Thursday, January 22, 2009

Pre-Op Scheduling

Now that I have a surgery date, I have had to schedule all my pre-operative appointments. Before surgery I need a complete physical with blood panel, kidney function and liver function tests; autologous blood donations (giving my own blood for use during/after my surgery); and pre-operative appointments at the hospital.

The challenge is not only in coordinating schedules, but in planning dates that allow for proper hemoglobin replacement between blood draws and prior to surgery. My first blood donation cannot be earlier than six weeks before the surgery (February 2) and my last donation cannot be later than two weeks before the surgery (March 2). Moreover, one must allow seven to ten days between blood donations to allow the body to replace the missing pint of blood each time.

Two of my blood donations will be in New York at the New York Blood Center, which will ship my blood up to Boston. One of my donations must be on-site in Boston, as they need a very fresh on-site sample to separate into plasma and platelets for concentrated infusions during surgery. A shot of platelets in various areas can boost clotting during a bloody surgery (which any surgery involving bone-sawing necessarily is).

The schedule I have finalized is as follows:

February 3, 2009 -- Complete physical, including blood/liver/kidney levels, just to check everything and know my baselines. I'm getting this from a regular internist here in Manhattan and having the records sent up to Dr. Millis' office.

February 9, 2009 -- First autologous blood donation, at the New York Blood Center. After this appointment I am to ensure my diet has iron-rich foods and am to take iron supplements for five days.

February 19, 2009 -- Pre-operative appointments at Children's Hospital. During this full day in Boston I will meet with Dr. Millis, the anaesthesiology team, and admitting. I will also have my second autologous blood donation while I am there.

March 2, 2009 -- My third autologous donation, at the New York Blood Center, with the blood subsequently shipped up to Boston.

March 16, 2009 -- Surgery date.

Meanwhile, I have a more general goal of getting myself as strong and healthy as possible prior to the surgery. I have read that other women have experienced faster recoveries when they have gone into the surgery strong and fit. I also must try to eat a nutritious, iron-rich diet during this period of blood donations, as well as keep myself generally free of colds and other sickness. If one is sick one cannot donate blood; if one is sick in the days approaching surgery, the surgery will be postponed.

I've arranged my absence with work. I plan 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 April 6), I plan to begin working remotely from Connecticut, although start day and hours per day are going to be contingent on how my recovery is progressing at that point.

I plan to stay in Connecticut for at least five weeks 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. Manhattan is NOT a friendly place for people on crutches, so ideally I would like to be almost off them before I leave Connecticut. Right now I anticipate physically returning to the office the week of April 27, but again that is contingent on my recovery speed.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Meeting Dr. Millis

Today my mother and I drove up to Boston to meet Dr. Millis and discuss my potential surgery. I say "potential" because it still was not guaranteed that I was an appropriate candidate for the PAO surgery, much less that I would have the renowned Dr. Millis as my surgeon. If Dr. Millis felt I was not a good candidate for a PAO, or if he opted not to take me as a patient, I would have been frustratingly back at square one. So my biggest concern heading into this appointment was getting everything nailed down, and most importantly, getting a surgery date inked into the calendar.

Prior to meeting Dr. Millis, I had to get additional X-ray and MRI imaging at the Children's Hospital's Waltham facility. I must admit that getting procedures done at a children's hospital is really kind of wonderful. For example, there is fun, whimsical decor in the waiting room, including fish tanks! I remember fish tanks in my pediatrician's waiting room when I was six years old. Nothing bad can happen to you in a place with fish tanks, right?

Additionally, the staff at children's hospitals are cheerful, patient and comforting. My X-ray tech was joking around, making sure I was comfortable and breathing, etc. I'm not particularly scared of X-rays but there is something to be said for treating sick and hurting adults like they are frightened children. Maybe all our hospitals should be like children's hospitals.

At the very least hospitals should always have a fun dragonfly mobile above the table when they try to inject contrast medium into you for your MRI. It was at least somewhat soothing to glare at the swaying, cartoonish insects, clenching my teeth as two nurses tried their hands at finding and piercing a vein in my superhero body. Apparently I have such good elasticity in my veins that they flatten out or roll away at the sight of a needle. Elastigirl indeed. Finally after five excruciating tries they got the contrast medium injected and so into the clanging doughnut I went.

After my Innerspace photo shoot at Waltham, we headed over to Boston to meet Dr. Millis at the Children's Hospital's main campus in Boston. While waiting for the doctor, I filled out a couple of questionnaires about my hip pain. It was a bit tough to know how to answer the questions since I wasn't in a lot of pain today. I am not usually in a lot of pain, but mostly that is because I limit my activities so much and stay off my feet if I begin to have any pain. This has especially been the case in the last six months or so, when my pain threshold has dropped such that I have had to carefully mete out my hip usage to keep myself pain-free most of the time.

My mother was concerned I was downplaying my pain but I really was not. I know the threat of severe pain is always there but I try to keep myself out of pain by preventing it rather than treating it once it has started. So for me the real pain is in how limited my physical activity has become in my efforts to avoid aggravating my hips.

That is not to say I have not had severe hip pain in the last couple of months: there are several times I remember being almost unable to walk and gasping in pain when I'd "overdone it". I put that term in quotes because overdoing it in my current state is doing activities that normally would be completely manageable for someone without my hip condition. Things like a tennis match or a long walk of a few miles. A healthy 29-year-old should not be felled by an afternoon at the museum.

I was still filling out the questionnaires when the doctor came in with his associate Dr. Brighton. Dr. Millis is an affable man with an enthusiastic air. He took a conservative approach, initially saying "if we decide this surgery is right for you" and similar flirty statements. Needless to say, this was annoying. I wanted him to say "OK, you need this surgery, and I'm doing it for you. Now let's talk logistics." But I guess he wanted to ease into it. Or maybe most new potential patients are not as decided, determined and dispassionate as I am about this whole thing. I've accepted the diagnosis and the need for the surgeries. Now I just want to get them over with. Right, recover; left, recover; done.

I truly think Dr. Millis had decided I was a good PAO candidate and that he was going to take me as a patient before he entered the room today, maybe even before I got to Boston and had the second set of images taken. I don't think he would have even had me come up to Boston if he hadn't, and I seriously doubt he would have spent so much time with me during the appointment if he was unsure.

The doctor watched me walk in various ways: normal, on tip toe, on my heels. He did some range of motion tests on both hips. I have no gait problems and have very good range of motion in both hips. We looked at the images from Waltham and the images I'd taken in October at HSS. The doctor drew the various angles on the X-rays to show where my socket edge was and where a normal socket edge should be. In the false profile view, it was even clearer that my sockets were far too shallow on both hips.

In the images, there doesn't seem to be that big a difference between my left and right hips, so it is a bit odd that the right usually hurts so much more. When I was off my right leg last summer, on crutches for a right knee injury, my left leg took all the weight and hurt more than it ever had before. So it is clear that my left leg has the same capacity for pain as the right. I guess the right is just quicker to pain because of the chronic labral tear and so I end up getting off my feet before the left hip even starts to hurt.

Dr. Millis confirmed that I am going to have to have the left hip done pretty soon after the right PAO. It will depend on the healing rate for the right hip, but it could be as soon as three months after the first surgery. That is faster than I expected, but honestly, the more I can compress this disability and recovery period, the better it is.

"Can we talk dates?" I asked, finally. Dr. Millis got his scheduling coordinator on the phone and offered me February 9. One month away! That was a bit too soon, even for me; I need to coordinate with work and other commitments. I took the next available slot, which was March 16. So there it is. Right hip PAO in two months. Giddy up!