No matter our age, there may come a day we face joint replacement surgery. My best friend experienced TWO such procedures in mid-life with profound success. Moreover, she did so using valuable techniques that we can apply when faced with planned procedures.
For Brina T. (54), congenital femoral deficiency, a degeneration of the femur causing intense pain and immobility, called for hip replacements. She received a new left hip at 46, and today she is recovering from a new right hip and doing great. CFD can be diagnosed in children or adults, and there are many treatments. In Brina's case, hip replacement was the best course.
Though multiple sources agree that seventy is the average age for hip replacement, mid-aged adults can burn through joints too. We honestly might need a planned surgery for any number of reasons. (I just fell walking our 80-pound puppy; I'm only bruised, but the outcome could have been worse.) Set your ageist assumptions aside. It's never a bad idea to think ahead.
Like many of us in our forties and fifties, Brina lives with a few physical challenges, and she utilizes several health methods to manage chronic pain and prepare for treatment. In addition to CFD, she experiences moderate scoliosis and repercussions from past injuries. She has metal rods and pins in her forearm (the result of a dreadful car accident) and a metal rod in her lower leg due to an unfortunate meet-up with a boogie-boarder in Hawaii. Adventurous much?
Brina's positive lifestyle practices serve her well when faced with procedures and treatment. We recently sat down over her secrets to thriving after a major surgery like a hip replacement...
Become as strong as possible. After surgery to repair her leg, Brina started mobility and strength testing and neurokinetic therapy with her trainer Marius Maianu (Move Well Strength). As a result, she recovers sooner from injuries as well as planned surgeries. A pre-existing condition like scoliosis causes a domino effect in the body so Brina utilizes learned occupational adaptations to prevent further degeneration. Brina and her husband Mike are also devoted to good nutrition. He's a vegetarian and does a lot of the cooking. Sharing their interests makes nutritional and exercise goals easier to achieve. "I can really tell neurokinetic therapy gave me an advantage with this recent surgery. My healing is faster this time - and I'm eight years older."
Arm yourself with knowledge. In addition to choosing the best surgeon for you, get insights from others who've experienced the surgery and recovery. Ask for honesty about how long you'll be down and what to expect. Ask your doctor about anesthesia options. "I avoid general anesthesia whenever possible and I believe that allows me to feel better sooner."
Do your prep work. Borrow or rent medical equipment (canes, walkers, wheelchairs) ahead of time. It's good to bring these to a pre-op appointment for height adjustment. Consider your home with recovery in mind. Will entry points pose a challenge? Do you need additional railings or ramps? Is your bedroom on the second floor? What about pets? Are they underfoot; should they be boarded? Also, have grab bars installed in your shower and by the toilet. If the home is not the best location to recover iinpatientt days and weeks, consider in-patient rehabilitation. (Brina has volunteered at Juliette Fowler Communities in Dallas and suggests locating providers like Fowler for inpatient post-operative care and physical and occupational therapy).
Take care of your mind and soul. Accept you have to slow down temporarily and allow yourself to experience your emotions. Brina turns to Wim Hoff's breathing techniques for stress relief and spiritual connection. In the first days of recovery, she doesn't have much interest in anything too taxing mentally. Music, podcasts, Audible, and talk radio are easy media. "I've had to let go of a lot of things for many reasons: the pandemic, my retirement, the surgeries, not being able to help my aging parents right now. I realize I cannot do it all but I can do a lot, and I focus on that!"
Eye on the prize. The first days after surgery are foggy, and there's a sense of taking one step forward and two steps back. Brina encourages weaning off prescription pain pills as soon as you can, having stomach medications on hand to help with side effects of surgery and drugs, and maintaining communication with care providers. If something doesn't feel right, insist someone in the office take a look. Brina had to have a second minor procedure to address a hematoma, something that could have caused more significant problems if she assumed it was a normal part of healing. "It can be hard to be your own advocate but you just have to do it. Also, there's a difference between the pain one feels with healing as opposed to pain from infection or degeneration. Listen to your body. There is a difference!" (Read on for why some pain is beneficial after surgery.)
Ask for and accept help. When you're used to being active and busy - or when you're used to BEING the helper for others, like Brina - it can be a huge challenge to let others step in and do things for you. Websites like Meal Train allow friends to sign up to bring meals. You might not be able to drive, so set up a schedule with post-op and physical therapy appointments. For Brina, we had a large group text for grocery requests and errands in addition to updates. "Give yourself a pass and rest in the knowledge that your friends really do want to help."
Celebrate every success - even small ones. Sat up in bed? Slept for more than one hour at a time? Got through the day with one less pain pill? Sat outside and let the sun warm your face? Put on a pair of jeans without help? ALL of these steps toward healing, no matter how small, call for celebration. "It may seem like it takes forever to get back to feeling like yourself, mentally and physically. But, every day there are things that improve. It is so worth it when you get to the other side."
If we haven't started seriously paying attention to the care and keeping of our bodies by the time we hit our middle years, now is the time to do it. When faced with major surgeries, Brina's coping and healing mechanisms have served her well. We may not have a crystal ball telling us when and where we may need a major surgery like a joint replacement, but adding HIP advice like Brina's to our toolkit can benefit us by the decade.