My doctors didn’t want to do the surgery at first. I was 54 at the time, and they don’t like to do hip replacements on patients that young. They prefer to do it when you’re older because the replacement itself lasts for only so long and they have to do it again. But with the pain I was in and the issue I had, they realized it needed to be done sooner rather than later.
I had severe arthritis in the right hip, and a hip impingement, where the actual ball of the femur wasn’t fitting in the hip socket. When I walked, the bone wouldn’t move properly in the socket. Having fibromyalgia (a disorder that involves widespread pain and fatigue) had an impact on the arthritis. Fibromyalgia affects the muscles, and the muscles affect the bone. So every time I moved, it would affect the muscles, which fatigued me even more. It was very painful.
I’ve had arthritis in my major joints probably since I was in my 30s, but not enough to be a real bother. But in my 40s, it was becoming more of a problem. By my 50th birthday, I was in a lot of pain all the time. I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t run. I used to enjoy aquatherapy and aquafit, and all the things they tell you to do to help improve the hip I already had been doing and was no longer able to enjoy. They were causing me even more pain.
I needed a cane when I was out, and gradually had to use a walker sometimes. Then for longer distances, I needed a wheelchair.
My doctor and I looked at various options, but really, it was going to have to be a hip replacement. There wasn't anything else he could do.
The surgery took an hour and a half to two hours. They remove the bone from the hip socket and replace the ball of the femur with ceramic material. Because of the impingement, they smoothed out the socket so it was round again, and took this new ceramic bone and hammered it into the femur and fit it into the socket. They hammered everything back in place.
I was in hospital for two days afterward, but I was up and standing on my new leg on the first night. I was walking on it the next day.
It felt amazing. When the anesthetic wore off, the first thing I noticed was that the crushing pain was gone. When they got me up walking for the first time, they gave me a walker, and I was able to put my foot down and take a few steps. It was such a feeling of relief, I can't even begin to tell you.
It took 53 staples to close the incision. But the pain from the actual hip was gone.
I had an excellent recovery. Sometimes you can have a leg-length discrepancy, but it usually balances out as the hip recovers.
The one thing you cannot do is a 90-degree movement as the hip is healing. It takes about a year before you can bend at a 90 degree angle, so putting on socks can be difficult. They give you a list of restrictions and instructions on how to get in and out of bed and how to move properly. But I was able to do all of these quite easily.
A hip replacement usually lasts 10 to 15 years. So I will most likely have to have it done again in my 70s, and I need to have my left hip replaced. We're holding off so we don't have to have to redo that one too.
If they called me tomorrow and said we can go ahead, I would be right there.
It's really hard to remember what normal feels like. I just know there's no pain. I can do just about everything with it that I guess a normal hip can do. I don't think about my hip anymore, and that's the most important thing.
Pamela Jessen is 56 and lives in Langford, B.C.
– As told to Wency Leung