TWO YEARS AGO TODAY, at age 51, I became a card-carrying member of a club I never asked to join. It’s a pretty hip organization—pun intended—given all members sport new hips.
My club membership card, which I’m supposed to carry in my pocketbook at all times (and I do), verifies that I have a “metallic surgical implant.” For me specifically, that’s a ceramic hip. The “metallic” part is the pin securing the hip in place.
Now, I really don’t care to think about the artificial joint or about that pin which appears exceptionally long in an X-ray. Such thoughts disconcert me. I’m not the medical type.
But nearly every day I am reminded that I have a body part which is not my own.
That reminder nags at me whenever I bend—when I’m gardening, slipping on my shoes, shooting photos, even cutting my toe nails. I’m not supposed to bend my hip more than 90 degrees or I risk dislocating it.
The mere thought of such a painful event is enough to keep me obedient, although my husband says I break that 90-degree rule all too often. I’ve never professed to be good at math.
Despite that life-long restriction, I remain grateful for my new hip. I can walk again, and without pain.
For two years, until I worked up the courage to undergo total hip replacement, I lived with pain 24/7. The simple act of walking was nearly impossible. Climbing stairs literally meant “climbing stairs.”
Today, unless you know I have an artificial hip, you wouldn’t see that just from looking at me. No one expects a 50-something woman to have a fake hip.
I never expected this either. Even my doctor, who originally diagnosed my medical condition as a pinched sciatic nerve, apparently thought me too young for a hip so arthritic that bone rubbed against bone. Once examined by an orthopedic surgeon, I was given a six-month to five-year time frame in which I would need surgery. I lasted two years.
Because of my young age—in terms of joint replacement—I wanted to delay surgery as long as possible. My surgeon simply told me, “whenever you’re ready.”
Many family members and friends, however, pressured me to have the surgery immediately. They meant well. But unless you have walked in someone else’s shoes, or in my situation walked with an arthritic hip, those comments only serve to madden and frustrate.
I’ve learned much for having gone through this total hip replacement. I appreciate good health and modern medicine. I empathize with those who struggle to walk and/or live with pain. I know the meaning of patience. I’ve experienced the depth and breadth of my husband’s love through his attentive care and encouragement.
Often, in life’s most challenging moments, we learn the most.
In two decades I’ll have the opportunity to advance my education, when my membership card comes up for renewal.
© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling