The Surgery (Dun Dun Dun!)

I had the old hip surgery on August 11th and boy was it a doozy. I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I’d be though, I think having gone through one major surgery already (I had a hysterectomy in 2018) was helpful, I sort of knew how it all worked. But Dr. Whitfield did go into this surgery prepping me for the worst-case scenario, and it ended up being a lot of worry for nothing. I’m glad he did it, in hindsight, because I was pleasantly surprised when I woke up after a two-hour surgery, rather than a four-hour surgery. So what did he end up doing? Okay, let’s dive in.

Pre-op

I had a pretty standard pre-op. I got there and was asked to fully undress and wear the surgical gown, which is much better than a regular hospital gown, thankyouverymuch. But first I had to wipe yet again with the surgical wipes, but they were warmed for me, unlike the ones I had to use the night before at home. Brrr. I also had to drink not one, but two pre-op Ensures the day before. I had to do this with my hysterectomy too, I think it might be standard practice now on account of it helping by pumping major carbs into your body. Seriously, so many carbs and really it was so sweet that my teeth were hurting! But it helps with recovery and has been proven to allow a quicker return to normal, as well as a shorter hospital stay, an easier bowel movement post-op, and the loss of less muscle mass during recovery. Seriously, here is a really academic paper on it if you are so inclined. This should be the standard for pre-op.

The walk to the hospital doors. I had taken a Klonopin so I was feeling okay about it all!

After the wipe-down I met Alexis my pre-op nurse, who was kind and funny. You all know I love a funny gal. She was great with the IV and as soon as I was hooked up at #5 (my lucky number!) she brought Jerimiah back to hang with me, which was really nice and helpful at keeping my nerves at bay.

Fall risk, because duh.
He was navigating a work crisis all morning, so he had two phones on him at all times. 🙂 Crisis was averted though.
Feeling ready to get this party started!
With Alexis! She was the best, honestly.

After my IV was all hooked up, I had a visit from the anesthesiologist, Dr. Whitfield (my surgeon), then my OR nurse. They were all very nice and gave me good info and assuaged any lingering fears. Dr. Whitfield was still planning for the worst-case scenario here, which was the four-hour surgery where they had to do several things. But in the end it was much less complicated. This next pic I do not recall taking because they had just given me that medicine in my IV that sort of makes you feel like you had several glasses of wine, well that’s how it makes me feel anyway and I was all, yeah y’all let’s get this party started now!

No recollection of this one.

In the OR I was met by a smiling Adrianna, who is Dr. Whitfield’s right hand lady, and I liked her a lot up until that moment. She said some encouraging words to me then she started putting my feet into boots so I could be put in traction on the table and I was all, “How you gonna do that to me, Adrianna?” But then the anesthesiologist asked me if I talk about Bruno and someone put an oxygen mask on my face and I mumbled, “We don’t talk about…” Then I woke up three hours later in recovery. So yeah, it was an easy surgery for me! 🙂

Operation

They called Jerimiah at 2:00 pm to say the first incision had been made and it was apparently smooth sailing from there. Dr. Whitfield saw some things on my scans he was worried about, mainly that he would not be able to repair my labrum, so he had that cadaver labrum ready to rock and roll and he did end up replacing it in large part due to the fact that my torn labrum had started to repair itself best it could and that was by calcification, meaning it had started growing bone in the tears. This was one of the reasons I was in so much pain. I had my hip bone regularly hitting this calcified bone and wow, it was not fun.

Dr. Whitfield scraped the calcified bone out (there isn’t an easy answer about why some bodies do that) and then he pulled my labrum out and replaced it. He also had to shave off portions of my hip bone that were irregular, they were causing an “impingement.”

After it was all done, however, it was not as long or as involved a surgery as he was expecting and he called Jerimiah at 4:15 to say the surgery was over and I was being taken to recovery.

Recovery

I don’t know how waking up from recovery is for people, but for me it fucking sucks. Sucks, y’all. I just can’t get it together. I wake up five or six times, but never really long enough to talk to anyone or respond to questions, then I just feel all sorts of out of it for like 24 hours.

Because this was an out-patient procedure and I had to meet with Rehab before I was cleared to go, I was out of it the entire time the doctors were teaching me how to use a walker and crutches, how to walk down stairs, and get in and out of a car. Like, I don’t have a clear recollection of any of it. Thank goodness Jerimiah was there. At one point the Physical Therapist was all, “Yeah, I’m gonna stop talking to her and just talk to you,” then he moved his body toward Jerimiah. I was all, “That’s rude, MFer,” in my head. Then I got home and Jerimiah showed me this pic.

Sure, yeah. I get it now.

This was like an hour after I “woke” up and clearly I was not alert and had no real idea what was going on. Take someone to see the PT with you, that’s all I’m saying.

That night when we got home I was still out of it. It was probably a full 24 hours before I had some sense to me, which is why when I saw this awesome spread from my friend Jennifer, I was like, “Oh cool. What happened?” Then I had a couple bites and went to sleep. It wasn’t until the next day that I realized how kick-ass that spread was and how lucky I am to have the community I have.

Jennifer made us asparagus and mushroom pasta, a kick-ass watermelon and pecan salad, French bread, and dessert! She also brought me some beautiful flowers, which apparently her cats attacked the night before (Ha) but you couldn’t tell!

I should also say that we didn’t actually get home from the hospital until 7:00 pm, so Jennifer dropped this off to Jackson who was home because his friend Araf’s mom, Sharmin, brought him home after school. Also, I’ve had a ton of friends send me gifts and texts. My friend Kristi asked me if I needed her to grab groceries for us, other people have said to call if I need anything. But you know I hate to ask for help, and Jerimiah and Jackson have been awesome, as usual, so we are getting by and so far so good.

Because the surgery wasn’t as complicated as he had planned for, the recovery has been far better than I had planned for. In fact, my biggest issue has been the cough. I was pumped so full of fluid that it had to come out somehow. That mixed with the fun aftermath of anesthesia (it really does a number on me) I have had the most problems with the coughing and peeing all night long. But I’ll take that over pain any day. So I’m calling it a win. I’ll do a whole other post about my recovery period, because I certainly have some tips and tricks for people who are going through this surgery or one like it.

Now Here We Are

So, I started this post the day after surgery because I wanted to write about it while it was fresh on my mind, then I got side-tracked and am just finishing it today. But there are some things I bought in preparation for my surgery that have proven to be invaluable so I am going to add a link to them here to finish up this post. As I mentioned my next one will be solely on recovery and the ways I managed to get around in the two weeks after surgery.

I go to Dr. Whitfield on Monday for my post-op check in and I will keep you all informed of how that goes! So until next time, I hope you enjoyed my journey or at least have something to laugh about. Just look at that pic of me with the PT, that should give you a good chuckle.

M.

This has been a life-saver, y’all. Yes, this is my elevated commode and when it came in the mail (I ordered it from Amazon) I was like, “Oh what fresh hell is this?!” But lemme tell you, whew! You’re gonna need it because you aren’t supposed to sit at a 90 degree angle and trust you will feel it if you do. Plus, with strict instructions on “no weight bearing” tell me how you’re supposed to get on and off and wipe yourself in tiny bathrooms like mine without some help. Trust me, buy it. Also, it is FSA-approved!
Another FSA-approved product on Amazon is this shower stool! You have to wait 72 hours after surgery to shower, but when you do you will want to sit. You can’t take a bath because you can’t submerge your leg for two weeks, so it has to be a shower, but standing while you shower might be a pain in the ass. I am fortunate to have a shower that is an easy step in and seriously as big as the rest of my bathroom, but even if you have just a tub/shower combo this will still be very helpful. Buy it!
In the meantime, these bad boys are super helpful in feeling refreshed.

Hip Surgery

Shit y’all, I’m only two days out from this hip surgery and I am starting to panic! But not the kind of Panic! that you would find at the disco, rather the kind of panic that keeps you up all night because it gives you bad dreams. Damn it, I’d much rather be all Panic! At the Disco. Jerimiah had a good suggestion though. He suggested I write out all the stuff since writing things out helps me feel better. He’s right, of course, so I’ve decided to turn to the old blog to document my surgery and all the feelings (and pain levels) and what not, so that 1. It might help me feel more in control of things that I have zero control of and 2. Help others? I’m always trying to help others in my writing, so sure, this might have the capacity to do that too. So let me just get through the nitty-gritty first, then we can start down he rabbit hole of things in subsequent posts.

Diagnosis

So as y’all might recall I have an autoimmune disease called, Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS). It’s essentially arthritis of the spine and it has the potential to fuse joints and all that not-fun stuff. In order to control the progression of the disease I take weekly Humira injections, see my rheumatologist four times a year, do regular bloodwork, and get annual CT scans and MRIs. During a routine MRI back in December of 2021, the doctor noticed some problems with my hips that were not related to my AS. My AS has mainly attacked my SI Joints, which are the joints that connect your pelvis to your spine. On the MRI it was noted that I have “Bi-lateral Labrum Tears” among other issues. It was also noted that my right side was much worse that my left side.

All of this made a ton of sense to me, considering for the last ten years or so, I’ve had incredible, intermittent pain in my right hip area. I would sometimes be in such pain (mainly in the groin area) that I could not walk. This seemed to happen after intense workouts and when I was stretching or jogging or even walking too much, like when the fam and I would go to Disney and walk 15 miles in a day. There was basically nothing that helped alleviate the pain but rest.

I was referred to an Orthopedic Surgeon immediately and that’s when I met Dr. Whitfield. I should mention here that I live in the Atlanta-metro and because of that am blessed to have Emory right up the road from me. My doctors and hospitals are all within a 20-minute drive, with state-of-the-art campuses like 21 Ortho Lane, where I first met my Orthopedic team and where the Atlanta Hawks practice. No, they will not let you on the court to take a selfie. I asked.

Upon meeting Dr. Whitfield he showed me my scans and I was like, “Eww, is that my butt?” It is, it is your butt on an MRI scan and it’s not cute and he was all, “Can we focus?” Sure thing. Then he showed me where the biggest areas of concern were and it turns out it was with my right labrum which has been really “jacked up” (my term, not his) from years of overuse and also the way my hip bones are made. Seems I have bones that come to a point. Your hip bones should be rounded but mine are not which means for years they have been doing a number on my labrum.

Le sigh.

Your labrum, in case you don’t know what the heck a labrum is like I didn’t know what the heck a labrum was, is the ring of cartilage that goes around the socket that acts as a suction seal and as a stabilizer. One of the other not-so-fun symptoms of this problem is that my hip often “pops” or comes out of place and then goes back in which is usually unexpected and painful. You also have a labrum in your shoulder, maybe other places too, I dunno, I’m not a doctor. Here, look it:

There is the labrum and also you can see the bone that fits into all snug as a bug in a rug? See the rounded part there that looks kind of like a penis, if you see penises in things like I do? That fits up against your labrum, and yeah, it does sound like labia which is how I got there. Annnnnnyway, my bones and ligaments in this pic are all kinda jacked up and that labrum is really jacked up and that is why we are where we are. And that’s my official diagnosis: Jacked-up Hip.

Treatment Options

Since my left hip isn’t bothering me at all, even though it has the same probs, we are just ignoring that one for the time being, but it’s possible I’ll have to repeat this surgery on the left side one day. It’s also “likely” that I will need a full hip replacement on account of my jacked-up hip and my AS. So why not just get a new hip? That’s a valid question, thanks for asking. I too asked that question and Dr. Whitfield told me all about how if you put brand new tires on a young (new) car you will still need more new tires years later because the young (new) car will tear up the new tires and basically I’m a Ferrari.

I’m too young at forty for new hips and my hips aren’t “that jacked up.” But when I’m 60 we will be having a different conversation. No offense to less young Ferraris.

First we tried hip injections. This is where they inject the hip with steroids and hope for the best. My first injection immediately took the pain away and allowed me to go to AWP in Philly for a weekend of walking and exploring the city, then when I got home the pain was back. The injection lasted about four weeks.

The second injection allowed me to go to Disney and have a kick-ass time with the fam, very little pain, until the last day then BAM! The second injection lasted me about a week.

After the two “failed” injection attempts we moved on to surgery. To be fair there is another option, physical therapy. And I could have tried it but with my AS it makes PT tricky. What might help my hip, has the potential to hurt my SI Joints and likewise. Plus, there’s no way you can PT your bones to be more rounded.

Normal/Not Normal

So now here we are, two days from what they tell me is, Hip Arthroscopy to replace a jacked up labrum, along with shaving my bone to make it round, and something, something, something. This is a pretty common surgery with pretty good results. Dr. Whitfield is the resident expert in this surgery at the Emory Orthopedic and Spine Hospital where I will be having the it done. This hospital is actually in Tucker, GA the town I live in and it’s right off The Perimeter, making it uber convenient because it is an out-patient surgery.

Normally they’d just fix a torn labrum but mine is so jacked up it has to be replaced. Normally they replace it with your own tissue, but in my case there’s a risk of my body attacking its own tissue, on account of the autoimmune disease, so I’m getting a new labrum fashioned from a dead person. For sure, it’s cadaver tissue and this isn’t my first time getting cadaver tissue (they use it in dental implants of which I have one) and my body was cool with it, so awesome.

Thanks dead people for donating your bodies. I am also an organ donor, though I don’t know what they will possibly want from me? They probably can’t take a labrum out of my body that originally belonged to a different dead person? Right? Or maybe they can and deeply discount it? Like half off? Most of my joints are junk and my heart, well, check back in with me in about 20 more years. Also, if you want to be an organ donor you can do so here.

Also they will be shaving the bone and cleaning the area, as well as poking holes in it all to generate stem cell growth. I have no idea why, but I’m told it’s all normal. It’s approximately a four-hour surgery and in terms of this surgery I’m getting the Cadillac of deals. As in, this looks cool, but it isn’t. It’s just overpriced and will end up making your friends think you are pretentious. It hits all my out-of-pocket costs though, which means I’ll get all the rest of my medical shit for free* through April!

*Free is not free you see. It’s actually $5000, but $5000 is way better than $40,000 which is the MSRP on this bad boy.

Outcomes

Since my diagnosis I’ve talked to a ton of people who have either had a similar surgery or who know someone who has. This diagnosis is common in athletes of particular sports that require pivoting, like basketball, soccer, and even softball, of which I played all through my childhood. It’s also common with people who suffer from various autoimmune diseases like mine, which makes my outcomes a little more complicated.

With the right PT and a top-notch surgery Dr. Whitfield says I should be at about 90% within the next year. Meaning in a year or less I will be walking normally and (fingers crossed) without the pain and the popping that I have become accustomed to. I might even be able to stretch my right leg or move it in certain ways I was not previously able to! Wow!

My weight factors in, but only slightly. I’m a sturdy girl. Like if I were a dancer I could try out for Lizzo’s Big Gurrrrls, okay. 💁🏻‍♀️But he’s actually more concerned with my AS, than my weight having a significant impact on the outcome of surgery. It just makes it all tricky. Plus, I’ve had to go off my weekly injections for a total of six weeks (three before and three after) to limit my risk of infection. I’ve been okay so far, no flare-up of significant symptoms (someone knock on some wood for me) but I’m definitely reminded daily why I take the risk of injection every week.

My recovery starts immediately and looks like rest and crutches for the first four to six weeks. This is nuts to me, but I see why. It’s just that again, I hear all about people having complete hip replacements and being up and at ‘em the next day, so it’s frustrating to know I won’t be up or at ‘em for a bit. Plus, I have crutches already and I’ve been practicing on them and uh, no. Just no. My upper body strength is gone since I’ve been on rest for almost a year now, and oh yeah, my damn dogs are terrified of them.

Ahhhhhhhhhhhh! Sorry. Just needed to scream.

So there you have it. The first blog post of probably several pertaining to my hip surgery. I hope you’ve found this helpful, enlightening, or entertaining in the least.

I go in on Thursday morning and should be home by dinner. My friend Jennifer is actually bringing dinner to us Thursday night, so I won’t have to worry about that and we’ve prepped best we can for my recovery. I’m so incredibly thankful to my friends and Jackson and Jerimiah who will be helping me out the next couple months. I couldn’t imagine having to do all this alone.

Okay so you know the deal, y’all: Thanks for reading and stay safe and sane out there!

M.