Sally Boyle had her hip replaced in 2004 at age 57 due to degenerative joint disease. We spoke last week to discuss her procedure from the decision to have surgery through today, eight years removed from the procedure.
How did you decide to have hip replacement surgery? What were you experiencing at the time?
I actually never had any problems with my hip for a long time. Many people have long-term degeneration of the joint and many years of pain. In my case, the joint did wear down, but it happened quickly. I first started to feel pain in September 2003 and I was limping by the following winter. The doctors told me that this kind of degeneration normally takes around eight or nine years, but it happened in nine months for me.
I originally went to my regular physician, then to a rheumatologist, then finally an orthopedist. Nobody considered a hip replacement at that point. I wasn't the typical case, though. For me, it just happened, and I needed surgery.
How has the surgery changed your life?
Like I said, I was limping around quite a bit before surgery. Now, I am in no pain at all. For a while after the surgery, I did have some problems with the muscles in my thigh, but it has gotten better. When I would sit for a long time, I would have some problems when standing. However, the doctor said this was fairly normal following the surgery.
What was the surgery itself like?
I had a "traditional" style of surgery rather than the anterior approach, which generally does not cause the lingering problem after surgery. The surgery I had did not use robotics. The implant is a ceramic head and a titanium shaft.
I was in the hospital for a few days, then went directly to a rehab center. There, I had therapy for about a week. Within 10 days of surgery, I was walking with a cane. And this is where I gained respect for all of those having the procedure done at an older age – the rehab was hard!
I then had outpatient rehab for two months – it was three times a week for eight weeks. I couldn't drive and I was still taking pain medications for about three weeks. It hurt – it really did.
In the beginning, I couldn't do much. I couldn’t stand to prepare a meal; I couldn't bend.
For some time, I did have some discomfort. I had a lot of restrictions, like that I had to sit a certain way, etc. This was a product, though, of the traditional approach as opposed to the anterior approach – the newer style should not cause the same kinds of problems.
What was life like before and after the procedure? How did you prepare for life after the surgery?
I actually lived in a two-story house with my husband, and I had a fear of going up and down the stairs alone for a little while. I was also on blood thinners immediately following the surgery, so I did need some attention, just in case anything went wrong.
There were pre-op classes to learn all about the surgery. I did a few exercises, mostly to strengthen the core muscles, to prepare for the surgery. However, I really didn't do that much to prepare for it.
Of course, I needed a support system at home. I had an operation, and I would need to eat. I had to be nutritious – but how would meals be prepared? You will likely need someone to help. Give this a thought ahead of time and reach out to Meals-on-Wheels if necessary.
I also went out and bought a shower chair before the surgery. I am a nurse by profession, so being around things like this all the time helped me have a knowledge for preparation.
What type of follow-up have you had since the surgery?
I hope this will last my whole life! I currently go every other year to the surgeon for a review, where they compare my healthy hip to the artificial hip to look for deterioration. This is the scary part, actually – you don't know if the hip is deteriorating. You only know that after the doctors look at X-rays. That’s why following up is so important.
Overall, are you satisfied with the procedure?
I am very satisfied with the way that I did it. I did not have many problems at all. I was pretty well informed. You obviously want to have an experienced surgeon, someone who does this procedure all the time. My brother in law had some difficulty finding a good surgeon when he had his hip replaced – he couldn't find someone to perform the anterior style. He ultimately had to travel a few hours to an appropriate hospital, but he had a successful surgery as well.
I do have some restrictions – I'm not allowed to play basketball or go downhill skiing, for example. But overall – just be careful! There were no real restrictions beyond that which would change my lifestyle significantly.
I consider myself lucky. I'm not even aware of it anymore. I really haven't had any problems.
What advice do you have for someone considering a hip replacement?
Don't wait! If you're in pain, get the surgery done. People live for years with this pain. Some people are afraid to have surgery, and it can be a big time commitment – you're basically off-the-grid for three months. It does require a recovery period, but it's getting people to accept that they need to move forward. It's like trying to get someone to quit smoking – it takes a commitment but it is the right decision in the long run.
Published On: May 07, 2012