Sunday, April 22, 2012

Nothing to do but get better

This morning I drove for the first time!  I drove 5 minutes to the Physical Therapy clinic and then spent another 15 looking for a parking spot. Grrr. I would have preferred to ride my motorbike, but I am nervous about driving it yet.  I think (and several professionals plus the Bear concur) I ought to wait until my muscles are stronger.

Although he doesn't want me to drive the motorbike or swim,  Prof. Palmtree claims that I do not need PT.  However I feel that my muscles are still weaker than they were - than they should be - so PT can only help, right?  Besides I like the therapist at the clinic, who I have worked with in the past.  Since this was my first visit with her post-op (and because I was late due to the parking situation), we didn't do too much today.  The exercises she gave me were fairly easy.  But even so, I still have more discomfort doing the exercises than I do walking - which is virtually painless.  I take that as a sign that my muscles really do need some additional strengthening.

Having said that, I have been walking a lot lately, including walking in the National Park with the Bear.  Nothing feels as good as walking does. I am up to nearly 4 km a day.  Sometimes I walk once but very often twice a day. And I am constantly amazed that I am able to go distances that it's been years since I have managed so easily.

Also in an attempt to be a better blogger, I've been taking some photographs during my walks to share with you.  So here are some interesting things that I've seen along my way.

Cat in a Ramat Gan window looking down at me

Cafe in Tel Aviv - but doesn't it look like we could be in Italy?


Spying on wedding portraits in the park

End of a good day!

Friday, April 20, 2012

railroad tracks

One of the most difficult things about the surgery and recovery is the incision site.  At the risk of being gruesome, I'll try to write about this. 

Almost immediately after the surgery, I reached my hand down and through the bandages was surprised to feel a long line of railroad track down the side of thigh. Obviously I knew that there would be stitches, but I honestly didn't expect to find the incision site stapled shut.  In addition, I didn't expect it to be so long.  A full 16.5 cm.  All around the site, my leg was swollen and bruised.  So much so that I couldn't visualize where the incision was.  Was it on my thigh?  Did it reach up to my backside?  I don't think I actually saw where it was until later in the week when Prof Palmtree came to put on a pressure bandage and the Bear photographed the occasion. 

The wound was not healing well and so the Professor thought putting on the pressure bandage would help the process.  He basically duct-taped my thigh and butt together. It was terribly confining, making even walking difficult.  The nurses had a challenging time getting it off the following day, taking not a little bit of skin with it. Ouch.  And then Palmtree did it again.  I was not happy but the doctor came back himself on Saturday to remove the bandage the second time and lo and behold, the wound was healed enough for me to be discharged the following day.

Once home, my Aromatherapist (I love saying that!) prepared a special oil consisting of wheatgerm, rosehip and frankincense (and some other secret ingredients), and instructed me to massage it into the wound several times a day.  Shvester sent a homeopathic remedy of Arnica for the bruising, but my Aromatherapist warned that Arnica couldn't be used on an open wound (only for bruising) and also counseled against mixing therapies.  Shvester agreed!  So oil it was.

At first the incision site was fairly numb and I couldn't completely feel anything in that area. The staples themselves were uncomfortable.  But not unbearable.  However as time passed, the wound became less numb, sensation and feeling started to return.  Towards the end of the two week period, I could feel the metal prongs digging into my skin. Running my hand over the wound, I imagined the staples felt like how the jumbo staples we use in my office for large training manuals would feel.

Finally after the initial two week period, Bear arranged for the nurse from Kupat Holim to make a house call to remove the staples.  In fact, I could have walked that far but I was afraid that the removal would hurt and then I'd have to walk back home uncomfortably.  Since the nurse didn't even think I could make it as far as the clinic, she readily agreed to make the house call.

Upon her arrival, the nurse stupidly told us that this was only the second time she was doing such a procedure.  She said that usually older patients go to a rehab after the surgery and then have the staples removed there.  What?!  Couldn't she have waited until she was finished to tell us this?  Luckily, it didn't hurt nearly as much I feared.  Really it didn't hurt at all.  Of the 33 staples, I think I felt a pinch maybe 3 or 4 times.  The rest of them I didn't even feel coming out.  Looking at the staples once they were out of my leg, I found it remarkable how small they looked.  Not at all the super sized staples I had imagined.

And what a relief when they came out.  I hadn't realized how much they were bothering me.   Once out, the wound felt liberated.  But so unsightly.  The first day, it looked very raw and there was still a lot of swelling and discoloration all around the area.  I'll spare you and refrain from posting those pictures.

In the last month, we've been very diligent about massaging the oil on the incision site.  Between the Bear and my Mom, and sometimes even L, the scar was massaged and oiled at least twice a day, sometimes more.  The discoloration is now gone although I think that there is still some swelling.  It's hard to tell.  I have  lot of leg. 

I've read that it's important to keep massaging the incision site in order to prevent scar tissue from forming.  The area around is still very hard but the scar definitely looks better and I think eventually, only be a thin line will remain.  Wanna see?

Pretty, right?  OK - but not that bad.  If anyone out there is in the market for a good aromatherapist, let me know & I'll give you her number!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Support System

On several occasions lately, people have called me a hero or said that I was very brave to have taken the plunge and done the THR.  Others have called my progress meteoric and commented on what a strong person I am. Huh?!

While this is all very flattering, it is also somewhat embarrassing; primarily because I disagree.  Saving someone's life makes you a hero.  Jumping into a dangerous situation without thinking of your own personal consequences makes you brave.  And yes, my progress has been fast, partly because I am dedicated to getting well and overcoming this. 
But what I really have is a very strong support system.

And by support system (for anyone who's been reading along and hasn't noticed), I mean the Bear. Yes, there are others (you guys know who you are!) who have been here for me; but there is simply no way I could have gone through this process so successfully without the Bear.  He takes care of everything so that I can focus solely on getting well.

He's the one who scheduled my first appointment with Prof Palmtree.  He had the apartment set up and ready for my rehab before we began.  He stayed with me every night in the hospital, making sure I ate and took my meds.  He arranged for the ambulance home and then took off another week from work to look after me when I was released from the hospital.  He has cooked, cleaned, laundered, run to the doctor, the pharmacy, the insurance company, bathed, dressed and walked with me every day for the past 6 weeks.  He worries so that I don't have to and smiles every step of the way.

So if I haven't said so, Bear, thank you for being the best care-giver ever. 
Thanks for being you!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Independence Day

This is going to be a short post.  Yesterday I got an A+ from Prof. Palmtree.  Yay! 
My hip is fully functional and I have only a slight limp, which he says will disappear with time.  He also says that any groin pain is natural as that is where the joint is and that too will disappear as my muscles strengthen.  Oddly though, he says that I don't need any more PT.  I had already scheduled an appt at the clinic with the therapist who I like for next Sunday and I think I'll go anyway.  It can't hurt, right?

The first things I had dreamed of doing today were going swimming and taking a long hot soak in the bathtub, but he vetoed both those activities.  Apparently swimming carries the risk of slipping at the pool and it is still too soon to get down into the bathtub.  Oh well.  I'll have to wait another 6 weeks.

In the meantime, I will have to suffice with all the other things I can resume doing now:  sit in a regular chair, bend over, tie my own shoes (still actually harder than it sounds!), sleep on my stomach, get in a car.  What a relief!

And today, I'm leaving Ramat Gan for the first time in 6 weeks (Givatayim doesn't count).  My friend V, is coming to pick me up and take me for lunch in the big city.  Which reminds me...there is one more thing I need to resume. I haven't blow-dried my hair in the last 6 weeks (well there wasn't much need for it, was there?) so I better go & do that now so that V doesn't look like she's lunching with the Witch of the East.

I'm off!

p.s.  after I posted this blog entry, I opened the balcony to water the flowers and saw that this sunflower had burst opened. The perfect image for my first day out, no?

Sunday, April 15, 2012


I haven't felt well the past couple of days and I didn't really want to blog about it.

It all began when I went to the Museum of the Far Eastern Art of Ramat Gan (bet you didn't even know there was one, did you?!) with a friend, naively thinking that, having felt so good lately, it would be no problem to wander slowly through the small collection.

(Personal pic:  The Yechiel Nahari Museum of Far Eastern Art, Ramat Gan)
The Museum is just across the street from my house, so we walked over and spent a lovely hour or so there admiring the 47 Faithful Samurai. Now for the record, let me just state:  standing and sauntering around a museum is hard work.  It is not nearly as easy as walking, which is kinetic & where the energy is dispersed equally amongst all the working muscles.  Standing is static and strains the supporting muscles.  A lot.

By the time we got back to the entrance to my building, I was really feeling a bit ill.  (To my dear friend who was with me, who I suspect is reading this, PLEASE do not feel badly about this.  It was my idea to go & I had no idea it would affect me so adversely.  I had a delightful time despite the aftermath.)  Nauseous and once again, my gluteus maximus proved just how maximus it really is!  I took the Tramadex & got into bed.

The following day I was sore but undeterred.  I decided to skip the PT exercises and went walking with Little Man instead.  Albeit not a long walk, but halfway through I felt so drained, we had to stop and rest.  For the remainder of the day, I was exhausted. 

Finally yesterday, after two days of feeling generally awful, it occurred to me that I hadn't taken any iron for the past two days and despite a lifetime of professing that I could "live on matzoh and butter", realized that, sadly, this is actually not possible.  Bear to the rescue, he made a big pot of lentil soup and instructed L to make a lettuce salad.  Shabbat dinner infused with iron-rich foods.  Yum.

Then I broke down and took a sleeping pill, because the previous two nights, I had woken up, ostensibly from the pain in my ass and suffered from some very bizarre dreams.  And we have already learned the lesson of how sleepless nights affect recovery...

Today I awoke a new woman. Feeling good.  Feeling much stronger. This morning's walk was a painless 3.6 km in 62 minutes, including an iced-coffee break at Cafe Viola.  That's a first. And because I didn't intend to focus on the negative in this blog post, I thought I'd give you a string of other "firsts" that I've managed recently:

  • solo shower tonight (first time I've bathed alone in nearly 6 weeks!)
  • laid on my stomach on my bed reading (my fav Saturday activity)
  • got up and down the stairs like a normal person at last (slowly)
  • successfully did side leg lifts (ok, ok, so cheated a little bit - my knee was bent)
  • finished knitting my first sweater (to be featured in a future post after blocking) 

Tomorrow is, unbelievably, 6 weeks post-op.  I'm excited about the prospects of the restrictions being lifted when I see Prof Palmtree on Monday. Although I'll probably continue to have good days and bad ones, just like everyone does, I'm looking forward to racking up some more "firsts" with my brand new hip in the coming weeks. 

Will keep you posted.  Sayonara for now.



             Engravings from the series "Lives of the 47 Ronin Faithful Samurais"
                                Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1847-48)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

I smell nice

(Photo credit: Laline products

The nicest thing about being incapacitated is receiving all the lovely get-well gifts that people have showered on me.  Books, flowers, chocolates and sweet little boxes of divine-smelling creams, soaps, lotions and potions. Lavender, Vanilla, Ocean, Patchouli.  I am the Laline Queen.  My bathroom smells heavenly and so do I. 

When I was in the hospital the Bear massaged me daily with lavender moisturizer.  (The aid staff ladies were visibly amazed and jealous).  At home also, although I am now more flexible and able to do this myself, he often helps in places I still can't reach (i.e. my left foot).  I have an array of fragrant lotions to choose from, all gifts from well-wishers.   It is the one of the few luxuries I have at the moment in my confined world.

I walked 3 kilometers again yesterday with no pain.  I made it through the night last night without any sleeping pills and I haven't taken any painkillers.  My muscles (quads, gluts) still feel tight and stiff, especially when I get up from the recliner, but I'm using the cane only when I walk outside - no longer needed at home.  Next week, I'll see Prof. Palmtree and the restrictions will, at last, be lifted. 

All this AND I smell good too! 

Monday, April 9, 2012

A Tribute to my Mom

I've been somewhat negligent about writing the past two weeks.  That's because my Mom has been here playing Florence Nightingale and I didn't want to spend my time with my nose in my laptop instead of being with her.

I know that it wasn't the most interesting trip for her. Every morning she'd get up and oil my incision site, get me dressed, put on my anti-DVT bandages, prepare my breakfast, put on my socks and shoes and take me for my morning walk. 

And that doesn't include bending over to pick up the hundreds of things I drop in a day.  Little Man says I have holes in my hands.  Inevitably, anything I am holding lands up on the floor. 

In the afternoon, she'd prepare some lunch, water my garden, force encourage me to do my exercises, have a short nap, put on my socks and shoes and then take me out for my afternoon walk. 

At night, we'd do our exercises again, then she helped me shower and get ready for bed, oiling my incision and helping me into my pyjamas. Tedious really.  I am quite sure that she'll need another vacation to rest after having to walk up and down the four flights of stairs three times a day on this one.

Little Man did take her out a couple of times to the Museum and the Mall but mainly her daily schedule revolved around mine. Not terribly exciting.  But she's my Mom and so I can understand her wanting to be there for me.  And although it was somewhat mundane, I don't want to make it sound as though we didn't enjoy each other's company or have fun together. 

We talked and laughed a lot during our walks.  She turned me on to Smash, the new TV show. I moaned, she listened. And we drank a lot of coffee.  For me, and I think (hope) for her too, it was a pleasant respite from our normal lives.  A time when we got to just be together with nothing else to do and no outside pressures to interrupt us.  An oasis.

So as a tribute to my wonderful Mom for coming out here to take care of me, here is a pictorial recap of our time together.

Chasing the sunshine.  
The first few days she was here were so cold, she didn't take off her winter coat.  
Here she finally took out the lining and the sun sure felt good on our faces. 

Getting ready for our walk to Bnei Brak.  That is not a fashion statement!  We wanted to look the part, so we dressed modestly.  The walk took us up a steep hill and we debated turning back but we persevered and it turned out to be the highlight of Mom's trip. 
We took a bus back!

Getting our daily fix of java on a morning walk.
This was after missing my pedi appointment at the coffee shop on Sderot Yerushalayim.

Oops.  How did that get in there?  
My Dad and Rella were in Hawaii that week and we heard from them often. 

Respite in the garden after our afternoon walk.  By now, it was so hot that it was a pleasure to sit in the cool garden after walking a 1.5 km & before climbing up the stairs.

Everything's cooked, table set, showered and dressed, waiting for the guests to arrive. 
Hag Sameach.

At the neighborhood Geniza.  Yes, we actually have one. 
Mom couldn't believe it either.

At the local supermarket, curious to see all the hametz covered up and checking out the prices of the pesadika products so prominently displayed.

Smiling our "Sian" smiles.  Bottom teeth showing.

Who knows what we were laughing at here on one of our many walks. 
We laughed a lot.

We stopped to photograph the pansies (Amnon v'Tamar) and the woman who lives here actually invited us in to see her garden.  Only in Israel.

Thanks Mom.
You're the best!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

sleeping issues and aids

(Photo credit:  Wyken, Blyken & Nod, illustrated by Johanna Westerman, North-South, NYC, 1995)

The second night in the hospital, I knew I'd need something to help me sleep. 

I am a night owl at the best of times.  I often won't go to sleep until I force myself to shut off the light at 2am in the panicky knowledge that it's so late that I won't be able to wake up for work the next day.  It isn't that I'm an insomniac, that's just my natural cycle.  I do better at night.  (In university, I routinely pulled "all-nighters" and honestly, got some of my best work done after midnight.)

And once I am asleep, pretty much nothing can wake me.  I sleep like a babe.  Deep, sweet, restful sleep.  I usually sleep a good 8 hours and nothing can disturb me.  But if somehow, something manages to wake me, then I'm done for.  I can't go back to sleep in the middle of the night once I'm up.  Waking up in the middle of the night almost always entails a transatlantic call to Shevester, since no one in my world is awake to lull me back to sleep.

So laying immobile on my back in the hospital with a bolster shoved between my legs and a 16.5cm railroad track of staples up the back of my thigh was a surefire way to guarantee not getting through the night.  Rolling over was not possible and the pressure from lying in the same position for hours was unbearable. I was simply not comfortable enough to sleep through and once I was up, the misery began.  Looking at the clock every 20 minutes to see that only 20 minutes had passed since the last time I miserably opened my eyes. 

I was irritable and I couldn't get well if I couldn't sleep.  Naturally, they gave me the sleeping pills.

When I got home, I sent the Bear off to the local clinic with instructions to bring me some sleeping pills from Dr. Muchacha.  She reluctantly granted my wish but warned him that they were highly addictive.  Nice going Doc.  I won't go into the details of the arguments discussions we had those first nights about whether or not I should take them.  As far as I was concerned, it was not negotiable.  I needed my rest.  Waking up in the middle of the night from discomfort was not an option. Period.

After about a week at home, I finally managed to roll over onto my side and sleep without feeling like my ass was a tightly wound spring.  By now, I was sleeping with a smaller pillow between my legs and it was a vast improvement over the paralyzing position of sleeping 9 hours on my back but there was still a great deal of discomfort.

After two weeks, I lowered the dosage to half a pill a night.  We're talking a big .12 mg - hardly smack.  But still I knew it upset him and he'd struck the fear in me: I didn't want to become addicted.  So after another 2 weeks, I stopped taking them all together.  Last night, without any sleep aid, I managed to fall asleep quickly and although I woke up at 4am, I managed to get myself back to a not-so-restful-twilight sleep.

It's now 2:00 am and I'm, well, here I am.  It's too late to take anything now because I'll never get up tomorrow morning.  Am I just back to my old ways?  Should I continue taking half a pill for a while longer to make sure I get enough sleep?  I think tomorrow evening, I will take an evening walk (we skipped it tonight because the PT Torturess was here) and maybe that will tire me out.  If that doesn't work, there'll probably be another blogpost.

In the meantime, I'm going to try to turn off the light and my brain now.  Goodnight.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Things I still can't do

I started this post a while ago and then left it.  When I came back to it today, I saw that I wrote it after the first time I went to bathroom at night.  Alone. By myself.  Without waking the Bear.  And that was less than a month ago.  This was after I wrote yesterday that I feel that I'm not making any progress.  Hmmm, how quickly we forget.

Still there are so many things, that ought to be natural and easy, and I can't do yet.  Like (in order of increasing difficulty) ...
  • lift my leg while lying on my side
  • walk up and down the stairs without putting both feet on each stair
  • drive a car
  • sit on the floor, preferably in the lotus position
  • put on my sneakers
  • cut my own toenails
  • stand on the toilet seat and lean out the window through to the service porch in order to pull up and rescue the unfinished dollhouse that sits on top of the dryer & occasionally, from the motion, falls off the unreachable back side of the dryer, making it nearly impossible to retrieve. 

Of course, I am the only one in my house who is even aware of this phenomenon. So it is obvious to me that the dollhouse will remain there until I can actually retrieve it and I'm not even going to mention it to anyone else who lives with me.

We take our bodies for granted.  The day that I get that dollhouse back on top of the dryer is the day I'll know I'm fully recovered.

(photo credit:

Monday, April 2, 2012

Weekly kvetch/progress report

Can I kvetch? Last Sunday, which was the 3rd week after the op, I felt a definite improvement.  I could distinguish a greater range of motion and there was a marked improvement in my general feeling.  Today, one week on, I am not feeling any better.  My muscles are still stiff and it is still impossible to do certain movements.  I am feeling a little bit demoralized and still very very tired.

Walking is the easy most of the time.  My gluts or perhaps some other muscle in my butt are sore, but walking actually feels good.  I've been walking twice a day usually about 1.8 kilometers (a little more than a mile) per walk.  I downloaded a pedometer to my iphone so that we can clock our mileage.  That makes each walk fun as we try to go a little further each day.  The weather has been nice and so it feels good to get outside and move. But I just can't seem to make any more progress.  I still haven't managed to get past that elusive 2km point.

One good thing that I have noticed, is that the constant ache I endured for years in the muscles on my left side just above my hip has disappeared.  I don't know for sure, but I suspect that they were literally holding up my hip.  And that is miraculously gone!

Exercise is another story.  The PT lady comes on Monday and Wednesday - which to begin with, doesn't seem right to me.  Shouldn't her visits be more spaced out?  She clearly isn't used to having a (relatively) young patient. During the early weeks, she gave me very easy exercises and told me not to switch from the walker to the cane. 

Finally, last week she agreed that I could use the cane as I could bear my weight on my bad leg and then gave me much more difficult exercises.  Nothing that I am not familiar with from years of toning classes at the gym, but now I can barely complete 10 reps.  Several of the exercises really give me a pain my groin, which is upsetting. She stands over me, hands on hips, and watches me wince. In addition, she made me step up and down one step on the operated leg without the cane.  That is not only painful but scary.  It feels like too much weight on the bad hip. The twice-weekly torturess returns tomorrow, so I will discuss all of this with her, especially the groin pain.

Luckily my Mom arrived from the States to give me some much-needed TLC.  Perfect timing just when I'm feeling a bit down.  In fact, she is the motivator behind my daily walks, I'm not sure I would have stuck with it this week, had it not been for her. 

Ooops, she's calling me again, gotta run....