image_pdfimage_print

FAI: Day three

Today was better and worse in about equal measure.

I’m not as drugged. I’m still taking my appropriate doses, but I’m staying awake more. That means I notice the pain more, which is not much fun. I have, however, figured out how to get through the baby gates on crutches and go to the bathroom by myself. For the past few days I’ve needed help with doors and baby gates and such, but today my balance was a little better, enough that I can actually do all of it, from getting up off the couch to getting into the bathroom to getting back onto the couch, by myself. I feel slightly more human, at least.

A couple of friends came by to check in on all of us today. I had to warn them about my bedhead. I can’t shower for another couple of days; when the instructions are “You may shower but don’t get the dressing wet” and the dressing takes up a significant area on my thigh, it just makes more sense to wait until I can take off the dressing before trying to get clean. My hair sticks up pretty impressively in the back!

I’m having some cabin fever. I know I need to stay down for several more days, just stick on the couch or in a chair and accept that I’m not going anywhere. It’s not much fun. On the other hand, when I move much, my leg hurts, so that’s pretty effective in terms of dissuading me from trying to move much.

My schedule seems to be take my pills, sleep for two hours or so, wake up for a while, hang out, read, putz around on the computer, and then do it again. Pills are every six hours. The sleeping for a couple of hours is non-negotiable; I just doze off, even if I’m trying to talk to someone. It’s an odd feeling, rather like being pulled into unconsciousness.

That’s about all for today. More pain, but a little gain, a little bit of freedom, even if it is just getting down the hall by myself.

FAI: day two

Apparently all of the drugs they gave me for surgery wore off today. I didn’t realize quite how much was still in my system until this morning, at which point it was very, very clear that I had lots of painkillers yesterday. Today it hurts a lot more. I find myself very interested in not moving at all unless I really need to. Of course, at the same time I need to keep doing my ankle and lower leg movements so I don’t end up weird and puffy, so that’s a balancing act.

I have some numbness still in my pelvis form the surgery. I’m pretty sure that will wear off soon enough, but it’s odd, and when feeling comes back, it’s often itchy.

I’m reading a lot and dozing off a lot. I’m not trying to focus on anything. I was pretty shaky yesterday, but that’s slowly improving. The pain is all along the top of my thigh and the outside of it. I also have some aching in my knee and ankle and the muscles are a bit sore there, too.

I am not nauseous, but I’m still not very hungry. Xander is making sure I eat enough. I am trying to drink, since I think dehydration would be a very bad idea while I’m trying to heal.

I felt proud of myself today because I changed into clean clothes, out of the ones I wore home from the hospital. I didn’t hurt myself in the process, either. My mom helped me get changed, and now I’m in sweatpants instead of a skirt. I’m much more comfortable, though the skirt was a good idea for right after the surgery. I’m not sure I could have gotten dressed in anything more complicated in that state. I was really out of it.

I guess this is day two on the road to recovery. I’ll keep writing about this; I seem to be having some issues with insomnia, so there’s no reason not to. I sleep a lot during the day and I don’t think I’m screwing up anyone else’s schedule, so it doesn’t really matter when I’m awake. In a week or so, once the pain doesn’t wake me up as much, I’ll start working on getting back to a fully diurnal schedule. Right now, though, I really don’t care that much.

FAI: surgery day

Surgery was this morning. We got to the surgery center about 6:20. Xander dropped me off and my mom stayed with me while Xander took Katja to daycare. He got back before I went in.

Everyone was very nice. I was a worried, but that’s not unexpected. I kept telling myself that they do lots of these every week, that everything will be fine, but I don’t like general anesthesia. The anesthesiologist was great, though, and once he knew why I was worried he said he’d make sure it was okay. They have a special surgery table for hip surgery – my feet were on rollers and my legs weren’t on the bed. The bed just went down to my back and the bottom of my spine. I didn’t see much of it because as soon as I was settled on the table, the drugs started taking effect.

I woke up in the recovery room. The nurse was sweet and held my hand for a few minutes because I was kind of freaked out. I kept sliding in and out of sleep. Eventually they took out the IV and gave me something to drink, water, I think, and took me into another room to see Xander and my mom. I don’t think I was very coherent. My throat closed up at one point so I took my inhaler and it opened up right away. I’m not sure if it was an asthma attack, but I couldn’t get air in fast enough and I was making noise while I was breathing, which never makes me happy. In any case, it ended up being fine.

They shifted me into a wheelchair and got me to the car. I got in with lots of help. I was in and out of sleep all the way home. Xander stopped and picked up apple and carrot juice because my mouth was really dry and tasted nasty (probably from being intubated) so I got to drink a bit of juice. When we got home I didn’t think I was in good enough shape to get on crutches even as far as the door. I dozed for quite a while in the car; my mom stayed with me and Xander went inside to make sure everything was set up. Once I finally could focus my eyes and felt steadier, I got out (with help, lots of help!) and got inside. I settled into what’s likely to be my home for the next couple of weeks and then I slept some more.

Xander tracked when I needed to take doses of pain pills; many people have said that it’s extremely important to stay ahead of the pain. I spent much of the afternoon dozing, too. I wiggled my foot around and stretched my calf muscles; the doctor said as long as I wasn’t engaging the hip or moving it, I should move my lower leg to keep the blood flowing.

I haven’t been hungry yet. I have been drinking a lot of juice and Xander made matzo ball soup (Jewish penicillin, one of my favorites) and I ate a little of that. My throat is quite sore. I’m not having nausea from the painkillers, which is very good; it’s a common side effect. I just don’t have much interest in food right now. I’m sure tomorrow my family will make sure I eat!

I’m non weight bearing on that leg for 3-4 weeks; we’ll know more in a couple of weeks after my first appointment. Two crutches are not fun, but I’ll follow doctor’s orders perfectly for this. If I do, I should be running again in six months. If I don’t, I could do permanent damage. That leaves me no reason to push or screw anything up.

I know that later days will be harder, but for the moment it’s mostly okay. Painkillers are working on the worst of the pain. I’m keeping my hip iced, which helps with pain, too. Today is the start of a long set of movements towards recovery. The pain is easier to handle, though, because I know, eventually, it will get better. I didn’t know that before, but now the damage has been fixed and I can look forward to something instead of just slogging through every day in constant pain, not having any expectation that it will get better.

I’ll try to update this regularly. I know it helped my state of mind a lot to read what other people had been through with this.

Aaand…surgery.

I did physical therapy as directed for four days after the initial appointment with the physical therapist. The pain got progressively worse, enough that I finally called the doctor and asked if this was normal. I was told to stop immediately. They set up an appointment for a couple of days later and, when I got there, we talked about surgery.

It’s going to be at the end of the month. They’re going to do it arthroscopically, so it’s outpatient surgery, which is good. They’re going to shave off the malformed part of my femur, clean up the cartilage, and either pin down or clean up the labrum tear. I will be spending up to two weeks at home, off work, which is actually hard for me; I enjoy what I do. I will be on two crutches, non weight bearing, for 3-4 weeks depending on what they end up doing. I will gradually get back to full weight bearing, but it will take a while. I’ll be back to normal in 2-3 months, but I probably won’t be back to running for half a year or so.

In the long run, this is good. I’ll heal. I’ll get better. In the short run, it will be difficult, painful, and I will need to work hard to not push because, if I do, it won’t heal well and I could do serious damage. I won’t be back in the pool until the incisions heal. I will be very limited in what I can do with Katja. My mom is coming to help at first, though, and Xander’s mom will be coming up in a while, too. We have lots of friends who have offered to help. It won’t be easy, but it will be all right.

I’m afraid of the pain, of the process, of the patience required of me that I’m not sure I have, but we’ll get through.

PT: Day one

Today was my first day of physical therapy.

I’m in rather more pain than I was yesterday. Big surprise. Physical therapy isn’t easy and it is painful. I have a long list of exercises to do twice a day. I think I’m going to refer to it as the List de Sade.

I didn’t think my hip was awful. I mean, yes, it hurts all the time (which should have been a clue) and I’m down to about 90 degrees of range of motion. Outside of that range it hurts a lot more. Adding in physical therapy, though, is a whole new level. Generally I try to avoid pain. That’s why I’m wandering around on one crutch and not trying to run. Now I’m supposed to push it, see how far I can go. Well, except that I’m not supposed to push it too hard, but I don’t have much of a read on how much is too much, so I just do my exercises and deal with the fact that it hurts and it’s going to keep hurting for a while.

Constant pain is exhausting. I want this to be over. I want it to get better. I want someone to fix it. That just isn’t going to happen. Even if I end up getting surgery, the rehab is going to be worse than the physical therapy. I know that and it does not make me happy. On the other hand, at least there would be an end. I don’t know if this month of physical therapy is going to fix anything, make anything better, or just result in more people asking me to push to the point of pain and a little bit past it to see how far I can go and if it’s getting any better.

I’ll be good and do my exercises twice a day. My next appointment isn’t until next week, so at least no one else will be causing me pain for a little while. That’s all on me.

Physical therapy

If I have to go through this, I suppose I might as well document it.

I saw another doctor today, Dr. Z. He’s a surgeon who has a lot of experience dealing with hips. I am assigned to do physical therapy twice a week for the next month and then I have another appointment. Sometimes physical therapy can strengthen the muscles around the hip enough that surgery isn’t needed. I’m not laying bets. I will do my best, I will work hard, but I have a very hard time believing that I will be able to run again with a malformed bone in my hip, even if the malformation isn’t big.

I have what’s called a cam impingement. The femoral head, the ball of the ball and socket joint, isn’t round. I also have a labral tear, which is probably where most of the pain is coming from. The doctor said that a lot of people who have hip impingement don’t ever know about it; it only becomes an issue once people exercise hard. I guess that’s a good thing since it means that I was actually working hard enough to make a difference, but that’s not the best thing when working really hard causes damage instead of making my life better. I also am having some issues with pinched nerves, which is not terribly pleasant. None of it at this point is awful, but I’m not where I want to be.

I can’t just get up and run. I got used to that. Now I get up, get changed, get in the car, and drive to the pool. I’m very happy that there’s a 24 hour pool here, but there is something limiting about a pool, about swimming back and forth for as long as my hip puts up with it. I want to be able to run in the cool air before the summer day heats up. I have run in the winter and the spring, but not the summer, and it would be nice to have the memory of the cool mornings to hold me through the heat of the day. I haven’t been running long, but it has hooked me. I think that may be even more true because I know now how much it matters to me. If I’d just been able to keep running, it wouldn’t have been a big deal and I might have tapered off some. Now, though, even if I never run another half marathon, even if I can only run short distances, I want to run again. It matters to me.

Physical therapy is a beginning. At least they know what’s wrong, which is good, and I can swim and work out, and at some point I’ll be able to consistently walk without a crutch.

Staring down the dreaded what-ifs

Ever since running the half marathon, I’ve been having hip problems. At first the doctor thought it was a stress fracture in my left hip due to my symptoms. An X-ray and an MRI ruled those out and I was left with tendonitis and cartilage damage. I didn’t know what to think about the cartilage damage, but tendonitis is something I’ve dealt with before. It requires rest and icing, basically, and it eventually goes away and I work with someone to balance out the stressors on that tendon.

After two and a half weeks on crutches, the pain wasn’t gone. I had two kinds of pain, which was odd. One was down the front of my thigh and the other felt like it was inside the joint. I was in pain pretty much constantly. I was allowed to swim breaststroke and sidestroke. No running, no biking (that hurt a lot!), and no walking.

At my follow up visit, the doctor said that the cartilage damage was due to something called hip impingement. This basically means that the ball of the ball and socket joint is not shaped correctly, so when it is overused (in, say, half marathon training) it can start grinding up cartilage and pinching other things around the hip joint. I was expecting to be told that I needed to be patient and the tendonitis would improve, and instead I learned that my hip didn’t develop quite right and that it’s been damaged.

I made an appointment to see someone who is even more of a hip specialist so we can go over my options. As far as I can tell from limited reading, my options are to live a more sedentary lifestyle or get my hip surgically repaired.

I’m not very good at sedentary, especially not after feeling as good as I did during the half marathon training. My brain works better when I’ve been exercising. On the other hand, I’m terrified of general anesthetic; my two experiences with it have not been good. Of course, staying sedentary would be a lifelong result and the anesthetic would only last an hour or two and then I’d be done with it.

This decision shapes how I look at my life and how I want to live the rest of my life. I have a lot of questions that won’t be answered until later this month when I meet with the specialist. In the meantime, I’m on one crutch as pain requires and I’m working on wrapping my head around not running for a while, at least, and getting as much out of the gym (open 24 hours and it has a pool!) as possible despite not using my left leg.

I have been very crabby and tired because of a combination of the pain I’m dealing with and the stress of what-ifs. I made a decision this morning that I hope will help. I’ll exercise as much as possible five days every week, since two rest days worked very well during my training. If it turns out that surgery is required, I will have some lead time, I’m sure, since this isn’t an emergency. I’ll work with a personal trainer to get myself as strong and in shape as I can before the surgery so recovery will (hopefully) not be too bad. If I don’t require surgery, I’ll have to start from there depending on what I’m allowed to do to keep from injuring myself more. I don’t have to plan for anything until my appointment, I don’t have to worry about it; all I have to do is keep exercising so I don’t snap at people unnecessarily or feel unhappy and awkward all day.

This morning I swam 50 minutes. Last week the longest I managed was 30 minutes, but this week I was smarter. When my leg got tired, I just used my arms and let my legs drag. It isn’t much, but it’s a start. It’s good for my mental health, too.