Friday, June 24, 2022

The Husband's Hip Replacement

I have not said much about my husband's need for a hip replacement, because this has been his issue. While it affects me greatly, my input in how things went down was minimal.

I'm just the little woman, second class citizen and all, anyway. (Yes, I'm writing this after the Roe v. Wade SCOTUS decision. I will discuss that more some other time.)

Also, I cannot speak to his pain. I know he was hurting, and I know he was having problems, but pain is subjective. I've lived with what I consider a be a level 5 - 8 pain since my gallbladder surgery in 2013. Some days it's doable. Most days it isn't. Some people (generally women, in my experience) can withstand pain better than others. He has said his pain ranged from a 3 to an 8, depending on what he was doing.

I can't speak to anything else about this entire event except from my perspective. So that is what this is. This is what happened to me while my husband had surgery.

We've known since late December that my husband would need to have his hip replaced due to arthritis and degeneration of cartilage and all of that. However, before the doctor would operate, he required that my husband be off nicotine for six weeks prior to surgery. My husband does not smoke, but he chewed tobacco, and had for as long as I'd known him. I'd tried unsuccessfully to get him to stop, but the surgeon was able to do something I could not.

My husband quit chewing tobacco.

However, that took a long time, the weaning off of it, and in the interim my husband opted for a steroid shot in his hip, which also meant a three-month delay in the surgery. By then, it was spring and there were septic tanks to install, and the first cutting of hay to get up, and all of this other guy stuff that he wanted to deal with. He had his ankle fused in the winter of 2019, and we lucked out and had a mild year as far as freezing and snow then. Husband realized that even if he has to pay someone to make hay in July (which we will have to do), he'd be better off to do the surgery in the summer because the cows can take care of themselves during warm weather. They don't need to be fed and the watering troughs aren't going to freeze. They are giving birth, and we've already lost one calf to vultures, but generally speaking our cows are on their second or third birth and are good mammas. He would lose some septic tank installation work, perhaps, but since Covid and with a recession here (it's here I don't care what the economists say), work has been slow anyway. A cousin and a friend agreed to check on the cattle a few times a week.

As for me, my doctor insisted I get the fourth booster for Covid if I had to spend a day in the hospital waiting room, so that was my only personal preparation aside from attempting to strengthen my endurance and walk more, which succeeded only in making me hurt more. On Friday, June 17, the young woman who helps me with the heavy housework performed a thorough cleaning, and we removed rugs and obstacles.

Monday, June 20, was the big day. We had to be at the hospital in Roanoke at 6 a.m. My husband insisted we get up at 3:30 a.m. on Monday to get there, even though it's a 30-minute drive, especially at that time of morning. The traffic is worse after 6 a.m. He had to take a special shower using an antibacterial cleaner and some kind of cloth with an antiseptic wipe, too.

The drive to Roanoke was uneventful. We had to go to the North Entrance of Roanoke Memorial Hospital. Fortunately, there were handicapped parking spaces readily available there, and since I have a handicapped parking permit, we were able to use that, and I didn't have to worry about valet parking. This also put the car within walking range of the waiting room, so I was able to leave a cooler full of water in the back seat instead of traversing the entire length of the hospital (which is about two blocks long or better) to obtain a drink from a vending machine.

After our arrival, we checked in. We had on KN95 masks, and the hospital required masks for entry. They were handing out thin little surgical blue masks, though. More on that later.

We sat in a waiting room filled with chairs that I feel sure were there when my husband's father had a heart attack in 1995, and they were not set apart. The hospital did away with the Covid distancing on May 23. I was not happy about that, since I am still careful and wear a mask in the grocery store. 

I do not like hospitals, but I especially dislike Roanoke Memorial. It is the dreariest, creepiest, scariest place I can think of. I have never had a good experience there myself, not in any of the multitude of operations I have there. The facility is dull and uninspiring, with nothing to catch the eye. The place is absolutely, totally unremarkable, oldish looking, and in need of a face lift.

The outpatient waiting room is especially bad and was no better than it was in 2019. Old furniture, crowded - I think at the high point during the day there were at least 100 people in there - it's simply an unappetizing facility with no imagination or creativity about it whatsoever. Chairs lined the hallway near the entrance as well. They were spaced out better and that area was not so crowded, but it was also difficult to hear the nurses call out people's names in that area.

At 6 a.m., we sat in the ugly waiting room and waited for them to call my husband's name and take him back to pre-op. We waited some more, and my husband became agitated. They did not take him back until 7:59 a.m.  About an hour later, someone came and asked me to go to be with my husband in pre-op, but I couldn't go back until I took off my KN95 mask and put on one of their flimsy little blue surgical masks. I considered this to be among the stupider things I had seen in a long time, to have to remove a better mask to put on a worse mask to go into the bowels of a fricking hospital during a pandemic.

The volunteer led me down a long array of corridors, dreary even though they had stars painted on them. They were lined with gurneys (fortunately no one was in them), and it was a long, tiring walk.

I found my husband in a gurney, with tubes running out of both arms, his head covered with a little net, and an IV of saline running into him. He had on green socks with rubber on the bottom and a blue paper gown. They'd shaved his entire right side and leg. I watched him shove globs of iodine on a stick up his nose (to keep him from getting MRSA) and held his hand and said all the good wifely things one should say at such times.

The main reason they bring the family back is so someone can take control over the clothing and belongings. (I do not for one minute think it's because of empathy or sympathy for what the patient and family is going through.) I don't know why they can't stick the personal belongings under the gurney but suspect it has to do with their fear that someone will leave a tape recorder running and they will be sued for saying something like he has ugly feet or some such.

The operating room nurses came in around 10 a.m. and hauled him away, and I went back to the waiting room, which was two blocks away give or take a couple of steps, hauling his big shoes and his shirt and short pants in a bag with me. In the waiting room, I sat and watched an older gentleman try not to fall out of a chair that apparently was falling apart. Another man read Stephen King's The Stand, and a lady in the corner had a laptop with a very loud video on it. Everywhere there were clings, clangs, songs, and dings as people's cell phones alerted them to texts or phone calls.

Soon I felt claustrophobic as the waiting room filled with more and more people, so I wandered out to my car and drank a Boost and a bottle of water. When I came back in, there was a seat available in the hallway where the chairs were further apart, so I sat there and breathed a bit easier. In front of me was a long stretch of windows, and I could see outside. My Blue Ridge Mountains were in the background, the sky was clear, and a little greenery from the bushes and grass along the side the road made me feel more at home.

I watched passing traffic, and I could see my own vehicle. People came and went without anyone stopping them, and given the recent shootings, I couldn't help thinking how easy it would be for someone with a semi-automatic gun with a silencer to take out first the valet parking person, then the single secretary checking people in, strafe the folks like me sitting the chairs in the hallways, and then wipe out the other 80 or so folks in the waiting room long before anyone even knew what was going on. I doubted anyone would have time to call 911 before the shooter went on into another corridor, taking out doctors and nurses as he went.

So, I imagined that little scenario in between trying to read Lord of the Rings and watching the little screen with my husband's special number on it that told me when he was out of surgery and into recovery.

That happened at 11:29 a.m. I breathed a sigh of relief, since that meant he'd made it through the surgery ok. You just never know when a surgery might go wrong.

My cell rang and it was the surgeon. He told me everything went as expected, and my husband had a lot of arthritis in the hip that they'd cleaned out, and he was in recovery. Someone would call me later to tell me he was in a room.

I remained in the hallway and began contemplating lunch. I had a ham sandwich on ice in the car, but I didn't really want it. I called my brother, whose office isn't far from the hospital, and asked if he could bring me a sandwich. He said he would, but the nurse called and said my husband was in a room, so I texted my brother to abort the sandwich mission. Then I went in search of my husband, now on the 9th floor instead of the 4th, where I was.

The elevators stared at me like the monstrosities they are before I sucked in all the air I could and boarded one for the appropriate floor. I dislike elevators and intensely dislike these particular elevators as they come to a nauseating stop on every floor. (Many years ago, I walked off of these elevators and fainted dead away, so there's that.)

However, I made it to the 9th floor only to find my husband wasn't in the room I'd been given, but instead was in another room for whatever reason. He was sitting up and the nurse was taking vitals or something when I arrived. Also, his socks were now grey.

They brought him a turkey sandwich and a fruit cup, along with Baked Lays Potato chips, which he doesn't like, so I had his potato chips for lunch.

I cheered him on as he got up and on a walker. A physical therapist walked him around the hallway. He finally urinated, and that was all they needed to send him home. While we waited on the discharge paperwork, the hospital brought him an early dinner (it was by now 4 p.m.), and he didn't want it. I ate it since I'd not had anything but a Boost and potato chips all day. For hospital food, it wasn't bad, or maybe I was simply hungry.

Then the nurse came in and said he would be discharged at the front of the hospital and not at the North Entrance. It was 4:45 p.m. We'd asked and been told that anyone could leave from the North Entrance, but one could not get back into the hospital after 5 p.m. at that entrance. The nurse said ok, we'll take him out the North Entrance, but you'd better go get your car because that's not exactly what we were told. "We'll try to get him down there by 5 p.m.," she called after me as I raced from the room.

I hustled off to stare down the monstrous elevators again, and then make my way to the car. Once there, I called my brother and asked him to meet me at my house in about a half hour. I pulled the car into the patient loading area and the nice valet man said he'd put in a courtesy call to the 9th floor to tell them I was waiting.

At 5:10 p.m., they loaded him into my car. This took a little time. We'd both been concerned about the bucket seats in my Toyota, because his knees weren't supposed to be above his hips and my husband is tall. His knees are above his hips in most chairs.

I had brought extra padding for the seat to raise him up, and that worked. So off I went, driving home down the interstate during rush hour. (I dislike driving on the interstate during rush hour. Blah.)

My wonderful brother was waiting at the house when we arrived. I opened the garage door, and he went through and opened the patio door. I drove the car up to the patio and my husband took his walker from my brother and shuffled into the house.

And that was the doing of that deed.

We've been home since then, and he is mending. He has, however, worn me out. Since I can't bend and stoop without pain, this has been problematic for me and caused me to look longingly at his pain medications while I tried to tamper my pain with my normal meds (which are not narcotic). For one thing, the man drops everything he picks up. If I dropped stuff as much as he does, I'd have worn out my hip, too. I gave him one of those long doohickeys that people use to pick things up with to alleviate some of that.

He's needed to wear compression stockings. Getting those things off and on is a struggle. The pair they sent him home with were so hard to get off I thought we were going to have to resort to cutting them off of him, but I finally managed.

The next day, he called the doctor's office and my brother picked up another pair of compression socks for him in a larger size. I can get these on, but we are both breathing hard by the time I have them on his big ol' feet. I have to wash them every night.

He could shower on Wednesday, and I have to dry off his legs and feet. More bending and stooping.

I have not had a good night's sleep since Saturday, because he is up and down a lot and requires my assistance to get in the bed. I made a grocery store pickup on Thursday because we were out of a few things, but he had a visitor, so he wasn't alone while I was gone.

A shout out to my brother, who has been very helpful and attentive, and thus deserving of an A+, to my father and stepmother, who brought us dinner Wednesday night, and my friend Cathy who brought us dinner Thursday night. Also, a shout-out to my young cleaning help, who made a special stop by my house this morning simply to run the vacuum for me because I was in so much pain I couldn't do it and I am trying to keep the house clean, so my husband doesn't develop an infection. Additionally, my mother-in-law has been bringing us the newspaper and the mail. Many thanks!

We will see how things go from here. My husband is hoping to be back to work in six weeks.


  1. This was genuinely harrowing, which means it was well written. I felt like I was there with you (and I enjoyed the chips).
    It reminded me of something I read about my favorite-most ballplayer, Anthony Rizzo. He battled cancer as a teen, and now he pays for the renovation of family waiting rooms in pediatric cancer centers (in Chicago and in FL). He recalled how much worse he felt during his cancer treatments when he thought of where his "ma" had to sit and wait for him. I wish hospitals gave the waiting area more thought. I'm sure your husband would feel more comfortable knowing his "little woman" is more comfortable.
    I hope you and your husband feel better with each day.

  2. I wish I lived closer and could give you a hand, since I'm on summer vacation. I do hope he continues to heal nicely. And I hope there is some relief for you, soon!


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