When you start to experience hip pain sometimes you be able to get physical therapy and do some stretching to cure your pain but not all hip pain can be cured with yoga. Some people consider hip replacement surgery later in life because of all the high-impact exercise they did while they were young that wore out the joint and is now causing them pain. When you have Spina Bifida it’s different because you don’t consider hip replacement surgery from wearing your body too much and it’s often because of a condition called hip dysplasia that can eventually cause pain for some people. I was born with both of my hips severely dislocated that I have always known may need to be addressed but hoped it was one of those things that I never had a problem with but it happened. Before I had hip replacement surgery I was getting information from my doctor on what to expect but there is only so much your doctor can say about a surgery they have never experienced and I don’t think I was as prepared for a surgery as big as this one as I could have been. If you are considering hip replacement surgery with or without Spina Bifida here are some things you should know to be better prepared.
Find a good doctor- Before you go under the knife for anything you should talk with your surgeon and make sure they are qualified to do the surgery successfully that you are wanting them to do because the last thing you want is to have your hip replaced and the doctor says “oops I kind of paralyzed you and I hope you weren’t planning on walking again.” When I started experiencing hip pain I went to an orthopedist that I knew was never going to do my surgery from the start because the first thing they said to me was “I can try but you may never walk again”. I appreciate the honesty of the first surgeon but there are better ways to tell someone you are not most qualified person to do that procedure. I don’t think this doctor was a bad practitioner because I only saw him once but it wouldn’t hurt to learn how to talk to disabled people. If you don’t trust your doctor you will have more anxiety and should find someone else that is better qualified because you don’t want to put your life in the hands of someone that doesn’t seem confident and is just going to try but will most likely fail. I am glad that I found a better-qualified orthopedist because I would not have even considered hip replacement surgery if that was my only option. Thinking about all the problems I am having now with a more experienced orthopedist it could have been very bad if I went with someone with less skill.
Get some help- When you have hip replacement surgery there are a lot of things that you are going to need help with that abled people may not need as much assistance with even if we had the same surgery. Hip replacement surgery is common and many abled people get but it’s different when you have a disability with limited sensation. When you have Spina Bifida and limited sensation in your lower legs you can’t get and walk hours after surgery. Several weeks of bed rest are often required for people with Spina Bifida because you can’t tell someone with limited sensation to walk with ten-percent pressure. I don’t know what it feels like to walk with minimal and there is no way you can teach it to me! Abled people may need some assistance after hip replacement surgery but you will not need as much as someone with a disability who has limited mobility and are under strict orders not to stand. If are about to have hip replacement surgery and think you may need some extra help reach out to some friends and family or call your insurance company to see if they will provide a home-healthcare nurse. I have needed help after most of my surgeries but never have I been completely dependent on others because you never realize how much you use a muscle until it’s restricted.
Get a transfer board- Transfers are one of the worst parts of hip replacement recovery because you are restricted in your movement and it’s unbearable painful to move two inches for the first few months. When you are not allowed to stand or bend your legs past ninety transfers can get tricky and there goes your independence because that is literally all transfers. I never knew transfer boards even existed until I had hip replacement but it’s a genius invention because it makes moving possible to do safely. For those of you who are not familiar with a transfer board, it’s basically just a piece of wood that you put over the top of whatever you want to transfer into that you would sit on and scoot to get into it safely. Falls can be very serious after hip replacement surgery and can basically undo the work that was just done and transfer boards can make things a little bit safer to prevent that from happening.
Get a raised toilet seat- The thing I am dreading most about my upcoming hip surgery is not only the pain but how horrible bowel movements are going to be. The problem isn’t that I don’t have the tools but the pain is so horrible and unlike abled people who are done in three minutes I have to sit there for an hour and there is nothing that will make the pain better except time. After hip replacement surgery, you are not supposed to sit on a regular toilet seat because they are too low and anything that makes you get in a squatting position can be dangerous. Hospitals sometimes will send you home with a raised toilet seat and I was told that I would get one when I had my original hip replacement but they were out of stock and I was not able to get one before I was discharged. If there is one thing I have learned through many surgeries it’s that sometimes you can get medical supplies at hospitals but it may not be in the timing that you need it. When I came home from the hospital I did not have a raised toilet seat but it had been days since I had a bowel movement and had to go to the bathroom or risk creating bigger problems. If an abled person had this problem you might have been able to wait a few extra days but when you have a disability and those muscles already don’t work it can become problematic and is more important to stay on top of your bowel health to avoid constipation that it would be for abled people.. If you are told that you will get a raised toilet seat before your discharged you can wait and hope that it works out or order one on Amazon and not have that stress.
Get some dry shampoo- After I had hip replacement surgery I was not allowed to shower for about two weeks because I had a device called a wound vac connected to my leg that helps prevent infection. Some doctors may not use this device depending on how your surgery was done and your surgeon but mine likes them for more involved procedures because so far no one has ever gotten an infection. The wound vac is not the worst part of my recovery but I would love to throw it in my pool because it’s loud and you feel like you are connected to a hospital monitor for two weeks. If you thought you were getting rid of all the random beeping noises after you leave the hospital and have a wound vac let me tell you that you are in for a rude awakening! Showering is not an option as long as you have this device because it’s not waterproof which I don’t mind because I am usually in too much pain to shower for the first few weeks anyway so dry shampoo will be your new best friend.
Get some extra pillows– Before I had surgery I was told that I would have some swelling and was expecting some swelling but what I should have been told was that it’s more that just a little and may take months to go down. The swelling is the worst part because it the reason for most of your pain and it doesn’t matter what position you get it nothing is comfortable. Get some extra pillows to elevate your leg because you leg is probably going to swell to double it’s size and it’s going to hurt but the sooner you get the swelling down the sooner you will have pain relief. I had so much pillows my bed looked like Mt.Everest and I still don’t think I had enough!
Make it convenient– Hip precautions are necessary for healing but they are annoying! After hip replacement surgery, I felt like my independence was taken from me because when you tell a disabled person that they cannot twist, bend down, or lift their legs past ninety you are restricting all transfers I’d do by myself. Before I had surgery I knew that I would be completely dependent on others and would not be able to do pretty much anything by myself because the hip precautions would prevent me from doing anything independently. The day before surgery I laid stuff out on my nightstand that is right next to my bed that I thought I would want during my recovery. My nightstand is not huge and I could not set out every single item I owned because it would be a tornado and I woulnd’t be able to find anything but I laid out as much as I could. Some were basic care items like deodorant while other things were activities I thought I would want to entertain myself. I still needed a lot of help from my caregivers but when you make more things convenient you won’t need to call people as often.
Exercise- If you are expecting any kind of surgery unless your doctor has specifically told you not to I cannot stress enough how important movement is. If you have hip pain I am not suggesting that you suck it up and go do some squats because if you have damage that can be dangerous and make things worse. If there is one thing I wish I could do over when I had my original hip replacement it would be to exercise because I kind of stopped doing it months before surgery. I was in a lot of pain before I had hip replacement surgery and thought the solution was to not exercise but the solution wasn’t not to exercise but to do a different kind. I was weak going into hip replacement surgery and I think because I had already lost strength I had a harder time with transfers than I normally would have. If you have hip pain I would not recommend doing any exercise that puts a lot of stress on your legs but you still shouldn’t use that as an excuse to stop exercising and you just need to do a different kind. Focus more on building your upper body strength because if you are disabled and having hip replacement surgery you will need strong arms to be able to support yourself!
Hip replacement surgery is something that both abled and disabled people may have to one day consider but when you have a disability it’s not the same experience. Hip replacement surgery is not fun for abled people but the recovery often is faster when all your muscles work properly and your hips are already in the socket. Hip replacement surgery can be difficult when you have Spina Bifida and not everyone will have as many challenges as I do but even though something is hard that doesn’t mean you don’t do it because sometimes it’s your only choice for less pain. Physical therapy may help some people get relief from hip pain but when you live with hip dysplasia and your hips are dislocated you can’t do therapy because you can’t stretch a muscle that’s not there. Many doctors can do a standard hip replacement but not all of them have the skill to do it on someone with Spina Bifida because it’s not your typical hip replacement and sometimes you have to go to someone more specialized to get it done right. Hip replacement with Spina Bifida is different because you can’t do it in the same way but don’t be scared by experience because if you are abled the recovery time will likely not be as long and nothing like my recovery! How do you prepare for hip replacement surgery?
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