Some thought negativity about serious surgery wasn't hip

October 24, 2005|By KEVIN COWHERD

It has now been six weeks since they wheeled me into the operating room at St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson and a terrific orthopedist named David Dalury cut into my hip and replaced the old, diseased joint with a shiny steel one good for up to 100,000 miles, with a full bumper-to-bumper warranty.

OK, if you're a regular reader, I know what you're thinking.

You're thinking: Oh, God, not another hip-replacement column. Give it a rest, will you? What, you're the only person who ever had this surgery?

To which I'd reply: Look, if a guy can't milk major surgery for at least two columns, what's the point of having this gig, anyway?

Actually, the real reason for this piece is to respond to some of the e-mails and letters I received after my original hip-replacement column ran a few weeks ago.

A few readers accused me of being unduly "negative" in my description of the immediate after-effects of the surgery, which included nausea, fevers and sweating in this case.

And they added that such negativity could discourage others who really need a hip replacement from having the procedure done.


Let me say a couple of things about that.

No. 1, it's sort of hard to put a positive spin on nausea, fever, sweating, etc., isn't it?

I mean, how exactly would you do that?

Would you write something like: "Had hip surgery and felt nauseous, feverish and sweaty for a few days. But it was a good kind of nauseous, feverish and sweaty?"

So for me to not mention these after-effects - or to say I bounced right back from the surgery in a day or two and everything was hunky-dory - would be dishonest at best.

And No. 2, if there are any people out there putting off hip replacement because of what some goof columnist writes, those people should have their heads examined.

A couple of readers also ripped me for mentioning that you don't sleep too well after a hip replacement because you're required to sleep on your back with a pillow between your legs to prevent them from crossing inadvertently.

Well, excuse me for telling it like it is, Mr. or Ms. I-Could-Sleep-Hanging-From-The-Ceiling. Next time, I'll make the whole thing sound like two weeks on the French Riviera.

OK, with that little rant out of the way, how's the rest of the convalescence going?

Gee, I thought you'd never ask.

It's really going quite well, thanks.

With each day, the hip gets stronger and I become more mobile, sometimes even displaying hints of the cat-like quickness that once served me so well on the football field, basketball court and baseball diamond.

And the pain is gone, too, which is no small thing.

Gone are the nights of turning over in bed and feeling a stabbing sensation in the hip that made me want to howl and punch a wall.

So I sleep better. Which means my wife sleeps better, too, as the howling tended to get on her nerves.

In fact, this is how well things are going: I'm even able to ride a bicycle again.

OK, that might not sound like a big deal to you.

In fact, you might read that and sneer: "Gee, maybe you can use your yo-yo again, too."

But my hip was in such bad shape that I couldn't raise it high enough to pedal a bike.

And the entire leg jutted out at such an ungodly angle that I looked like a guy trying to nudge a camel sideways when I steered.

Now I can pedal with ease and keep up a decent pace, although nothing that's going to keep Lance Armstrong up at night.

One thing you discover when you have joint-replacement surgery - and, lucky me, I also had a knee replaced 10 years ago at the tender age of 43 - is that everyone over 40 seems to be on the waiting list for these operations, in one form or another.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, around 220,000 total hip replacements and 418,000 knee replacements are performed in the United States annually.

I can't tell you how many people have come up to me in the past six weeks and said: "Hey, heard about your operation. My orthopedist says I need my hip replaced real soon, too."

To which I say: "Then get it done, brother." Or sister.

There's no point in living with the pain and limitations of a diseased hip - or knee. Not when this surgery is available and the odds of a successful outcome are so high. (After one year's time, something like 98 percent of all joint-replacement patients report they're glad they had the operation and would do it again.)

So there's my six-week update on the surgery, which readers everywhere were no doubt clamoring for.

And it comes with a guarantee of its own: no more columns about the hip.

God knows you people have suffered enough.

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