increasing stiffness. I am mid 60s, female, and had been very active - regular swimmer, runner, user of weights, gym classes etc. Exercise had probably enabled me to manage the condition for a number of years, but poor posture and gait was starting to generate various muscle strains. A hamstring injury at Easter which stopped me running, and generally deteriorating mobility, led me to see a private physiotherapist in June. He took one look and said it was my hip. He said he had just arranged X rays for another client and the local NHS waiting list just for elective X ray was 8 weeks. He asked if I could afford to to have a consultation with a hip specialist privately. I said yes - £200 for the consultant and £160 for the X rays. I was in the consultant’s office within a week.
The X ray and the consultant’s professional eye confirmed what I probably knew, but had been in denial about - that my hip was distorted, lots of osteoarthritis and bone on bone. There was only one way forward. I am conscious of my privilege in being able to pay to go privately, but faced with a short(ish) private queue (I was still quoted 3-6 months) and knowing others waiting well over a year for NHS surgery, I decided I would get value from using savings to get my life back and went on his private queue with a fixed price package including physio etc costing just a bit less than £14k.
The wait wasn’t actually that long, just over 2 months. I had my operation at a Spire Hospital, a 2 night stay, surgery completed under a spinal anaesthetic with a light sedative. I could hear the banging and talk to the surgeon from time to time. For the technically minded, I had the operation done with a posterior approach, which means I have a nice half moon shaped scar on the side of my leg. The health of my bones and musculature meant the implant didn’t need to be cemented, which I hope will give me a better long term outcome and enable me to return to running.
The operation was in the afternoon and I remained numb and in effect paralysed until around midnight. The next morning, they got me walking with a frame. The following day it was walking with elbow crutches, tackling a couple of stairs and then going home.
3 weeks on, the staples are out and the wound is well healed. I have excellent mobility in the new joint and am gradually rebuilding strength. I can walk for about 30 minutes with a couple of rest stops. I am using 2 crutches when walking a lot, 1 when not. I intend to start static cycling and swimming in the next week or so.
I have found a number of aids useful. Most important was to get a comfortable chair at a suitable height, a booster cushion for dining chairs, and a raised toilet seat with handles. A long looped resistance band was useful for helping lift the operated leg in and out of bed in the first few days. My husband has found a ‘Rolly’, a continuous tube of ribbed silicone, helpful for getting compression socks on and off. A long handled shoe horn / dressing stick, a long handle for a razor, picking handles, a sock aid, and a turning circle for the car seat have also been useful. A wedge shaped cushion to put between my knees at night has been essential. I also got a perching stool but haven’t found I needed it as I was soon able to get around the kitchen on one crutch and stand quite well. It has however enabled me to return to volunteering at parkrun.
I think I am incredibly lucky that I was able to address this at the right time and am confident I will get my life back. Addressing it before it became seriously painful (although the surgeon couldn’t understand why I hadn’t been in serious pain) meant that I went into the operation with a good level of fitness, and that will aid my recovery. Whilst I don’t think it’s right that I should have needed to spend savings on this, I am not sure I can put a price on the quality of life it will give me. I also don’t feel comfortable that most people don’t have this choice and I just hope we can soon return to a point where everyone can get the operation at the time of need, and it doesn’t depend on wealth.
For anyone afraid of the operation - you will have a few uncomfortable days but I am confident it’s worth it.