Tag Archives: broken

How to Have Hip Surgery

I recently had hip surgery. To be precise, I am nine weeks post-op and I am tired and sore all the time. (I also no longer think in terms of months. My hip has become like an infant to me. It is nine weeks post-op. Not two-ish months since I had surgery. Nine weeks post-op. The damn thing is basically still in diapers, breastfeeding, and not sleeping through the night, okay?)

“What happened?!” people will ask when they see me crutching around.

“I had hip surgery,” I will reply.

For some, that’s enough. Others want more detail: “But what did you do to yourself?”

The short version is I got hurt doing a lot of hooah-hooah Army training that isn’t well-suited to someone with my body type (i.e. Hips Don’t Lie). I was subsequently misdiagnosed, ignored, and sort of half-treated by a stream of doctors, physical therapists, and technicians for three years, and I finally had surgery to repair the issue, which was that the bones in my hip joint were rubbing on each other and tearing up the cartilage. They shaved down the bone to make the femur rotate properly in the socket and repaired the torn labrum.

Ta-da! Good as new!

If your curiosity has been sated, then my story is over. If you would like to learn more about the broken Army healthcare system and the anatomy of the human hip, this is the long version:

Step One: Keep Up

I. Hate. Running.

I am considering having this put on a t-shirt that I will wear every time I conduct fitness:

I think this about sums up what I'd rather be doing.

I think this about sums up what I’d rather be doing.

I’m also thinking about putting this on the back of my car. I’m actually very anti putting-stickers-on-the-back-of-my-car because I don’t think my car should be an extension of my Pinterest boards, but for this I might make an exception:

thCAP3KE6W

Like anybody really cares anyway, people.

I can kind of joke about it now, but I’ve had some not-so-funny moments when it comes to athleticism in the Army, particularly with running. I was told I wasn’t good enough to be in the Army, that I didn’t deserve to be at West Point, that I was wasting people’s time and valuable resources. So I learned to shut up and suck it up and not to complain. I know there’s a difference between being sore after a tough workout and being in pain because you’re injured, but I also learned that nobody really seemed to care to make the distinction if you were the kind of person who struggled to keep up, so when my hips started to hurt during ruck marches and after runs, I simply figured it was a symptom of not being a good runner, and didn’t say anything.

Step Two: Almost Die

I decided to do the 2011 New Cadet March Back with my younger sister (a.k.a. Sister #3, author of the outstanding guest entry featured earlier this year).

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Sisters in our Army Finery

Our oldest sister was coming from Fort Carson, CO to march with us as well. She had graduated two years earlier and recently returned home from her first deployment to Afghanistan, and because they didn’t really like people who weren’t part of the direct chain of command marching with the New Cadets, I figured I’d better wear a ruck to blend in.

“Just pack it light,” my sister told me. “Don’t put anything in it.”

Easy for the combat veteran to say–I didn’t want to look like a dirt bag, carrying an empty ruck sack while everyone else hauled their own packs plus rifles after a long summer of training. My compromise was wearing a soft cap instead of a helmet. Good enough.

Sister #3 and me ready to ruck'n'roll.

Sister #3 and me ready to ruck’n’roll.

It was not good enough. I was fine for the first eleven or so miles of the ruck, but the last two miles were absolute agony. I’m not sure what changed, but I was limping along, pain splintering through my feet and radiating out of my hip.

My older sister, on the other hand, was like freaking Tigger, bouncing around and running back and forth in the formation, up and down the mountains, no issues whatsoever.

I reasoned that I must be out of shape. That had to be it. I just hadn’t trained properly for the ruck and I was just stupid enough to think that being excited about it would be good enough to get me through it. I’d be fine.

Step Three: Don’t Complain

After the March Back, we had a company run. My roommate (who had also completed the ruck the day before) and I fell back from the rest of the company after they set between a 7:30-8:00 minute/mile pace and finished the route on our own, limping up the stairs to our third-floor barracks room afterwards. I was angry that they had decided to run so fast (the Army standard for females on the PT test is two consecutive 9-minute miles) after they had promised that it would be a “slow, easy, espirit-de-corps, team-building, no-fallouts” kind of run. Instead I was exhausted, humiliated, and in legitimate physical pain. But if you blame your inability to keep up on being hurt, you get called a shammer or worse, so I didn’t say I was hurt or tired, I just kept my mouth shut and went on with my day. I wasn’t actually angry about the pace; I was angry about my inability to keep up.

The next day, however, there was a brigade run planned. It is one thing to fall back on a smaller, less organized cadet-led company run at West Point, and another thing entirely to fall out of a brigade run. The latter is a much higher visibility event, and you can land yourself in an actual disciplinary situation if you don’t stay with the group.

Feeling a little like a coward, I reported to sick call with the swollen, the broken, the fakers, and the blister-ridden New Cadets (accompanied by their Team Leaders) in the cavernous hallway of Arvin Gymnasium at 0530 while the rest of the able-bodied Corps formed up to run slinky-style up and down the mountains of West Point.

Step Four: Get Diagnosed With a Proximal Femoral Stress Fracture

“It’s probably nothing,” the polo-wearing guy told me after he finished checking out my hip. “But for females of your age and your build, sometimes there are bigger issues, so I’m ordering an x-ray and an MRI.”

So, that afternoon, I had my very first x-ray and MRI. I remember lying on my back looking up at the ceiling where someone had thought to paint the ceiling tiles with whimsical butterflies and flowers, presumably to help children with broken arms feel less frightened while they had pictures taken of their mangled bones. I was frankly pretty freaked out, considering I had made it to the ripe old age of 21 without ever having had a major surgery or scan or procedure or anything and my mommy was definitely not there to hold my hand. The x-ray was all right, but that MRI was a bitch.

It is, as my father says, “like being inside a coffin with a jackhammer.” They ask if you if you’re claustrophobic before they put you inside. Like if I say yes, do you have a half-size MRI machine that you can put me in so you don’t have to put my face in it? That’d be super. Also I’d like a quiet one. And a room that is warmer than Antarctica. Thank you. (I have developed a lot of opinions about MRIs over the last three years since this inaugural experience, having had many MRIs at several different facilities.)

Anyway, Mr. Polo Man from 0530 in Arvin that morning was Wrong-O.

“Proximal femoral stress fracture” was the radiologist’s call, which I think we can all agree is not “probably nothing.”

(Additionally, this was not the only problem hiding in my hip at the time, but they totally missed it, but I’m also getting ahead of myself. Moving on.)

Step Five: Crutches

Okay so here you go, here are your crutches, no weight bearing for a month, have a good life.

I won’t go into extreme detail, except to say that this SUCKED. If you’ve been on crutches you know how much they suck. If you’ve been a cadet you know how much that sucks. Imagine combining the two. In August. Welcome to Hell.

People used to ask me all kinds of obnoxious questions:

WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU WHY ARE YOU ON CRUTCHES YOU DON’T LOOK HURT WHY DON’T YOU HAVE A BRACE.

Those things almost became weapons at inappropriate moments so, so many times. I also wish very badly I had a dollar for every time the following happened:

– Someone let a door close on me

– Someone told me I couldn’t use the elevator unless I showed them a copy of my profile — no I don’t care if your class is on the sixth floor

— Someone said I was shamming

— Someone asked why I was sweaty

— A group of male cadets walked past talked about trou who use crutches to get out of stuff

— Someone said I should be grateful it wasn’t winter because at least the ground wasn’t icy

— Someone asked if I was lifting a lot instead since I couldn’t run (uh, yeah dude. My body. ALL FREAKING DAY.)

I would have several dollars. More dollars than I have now.

Step Six: All Better!

So then I got off the crutches and went to town on the elliptical and started a walk-to-run progression program. My follow-up x-ray and MRI were reportedly clear of signs of stress fracture, so I was healed!

Step Seven: Oh Wait, No I’m Not

…except that my hip still hurt. Running sucked, and at night I’d sit in my room studying while my stupid hip throbbed. (I also now lived on the fourth floor of the barracks instead of the third floor, so I had an extra floor of torture to climb to get to my room.)

I should alert a medical professional, right?

Wrong.

Step Eight: Fake It

Problem was that I reallyreallyreally wanted to graduate on time. And, due to the combination of my injury and my extreme suckitude at all things physical during my time at West Point, I was very behind on the physical requirements necessary to meet that goal. I needed to pass the Indoor Obstacle Course Test (a.k.a. the IOCT, otherwise known as How To Get Asbestos in Your Lungs Forever and Feel Like You’re Going to Die in Four Minutes or Less), and complete three Army Physical Fitness Tests (APFTs) in less than three months.

Let’s just say it was rough. Manfriend actually ran one of my two-miles with me — not so much to pace me for time, but just to stay beside me the whole time to say, “keep going, it’s okay, it’s okay, you just have to finish it and you can graduate” while I was practically in tears because I felt like my hip was exploding and the joint was going to collapse.

So, once all that was over and I was cleared for a May 2012 graduation and commission, I went back to physical therapy: hey Mr. Polo Dude. We have an issue.

Step Nine: Physical Therapy (including bonus torture!)

Physical therapy decided that my problem was just that my left leg had gotten very weak from not using it over the past few months, so all I needed were some good ol’ strengthening exercises and I’d be hot to trot.

They also thought I should try a round of acupuncture.

This was not one of my better decisions.

I have had real acupuncture here at Fort Hood since this experience from an actual physician (a.k.a. someone who knows what he’s doing) so I can say from experience that acupuncture isn’t bad. It wasn’t ever going to fix the tears in my hip or anything, but it did relieve some of the muscle tension.

I don’t know what they’re doing over there in Arvin Gym Physical Therapy at West Point, but they called it “deep needling” and it was HORRIBLE. First I signed a release form (we all make mistakes). Then I put on a pair of the big, super flattering shorts (of which I have worn many pairs over the years while dealing with my hip injury) and they stuck needles into my hip. Big ones.

The concept was that they would put them down into the deep muscles to release tension. Once they got waaaay down in there with the needles, they electrocuted the needles. I’m not even being dramatic. Another Mr. Polo Man put some kind of device on the ends of the needles and made them vibrate inside my muscles. I was really not okay with it. But. You know. Release form.

Then I acquired some nice second-degree burns by lying there under a heating pack for fifteen minutes afterwards and I was on my merry way. I was supposed to be sore for a day or two afterward then feel much, much better. Instead I was miserable for three days afterward and slightly more sore from then on out.

I stopped seeking medical treatment from the facilities at school, staggered through another PT test, miraculously graduated on time, and got the hell out of dodge.

I did some physical therapy at a clinic in my hometown during graduation leave, but I didn’t have much time there. They sent me off with some exercises and well-wishes. Whee.

Step Ten: Series of Scans

From there I was off to my basic officer course in Virginia, but the doctor there said since they weren’t my owning unit, I couldn’t do physical therapy. He recommended a bone scan once I got to Fort Hood.

The first doctor I saw at Fort Hood essentially told me I was a shammer (he was a former Infantry officer). Obviously if I was having trouble running I just wasn’t running enough, or with proper form. I did not go see him again.

I had a three-phase bone scan, which was positive in the blood pool phase for a soft tissue injury. The radiologist said that the area where the scan lit up was close to my uterus (you know…like…my…hip…joint…) and determined that all the scan showed was that I was menstruating. Which I was not. Not trying to be gross and freak out all the guys here, but I was rather distressed that a female radiologist tried to dismiss my hip injury by saying that the scan revealed I was merely having my period. (Which, again…I wasn’t.) Also: Get real, lady.

Then I had another regular x-ray and MRI. No evidence of stress fracture. (At this point it’s like, NO FREAKING KIDDING PEOPLE THE STRESS FRACTURE IS HEALED CAN WE JUST MOVE PAST THE STRESS FRACTURE THING ALREADY.)

Then I had an MRI with contrast. That’s where they inject the hip with a dye and then get the image instead of just a regular MRI. They’re like MRIs for royalty, clearly, instead of all those peasant MRIs I’d been having up that point.

Ha ha.

Unfortunately none of the peasant medical personnel could figure out what the dealio was from looking at my bone scan, x-rays, peasant MRIs and royal MRIs, so:

Step Eleven: You Must Need More Physical Therapy

And it was back to leg raises and resistance bands. Three sets of ten, please.

I expressed my concerns about not being able to do PT with my unit. After all, I was a new second lieutenant in my first unit. I had just taken over a platoon and I couldn’t run or ruck or do anything truly competitive with my Soldiers because my hip was all jacked up and nobody seemed to know how to fix it. Also I didn’t want to get fat, and my ability to do cardio was really starting to take a hit. A girl can only do so much biking and elliptical with a bum hip before she goes gym-rat-crazy.

No problem, they said:

Step Twelve: Let’s Try Pool PT

So, in the summer of 2013, I spent an hour and a half two or three times each week swimming laps and doing pool calisthenics in one of the pools on post with a sort of bored instructor who never spelled our names correctly on his sign-in roster and just wanted to make sure no one was in physical therapy to get out of an upcoming deployment.

Most of my fellow workout buddies didn’t seem too happy to be there. A few of them were chronic complainers (“You mean we have to go down and back?”) and some of them were outright afraid of the water. One guy thought he was going to get out of participating in pool PT altogether by pretending like the water was too cold.

My sisters and I had a pair of dachshunds that tried that trick too. In the winter they’d stand outside by the window and shiver until someone noticed them and say, “oh no, the dogs are cold!” and then insist they be brought inside so they’d be warm. This technique was extremely effective on multiple occasions, but then the little wieners blew it by trying it in July, effectively shutting down their act for good.

This guy was basically the same way. Come on, guy. It’s June. In Texas. At noon. The water is not cold. You’re a grown-ass man. Stop shivering. No one believes you right now.

Anyway, following these sessions I returned to physical therapy and reported that while exercising in the pool was all fine and dandy, there was no marked improvement in my hip. In fact, it hurt just as much as it had before we began pool PT.

“Hmm,” the therapist said. He made me demonstrate the at-home exercises he had given me.

I showed him three or four of them. He wanted to see more. I probably had about a dozen. By the time I got to the eighth one or so, I realized he wasn’t just reviewing them with me for my benefit; he was quizzing me. He essentially accused me of either not doing the exercises or doing them incorrectly, and that was why my hip wasn’t getting any better.

pitch perfect - aca-scuse me
Right. Because I love not being able to run. Because I love my hip hurting all the time. Because I love the embarrassment of being twenty-three years old and on a permanent walking profile because they told me I had to quit going from temporary-to-temporary profile and should just be a walker until they figured out what was going on with my hip.

It is fan-freaking-tastic.

You think that if getting well was as simple as some exercises at home every night with a stupid resistance band that I wouldn’t be living in a warehouse of resistance bands? I’d be doing those exercises in front of the stove, the washing machine, the television, and in the damn bathtub if that was what they said I should be doing. I’d get up in the middle of the night and do leg raises by the light of a full moon in a field of daisies.

Like come on, guy. Of course I’m doing the exercises.

It took a lot not to lose my temper at that point (and I don’t often lose my temper). I calmly requested that I be allowed to explore other options for treatment. This led to the next clinic:

Step Thirteen: Physical Medicine

A very magical thing happened in physical medicine. They injected my hip with cortisone.

It. Was. Amazing.

Well, at first it was really crappy. Any time there is fluid in your joint it hurts (also, shots, but I’ve had so many at this point I am sort of developing a needle immunity), but once the swelling goes down, the steroids made my hip feel GREAT. I ran again. Technically, I jogged, but still. It was spectacular. We had found a cure!

The steroid injections are supposed to give relief for at least 90 days, and up to a year. Some people have one injection every year, and they are good to hook. Other people have them twice a year. The catch is that you can’t have them more than four times annually (i.e. every three months/90 days).

Well. My magic shot only lasted a little over a month. Once three months had passed, I had another. That one lasted even less time. I told the doctor that it wasn’t really working out, but he just recommended that we do acupuncture more frequently. At this point, the acupuncture released tension in my low back for an afternoon and then I was back to the same level of pain with no relief in my hip.

This brings us to:

Step Fourteen: Almost Die Again

In June of this year I started falling down.

For no reason whatsoever (as far as I could tell) my hip would give out and I would fall down. It was incredibly painful, incredibly scary, and leave me breathless and tearful. But, as a doctor told me when I went to be evaluated (because it didn’t happen just once or twice, but multiple times) I was a “perfectly healthy twenty-four year old female” so it was “probably a bad idea to be looking at surgical options this early in life” and he “wasn’t really comfortable giving a referral to ortho” but he’d do it to get me out of his triage room, essentially.

I was pretty tired of doctors telling me I didn’t need surgery.

I get it. I’m not a doctor. I’m not a medical professional. I have a bachelor’s degree in English. I get it.

BUT, at the same time, we’ve done rest, anti-inflammatory medication, physical therapy, acupuncture, steroid injections into the hip, and every freaking scan known to modern medicine. I think we need to talk about surgery. For some reason, however, all these doctors considered that “the nuclear option” and “you don’t want hip surgery” and “you’re too young for a hip replacement.” DID I SAY HIP REPLACEMENT, BUDDY?! I had actually gone to a civilian hip specialist in Austin several months before and been diagnosed with femoral acetabular hip impingement, or FAI. This guy, who specialized in sports medicine and frequently took care of University of Texas athletes who went on to compete in the Olympics, said it was very possible that I had a tear in my labrum, but that my hip was definitely impinged, and that’s why it was popping and hurting all the time and keeping me from running or squatting correctly.

The Army was like, uhhh, femoral ace-what? No, no. That’s silly. You need to do physical therapy.

Step Fifteen: More Scans

I had an emergency cortisone injection that allowed me to limp around for the next month or so, which is how long it took to get the appointments for my next x-ray, MRI with contrast, and bone scan (which is what they wanted to see before I could see an orthopedic surgeon).

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I’d like to highly recommend you bring your own fuzzy Christmas socks along if you’re an MRI acolyte. Your toes will freeze. #protips

When the results of the scans came back, they were thus:

* X-ray: Nothing. Because I don’t have a stress fracture. This is my surprised face.

* Bone scan: My right side is getting all messed up because I always walk/stand/lean on it because the left side no worky. Otherwise “unremarkable.” (I actually hate that term. I also hate “well-nourished.” Read your doctor’s notes some time, people. They’ll make you sound fat.)

* MRI: Anterior labral tear (a.k.a. my bones hath rent the front of my hip). Again. This is my surprised face. It is also the reason I was falling down.

Okay, said the Army. I guess you can have surgery.

Step Sixteen: Break Down on the Phone to Clueless and Uncaring Receptionists

It is hard to schedule surgery. My referral got lost, passed around, and kicked between offices like a hacky sack for weeks. I would try to schedule things with different people and got some lessons in the school of hard knocks. People are mean. People do not care. I actually started crying on the phone one day with this one heinous lady who worked in a certain orthopedics clinic and I’m pretty sure the only reason she didn’t hang up on me is because her customer satisfaction rating would go down if she had done so.

Step Seventeen: Schedule Surgery

I also had a nerve conduction study while we were effing around and doing nothing and I was tearing up the inside of my hip by just being alive and ambulating from place to place because they wanted to make sure I didn’t have any nerve damage. When you walk in the room it looks like some kind of vintage torture chamber.

We saved the squishy chair of torment especially for you!

We saved the squishy chair of torment especially for you!

Then they electrocute you with this little buddy up and down your leg, using increasing levels of electromagnetic shocks to determine if your nerves are reacting correctly and recruiting the right way.

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Looks so friendly!

My nerves. All normally, apparently. I am somewhat suspicious of this.

My nerves. All normal apparently. I am somewhat suspicious of this.

Clearly black magic was at play.

But, good news, taxpayers of America! The Army has decided that I don’t have any nerve damage that has resulted from my hip injury, and therefore will not be footing an additional medical bill.

It was a fun morning. Back to the office!

It was a fun morning. Back to the office!

Step Eighteen: Have Surgery

Eventually I did manage to schedule my surgery. Fort Hood doesn’t have a hip guy, and Tricare refused to pay for any civilian providers in the area, so heigh-ho heigh-ho, it was off to San Antonio we’d go. But I was ready to go. I’d been thinking I was on the road to recovery since the fall of 2011 and here it was the fall of 2014 and I was only getting worse.

When I finally met them, I unintentionally tormented my surgical team.

I really didn’t mean to do it, but I have this binder that I have built over the years that contains all the documentation related to my hip injury. I bring it with me to all my appointments so I can get the latest doctor spun up on my old problems. So when I finally met my surgical team, I think I broke their bright, shiny intern hearts with my intense amount of documentation (“Is that binder just for your hip?”), cold medical terminology, and cynicism in their ability to treat me.

Their eyebrows went up when I described the different methods I’d had for the cortisone injections, and explained that I was encountering diminishing efficacy with that treatment. This is apparently not normal patient jargon. I am not a normal patient. I MEAN BIZNAZZ.

I also didn’t really have any interest in talking to them. I wanted to see the real surgeon. The man of the hour. The guy who does the sawing. So I didn’t cut them much slack.

SURGICAL TEAM: So what are your goals for surgery?

ME: I’m getting married in December. Am I going to be able to walk by then?

SURGICAL TEAM: You should be off crutches after about four or five weeks.

ME: I need you to be a little more exact. Like, can I go ahead and buy the heels I want for my wedding, or should I just invest in some of those shoes with the pop-out wheels and have my dad wheel me down the aisle?

One of the interns had a coughing attack at the back of the room.

Then,

SURGICAL TEAM: One potential method of anesthetic for your surgery would be a nerve block on your leg. So your whole leg would be numb. Also your leg would be put into traction for the surgery to isolate your hip joint during surgery. There is a risk with both of these things that the numbness is permanent.

ME: Do what?

SURGICAL TEAM: It’s extremely rare. Feeling nearly always returns to the leg within a day or two and nerve damage from the surgery is even more rare.

ME: Yeah, but like…how far up does the numbness go?

SURGICAL TEAM: Sorry?

ME: Like…mid-thigh? Top of the thigh? Higher? I don’t really use this part of my leg, but I mean, if it goes super high…I have a honeymoon to attend.

I have never seen three grown men turn red so fast in all my life.

Luckily once my actual surgeon showed up he seemed a little older (barely) than them and less easy to intimidate. My mom spent an extensive amount of time stalking his qualifications and publications prior to my surgery, so we were feeling pretty good about it by the time the fateful morning at last arrived.

I was the first case. They called me back, where I had to talk to yet another random resident in scrubs who had probably never seen any of my case history until right at that moment.

“Good morning,” he said kindly, looking down at a stack of papers in a folder with my name on it. “Can you tell me what you’re here for today?”

I knew this game. This game was “you have to tell us what you’re here for so you can’t sue us for doing the wrong thing.”

“Yes sir,” I said. “I have femoral acetabular hip impingement and an anterior labral tear on the left side. Dr. Burns will be doing my surgery. They’re going to do a nerve block. I don’t have any allergies. Except cats. Will there be cats in the operating room?”

Somehow people don’t know to respond to this. Sheesh guy, lighten up. I’m the one who’s about to have my leg pulled out of its socket, not you. (Incidentally, the right answer was “I’m having surgery on my left hip.” I got bonus points for jargon and then lost them for the weird cat joke at 6 a.m.)

I actually couldn’t wait to get into the OR. I wanted to see all the things and remember all the things so I could write about it later in a snarky fashion. But you know what they do to you right before you go into the operating room? They take away your glasses, and I am basically blind. I had to get a Department of Defense waiver to get into the Army because I am THAT nearsighted, so guess what I could see in the OR? Nothing. I was extremely annoyed.

I laid on my bed and stared at all the people moving around me all blurry for a while. There was a guy behind a curtain across from me who was apparently getting knee surgery that morning, and he was a real whiner. Frankly I didn’t think he deserved it if he was going to complain so much. I made sure to let everyone know that I wanted to be there. Then I got bored and started reading my chart because they just left it on my belly. They were slowly pumping drugs into my catheter, so I was getting quite warm and comfortable.

“Why do all these say ‘well-nourished’?” I demanded.

“It just means you’re healthy,” a nice Asian lady assured me. “As opposed to malnourished.”

“Why doesn’t it say ‘slender and beautiful’ or something? I find this vaguely insulting. Can I file a complaint?”

They were laughing at me at this point but they were also slipping drugs into my bloodstream so I wasn’t exactly in the correct frame of mind to cut back on the sassy talk. Sometimes I am a nervous talker, and I was a little anxious about not being able to see and ready to have the surgery over with.

“What about ‘reasonably nourished’? I really think they should re-think this system.” In between all this I had to keep removing the chart from my nose (I am so nearsighted that I was holding it about two inches from my face to be able to read it) to recite my name and date of birth and which hip they were operating on. I could also hear the name, DOB, and ailment of Whiny Knee Guy across from me, which you would think would be some kind of HIPAA violation, except that I was way too doped up at that point to retain any information about him except that he was annoying me.

Finally they put even more drugs into my arm (the anesthetist team called it my margarita cocktail) and the nice Asian lady asked if she could have my chart back, so I consented.

The next thing I knew, I was waking up, and I could not find my mother.

“Where’s Mom?” I asked the blurry person.

“You’re in Recovery One,” she said. “You can see her in Recovery Two.”

“Actually I can’t see anything until you give me my glasses back,” I informed Miss Sassy Blurry Pants.

I didn’t know it at the time, but my mother was making the same inquiries in her own holding area. “She needs her glasses! Her engagement ring! Her bear! Her Snow White blanket!” (Mothers understand priorities in a way that hospitals do not.)

Soon I was reunited with both my mother and my vision. I insisted on taking selfies and demanded to be discharged at once so I could visit my bunny. I ate three popsicles and spent some time poking my leg, which had become like a long, fleshy brick on my body.

You almost can

I was too excited about that popsicle to realize that it wasn’t going to keep me from coughing for four days after surgery because they stuck a tube down my throat.

Step Nineteen: Convalesce

I spent the month of October doped up on Percocet, unable to walk, while my parents took care of me. I was extremely fortunate in this regard since Army healthcare has been so negligent that my mom is a nurse and my dad is a doctor, so I had top-of-the-line in-home healthcare.

I had a lot of lofty ambitions and plans for my thirty days of convalescent leave. I would do all the things I dream of doing while I’m not doing Army Things. I’d bake and sew and scrapbook and be domestic. I’d binge-watch Netflix. I’d write a blog entry every week. I’d finish all the books I had read half or three-quarters or one-seventeenth or other sad fractions of up to that point. Yes, people. I had plans.

Instead I spent my time sleeping more than half the day and trying to remember what time I was supposed to take my pills. My parents fed me and made me wear compression stockings and propped me up on a bike every day and made me move my legs in sad circles so I wouldn’t get a blood clot and die. Bathing was an adventure every single day. I have an immense amount of respect for handicapped people and those who assist them, because if I were permanently unable to use my lower limbs I’d just give up and quit leaving the house. Seriously not worth the effort. Do you have any idea how heavy your leg is when it doesn’t move by itself? It’s obscene. That thing needs to go on a diet. Not me. My leg.

Step Twenty: Crutches

Oh, my old friends. I named them this time: Leonidas and Jane Austen. My dad nicknamed me the Duchess of Crutches. I have killer triceps. I am basically an orangutan at this point.

Upper body strength for days.

Upper body strength for days.

I even have a comparable gut now that my abdominal strength has deteriorated at an alarming rate.

I even have a comparable gut now that my abdominal strength has deteriorated at an alarming rate.

Actually I am weaning off them; I only have to use one now. My older sister has taken to calling me Tiny Tim. ‘Tis the Season. I’m not telling you whether I’m using Jane Austen or Leonidas because I’m not playing favorites.

Step Twenty-One: Physical Therapy

So now I’m sore and tired all the time and waiting to not be sore and tired anymore.

The hip was basically bone-on-bone, grinding away in there. They shaved down the pelvis and femur so that it should now rotate properly in the socket. They also sewed up the labrum and reattached it where it had gotten ground off.

Heres some science on it. Thanks, Internet!

Here’s some science on it. Thanks, Internet!

I have real pictures of the inside of my hip but Manfriend says they’re gross so I won’t put them on the Internet. Basically:

Normal-Hip-Joint

Exhibit A

Exhibit B

Exhibit B

The doctors told me at my six-week follow-up that I couldn’t expect to begin to see benefit from the surgery until I was at least three months out. And I was just sitting there on the crinkly paper (May I just say that I have grown quite weary of sitting on the crinkly paper and talking to strange men about my hips at this juncture in my young life?) trying to figure out the least insubordinate way to tell a captain and a major that was an unsatisfactory answer to me. Like, I’m sure you two are very nice young men are you probably worked very hard in medical school. However, comma, I have goals in life. I have dreams. One of those dreams is not letting my life revolve around my damn hip anymore. Can we stop riding the hip train and get the hip on the Kelley train? Can we do that?

But noooo, it’s all, we shaved down bone in your hip, it has to regrow, it’s not a particularly vascular area so the healing process is slower, labral tears heal differently in every body, blah, blah, BLAH. Just shenanigans. Let’s get a move on, people. Let’s get some vascularity going, hip.

Step Twenty-Two: WALK DOWN THE AISLE TO BE WEDDED TO MANFRIEND IN FABULOUS SHOES

I haven’t gotten to this step quite yet, but I will in just twenty-five short days. I am rehabbing my hardest to ensure that there is no thug limp walk, only an ethereal gliding on my wedding day, but I suppose a little swagger never hurt anyone.

That, dear friends, is the tale of how I had hip surgery.

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