Who knew that having hip replacement surgery could be such a troublesome experience!

From the very beginning — the day I woke up with excruciating pain in my right hip and the inability to walk very well — the whole ordeal gave me worry and concern. I had not fallen or twisted myself or been in any kind of accident. Why was I having such excruciating pain in my hip? My immediate thought was to go to my orthopedist for a shot; after all, shots had helped before with my arthritis.


After getting an appointment fairly quickly, I was given a shot in the bursa, but alas, with no relief. So, it was back to the doctor two weeks later to find out what else could be done. X-rays showed extreme arthritis with the suggestion from the doctor to infuse a shot in the groin area under X-ray at the surgery center. Another delay to set up that procedure.

I was a nervous “Nellie” and talked throughout the entire procedure, but again, no relief from the pain. I even went back to the doctor again, this time for a third shot in the back area, and for the third time with no relief forthcoming.

Now I was desperate — it had been over a month dealing with the pain — and called my rheumatoid arthritis doctor who first prescribed prednisone and later the opioid Tramadol, as well as possible therapy, but finally ordered an MRI of the hip. Since none of these drugs was helping the pain, I stopped them rather quickly. When finally the results of the MRI were revealed, I returned to my orthopedist ready to do almost anything to get rid of the pain.

Almost anything — although I had vowed not to go under the knife again since I had flat-lined on the operating table in 2011! That experience had frightened me away from ever having anesthesia again, something I had told my orthopedist many times before. When my orthopedist told me that I could have a spinal block with light sleep, I was somewhat relieved.

But then another problem reared its ugly head. My orthopedist only performs posterior hip replacements! That means cutting through lots of muscle and, according to medical commentary, a longer healing time than the anterior procedure. My orthopedist suggested seeing another surgeon about the anterior surgery, which of course meant still more delay until I could get an appointment with the new orthopedist. In the meantime, I was put on meloxicam and Tylenol as a way to deal with the pain, and although both drugs helped with the pain, they could not cure the essential problem of advanced degenerative arthritis, among other things.

Fortunately, my neighbor recommended an orthopedist who only does anterior hip replacements, having had one himself with this doctor. When looking at the MRI the new orthopedist showed me how and where he will make the cut under X-ray, what he will replace, and what materials he will use. Like the first orthopedist, he explained that a spinal block with IV sedation would be used during the surgery. He also explained what I will need to accomplish before I can leave the hospital — I must be able to walk certain distances and climb steps.

Patience is a virtue, I have always heard, but patience is not necessarily part of my psyche. Home I went until I could call the surgical coordinator some four days later only to find out that the surgery could not be scheduled until three weeks after that! Living on meloxicam and Tylenol became my daily routine.

Getting a surgery date was just the beginning. The surgery coordinator reeled off a number of items about pre- and post-op dates at the surgeon’s facilities, pre-ops with other doctors and when their findings are due, medicines not to take, when to stop certain medicines, other blood testing before surgery, and any number of other things that my note-taking missed. But she assured me that all would be outlined in a letter I would receive.

When we hung up, my task was to call my GP and cardiologist to set up pre-op visits, call the kennel to make arrangements to board my dog, and call many friends who wanted to know about my impending surgery, several of whom would accompany me to appointments and surgery.

I could see my cardiologist fairly quickly, but then he ordered a stress test and an echocardiogram that would take two more days. The pre-op with the GP would take another day with additional blood work needed. In addition to all this pre-op work, I was scheduled to meet with the surgeon’s pre-op person and even have a blood draw at Sinai. While I am sure all this pre-op aggravation was for my own good, it certainly could be frustrating checking my calendar to see where I was to be each day. And of course it kept the upcoming surgery constantly on my mind and allowed little time to be involved in my volunteer activities.

An entire day would be taken up with a two-hour class at Sinai about what to do and what not to do after the surgery, followed by that blood-draw to type my blood at Sinai, followed by a lengthy meeting with the doctor’s surgery assistant. Fortunately for me, my lawyer who is my medical power of attorney and friend, and a very good friend, Betty, accompanied me to this very strenuous day and will do so on the day of the surgery. Betty has even volunteered to stay overnight with me when I return home from the hospital. What a great friend!

While several other friends have volunteered to walk my dog, I must put her in the kennel for a few weeks, perhaps the greatest trauma for me and for her! Hope to see you on the other side of this ordeal and for now wish you a Very Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year!

Hermine Saunders writes from Westminster. Her Prime column appears on the second Sunday of the month.