I decided to proceed with the hip replacement. The doctor seemed competent, came highly recommended from many sources and had done many of these procedures. I even sensed the doc was a bit shy talking to patients, capable but shy, and had a sense of humor. I could tell that by how he interacted with his staff in the office. I explained that here we are in May 2020, I’m retiring in September and wanted to give him plenty of time to get me in the schedule for late September. He smiled, checked his schedule and told me he was scheduling now for the middle of September. It seems the hospital had cut the number of surgeries they could handle to half what they formally did. The culprit was Covid-19. They had staffing issues since some people did not want to work or had child care or elder care issues and there were scheduling problems because the cleaning and preparation of the operating theaters took much longer. There were probably other Covid-19 issues as well. So I was sent down the hall to the ”scheduler” to secure my place in line in September. She was wonderful to work with, but it seemed scheduling was a secondary function. It looked like she was primarily checking my insurance coverage. In any case, she was wonderful to work with. So there it was. I was having a hip replaced the day after I stopped working and retired.
Skip forward about 4 months and we arrived at the hospital just before 6 AM. It seems since I have type 2 diabetes they prefer to schedule an early time for the surgery. Because of Covid-19 restrictions my wonderful wife could not accompany me inside so she dropped me off and drove away to await a phone call to come back and fetch me. I was given a fresh Covid-19 mask and directed to the Day Surgery wing and checked in. Within a few minutes a nurse came out to collect me, brought me to a private room and began the preparation for surgery. She signed onto the computer, verified my name, DOB, and what procedure I had dropped in for. She explained what was going to happen over the next 45 minutes to an hour and then got down to business. Yep, she handed me the dreaded jonnie and advised everything else comes off. I think we all hate those things, but they are very functional and necessary. She put a bright colored wrist band on me that said “Fall Hazard”. I asked about the need for that and she explained she had followed me down the hall on the way in and saw how I was walking. Huh, I was obviously a fall hazard. Who knew? Over the next 45 minutes a total of 5 or 6 medical professionals swarmed me. My weight was recorded, blood glucose was taken, and then I was connected to one of those beeping monitoring machines. Each new arrival asked my name, DOB, procedure to be done, etc. One nurse brought in a heated blanket, (that was very calming), another started an IV for drug administration and hydration (instructions were nothing to drink after 4 AM…), and a nurse anesthetist asked a bunch of questions relating to anesthesia. It seems I misunderstood the pre-surgery instructions. The instructions said if you are taking aspirin to keep taking it. I was taking 9 full strength aspirins a day to control pain and the instructions meant a single low dose aspirin per day. That meant they could not use a nerve block which is a very small needle inserted into your spine between your vertebrae. With so much aspirin on board, that presents a danger of bleeding near the spinal cord and could cause permanent paralysis. So the decision was to proceed with a general anesthesia rather than the nerve block. Additionally, this change meant I was going to be catheterized with a Foley catheter to avoid bathroom accidents during surgery. The surgeon stopped in to say hello and ask all those questions again. Overall, the preparation was actually a very comforting experience. I found each of the folks preparing me for surgery to be kind, caring, professional and very capable.
With the preparation all done it was time. I had been on a very comfortable bed from the start and they wheeled me down the hallway to the operating theater. That place is COLD! Now I understood the warming blanket. I was moved from the comfy bed to a not quite equally comfy table for the operation. I was swarmed again by 4 or 5 medical professionals, often each explaining what they were doing. A safety belt was placed to keep me on the table, my arms and hands were comfortably strapped out to the side and then the oxygen mask was placed over my nose and mouth and someone above my head said “count backward from ten”. “10, 9, …” I woke up in the recovery room about an hour and 20 minutes later. The doctor had already called my wife with a report that all went well. I was offered some juice and after making sure I didn’t have an upset stomach, I was given a light snack. After less than an hour later I was wheeled in one of those very comfortable beds from recovery to my room. Vitals were taken, the nurse asked a few questions to determine the extent of residual anesthetic brain fog and then she handed me a menu and advised I could order either breakfast or lunch. Yeah, I know hospital food has a bad reputation but my experience has been that it is pretty good as long as you decline the jell-o. So, I ordered breakfast and it was delivered in about 10 minutes. Less than an hour later 2 physical therapists came in to get me up and offer a trip to the rest room. Then I walked down the hall using a walker, got to the fake stairs and very carefully took the stair test leaving my buddy the walker at the bottom. I walked up 4 stairs to the landing, turned around and wondered how the hell I was going to get back down. The PT guys talked me through it and I successfully came down with no pain and no falling. I walked back to the bed while my wife was called to come and get me and I got back into my own clothes. I was worried about folding myself into my wife’s Subaru but had no trouble. At home I marveled at how well I was feeling (tired, but no pain) when my wife reminded me I was still under the control of the drugs. I also found it more comfortable to sleep in my recliner rather than our bed. Overall, all went well so far and I was pleased with the whole process.
Physical therapy in the next medical post.