Yikes, I'm terrified. Maybe writing about it will help. Some friends liked my Spain trip report and asked me to do a “trip” report for the hip replacement. We are an aging demographic and many are likely to need surgeries and replacement parts. Maybe it will be relevant for others.
It started three years ago. After a crappy winter of hard snow beating up my hip and a couple of physical work projects, a friend came down to ski at my lake for a few days. I was dialing in a new slalom ski and pushing to redeem my trick skiing. So I skied a lot. Probably more than my body could handle. My hip was sore but manageable. Until I pulled out for the gates in some choppy water at the end of a long set and something went pop. The hip really lit up.
It didn't get better and a couple doctor visits didn't change too much. After zeroing too many tournaments in a row, I finally got an MRI which showed a tiny fracture in the ball of the hip. No weight bearing for 6 weeks. Bicycling was OK so I stashed my crutches on the bike and rode everywhere. When I rode the hour hilly ride to a doctor appointment, the doctor put me on 6 more weeks of crutches. Released to ski for one end of season tournament and got my first standup of the year (with a watered down run – but it was still fun).
Snow skied over the winter with things improving pretty well.
Just about when the hip issues had become manageable, I got shingles. If you have read this far, GET THE SHINGLES VACCINE! Shingles is a horrible disease, the shot is a couple hundred bucks and a pinprick. Shingles filled up the nearly recovered hip with calcium and I blamed all my tournament zeroes on my painful hip. And slalom was out of the question – I couldn't really even try.
Treatment for shingles is a giant anti viral pill, a neuropathy pill with awful side effects for me, muscle relaxants which didn't help and a steroid, prednisone, which was magic. Prednisone is also on the WADA banned list so I could only take it for three days (taking it longer requires long tapering off periods that would have overlapped competition times, so off limits if I wanted to ski). I had a shingles relapse late in the summer which really lit up my hip as well as everything else. I went to the hip doctor looking for a theraputic use exemption for prednisone. Worlds were coming up and I might get tested so I needed to follow all the rules. Instead of a pill to just make me feel better, she saw my xrays “this is not the same hip as the one you injured – it's now shot” and sent me to get a new hip. “You are old. Stop skiing and get a new hip” was the advice. They gave me a shot of prednisone in the hip.
I was asked if it helped. “I don't know, I still can't cross my legs” I said while crossing my legs to demonstrate. Cool, this is great. Four weeks to worlds and I can ski again. Three weeks later, the effect wore off. I still had my best run of the year in the finals so no real complaints. Until a few weeks later – the hip was really painful. The cortisone shot just delayed the pain. Not a valid therapy.
Snow skiing was tough that winter. Drought snow meant ice skiing which rattled my hip and required hip flexibility to carve the skis. Some lessons and a lot of yoga and physical therapy got me feeling OK. Work was a problem if it involved ladders but I could paint and unclog toilets pretty well still (I am a toilet repairman it seems).
Steady improvement while waterskiing that summer – sort of. Slalom still sucked but I started enjoying skiing slow speeds just for fun. I stood up in a few tournaments, had fun coaching the kids and won Nationals. Interesting Nationals, I made it to the Masters Men division but only one other MM skier actually went to Nationals. When I ripped off my big toe toenail and pulled my back out a few days before Nationals (why was I moving that furniture by myself), I was really worried about my performance. I dialed back my run and did 100% of what my body was capable of that day to ski well. Good thing I skied MM as I wouldn't have won my age division with that score – but I'm still happy with that.
It snowed a lot over the winter. Great skiing but I did have to pace myself. It was hard to walk back to the cabin on my hip but the skiing was fine. Especially when it was soft.
This spring, I tried to get back into slalom. Worked pretty hard but couldn't get past 5 ball at 34. Even in practice. Couldn't qualify for Regionals so I focused on tricks. It was tough but my scores kept improving at every tournament. Finally got over 4000 – a huge milestone for me. Got sick right before Nationals (what looked like a Lyme bite right where the harness goes on my toe foot – made the whole leg weak including lighting up the hip) so I zeroed the toe pass. Got healthy, got strong and went to a last tournament. Tripped on the wake on my hand pass and pulled a hamstring. This was a week before Senior Worlds! But it wasn't a crippling issue – I might be OK. Worlds was tough. Barely made the finals. By finals, my hamstring was not better but not crippling. My hip locked up on me and wouldn't turn over for me. Wasted enough time to delay me off the podium.
That's when it decided for me. I can get by with one bad wheel but not two. Minor injuries are a part of any sport. If I get the nagging lingering problem dealt with, I might be able to handle whatever comes up. So hip replacement.
A total hip replacement is the standard. But athletes seem to prefer resurfacing (Floyd Landis is the most famous (infamous) to have the hip resurfacing). A couple years ago, my doctors didn't want to do resurfacings. There was a recall of one brand (I'd way rather turn in my diesel Jetta than turn in my hip!) and the lawyer sharks were going after all the doctors doing resurfacing. But now doctors are warming again to resurfacing. I don't see ads on TV anymore and the published studies I read showed better outcomes in the long term from hip resurfacings (probably skewed by starting with healthy athletes). The doctor that I was referred to a couple years ago is now one of the most experienced resurfacers. Cool!
So I'm convinced that Dr. Ball at UCSD should give me a Birmingham hip. Easy, right?
The first appointment to see him is in November and I'm calling late September. I get a cancellation for a late October appointment for the initial visit. There's a Birmingham hip mill in South Carolina, maybe I should go there? I call and whine for an earlier appointment with Dr. Ball and I get a cancellation in two days! Cool!
I'm too old at 61 to be a perfect candidate for the Birmingham hip. So I'm hoping he will be able to help me. The xrays look even worse than the last ones. I show him a video of my toe pass trick skiing. He rattles around my leg and smiles “you'll be easy”. The Birmingham hip will be perfect for you. I bribe him with a bottle of wine in thanks for seeing me so quickly.
A day later, I get a call from his scheduler. “Do you have anything you need to do now?” Now, I'm an appointed judge at College Nationals next week. I need to fix some tiles in a kitchen in an apartment and fix a heater. I should be able to get things stabilized in a week or two, no problem. They were saying 6 to 8 weeks for scheduling if I get an expedited cancellation. So I flippantly answer “it will take me a couple hours to get there but I can be there later this morning”. She answers “so Tuesday is OK?”
Wow! If this happens that fast, I can get back to work in time to really take care of a couple big looming projects, I might be able to snow ski a bit and even if I heal slowly I'll be ready for waterski season. I cannot turn down this opportunity.
My first call is to Connie to warn that I am likely to flake on Nationals. I don't know if I will be ready to work there that quickly. I did set up the cameras so they should be straightforward. Half the people say I should be OK to just play with the videos at the tournament, the others say I will be lucky to remember the TV shows I will binge watch while groaning on the couch munching percodan. We'll see.
So Friday I have all the pre op appointments. An EKG? Is my heart going to stop? Will I fail the test and not get surgery? Blood work? Even though I donate blood regularly, I hate needles. Pee in a cup? No problem but are they giving the results to WADA? I should be clean but I did have a poppyseed bagel a while back. I guess I passed because the doctor saw me next.
I have a tournament over the weekend. I'm not sure I should ski it and risk the injuries. The doctor says “I'm cutting you open unless you break your leg. Go have fun there.” I'm only signed up for tricks and that goes OK – the hamstring is almost healed but the hip locks up. I'm not allowed any Naproxen so I'm pretty stiff. On Sunday I get a write in to slalom. Make 30 and 32 at 15 off. Opt up to 22 off 34 because that used to be my starting speed. Run it! It's been a long time. And that was difficult. Too scary to attack 28 off the way I needed to - but I'm stoked to have made a pass.
The rush to get in the open spot is too quick for the insurance. We are all pretty sure that the insurance will come through but my share is still substantial. They want that up front. This is expensive! Lisa has been wondering if I will be able to get up our stairs. So she asks the nurses and doctors. “It depends.” But now they want me to spend the night in the hospital. Maybe I can talk them into the luxury ground floor Bahia hotel and dinner of lobster instead of a cold hospital room with thickened applesauce. My share of the payment probably makes the Bahia and lobster cheaper to me. I'm going to Amvets to buy a used walker and crutches…
No alcohol. Showers with some total kill antibacterial soap (how do I still have BO?). No late dinner (at least no Moviprep – condolences to those who know what I'm referring to). This is the stuff that makes you nervous. While I'd rather be getting my hands dirty with the heater repair, the phone remote repair is keeping me distracted.
Keep you posted (I hope).