Thursday, July 2, 2009

I'm OK with "OK"

I hate countdowns, and yet there’s no other way to describe this last week. Every morning brings me one day closer to the inevitable. I’m lucky that the weather is beautiful and I am home from work this week, making it hard to wallow in self pity. I’m trying to get out of the house as much as I can since I may be stuck inside during the most beautiful part of the summer. Right now I’m at a coffee house blocks from where I live, just because I didn’t want to drink coffee and type this at home. Plus there are no chocolate croissants at home, and I just had to have one this morning.

So far I’ve been sleeping at night and I’m able to eat. When I’m anxious about something I have trouble with both of these functions. I’ve had intestinal issues but I’m not sure if those are caused by nerves or the abundance of iron I’ve been taking as prescribed. I haven’t had any memorable pre-surgery nightmares yet. In fact, I’ve been sleeping better and more than usual, which is strange. Perhaps my body is preparing itself.

People have been a bit too cheery around me at times, which I’ve found mildly annoying, but I realize that’s all par for the course. Everyone keeps telling me that I’ll “be OK.” Science can make almost anything OK nowadays. We’ve come to expect that modern medicine has a quick fix for everything. Feeling out of sorts? Pop an anti-depressant. Aches and pains? A bionic joint will fix you right up. Even previously fatal diseases such as cancer and HIV can now be treated with varying degrees of success. People are accustomed to seeing their ailing friends back in action quickly after medical interventions.

In the scheme of health care, I know that my malady and its correction are pretty minor things because hip dysplasia is life changing, but not life threatening. I will live through this. But it’s a longer recovery than most orthopedic procedures. It’s a rare enough condition that my spell checker doesn’t even recognize it. The surgery to correct it is so rare that my primary care provider, and many orthopedic surgeons, have never heard of it.

So most people don’t have any idea what this surgery entails. They envision me bouncing back quickly and feeling no pain; back to my old activities with no reminders of my problem. In reality, I know that the recovery period for this surgery is approximately two years, and I need two surgeries. Even if I do the second one as quickly as possible (six months after the first), my total recovery time will then be two and a half years. A time during which I will experience pain, frustration, and limitations on my activities. As soon as I’m somewhat recovered from the first PAO, I’ll undergo the second, and my crutches, walker and cane will reappear on the scene. My co-workers will again have to pick up the slack for me while I’m out of the office, and they may not be as happy to shoulder the burden a second time. Even after a full recovery, I’ll still be limited from certain activities for the rest of my life, and it’s likely I’ll still have some (manageable) hip pain. It doesn’t sound much like bouncing back, and it isn’t the wonderful recovery people are expecting. It’s hard for casual friends and acquaintances to be supportive for that long.

Upon reflection, I’ve realized that “you’ll be OK” is exactly what I might say to someone facing surgery too. It marries concern with optimism and, I suppose, depending on how you define “OK,” it is likely true. This surgery and the recovery afterward will contain awful parts and good parts and I’ll probably experience both discouragement and progress in a single day. In the end, however, I know it will all be OK.


Louisa B said...

Hi there, just surfing the world of hip pain and found you our ops are 1 day apart i think, I'm on the 10th, though hip arthroscopy for labral tear and bone shaving FAI. Best of luck I know your ops one of the big guns! If I can work out which button to press I will be following you.
I'm at should you want some companionship! Or just someone to moan to!

marilu said...

Hi Terri,
I hope you had a wonderful time at the beach, relaxing. I also hope your surgery goes as well as you expect it will. Please don't underestimate yourself or your friends as far as the recovery goes. I know for sure, your husband won't ever tire of supporting you throughout this process. And there are others of us who care deeply. Let us know if and how we can help. I look forward to seeing you soon -- with or without the crutches!

HipSk8 said...

Thanks Marilu! I appreciate the support. Terri