Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Seven Weeks Post-LPAO

I went up to Boston today for my second post-LPAO appointment -- a little early, at only seven weeks post-op, but that seemed apropos given the quick pace of this hip's recovery.

In the last few weeks, I've been mixing in more and more walking, but still keeping the one crutch with me for longer excursions or (given the current weather conditions on the East Coast) inclement footing. Needless to say, Dr. Millis and the team were pleased with my progress, my range of motion, my strength and my nearly-perfect walking.

I say nearly-perfect because, as physical therapist Jaime pointed out, I need to do some specifically targeted exercises with the thera-band to get back to 100% on the left side. So I've got those movements as an assignment. Other than that, though, I can continue with my bike riding at the gym, and continue to increase my walking as it feels comfortable and as my hip muscles strengthen.

Essentially, I am now where I was at the end of May with my RPAO -- which puts my left hip recovery about a month ahead of where my right hip recovery was at this stage. So there's my Christmas present!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Progress Report

Officially five weeks post-LPAO now, and there is more good news to report.

I have been to the gym three times since I got the green light to start last Tuesday. Getting on that bike and moving my blood around feels so good after a month of basically being sedentary. I have fewer restrictions on my movement than I did at this point last time, plus I got started going to the gym the day after I got permission from the doctors, so the mood-enhancing effects have already begun.

At the gym I have been riding the stationary bike for 30 minutes on the "random" setting, with a highest resistance of about 6-8 (out of 25 available on the bike). It may not sound like much but after my RPAO I had to start at zero resistance for 10 minutes, and work up from there. Plus, my cardiovascular endurance totally disappeared during my month of the Couch Workout, so 30 minutes at level 6 has me breathing hard enough already! But I'm looking forward to improving on that front as well.

I've also done some upper body work at the gym (although with all the crutching, I don't think I've lost that much strength) -- lat pulldowns, rows, chest presses, etc., but I've been pretty lackadaisical about it so far; must step it up a bit.

Interestingly, I just realized that I -- completely coincidentally, without having gone back to check my post-RPAO entries -- quit my pain meds at exactly the same time post-LPAO *to the day*. Amazing! So yes, I quit my pain meds today, exactly the same way I did at the five-month mark last time: I woke up with very little pain, and figured, hey, why not give it a shot?

One of the reasons I decided to go off the pain meds now was that I wanted to feel pain as the warning sign it is. Now that I am putting more weight on the left leg, and using one crutch at times, I don't want to push things too fast simply because I've numbed the pain and don't know that I am putting too much strain on the joint. But so far, so good. What pain there has been is minimal and tolerable and subsides if I give my hip a rest for a while.

So now I am pharma-free, except for aspirin (allowed to quit next week), fiber, and calcium. I sleep well on both sides. My incisions look great. My only niggling problem is that tight spot on my spine where the epidural was, although I don't feel it nearly as often now. If it is not gone by next week I'll let the team know.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

One Month Post-LPAO

Today was my one month post-op appointment with Dr. Millis and the team. I already had a feeling my left hip was healing faster than my right hip had earlier this year, but my appointment today confirmed this.

I got the standard x-rays before seeing the team: supine AP and false profile. When I went over the films with Erin, she pointed out the areas of bridging -- where the bone had begun knitting to fill the cracks. My bones have done a spectacular amount of knitting in the past month! The cut in the illium was barely visible (except the big gap to fill caused by moving the acetabulum), and the other two cuts were bridging nicely. I'll try to get the films so I can post them. Both Dr. Millis and Erin were impressed.

I reported that I am down to two Percocet a day, one in the morning and one before bed; Valium occasionally as needed. That strange pain (that I thought might be a ligament) is completely gone now. I still take one Atarax at nighttime. I am sleeping much better now, able to sleep comfortably on both sides now, as well as on my back. I still have the strange pulling feeling at my epidural site, so Erin told me to let them know if it got worse or continued much longer.

Erin did my range of motion tests and they were good as well. My hip can bend below 90 degrees towards my chest now and rotation was good. My straight leg raise was high and strong, too, which I think is because I was in good shape going into the surgery. I think if the muscles around your hip are strong going in, it can only help in the recovery.

When it came to movement, I admitted that I'd been putting more weight on the leg this past week. Erin had me walk with one crutch and then a few steps without crutches. One crutch felt OK but without crutches I definitely felt that sinking feeling you get when the leg is not ready to take the weight yet. So I am officially allowed to start using one crutch, but always keep the other around in case I need support or my gait becomes uneven "like a penguin," to quote Erin. Great news, huh?

I am allowed to go to the gym now, with far fewer restrictions than I had post-RPAO. I can do the stationary bicycle at zero resistance to start, as usual, but I can increase duration and resistance faster this time. And I can do any upper body and core exercises I want, provided my hip feels fine when I'm doing them. This is great news because the faster I can start getting back into shape the better; I'd rather not lose as much fitness as I did after the right hip surgery.

It is amazing how much different this recovery has gone compared to my recovery in March. Other women have said that one hip is always worse than the other, but you never know which one will be the bad one. Imagine if this one had been worse than the RPAO! But luckily it is going fantastically so far, and I'm feeling really great. But I doubt I would have appreciated the speed and ease of this recovery as much if I hadn't had such a rough go of it in March.

So good news overall, but there's still a lot of healing to do. I am going to try not to get overexcited about this progress, and continue to take it slow and steady so I can keep knitting away as well as I have been. I return to see Dr. Millis and the team in four weeks (Dec. 29), but I'll update here before then, to report on how the new weight-bearing and gym visits are going.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Three Weeks Post LPAO

It is now three weeks post-LPAO. At this point last time I had a giant leap in progress. This time, progress on the left hip is just steady and slow. I think the difference (again) is that Dr. Millis didn't have to go into the joint capsule on this left side. The first three weeks of horrendousness after my RPAO probably had a lot to do with the joint capsule having to heal up and stabilize. So while my first three weeks post-LPAO felt better than my first three weeks post-RPAO, I think the recoveries are pulling even now.


My pain is generally very low. Most of the day I am in little to no pain. I usually wake up with pain around 4 or 5 in the morning, but once I take a Percocet I can make it quite a while until the next one. That ligament (or whatever it is) is still bugging me from time to time, but not nearly as much as it was last week, when it hurt at every step. Now it is just an occasional pinch from time to time.

Sleeping is still not fantastic, but is getting better. I still wake up a few times a night when I have to roll over. I can comfortably sleep on my right (non-op) side for long stretches at a time. The pain gets worse towards the morning when the previous night's bedtime Percocet has worn off. Last night, in a fit of madness, I tried to roll onto my left side. Ouch. I'm not quite ready for that yet.

I am gradually stepping down on the painkillers. This past week I discontinued the Oxycontin altogether and I have been averaging 4 Percocet/day (day being 24-hour period, in this case). I am still taking the Valium as needed.

I haven't stopped Atarax but I think I will this coming week. My hospital rash is long gone and the itchy-red-spots are pretty much gone as well. Just some residual itching here and there.


Movement is generally the same as last week. Now that the ligament pain (or whatever it was) has let up, I am less reluctant to crutch around. I have even left the house for dinner at a restaurant and other adventures. I am good on my crutches (after much practice!) and I am strong from my pre-surgery fitness level, so moving around is not a problem when the ligament is not bothering me. Some chairs are still uncomfortable, but I can find ways to sit to minimize the pain.

Because I seem to be healing so fast, I have been entertaining delusions of perhaps getting off crutches earlier this time. But I think that is probably not going to happen. I have been ahead in the healing game with this PAO because of the joint capsule -- but cut bones are still cut bones and they are going to take as long to heal on the left side as they did on the right. So I'm just going to be in this I-feel-fine-I-just-can't-walk limbo phase for longer this time. Great.


Both my incisions look great: click the links for the pictures. The one that really matters is the right side, since that will be my permanent scar on that side. On the left side they will open the scar back up again to get the screws out in a few months anyway, so who cares what it looks like now.


My mood is good; mostly stressed. I have had to work a lot during this recovery and it is leaving me with less time to read and relax than I had during my recovery this spring. It is also draining. In the evening I feel like I am going to collapse from exhaustion once I log off work. Another reason I am not getting as much reading done this time around. Happily there's the holiday weekend coming up so maybe I can get through a book.

Next week is my 1 month post-op in Boston. How the time flies as I limp along behind it.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Two Weeks Post-LPAO: Movement

One significant difference from my recovery in March is movement. It is very obvious that this surgery was less invasive and less "destructive" than my RPAO in March. At this point in March I was still quite limited in my hip joint movement, much more so than I am now.

I have quite a bit of leeway in how I can move my left hip without pain. I can straighten it and bend it far more than I could at this stage with my right hip. Of course I cannot lean down to put on a sock on my left leg, or even smear Sarna cream on my itchy left calf, but I can make a more acute angle with my left hip than I could with my right two weeks post-RPAO. I can cross my legs at the ankles (right over left, of course). My left hip also still pops and clicks (painlessly), though more quietly than pre-surgery. (My right hip never popped again after my RPAO.)

The fact that Dr. Millis did not cut any muscles during my LPAO is also noticeable. Although it is weak, my left hip flexor does actually work. I can use my left leg muscles to move my leg around a little bit. At this point in March I could not move my leg at all without someone to help me lift it and replace it in a new position.

All of this should mean increased mobility, maybe even an excursion outside the house (!), but unfortunately the pain I have been having while crutching has been quite a deterrent to getting up and crutching around. So mostly I stay seated or supine, unless I really *have* to get up.

I still need help getting into and out of the shower, because there is a lip, but I can shower on my own. I have a shower chair but I use it more for support than for sitting while I'm showering.

I don't use a special toilet seat -- my right leg is strong enough to lift me from most seated positions even when there is not really enough support for me to use my arms to assist.

I am comfortable sitting in a soft armchair, as long as I can slouch a bit or put my legs up on an ottoman. Dining room and kitchen table chairs are less comfortable, mostly because they involve eating (therefore leaning over the table) and that causes overly-acute-hip-angle problems. Same problem with my office chair (and leaning over the computer). I try to solve the angle problem by sitting on the edge of the chair and angling my thigh down towards the floor, with my foot under my chair, but it is not very comfortable.

Sleeping is the one area in which I am actually doing worse than I was at this point in March. I can still only sleep on my back, with pillows under my left knee. It is not terribly comfortable and when my lower back (what I assume to be the sacrotuberal ligament) hurts, it is not comfortable at all. I am desperate to switch positions during the night, and I have tried, but I still can't sleep on my right side. My left hip and that spot on my back ache when I try to do that. In comparison, two weeks after my RPAO in March I could already sleep happily on my non-op side.

Two Weeks Post LPAO -- Pain & Itching

Today is two weeks from the date of my LPAO, and I have been home from the hospital for a full week. It has been a bit different than my first week home after my RPAO, which you can read about here and here.

For one thing, my activity level my first week home after this surgery was much higher, and not by choice. After my RPAO, I spent the majority of my first week at home sedentary, reading or sleeping in a couch or bed, moving only when necessary. This past week, I had to work full time the whole week. I was, of course, working remotely from Connecticut, not going into the office. But still, that meant sitting upright in a chair at a desk most of the day, and moving around a lot more than I had done in March. Having to work couldn't be helped, but I do think I could have used a bit more sedentary reclining last week.

My pain has been generally well-managed, except for sometimes sharp pain in two specific places. In March, what pain I had would migrate, popping up in different places every time. This time, the pain is localized in two places: the back of my hip joint (it feels like deep inside where my left buttock meets the top of my thigh, maybe the cut in the ischium?), and above my tailbone, on left side, just above my left buttock.

The former pain has lessened over the course of the week and by now is pretty much resolved. The latter pain is much more common and more severe than the former. That pain above my left buttock is almost constant when I am crutching (each time I take a "step" with my left leg, I feel pain there) and can ache while I am sitting in chairs or lying down, especially if I have just been crutching. I have no idea what it is, it doesn't seem to be located near the surgery site at all. I've got an email in to Dr. Millis asking about it.

My best guess is that there is something going on with the sacrotuberous ligament. That would make sense since one of the hamstring muscles originates from that ligament. Maybe when I step a certain way and activate that muscle, it pulls on the sore ligament? Now why the ligament is sore in the first place is a totally different question. Unless of course it is because that ligament connects the sacrum to the tuberosity of the ischium -- the ischium, of course, being the potential source of my other pain described above and one of the bones cut during a PAO. Gosh, surgeons must love it when patients play doctor using Wikipedia.

Moving on. Unlike on my right side after my RPAO, there is no numb spot on my left thigh after my LPAO. Probably because they didn't have to move the nerves around on the left side.

My incision on the left side is fine. The dressing itches sometimes but not too often. It is not generally tender, although earlier in the week it did feel a bit bruised if I pressed gently on my hip near the top of the incision. We have not changed the dressing on the left side. I imagine it will come off some time this week.

My incision on the right side (where the screws were taken out) does not bother me at all. Obviously it was a much shallower cut than the left side. Its dressing came off on Saturday, but the steri-strips remain.

In the hospital I did have some swelling in the hip area on the left side, and my left foot and lower leg swelled up like the blueberry girl in Willy Wonka for a while. But all that swelling is gone now.

My current pain medication regimen is:

-- 1 Oxycodone every 5 hours during the day
-- 1 Oxycontin twice daily
-- 1 Valium as needed during the day
-- 1 Oxycodone and 1 Valium kept at bedside if needed for pain during the night

It is more pain medication than some other PAO women have taken at this point in their healing, but as I wrote a few days ago, I am not being a sissy; I just seem to need more pain medication than most. I am not worried; I will step it down when I am ready, just as I did in March after my RPAO. But currently, especially with that frequent upper buttock pain, I need pain relief.

As I explained in March, the Oxy painkillers do not make me feel mentally foggy in the slightest. Only the Valium makes me a bit scatterbrained and sleepy, so I never take it when I am working, or trying to concentrate on something important like Gossip Girl.

My horrible skin rash has subsided. Probably primarily because I am not laying in those hospital sheets anymore. Earlier in the week I was applying the prescription steroid rash cream twice daily, but since the rash seems to have been vanquished, I've essentially stopped with them now.

Alas, when one itch dies, another is born. Again I am plagued with the itchy-red-spots problem I had in March, probably a side-effect of the pain medications. I am taking Atarax (thrice daily) to combat the itch, and I also try not to scratch. I carry around Sarna lotion and put that on every time I have an urge to scratch. Needless to say, I am very moisturized. It seems to be working because I feel like I have a few fewer itchy red spots than I did mid-week.

I still take aspirin, but I never wear my TED stockings. No one told me I had to. I wore them on the car ride home from the hospital but that was it.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Recovery Day 5 -- Homeward Bound

Among the many uncomfortable things about sleeping post-PAO is the fact that you can only sleep on your back: still and straight like a mummy (with pillows under one leg). Last night I somehow got it into my head that I might be able to sleep on my right side for a while. Surprisingly, it did not work at all. Neither my left hip nor my right appreciated the change. My left (PAO) hip just ached and my right hip's screw-removal incision pulled and pinched. Position change fail.

Dr. Kim came to visit me in the morning. I had actually never met Dr. Kim, so that was a pleasant surprise. He checked my dressings and asked about pain and had me wiggle my toes and all the rest of the typical morning-rounds check up.

At 9:30 Michelle from PT came to get me. I remembered her from March, she is a great PT. She helped me out of bed (an activity which is going more and more smoothly each time I do it) and wheeled me to the PT room. I walked the parallel bars (without help moving the left foot this time) and then got on the crutches to show I could handle them on a flat surface and on stairs -- two prerequisites for my discharge. All of this went very well today. It is such a mystery why sometimes physical things can be so hard and then suddenly so easy.

Obviously I spent two and a half months practicing crutching earlier this year, so that could be the reason for the crutch success. It went well, except that I seemed to be favoring my operated leg a little too much. As I stepped with my left foot, Dr. Millis kept saying "more weight on that foot!" I'm supposed to have 1/6 body weight on the left foot as I step on it, but that is a hard thing to gauge.

Having passed the PT tests, there were just some loose ends to tie up before getting me out the hospital door. There was a humorous moment sizing my TED stockings -- first they gave me size large, regular length stockings. They were loose and too short, like mid-calf gym socks. My mother kept saying I needed LONG stockings because I am tall, and size medium, so they'd be tight enough. A couple of attempts later what I ended up with were tight thigh-high TEDs. They looked sort of trampy, in a way.

The drive home was much better than it had been in March. I was in less pain, perhaps because the surgery had been less invasive so the little bumps and swerves of driving were less disruptive? Or maybe I was just better packed in with pillows and pain pills? Who knows. Another mystery.

By the time we got home to Connecticut three and a half hours later, I was in a lot of pain. While driving, we'd overshot the timing on my oxycodone dosing and so the pain had broken through big-time. I was at 7 or 8 when we got home, just moaning and staring blankly until the pain came back down.

My parents helped me lurch myself up the 13 stairs to my bedroom, and finally I fell into a blessed night of sleep -- in my own bed, without wires, beeping monitors, vital sign checks or rude awakenings by crowds of interns.

Phase One complete. Time for the long Phase Two.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Recovery Day 4 -- Wireless!

Last night was a terrible night because of the rash. Even though I finally got some steroid creams last night, the itching and discomfort was hardly vanquished, and I had to keep calling for Nubain and Benadryl in between my steroid cream applications.

This morning I wanted nothing more than to leap out of bed, have a shower (preferably stripping away several layers of rash-infested skin in the process) and then marinate myself in steroid cream. Last time I had this operation, I absolutely dreaded getting out of bed because it was so painful and logistically difficult. I think the rash is worse this time around, but I know that getting into and out of bed is somehow much less difficult, so it makes sense that I'm much more amenable to getting out of bed.

Nonetheless, I spent most of my morning in bed, working. So much for taking off from work for two weeks after surgery! Dr. LaReau stopped by to check on me, I ate some fruit salad, time passed.

At 10 my catheter came out. With that, I was wireless! No more leads, IVs, drains, nothing. Just me and my rash.

Finally Kimber came for PT, and it was time to get out of bed again. It went better this time; I was more confident with the limits of what I could do, and I also trusted Kimber more. Once up and in my wheelchair, I was taken to the PT room to try walking on the parallel bars. Again, I was pretty confident about it -- after all, this had been a less invasive surgery and I had already done this learning-to-walk-again thing before.

As all you proverb fans probably guessed, it went terribly. At least I felt it did. Just like in March, I couldn't slide my op-side foot forward to save my life. I was so disappointed and confused. This time they didn't cut that muscle! It is supposed to work! Why can't I move my foot?! Kimber helped me slide my op-side foot forward for each "step" but it just felt like cheating. I couldn't do it myself. The whole endeavor hurt my hip and my pride and I felt like a sad failure. I had thought it would be so much easier than in March and it wasn't.

At least when I got back to my room my sheets were changed. But I didn't get to take that long-awaited shower because (of COURSE) I got the only room on the floor with a bathtub instead of a walk-in shower. Perfect. So I had to wait for a new room to open up so I could switch rooms to take a shower. Which meant getting back into bed to stew in my own boiling skin for a few more hours.

I have been on oral pain medication since the epidural came out yesterday, but I still feel like they are not yet covering my pain properly. There are "gaps" where the pain comes through and when I ask if it is time for some more medicine I end up having an hour or more to wait.

Just like in March, I feel like I always have more pain than I "should" have. I know it is probably in my head, but I just get this vibe from people like they think I can't possibly be in pain when I am taking "so much" medication. But I am not exaggerating my pain. When I ask for medication, it is because the pain is at a distracting level, like 5 to 7. Actually, earlier today, when I told one of my nurses my pain had returned and asked if I could have some more medicine she looked at her watch and sort of sighed disapprovingly and said "you are already on a lot of medication..." It sucks to feel simultaneously like a sissy and a junkie.

At around 15:00 two doctors from dermatology came to look at my rash. They didn't take any photos so I guess they were "the deciders." After some chin-stroking they presented exactly no new ideas and no new solutions. So once again dermatology comes up a day late and a diagnosis short. Give me my steroid creams and go away now please.

In the afternoon I got out of bed again for a second session of PT with Kimber. Needless to say, I was not feeling positive about it, but since I had to get out of bed to get my shower anyway, I figured I might as well hit the parallel bars along the way. For some reason, this time it all went much better. Kimber still had to help me move my left foot forward, but at least it felt like I was contributing this time.

And so I earned my reward. Ahh, a shower and a steroid cream body mask. What a spa treatment. After that I was feeling (and looking) much better, so when Dr. Millis stopped by this evening he was happy to see me looking revived. He said everything is going so well that I might even get discharged tomorrow afternoon. The only things left on my to-do list are final x-rays and showing PT I can climb stairs on crutches. And we all know I can do that. Right?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Recovery Day 3 -- Dermatology Phones it In

This morning my epidural was turned off at 6:00 and I was started on the oral medication cocktail of oxycontin, oxycodone (Percocet) and Valium.

At 7:00 Dr. LaRue came in to check my dressings and I showed him my growing rash. The itching had increased throughout the day yesterday and I could feel that the nubbly, swollen heat rash had begun again, just like last year. ::Sigh::

So far the itching caused by the pain medication has been treated with Nubain and Benadryl, and we've been trying to prevent any rash or further skin irritation with frequent sheet changings and sponge baths, but there is only so much that can be done. I think the rash was inevitable.

As soon as I mentioned the onset of the rash, I was given some over the counter anti-itch cream, but I couldn't get anything stronger until a dermatologist looked at the rash. My experience from last time told me that this would not be happening with anything resembling efficiency.

At 8:00 pain services came again (smartly this time with only one intern in tow) to check on my pain levels with the oral meds. My hips were holding steady between about 1 and 4, depending on movement and time since last dosage.

After all that frantic morning activity I fell asleep until 11:30. I ate a fruit salad for lunch. That is worth mentioning because back in March I had no appetite at all in the hospital and I barely ate anything other than broth until about Friday or Saturday of that week. This time I ate fruit salad the day after the surgery and have eaten a little bit each day since then. Not a lot of food, but a soup here, some fruit there, etc. And that must be good, right?

After lunch, I signed back on to work for a few hours to fight some fires.

Speaking of fighting fires, by early afternoon the monstrous red blotchiness was in full bloom across my back, flanks, buttocks, and down the backs of my legs from my thighs to calves. It had even begun creeping around the front of my left upper thigh and across my stomach. All the while itching violently in hot, angry welts. Although it was clearly the same rash I'd had while recovering in the hospital in March (and therefore my chart already listed all the appropriate steriod creams necessary to soothe it), a dermatology consult was requested.

Meanwhile, Kimber from PT came to help me get out of bed for the first time since my surgery. It went relatively well, despite being herky-jerky and a bit nerve-wracking, and so I spent most of the afternoon sitting in a recliner chair enjoying a break from my hospital bed and waiting for the dermatologist to show up. And waiting. And waiting.

At 18:00 Dr. LaRue stopped by to check on me and took a look at my rash, which was by then much worse than when he'd seen it in the morning. He said he'd personally order up all the dermatology meds that had been used on me in March, and would also make sure dermatology was on its way.

I literally sat in that chair for three hours waiting for dermatology to show up and tell me I had a rash (surprise!), and prescribe me the medications I'd already taken a year ago for the same condition, and that Dr. LaRue had already ordered. Not only was the dermatology consult disrespectfully tardy, but the person dermatology ultimately sent was an intern who just took photos of my rash and threw out a couple of inapplicable but complex-sounding diagnoses that ultimately translated into things like "blocked sweat glands." I suppose blocked sweat glands are what led me to be steweing in a pool of my own sweat for the last few days, right? Eventually the dermatology intern went into a back room to call her attending so she should get coached on what to say to us. Impressive. At least I should finally get some steroid creams out of the ordeal.

Overall, today was physically miserable because of the discomfort and frustration due to the rash, but from a strictly orthopedic perspective it was a great day with good pain control during the switch from epidural medication to oral medication, and a successful adventure out of the bed and into the chair for a few hours. Moreover, with the removal of the epidural, I also got to remove all the leads monitoring heart rate, breath rate, etc., so that means a night free of strangling wires and beeping machines and one more step towards wireless freedom.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Recovery Day 2 -- Awakened by Pain and PT

After a calmer-than-usual night of sleep, I was awakened by Dr. LaRue at about 5:30, as he stopped by during his rounds. He took the drain out of my wound. The entire hip/flank area on my left side is hugely swollen and is making me feel enormously fat and distended. I don't recall my corresponding flank being so swollen in March. It almost made me wonder if the drain should stay in a bit longer -- isn't there so much more fluid in there to drain out? But I guess Doctor knows best.

My pain was still at zero this morning, which is even more impressive considering my epidural is set at 8.5 mL/hr this time as opposed to the 12 mL/hr it was at for my right hip in March. So everything is still coming up roses after this second PAO.

With my pain so controlled and my arms so strong, my nurse and I took advantage of the opportunity to give me another sponge bath and change my sheets again. Wow, the hygiene! I will say, though, despite all the prophylactic sheet changing we are doing, my back and flanks are still hot and sticky and pressed into damp sweaty sheets a lot of the time, so I worry that the heat rash may make a reappearance.

Dr. Millis stopped by to remove part of my dressing as well -- the thick ace bandage wrapped around my entire midsection and left thigh. Once he cut that thing off I felt fantastically better. The bandage had been the source of a lot of itching and discomfort so far, and removing it made me far more comfortable. I still had the two bandages over the incisions on either side, but at least the thick itchy girdle covering it all was gone.

After all that activity, I was exhausted, and so I napped from 10 to 12:30, turning away PT's attempts to rouse me into activity in the late morning. I already find PT's in-bed exercises a bit silly, and I am certainly getting tired of the way everyone in the hospital seems to think it is OK to rouse me from my most peaceful slumber for whatever little test (or intern lecture) they have in mind. I thought I read somewhere that adequate sleep (and hydration) were the absolute best medicine?

When I awoke from my healing sleep, I had another headache. (So much for "absolute best medicine, I guess.) I don't usually get headaches, and I don't remember getting any during my hospital stay in March, but this time around I've been having low grade headaches for a lot of the time. Tylenol has only helped about 50% of the time.

I also had another new pain when I woke up from my nap -- my left hip. The hip pain that had been held a zero this entire time had suddenly broken through, and now my left hip ached at about a three or a four -- enough to cause discomfort while lying still, and to cause me to avoid moving the hip if possible.

Nonetheless, I (grudgingly) went through the in-bed exercises with PT when they came back in the afternoon, and I had to postpone my pity party even longer by spending the rest of the day logged on to work (!) taking care of various crises that had popped up in the office since Monday. I was supposed to be able to take time off from work for this surgery, but unfortunately the schedules in my current cases, and the intricacy of my involvement in them, has made my complete absence from work impossible. I can't say that stressing over the projects (and our firm's shoddy remote intranet connection) is helping my healing, but there is not much that can be done about it, so I'm doing what I can, given the circumstances.

Dr. Millis stopped by in the evening to see how I was doing. I told him about today's hip pain and my in-bed PT, he checked my incisions and sensation. He thought all was progressing just fine, but just as a bonus he ordered me to be transfused with a pint of the blood I'd donated autologously pre-surgery.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Recovery Day 1 -- So Far So Good

My first night in the hospital after the surgery was also a fitful, fractured one. Just as during my hospital stay in March, all my machines kept thinking I was dying in one way or another -- no heart rate, no pulse oxidation, no breath rhythm -- and so the beeping started and stopped all night and thus, so did my sleeping.

Every time I woke up I felt as if a large chunk of time must have passed since the last awakening... and yet the clock had hardly moved at all. I can honestly estimate that I woke up every half hour last night because of beeping, itching or a nurse taking vital signs.

One thing that did not wake me up was pain. The epidural has been handling my pain really well; I've been at a zero on the pain scale so far. This time I don't need a CPM machine, either, because apparently it is not necessary if the surgery does not go into the joint capsule.

My recovery so far is already going better than it did after my March surgery. Although I am still plagued with itch problems (as a side effect of the pain medication), having the use of both my arms to move my body around using the trapeze pole above the bed makes it possible for me to lift myself off the bed so my back can be cleaned, my sheets can be changed and towels can be laid underneath me. Hopefully all these precautions will help keep me cool and dry so I can avoid the heat rash situation that so plagued me in March.

So by midday today I was pretty content -- zero pain thanks to my epidural, clean sheets thanks to my two working arms and my lovely nurse, and itching suppressed thanks to Nubain. And so, contentedly, I slipped into a nap.

Only to awaken with a start some time later to find seven doctors crowded around the bed in my tiny room, staring at me, clipboards in hand. I fumbled for my glasses as one of them began to make introductions and ask me questions. Putting my glasses on did not help focus my thoughts; instead it only made me see in frightful clarity that I was indeed surrounded by doctors with clipboards staring at me, awaiting my answer to the pending question that, in my panic, I had not heard. I was paralysed and made idiotic by the surprise and my self-consciousness, and so when I did start talking, I answered most of their questions vaguely and certainly unhelpfully. By the time I regained (a scrap of) my composure, it was all I could do not to laugh when I realized six of the seven were obviously rigidly earnest interns trailing a resident on rounds. (Hey, I watch Grey's Anatomy, I know what's up.)

Not to be a diva or anything, but that bed-crowding scenario was NOT OK with me. I have no problem with a teaching hospital, or with a resident coming into my room with interns to use me as a learning example. But I do not want to be woken up from delta wave sleep to find seven people in lab coats clustered tightly around my bed, scribbling on clipboards. Once you get over the initial shock, it is creepy, and then plain rude. So I politely asked my nurse if in the future I could be warned, and if necessary, awakened, before a med school field trip took a tourist stop at my room.

Incidentally, the seven doctors with clipboards were from pain services, and after having a discussion that was ostensibly with me, but really amongst each other, they decided to put me on Narcan for my itchiness. Never mind that I was already taking Nubain and Benadryl, both of which were doing the job well for me.

A bit later, PT came by to do some exercises. This seemed as ridiculous to me this time as it had when they came the day after my surgery in March. What could PT possibly think they were going to get done with me one day after major hip surgery? Apparently not much: move your feet up and down, clench your buttocks together, etc. But I guess it is never to early to start moving again.

Unlike in March, this time I seem to have an appetite during recovery. Today I ate a fruit salad and a bit of soup, which seemed to make everyone happy. Drs. LaRue and Millis came in to check on me separately during the evening; both seemed satisfied with my progress so far. And of course Dr. Millis stopped the Narcan as soon as I told him it wasn't doing anything for me and that the Nubain had been working just fine, because he's logical like that.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Left Hip PAO -- The Surgery Itself

For the most part, today* was much like Surgery Day for my right hip PAO. Same fitful night of sleep, same chilly walk to the hospital, same admitting and pre-surgery procedures.

This time, however, I had a cold. It seems like I never really got back to 100% healthy after that cold I had in late September after my first autologous donation. As you'll recall, I had a mild cold during/after the first autodonation, and an oncoming sinus infection during the second and third.

And then two days ago I began to have a sore throat. By last night I could tell that I definitely had a cold (or maybe even a continuation of that same unconquerable sinus infection? Please, don't let it be that!). I was very nervous that today's surgery would have to be postponed, which would have been a logistical nightmare.

Last night I tried to get a good long night's sleep (perchance to heal myself of the cold overnight?). Of course that was not to be, and I had a horrible, fitful night filled with nightmares about the surgery being cancelled, interrupted only by the frequent need to blow my nose.

This morning, the pre-surgery procedure was pretty much the same as it was with my right hip PAO in March. Mom and I walked over to the hospital. I had my vitals and other checks done at admitting. I mentioned there that I had a mild cold but the admitting staff didn't seem too concerned about it as long as it wasn't a cough/chest problem.

Because I had waited around at admitting for so long, by the time I got up to the surgical floor, my medical team was waiting around for me. I didn't even get a chance to change into my surgical pajamas before Dr. Millis signed my hips, his resident Dr. LaRue introduced himself and talked about the surgical strategy, the nurses came to check various things, and the anesthesiologist gave his explanation of the procedure. I did tell them that I had a mild cold but they, too, said they'd be more concerned if it were a chest/coughing cold with fever than the nasal congestion cold I had.

Then the anesthesiologist injectected me with the loopy-loo sedation medication and I was wheeled in to the OR at 7:50. I do remember joking around a lot in the OR as the team prepped me and placed my epidural. I remember there was music playing in the background and I asked what kind of music they were going to play while they operated on me. He asked what I wanted and I told him definitely no heavy metal, as that might make him go overboard with the saw. I think I eventually settled on Händel's Water Music.

While I was in surgery, my mother got regular updates on my progress. At 9:30 Dr. Millis had started in on the left hip, and by 11:00 he was cutting bone. By 12:30 he was putting the screws in on the left side. At 14:15 Dr. Millis was preparing to take the screws out of my right hip. Finally at 15:30 Drs. Millis and LaRue came out to tell my mother that I was all done and the surgery had gone well. He also gave my mother a baggie with the five screws that had come out of my left hip. Souvenir!

Dr. Millis did mention that my superhuman bone density had surprised him once again -- this time he was prepared for how difficult my bones were to saw through, but he was not prepared for how tightly my bones would adhere to the screws in my right hip during the past seven months of recovery. Apparently they had a heck of a time getting the screws out!

He also explained that this left hip surgery was somewhat less invasive than my right hip PAO had been, since my left hip was in better shape going into the surgery than my right hip had been. This time they did not have to open the joint capsule or detach the head of the quadriceps muscle. Also the femoral head did not need to be shaved and shaped for better alignment this time either. Thus the surgery itself was faster and my recovery will likely be quicker and less painful as well.

While Dr. Millis was giving this auspicious news to my mother, I was in the recovery area, awakening from anaesthesia in what felt like the throes of death. I felt like I had hypothermia, and I was shivering so violently that it would be more appropriately termed convulsing. I was also gasping for breath, literally gulping huge lungfuls of air but still feeling as if I could not breathe, as if I was drowning. I was given oxygen and was covered in hot blankets over every inch of my body like a heated white burqa. I remember pleading with them to stop the shaking; they ended up having to give me a horse's dose of Demerol to calm it.

By the time my mother came into the recovery room to see me, I was breathing normally and my convulsions had been reduced to chattering teeth and an occasional body shudder. I was still covered in blankets as they brought me up to my room. I was given some Nubain for the itching and promptly fell asleep.

*Obviously, I did not write this post on the day of my surgery. I wrote it a few days later, but post-dated it for chronological consistency.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

LPAO Pre-Op Appointments

Today my mother and I were back in Boston for a combination post-op / pre-op visit. Seven months post-op for my right hip, two weeks pre-op for my left hip. Overall it was a long day with some confusion and scheduling mishaps, but everything got done and everything is great, at least with my hips.

I had my appointment with admitting, which was much quicker this second time around. I signed my various proxies and consents and I spoke to the anesthesiologist and the admitting nurse. My insurance pre-authorization is "in process," so hopefully I'll get the confirmation in the mail any day now.

I had my third and final blood draw at the hospital blood center, and then I went up to see Dr. Millis. The scheduling mishaps meant that Dr. Millis did not have my pre-op left hip MRI or my post-op right hip X-rays to view prior to me seeing him, but nevertheless he put me through my range of motion tests and discussed both hips with me. My range of motion was great; nothing hurt; my muscle tone and fitness were much improved since my last visit in July.

Finally, on our way back home, we stopped at Waltham so I could have my pre-op MRI and post-op X-rays. The nurses had a lot of trouble injecting the contrast for the MRI because my veins kept rolling away or blowing out, even when they used an infant needle. They had to stick me six times to get 30cc of contrast into me. Clearly it was a wretched experience, especially at the end of a long and draining day. Pun intended.

My biggest concern today was really my general health and the useability of both today's blood draw and my two prior blood draws. At the hospital blood center (unlike at the New York Blood Center), they told me to contact them if I got sick with a cold or flu-like symptoms within 48 hours of my blood draw. This was a concern because, as you may recall, I got sick after both my previous blood draws.

My first blood draw was September 25 and I believe I wrote that I'd woken up that morning with a raspy throat and immediately fell into a (relatively mild) cold after the blood draw. My second blood draw was October 5; I woke up that morning with pressure in my left sinus and was diagnosed the next day with a sinus infection. Obviously in both cases I was already sick when I gave the blood.

Today I asked the blood center nurse about both cases and she felt fine about the first draw but wanted to run the second draw scenario by my doctor. Dr. Millis was fine with it but said we'd use the October 5th pint last, if necessary.

The problem is that today was my third blood draw, and I am still not 100%. In fact, I finished a 10-day course of antibiotics for my sinus infection three days ago (on Saturday 17th), and unfortunately woke up yesterday with the realization that my sinus infection was back. It had not been vanquished by the 10 days of antibiotics. I have to admit I didn't take super-good care of myself during the course of the antibiotics; for example, my sleep schedule was messed up by a trip to Los Angeles.

So today I have a sinus infection and I had to give my third blood draw. This on-site (in Boston) pint gets separated out for its plasma so maybe that mitigates things? I don't know. It is worth noting that (without knowing about the sinus re-infection) the admitting nurse checked my general health, including lymph nodes, looking in my nose and throat, breath sounds, etc. and declared me healthy. If I was really really sick, she'd have been able to tell, right?

I told Dr. Millis about my sinus infection and asked him if I could get back on antibiotics and take them until just before my surgery and he said yes. So that is the plan. I am going to try my very hardest to take the best care of myself possible these next two weeks (which I already should have been doing, but anyway) and hope that this second course of antibiotics can kill this thing. Obviously if it doesn't, there goes my surgery date.

Monday, October 5, 2009


Today was my second autodonation prior to my LPAO. This time my blood pressure was 120/80 and my hemoglobin (iron) level was 13.8. At my first autodonation (September 25) my blood pressure was 104/80 and my hemoglobin was 15.9. (Normal hemoglobin for women is 12-15 gm/dL of blood.) I'm taking iron supplements, of course, and trying to be as healthy and rested and hydrated as possible so my body can make more blood, but it can only work so fast. Luckily I have two full weeks until my next autodonation.

It is harder to stay healthy this time around, though. Maybe it is the season, but I have been a bit sick recently. The day of my first autodonation I felt fine, but my throat had been a little rough when I'd first woken up and I knew that I was on the verge of getting sick. And I did get a mild cold after the autodonation.

I hope the blood will be OK. When I woke up with a raspy throat the morning of the autodonation, I did some research; it seems the reason you can't give blood when you are sick is because you need that blood yourself to fight off the sickness -- not because your blood will be tainted with sickness. All I care about is that the blood I get post-surgery is not going to hurt me.

This morning I could tell that I was again on the verge of something -- this time it felt like I might have the stirrings of something in my left sinus (under the cheekbone). But again I felt fine going into the autodonation: no fatigue, aches or other signs of sickness. So we'll see. I will definitely ask Dr. Millis about this during my pre-op later this month.

It is hard to believe that I have less than a month left until my second surgery. I'm almost seven months post my RPAO and I've recovered so well -- I'm playing tennis twice a week, seeing my trainer twice a week, and I even did Pilates for the first time last week. I feel strong and relatively fit again (cardiovascular endurance is still not what it was). My left hip doesn't hurt at all, ever, and my already-PAO'd right hip is pain-free most* of the time. It is possible I've been pushing it a little too hard, though.

In a way, it is depressing that I have come this far and recovered so well, only to bring it all back to zero and have to start recovery all over again. But on the other hand, it is helpful that I now know the process of recovery, and the timing, and I know that if all goes as well as it did after my RPAO, I should be at this level of strength and recovery again by May. But then again, if I've learned anything from this process it is that recovery is impossible to predict, so really, anything could happen.

I am glad that I am having the second surgery in the winter. It is supposed to be a record-breaking cold and snowy winter this year, and now I have an excuse to sit inside by the fire for most of the winter. My parents' house in Connecticut, nestled in the snowy woods, is a great place to spend a winter.

I'm not there yet, though. I still have a month left. A month to tie up loose ends in NYC and at work, stay (get?) healthy and strong, and enjoy all the walking and tennis and Pilates that I'm lucky enough to be able to do in this brief interlude.


*My right hip does hurt sometimes, and it is very confusing. I can't predict it or make sense of it at all. The pain is usually in the front, (which is where the labral pain was before), but the pain is not on impact like it was with the labrum. Instead it hurts when I lift my leg to step a certain way, or in a deep squat. I think it must be the muscles (especially the hip flexor) getting fatigued and sore. But what is taking it so long!? I have been working on my strength for months; all my other muscles are back in business. Why would the hip flexor keep hurting on and off for so long?

The other strange thing is that it doesn't seem to be correlated to my activity (as least as far as I can tell). Some days I step on the tennis court and am sore after 5 minutes of play. And some days (like tonight) I can play an hour and a half and not feel sore until the end. Why is that? Some days I walk to work and it is pain-free; some days I start to walk and it is sore as soon as I get out the door. Another question for Dr. Millis.

One reason might be that I am constantly pushing the envelope with my hip -- if I were not walking to work every day and playing tennis twice a week, it might feel totally pain free all the time. We'll see what Dr. Millis says later this month. Whatever it is, it can't matter that much, since I'm about to slow way down on the activity level for a couple of months.

Friday, September 11, 2009

LPAO Scheduling

It is now a month and a half until my second PAO, this time on my left hip. Even though my left hip has not been in pain for almost two years now (overshadowed, I suppose, by the whinier right hip) I am still going forward with the surgery as planned. In the x-ray taken pre-RPAO, it is clear that my left hip dysplasia is equally as bad as my right hip's was, so I might as well get it over with. Even if the left hip isn't hurting now, it is structurally guaranteed to start hurting eventually.

The schedule I have finalized is as follows:

September 14, 2009 -- Begin rigidly healthy pre-surgery lifestyle: sufficient sleep, healthy and iron-rich diet, no alcohol, regular exercise. The goal is to avoid getting sick, to support my body through the month of blood draws, and be the healthiest and strongest I can possibly be going in to the surgery.

September 25, 2009 -- First autologous blood donation, at the New York Blood Center, with the blood subsequently shipped up to Boston. Begin taking iron supplements; take them up until the surgery.

October 5, 2009 -- Second autologous donation, at the New York Blood Center.

October 20, 2009 -- Pre-operative appointments at Children's Hospital. During this full day in Boston I will meet with Dr. Millis, the anaesthesiology team, physical therapy and admitting. I will also have my third autologous blood donation while I am there.

November 2, 2009 -- Surgery date. Here we go again!

Again I've arranged my absence with work, planning to be completely off the grid for two weeks after the surgery: one week in the hospital in Boston and one week sleeping and healing at my parents' house in Connecticut. During the third week (week of November 16), I plan to begin working remotely from Connecticut, as I did last time.

I plan to stay in Connecticut for about two months after returning from Boston, so I can have the help and supervision I would not have if I returned alone to my apartment in the city. Last time I thought I'd be back in the office in six weeks, but I decided I didn't want to go back until I was off crutches almost entirely, and that wasn't until eight weeks.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Six Months Post-Op -- Tennis Again!

Six months after my RPAO I am feeling good and enjoying an active summer. At this point I feel pretty much 100%, except that my fitness level is still not as high as it was pre-surgery, especially my cardiovascular endurance.

The biggest news I have is that at 5.5 months post-op I was cleared by Dr. Millis to begin playing tennis again! Finally! I have only played a few times since then but I am looking forward to getting a little more regular with the tennis this month. Very exciting indeed.

Meanwhile, I've continued to work with my trainer and increase my overall strength and endurance. I've also stepped up the cycling cardio (on a real bike this time!) over the past two weeks. All of that has been going well and the only limitations I've felt have been my fitness level, not my hips.

My left hip is still completely pain-free; I wonder if it will stay that way all the way up to its surgery date?

Speaking of LPAO, it is only two months away! Sad. It will be such a bummer to have to do all this again starting from zero again. But I am glad I took the summer off and didn't have the LPAO in July or August. It has been really great to have an active summer and enjoy the weather and my vacations. I think it would have been really tough to go through recovery in the summer when all I would want to do is run around outside. Plus those hot flashes I got from the pain killers would NOT have been welcome on a hot summer day!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Five Months Post-Op

At this point, my right (operated) hip is functioning at 100% for all walking-related activities. I no longer have any of the pain I described in my previous entry: no more twinges, no more aches, no more stripes down my thigh.

I can walk for long distances and durations without my right hip causing me to limit myself. Of course, I still get tired and footsore, but that is in a more general sense; I would have gotten tired anyway at some point!

I have now been seeing a trainer for about a month. My first training session was quite light and yet the soreness afterwards was wretched, mostly in my quads. I honestly had trouble walking and supporting myself with my quads for the first few days after the session, and I was in quite a bit of muscular pain. I suppose it was something I was just going to have to go through on the way to getting my quads back in gear, but I have to admit I wasn't aware that my quads were *that* weak!

Since that first session, my trainer has been stepping up the workouts in intensity and pace as my strength and endurance increase. I'd say my fitness is about 75% of what it was last year at this time, when I was playing tennis 5x per week and seeing a trainer regularly. I have some work to do, but obviously it feels good to be back on the path to fitness again.

For the time being, my trainer is being very careful with my (weak) hip flexors and with any impact exercises. So far my hip has not hurt during or after any of the training sessions. During one session my right hip flexor was definitely exhausted, but the joint itself did not hurt and the hip flexor in question was not even sore the following day.

On my own I am working on cardio on the exercise bike and to a lesser extent, introducing the elliptical machine. I am up to 45 minutes at about level 7 or 8 (out of 20) so that is still not hugely impressive on a cardiovascular level.

I am still not swimming. I know it is good for me but I just hate it and so I am still resisting it by making all sorts of excuses.

My numb spot still comes and goes but I never even notice it unless I am purposely paying attention to it.

My scar hasn't really made a ton of progress since the last time I posted a picture, and it still itches sometimes at the top, where that abscess was for a while, although the abscess has closed up and the scar is totally "healed" at this point. But scars do tend to keep that mauve look on me for a long time before they whiten up, so it is not surprising to me that it is essentially unchanged. And it doesn't matter anyway since Dr. Millis is just going to open it back up again in November to take the screws out on that side.

Speaking of November, my left hip (which is scheduled for surgery in three months, on November 2) still hasn't made a single peep of pain all summer.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Four Months Post-Op

In my last entry six weeks ago, I was just starting to walk again; now I am getting close to 100% with walking. Right now, I'd say I'm at 80% of my pre-dysplasia-pain ability to walk, and probably 100% of my ability to walk just prior to surgery.

As I wrote six weeks ago, at first even going on a half mile walk was exhausting. My leg muscles were in various states of soreness for several weeks, and my cardiovascular endurance needed work after two and a half months of limited activity.

My gait stabilized soon after I began walking. Once I got steady on my feet, I tried to increase my walking bit by bit -- at first just starting with the basic walk to and from the subway on the way to work (a few blocks each way), then little lunch-hour walks that I stretched longer and longer.

Eventually I was able to walk from my apartment in the Financial District across the Brooklyn Bridge to DUMBO, one of my favorite walks and one I was very glad to get back to! My longest walk so far has been a five-mile walk through London the weekend before last -- but I did pay for that with exhaustion and soreness for the rest of the day afterwards, so I haven't repeated the feat since.

I have had pain as I've been increasing my walking. It is hard to explain -- a lot of the time it is clearly muscle pain -- in the quads, glutes, calves, hip muscles -- but once or twice it has felt disturbingly like the old pain: twinges when my hip hit a certain way; that old "blister" feeling. The twinging/shooting only happens when I am *really* spent, like after that 5 mile walk for example. In London, my hip felt great during the whole walk (I would have stopped immediately had it started hurting), but after I came home and had rested on the couch for a while, I got up and felt really stiff with twingy pain in the operated hip on each step. I don't know what that means.

At times I admit I've been concerned that the surgery "didn't work" and the pain was the same old pain I had pre-surgery. But unlike the pre-surgery pain, the twingy pain I have now goes away quickly. The old pain would linger for several days until I'd stayed off my hip long enough for it to fade away.

Other times when my hip has been tired I've sometimes felt an ache, sometimes with the ache reaching down in a stripe down the outside front of my thigh. Of course that stripe could be some inner quad muscle complaining. In fact, I am not sure that the twingy pain isn't muscle related, too. I just don't know. But no matter what the pain, it has usually not lasted more than a few hours and it has always been gone the next morning. I figure it is just all part of building up the strength and endurance of my hip, and to stick with the rule to ease up if it hurts.

Jaime (physical therapist) did give me some exercises and stretches during my May visit, which I was to do daily. I tried to do them every morning and evening but I definitely did not do them that often. The stretching was, and still is, the worst -- my hamstrings were tight anyway before the surgery and now they are just ridiculously tight. It is hard to tell if there is even any progress with the stretching, but I suppose it is good for me no matter what.

I have also ridden the exercise bike sometimes during the past weeks. I haven't swum and I haven't done any anaerobic exercise, but that is just because I am lazy. I have resolved to remedy those deficits in the coming weeks.

As it stands now, I am back to being able to get around in the city at least as well as I did just prior to surgery. I can walk to subways, around the office at work, to errands at lunch hour, in parks on weekends, etc., all without pain (for the most part). I can walk briskly and bustle up and down stairs at typical New York pace. The last couple of nagging range-of-motion problems (not being able to really bend freely over my operated leg to put on a sock, for example) have finally fallen away.

I still have the numb spot on the outside of my thigh, but it comes and goes. Sometimes it feels like it is almost totally gone and then sometimes it comes back a little bit. I guess it is possible there will be some sort of strangeness there for the rest of my life, but no matter; I rarely notice it and am never bothered by it when I do.

I went up to Boston yesterday to see Dr. Millis and the team. (My last visit was back in May, right before my last entry in here.) I got x-rays that looked (to me) exactly like the x-rays from six weeks ago. Screws straight, cracks filled in, etc. Dr. Millis was pleased with my gait, flexion and strength and all seems to be improving according to plan. Weakest links are the right hip flexor and hip abductor muscles. (They probably would have been stronger if I'd been more religious with my PT exercises, hmm?)

I asked Dr. Millis and Jessica (physical therapist) about adding back some activities. Sadly I'm not allowed to start up tennis again, but I'm now allowed to hit against a wall or against a ball machine, so that's a start. Jessica said I needed a month or so before I could start adding any impact on my hip, so "real" tennis is still on hold.

No horseback riding still because it is "too jarring." (I'm surprised they didn't also say "and you could fall off!")

Thankfully I am allowed to start back up with a personal trainer again, so that should help with my motivation to get back in the weight room. I've already set up my first session for this Friday.

Another bit of good news is that I don't have to go back up to Boston until my LPAO pre-op appointment in October! I will communicate with the physical therapists and Dr. Millis via email to give updates on how I'm doing, but basically I'm free to enjoy my summer and fall.

Speaking of LPAO, my left hip is still pain-free despite the increased activity. I haven't had even a twinge from it even during the longer walks. That doesn't affect my decision to put it on the chopping block in November, but it is definitely good news for the enjoyment of my summer.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Ten Weeks Post-Op -- Walking Again

So now, ten weeks after my surgery, I am back in NYC and walking without crutches, two big steps towards getting back to "normal!"

Last Wednesday I packed up my things and moved from my parents' house in Connecticut back to my apartment in the city. On Thursday and Friday I worked in the office for the first time in over two months.

Thursday I used one crutch for pretty much any walking I did around the office, as well as to and from the office. I took a cab to work in the morning but I took the subway on the way home. On Friday I only used the crutch for getting to and from the office; all day long I walked around in the office without crutches. And on Saturday I went crutch-free all day!

At first I was not very steady walking without the crutch. I don't mean that my balance was off, I mean that my gait was strange and halting. It was as if I'd forgotten how to walk normally. I was overly conscious of my posture and my stride, and I had a sort of limp. I was not in pain -- my hip would get tired and uncomfortable, but it did not hurt in the way it did before the surgery. Mostly it was difficult to get my leg to move properly for the walking stride.

Interestingly, climbing stairs was one of the first things I was able to do "normally". Even a few weeks ago when I still used crutches for everything else, I could climb (not descend) stairs fluidly and without pain or discomfort of any kind. I wonder if this is because stepping up with the operated leg doesn't put the same kind of pressure on the joint as taking a step on flat ground -- and the stair-climbing muscles (hamstring and buttock) were already getting back in shape from my exercise bike riding.

As for the occasional discomfort I've felt these past few days as I have been weaning off crutches, it is the muscles -- not just near my right hip, but throughout both my legs -- that are hurting most as they build back up. Physical therapist Jaime told me to expect this.

Today, for example, my right soleus muscle is quite sore. That makes sense since that muscle is critical for walking and standing, two things which I have not done with that leg in a while. If I am going to be really whiny, my entire right leg is pretty sore, but the soleus is the worst.

I should also mention that as I'm relearning to walk, my right knee is almost as jerky and confused as my right hip. I suppose it is because the right knee fell into just as much disuse as my right hip while I was on crutches and so all it's surrounding muscles need to shape up too. Now when I get up from sitting for a while, my knee is often stiffer than my hip! I can walk it off in a few steps, and it is not painful.

Unsurprisingly, I am exhausted by what used to be standard NYC walking. On Saturday I walked to the Seaport from my apartment (about a half mile each way) and felt like I'd walked a 10K. It gives me a new appreciation for what good walking shape I must have been in before!

My left leg has been quiet through all of this increased activity. I am just waiting for it to start hurting (but hoping it doesn't). Dr. Millis said I can get the left hip done in as soon as a month's time, but I am not anxious to leap back onto the gurney just yet. I'm hoping my left hip can behave itself until October, so I can do all the fun summer activities on my calendar without having to coordinate my outfit with a pair of crutches.

Finally, I should note that the numb spot on the outer thigh of my operated leg is almost entirely gone now. It still feels a little bit strange when I rub it, but much improved from immediately post-surgery. For the most part it is almost back to normal sensation.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Nine Weeks Post-Op -- Lose the Crutches!

Hallelujah! I am now officially allowed to wean myself off the crutches!

Today I went up to see Dr. Millis for my two-month post-op visit (although it really was 9 weeks post-op). He took another x-ray (I'll post it as soon as I get the image from the hospital) and I met with Jaime, the physical therapist, again.

I'm sad to say that it is hard for me to see any difference between today's x-ray and my last x-ray, or even the x-ray taken 5 days post-surgery. But the doctor was very pleased with all the new fuzzy white stuff I have apparently added in the last month, and he said that according to the x-ray there was no skeletal reason I couldn't walk right away.

Dr. Millis had me "try" walking without crutches, and both he and Jaime were impressed that I was walking so well my "first time" without crutches. I didn't tell them I'd already been using one crutch a little bit and even doing some minor walking. Hey, they didn't ask, OK? I would have told them if they'd asked.

Even though I've now gotten permission to walk, I can't just toss the crutches aside like a Christmas miracle; my hip and leg muscles, after two months of general atrophy, need a little time to get up off the couch, dust the Doritos crumbs off their bellies, and get in shape. I am allowed to walk as much as is comfortable, but Dr. Millis and Jaime warned that I should always have a crutch with me for when (not "if") my hip gets tired or sore.

Weaning off the crutches means sometimes I'll be walking, sometimes I'll be on one crutch, and sometimes I may even need to go back to two crutches for a day or so, depending on what my hip feels like. But as my joint strengthens I should find myself needing support less and less.

Jaime tested the range of motion in my right (operated) hip, as well as my current ability to use various muscles around the joint to lift my knee up, abduct my leg, and bring my leg out behind me. She also had me stand on my right (operated) leg and lift my left leg off the floor, which felt unstable and a bit scary. But apparently having 100% of my body weight on my right hip is not a problem at this point -- everything is healed enough that I'm not going to damage anything. What I really need to avoid is impact. Standing with 100% of weight on operated leg = OK; jumping up and down on operated leg = not OK.

Jaime then had me stand on my right (operated) leg, with a hand on the table for balance, and do all the same movements with my left leg: lift knee up, abduct the leg, bring leg out behind me. Initially I thought this was to strengthen the muscles around my left hip, but it turned out that having to support my entire body weight on my right leg while bracing myself against the movement of my left leg was the actual point of the exercise. And it was hard. The same muscles that are used for leg abduction are used to support the leg when standing on one foot, so I felt the burn on the outside of my right hip/thigh rather than in the muscles around my left hip. I am to practice these leg movements bilaterally, adding the resistance of a thera-band as my strength increases.

In addition to the leg movement exercises, Jaime also gave me some more stretches (hamstring and hip flexor) to add to the quad stretch I was already doing. She cleared me to begin doing crunches, increase my resistance on the exercise bike and swim laps in the pool (gently). She said I could try the elliptical machine when I felt my balance was good enough. I am not allowed to work with a personal trainer or do Pilates until after she's assessed my progress at my next visit.

So all of this is fantastic news. I have a lot of new movements to work on now, so I finally feel like progress can occur again! I am very excited to get started.

My next visit with Dr. Millis will be at 16 weeks (four months) post-op.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Two Months Post-Op

I was supposed to see Dr. Millis yesterday for my two-month visit, but I couldn't because of scheduling conflicts (mine, not his). So I was supposed to know by now whether I could ditch these wretched crutches.

I've unofficially been mixing one-crutch and cane usage (and even some walking) into my days for the past week and a half, even though I'm technically supposed to be on two crutches until I next see the doctor. My hip has been feeling OK with the increased burden: sometimes it feels a bit tired and achy but most of the time it feels just fine. Even when it does hurt after being on it too much, it is not very painful at all. Maybe a 2, at the maximum. Any time I've felt discomfort I've gone back to two crutches until it has subsided.

As I write this I am starting to feel more and more guilty about cheating with the crutches. Erin told me expressly not to cheat and to stay on crutches until I saw the doctor again, and even the physical therapist wouldn't let me increase the resistance on the bike. If I find out next week that there are negative consequences to my cheating, i.e. my x-rays show some setback due to my impatience, I will be really upset with myself.

This is just taking too long, though! Two months is too long to be limited like this, especially in the springtime. It is one thing when I am just sitting at home at my parents' house, but the instant I do anything remotely social or adventurous, I want so desperately to be off the crutches that I cheat (now that I can). For that reason it is good that I have kept myself up here in Connecticut and not returned to the city. I knew the sequestration would protect me from temptation.

Another cause of my impatience with crutches is shame. I've felt a bit ashamed about this whole diagnosis since the beginning. It is not like I had some glorious sports injury; I was born defective with a deformity commonly associated with DOGS. That alone is cringe-worthy, but in addition I am not a person who likes to be seen as weak, helpless, pitiable or needy. I don't like attracting attention such that people feel sorry for me. I don't like having to ask for help. And so I absolutely hate being in this condition. Another reason for hiding up in Connecticut is so people don't see me in this pathetic state.

The closer I get to walking, the more impatient I am get rid of these symbols of weakness and deficiency. And sometimes that impatience overrules the cautious part of my brain that says I should follow my doctors' orders.

None of this is offered as an excuse for my cheating, just as an explanation. I have a week to go until I find out how everything looks on the inside. You know what would be the most karmically appropriate result? If my imprudence has set back my healing and so I have to stay on crutches for another month. That would be just what I deserve, wouldn't it.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Seven (and a Half) Weeks Post-Op

The healing proceeds apace. Pain is negligible, movement is good, abscess is on the mend.

I've been going to the gym several times a week (the goal being every day but sometimes it just gets away from me). I know my physical therapist told me I couldn't do more than resistance level 1 until I see the doctor again May 19, but... machines are different, right? Some go 1-10, but the one at my gym goes 1-20. So I have been squidging my way up on the resistance and am now up to 30 minutes at level 3, with no obvious ill effects. I have also been doing some upper body exercises and ab work.

Last month Erin warned me to stay on two crutches and 1/3 body weight until May 19, but it is hard to do that when I am feeling so much better and stronger. I have to admit that I sometimes put the crutches down when I am in the kitchen and just taking small steps around carrying a bowl from counter to counter or something. So technically that is the verboten full weight sans crutches. I know I shouldn't but it is so tempting, and there's no pain to tell me "no."

It turns out Erin was right about the abscess: it has been clearing up. It is still scabby but I don't wear a Band-Aid anymore. The rest of the scar is pretty much the same as it was -- like someone drew a line on me with a mauve-colored marker.

I am pleased with my range of motion, and I can feel that the muscles around my hip are getting stronger. I can lift my leg onto the couch now, or into the car, without using my hand under the knee to help it up. One thing I still can't do is put my socks on right (operated) foot, or tie my shoelaces on that foot. The angle when I bend over the right hip is too acute. I can do the left, but not the right.

Not really much else to report this week. I guess this is the long boring part of recovery.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Six Weeks Post-Op

Springtime has come to Connecticut, so at least now some of my sitting can be done outside in the sunshine, enjoying the slow colorful explosion of my mother's garden.

A week ago I discontinued painkillers entirely; since then pain has been minimal. A few times I have "overdone it," I suppose, but the pain has been manageable with just a few Tylenol rather than the hard stuff.

I still have not exactly mastered the 1/3 weight bearing, so I am contenting myself with an average of 1/3 weight bearing. Sometimes I step too hard, sometimes I don't step enough; so be it. At this point I don't think I'm going to come crashing down in a heap of shattered bones and bent screws if I happen to step on my leg with full weight.

By now I have been to the gym a few times to ride the exercise bike and do some upper body exercises, which has helped my mood considerably. It feels good to get some blood flowing, even if it is only for thirty minutes at zero resistance. That's right, I am up to thirty minutes on the bike. I asked my physical therapist if I can add resistance or some other leg exercises now, but she said I had to wait until I saw the doctor again before I could be cleared for any increases. So that means I am stuck at this level for three more weeks. ::Sigh::

This week I finally removed the shower chair from my shower. I probably could have removed it last week as I hadn't sat on it in a while.

My incision is still plagued by an open wound at the top. Erin (on Dr. Millis' team) said it is called a "suture abcess" and that I should just keep it covered by a Band-Aid until it goes away. Erin didn't seem worried but I can't say I am very pleased about having an open wound for weeks on end.

Last week's malaise hasn't entirely dissipated, but the lovely spring weather and the gym visits have certainly helped. And as always, I have plenty to do.

Work has been very busy these past couple of weeks, in a stressful way more than in a "happy industry" way. I'm very glad to be working from home; I would not be getting nearly as much done if I were in the city struggling to and from the office and trying to handle life alone in my apartment.

The office has kindly let me extend my "work from home" absence past my originally planned return date of May 1. Now I plan to remain in Connecticut with my infinitely helpful and supportive parents until after my next appointment with Dr. Millis, at which I will hopefully be switched down to one crutch or even a cane.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Off The Meds

It has now been five weeks since my surgery.

Today is the first day I have gone without any pain medication at all, and it feels fine so far. I had really been stepping down the dosage slowly prior to that, going by whatever pain level I felt. This morning my hip hardly hurt at all, so I decided to give the day a try without medication.

At this point I can sleep on my right (operated) side for long periods during the night. It feels a bit funny, but it is not painful. I sleep through the night with no problems. I am still clocking about nine or ten hours of sleep every night.

I can move my leg around quite a bit using the muscles near the hip; they are starting to recover nicely. All the exercises I got last week from the physical therapist are going very well; they are almost too easy. Only the hip abduction exercise is still difficult.

I have not been to the gym to do the exercise bike or the weight machines for my upper body -- I'm still trying to work out a membership with the YMCA up here in Connecticut. I really hope to get to the gym soon, as I feel that my sedentary lifestyle is affecting my mood as well as my body.

I am still working on getting my new 1/3 body weight weight-bearing allowance right, but the added weight isn't adding pain in my hip. Even when I've accidentally stepped on it with full weight it has not been painful, just obviously weak.

The numb spot on the side of my thigh is still there. It feels like it might be a little less numb, but it is hard to tell.

My incision has actually regressed and is not looking as good as it was in my last photo. One of the subdermal sutures has poked out at the top of the scar, creating an open wound, so I have to wear a Band-Aid over that part. The rest of the scar looks fine, but it is just redder and more noticeable than it was when I first took the Steri-strips off. I am not sure why. I am allowed to massage the scar with Vitamin E oil now, so maybe that will help.

So basically I am at the point in my recovery where I feel totally healthy, except I am on crutches. It is a very frustrating feeling. Progress was obvious before: less pain, more movement. Now everything just feels stagnant. Before I wasn't frustrated because it was very clear that I was injured and needed to rest and heal. Now it is easy to forget that all I have in those cracks is "fuzzy white stuff" and the bone needs time to heal together into a strong, solid unit again. And so it is easy to fall into the foul mood I have been in for the past three or four days.

I am not bored: I've got plenty to do, especially where work is concerned. But I don't want to do any of it any more. I am tired of this variety of sameness. I move from book to magazine to work task to TV show, I move from bed to armchair to table to couch, but it is all the same. It is all still and slow and seated. And I am really tired of sitting.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

One Month Post-Op Visit

Today was my first post-operative visit with Dr. Millis, one month after my surgery. I had x-rays taken, met with the doctor to discuss my progress, and met with Physical Therapy to discuss my "assignments" for the coming month. My next visit to Boston will be in another month.

Dr. Millis said my x-rays looked great, and that "all the fuzzy white areas" were new bone growing to fill the cracks. Honestly, the whole x-ray looked like fuzzy white areas of varied brightness, so I didn't really see what he was seeing. I will post the new xrays when I get them. Dr. Millis also tested my range of motion in extension, flexion and rotation. In all, he was very pleased with my healing progress.

I got cleared to stop taking aspirin (which I'd been taking to avoid blood clots). I was instructed to continue to wean myself off painkillers as I have been doing. I got cleared to drive a car.

I am still on both crutches, only now I am allowed to put one third of my body weight on the right leg. So not exactly throw-down-your-crutches progress, but progress nonetheless. The problem is that one third of my body weight is a hard weight to gauge when you are thinking about crutching. It is one thing to put just the weight of your leg down. It is another thing to put half your body weight down as you do during when walking normally. But one third body weight? That is two thirds of the normal weight I would put on that leg if I were walking normally. But how does two-thirds normal weight feel? I have no idea. This will take practice.

The meeting with Physical Therapy outlined the range of movement I am permitted and the exercises I should practice in the coming month. I am now allowed full extension of my leg, which means I can lay on my stomach and on my back with no pillow under my leg. I was given a set of starter exercises and instructions to do them at least once a day. I was also given permission to walk in a pool and ride an upright stationary bicycle at no resistance for 10 minutes, building up to 30 minutes.

I was specifically instructed not to do any straight-leg lifts using the quadriceps because the head of one of the quadriceps muscles was detached during surgery (hence my inability to slide my foot forward the first week, remember that?) and still needed time to reconnect securely.

I did a whole set of the exercises with the Physical Therapist and they were pretty challenging despite their simplicity. It is an odd feeling to be starting something so basic from scratch. Before this, I had been moving my limbs around without a problem since birth. It is a bit rough to have to re-learn it all when the limbs are so much heavier and there is far less naptime.

After three hours in the hospital going from appointment to waiting room to appointment again, having Dr. Millis move my leg around to test motion, having the Physical Therapist move my leg around and lead me in a set of exercises -- my leg hurt more than ever. Muscle pain as well as bone pain this time. I foresee a painful period ahead of me as I begin to practice my new movements this coming month.

I am looking forward to moving more and bearing more weight on the leg, but I am also disappointed that the healing process is not moving faster. Looking back over the last month -- or even through this very entry -- the sentiment seems silly: I have progressed so much from being flat on my back in the hospital a month ago. But I have swung back to the way I felt the first weeks after the surgery, when I was unhappily surprised that recovery was so hard and painful. This time, I am unpleasantly surprised that recovery is taking so long. And just like last time, I should be surprised, nor should I have naively expected that somehow, for *me*, everything would be easy and quick. It has all been and will continue to be just as painful and gradual a process it is for every other normal human being. What a surprise.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Three Weeks Post-Op

It is now three weeks post-op and things have definitely improved. Pain is down (as is pain medication), movement is up, and the incision looks amazing. Next week I go up to Boston for my 1-month-post-op visit and then we'll see how much progress I've made internally as well.


I have far less pain now than I did a week ago, and I get by on far fewer painkillers per day. This past week I have been taking an Oxycontin twice a day, morning and evening, and filling in with Vicodin three times during the day; yesterday I dropped it down to only two Vicodin during the day. This past week I also stopped taking the Valium all together.

Because of the reduction in medication, I don't have the same skin reactions as I did before, so I have stopped taking the Atarax (although I still use the topical rash cream morning and evening in the relevant areas).

My pain is generally very low. Most of the day I am in little to no pain; towards the afternoon I start to feel an ache and that is when I take the Vicodin. If I am going out to something I usually take a Vicodin beforehand as protection, as Dr. Millis suggested, and then I am able to sit through dinners and events with no problem. I sleep well, not waking up too often, and I don't wake up with too much pain in the mornings.

Overall there has been a huge improvement on the pain front this week. Actually Dr. Millis predicted this would happen. When we spoke a week ago he said that I would probably notice a sudden lifting of pain over the next week or so; a disappearance of the constant aching pain that I'd had since the surgery. And so I did.


I have made great strides (sorry) in the movement department as well. With the reduction in pain, and the knowledge that I am not overly numbed with pain medication and am not likely to do anything that will "ruin" the surgery, I feel much less nervous about my right leg in general.

I can bend carefully in more directions and at sharper hip angles without the prior pinching; I can move my right (operated) leg out to the side or in across my other leg a little bit (not talking huge ballet swings here, maybe 20 degrees in each direction?); I can rotate my right foot inwards and outwards when my leg is stretched out before me. I can lift and move my leg more often now (which is still not that often) without using my arms to assist, but I can also tell that many of the muscles around my hip are (not surprisingly) very weak indeed and, once I get the go-ahead, are going to need some rehab work.

One thing I have not noticed with any of my increased movements is popping, grinding, clicking, snapping or any other Rice Krispies sounds or feelings coming from my hip. Perhaps that will come with larger movements, but so far so quiet.

I know that I have put a little more than the allowed weight on the operated leg at times (by accident) in the past week and I haven't had any pain result from those brief occasions. I am still under the hospital-discharge instructions to put no more weight on my operated leg than the weight of the leg itself (i.e. resting my foot on the floor), so that is what I do, but it feels like I am ready to put some more weight on the operated leg.

Honestly, with my pain so low and my movement so improved, sometimes this whole surgery/recovery/crutches thing feels fake. Like I could just throw my crutches aside and walk if I wanted to. I suppose that is a dangerous feeling because it could lead to me acting carelessly with a hip that, while feeling much better, is by no means even close to completely healed.

But it seems my naive pre-surgery superhero feelings have begun to resurface -- the ones that made me think this recovery wouldn't be that bad at all (at least not for *me*) and the ones that are making me think the doctor is going to tell me I can throw away the crutches and walk when I go see him on Tuesday. Thank God my parents never got me a Wonder Woman costume for Halloween as a child; I probably would have jumped off a building expecting to fly.


One great reminder that none of this is fake at all is the five-inch scar across my abdomen. All the steri-strips are off and it looks amazing, see for yourself. Dr. Millis must have used skin glue or something because the incision has healed together so smoothly and so quickly. But I can't get too excited about it: he is going to reopen it to get the screws out eventually, and I don't know that it will heal up so nicely the second time around.


I am in good spirits most of the time, especially now that the pain and itching have lessened and I've gotten more relaxed about the movement of my hip. I am not bored in the slightest: on the contrary I am relishing the opportunity to read voraciously in various media and keep up with my favorite TV shows and movies. This is the part of me that is hoping that the doctor does *not* tell me to throw away the crutches and walk next week. I'm not done with my pile of books yet!

Nevertheless, the bookworming has slowed down in the last couple of weeks as I'm back to working almost full days now during the week. I feel up to it mentally and so far I think I have been doing as good a job as I would be doing if I were physically in the office. Probably better, since I am comfortable and only have a 13-stair commute.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Venturing Out on the Town

Tuesday's big adventure was going out to dinner at a local restaurant. At the time it was my longest excursion out of the house since I got home from the hospital a week and a half ago.

I was already in a bit more pain than usual before we went, but I thought the pain was more from muscle cramping from sitting in one position all day than from hip ache, so I took a Valium instead of an Oxycodone. Wrong choice. I was irritable, sleepy, uncomfortable in my chair, not very hungry and climbing the pain scale throughout the meal. What a terrible dinner date I was for my poor parents!

When I got home, I got a call from Dr. Millis. He wanted to check up on me at the two-week mark. Obviously he was catching me at a low point pain and mood-wise, but despite how awful I felt during the call, I tried to give him a broader picture of how I have been doing these past weeks and the progresses I have made.

The highlights of what he told me were:

-- if I am to undertake anything adventuresome (ahem, restaurant visit), I should prepare by taking extra pain medication beforehand (in this case one or two Oxycodone instead of one Valium) and not torture myself by going poorly protected, painkiller-wise;

-- he did not seem to be concerned about the amount of pain medication I am still needing (I was concerned because some of my PAO peers seem to reduce and even quit their pain medication so quickly, and I just don't think I can do it that fast, nor do I think I am being wimpy about my pain level);

-- I don't have to worry so much about overdoing the angle or the weight on the operated hip -- it will take more than such small things to do damage to the hip and its healing;

-- any grinding, shifting, popping, or clicking I may have felt are normal the first few weeks (I have felt none of those things.);

-- the dressing can come off any time now, the incision will be healed shut by now;

-- the numb spot will continue to recede.

Today I took the dressing off -- it is still hard to tell what the incision looks like because of the steri-strips. Mostly it looks like a 4.5" long mountain ridge curving down from where the iliac crest sticks out in front. Here is a photo; one of the steri-strips has peeled off already so you can see the actual incision there.

For orientation, the grey fabric is my pants, the top of the incision is where my hip bone would stick out really obviously if I were skinny like a supermodel, and the right side of the photo is the right side of my body. The yellowish tinges are from Betadine solution.

[Note, I've also added a post-surgery x-ray photo here, and going forward photos will be easily accessible in the Quick Links section at left.]

Tonight was another big adventure, attending a three-hour fund-raising event with my parents. Again I was already in a bit more pain than normal beforehand, this time because I'd stepped on the dog while swinging my bad leg off the couch -- the dog obviously jumped up and away, wrenching my leg as she moved. It hurt -- me physically and the dog emotionally.

This time I applied the lessons of Tuesday night and took two Oxycodone beforehand and had extra medication with me. (The fact that the event was a trivia competition and I was able to vigorously compete does prove my point that the Oxycodone does not make me foggy at all.) Although my team did not win, the night turned out well overall. My pain stayed very low until the last hour, when it started to increase and distract me. So clearly I can venture out a bit more, but as Dr. Millis suggested, I should be prepared with extra pain medication to avoid self-torture.