Nearly Normal

In one week it will have been two months since my operation which sounds like an awful long time!  I have started to realise how much I have wished away the last two months and am almost surprised to find myself on the uphill to November birthdays and Christmas (my brain still works in school terms).  Things are certainly on the up and I’m getting closer and closer to ‘normal’.

  • I’m working a lot more – now a day off is a treat every few days rather than a near everyday occurrence!  Although it would be nice not to have to work, working more is definitely making life feel more normal.
  • I am doing more walking (at least 5,000 steps a day).  I’ve moved on from using my crutch and then picking it up to do some unattended walking to leaving my crutch in the car or at home and going about my daily business ‘hands free’.  The other day I walked to see Pea, noticed some ragwort nearby so ended up doing two trips to the field in order to dig it out.  Digging was an interesting one – new leg on the fork or on the floor?  I did a bit of both!
  • I’m wearing proper clothes!  The heat wave is over and the good old English rain has arrived which has prompted me to ditch the summer dresses I have been wearing since my operation.  First, I went to leggings (I couldn’t quite face seams near my scar) but I have since rocked jeans, socks, trainers and wellies though I have had to have a bit of help with putting them on!

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Yesterday I decided to put my ‘nearly normalness’ to the test.  It wasn’t a normal day.  It was a wonderful, special day – the wedding of a very good friend of mine.  I didn’t want to be that person who made a big scene by rocking up to church with a crutch and my own cushion and I certainly didn’t want to be one of those people who sits at a table all night without dancing.  I am proud to say that I did all of the wedding stuff without using the crutch I had stashed in the corner and I danced the night away (albeit carefully) until nearly midnight.  Don’t ask me how I managed to dance without breaking my hip precautions.. the important thing is I didn’t dislocate my hip!  It was a really lovely day and I was so glad to be a part of it.

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Nearly normal is good.  Normal will be even better.  I’m so looking forward to being able to paint my toenails, shave my legs, tie my laces and most importantly, ride my pony!

Week Six – (Partial) Freedom

Lets just take a look at this picture for a minute.

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That’s right, no socks and no crutch – you would almost be forgiven for thinking that this is a pre hip replacement picture.. except for the fact that I have the most fantastically brown knees and the whitest shins!  And I’m wearing a dress at the yard still.

Let’s not get too excited.  I am 100% sock free but I am not 100% crutch free.   I was so panicked in Week Five – Owning My Own Recovery, thinking I would not be able to walk by the six week mark but things have steadily improved since then.  I went from standing on my left leg, to doing tiny steps across the room to being able to walk across the yard or the field.  Yesterday it was six weeks since my operation and my physio okayed me to walk unaided when I feel I am walking properly (or as properly as I can) but advised me to use my crutch when I am feeling stiff or tired.  I know all too well the damage caused by walking incorrectly so I am quite accepting of this.  I don’t want to hobble and limp around and do myself more harm than good.

My physio is pleased with how I am doing, particularly my ‘normal person’ stair climbing.  She has given me a few extra exercises to do to continue to build my left leg strength and suggested I try cycling since due to the other medical situation of this week (see here) I am not allowed to swim at the moment.  There is quite a big part of me that thinks I’m more likely to fall off a bike than Pea but I’m adamant not to ride her until I can get her in from the field and do all the pre and post ride pony care stuff myself.  I’ll let you know how cycling goes when I give it a try!

Being six weeks post op also means I’m allowed to sleep on my side (although I am playing it safe with a pillow between my knees).  I cannot describe the difference it makes to have bare legs and be able to curl my legs up on my side in bed.  The weeks of dreading going to bed are OVER!

In other news, I drove for the first time today.  I’m fine.  My leg is fine.  I may have given my boyfriend whiplash from practising my emergency stops!  I didn’t go on the road today, just the track to and next to the yard, but I’m confident that I am road ready now!

The toughest six weeks are out of the way, I can now carefully negotiate what I am calling part two of my recovery.  Pea seemed to genuinely notice that I wasn’t wearing my socks, I’m hoping I’ve got plenty more surprises in store for her in the next few weeks!

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Can’t Ride, Can Horse

I have always been a big believer that there is so much more to horses than riding.  For most riders there will be a time where they can’t ride for some reason whether it is surgery, an accident, horse injury, weather or something else.  Obviously over the last few weeks I have been in this position so here are a few suggestions for things to do to keep horsey when you can’t ride (which are geared towards the non walking for obvious reasons!)

  • Give your tack a birthday!  Even if you are religious about cleaning your tack after every ride, tack can always benefit from a thorough clean and condition.  Better to get anything mended when you don’t need it!
  • Sort out your grooming kit.  Clean those brushes, chuck out anything broken, replace anything you are missing.  I have had my Eqclusive HAAS brushes for a year and love them but this is the first time they have had a proper clean!
  • Groom that horse!  I can’t get her in from the field but being able to shuffle around is good enough to give Pea a good groom, particularly if I’ve got my mum to help me.  It is amazing what you can achieve with good brushes and a bit of Canter Mane & Tail – her tail has never been so silky!
  • Organise the lotions and potions.  I tend to use my car as a moving horse care cupboard but every now and again I do a seasonal sort out – if it is July you do need fly repellent and suncream, you don’t need pig oil and mud cream.  Put the winter stuff away.. or at least for a little while longer.
  • Make some lotions and potions!  Mum and I made some hoof dressing out of lard, oil and tree tree the other day.  Next on the list is some milk, fairy liquid and glycerin based tack cleaner.
  • Sort out your photos.  Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a bit of an ‘insta kid’.  I take ALOT of photos and sometimes they don’t get very far.  Delete the bad ones, print the good ones, put them up on the walls.  Remind yourself of what you love doing and what you want to achieve.
  • Display your rosettes.  It may be because I came to riding so late but I love a rosette – even the completing the fun ride ones!  Put them up somewhere and remind yourself of what you have to be proud of or just to add a bit of colour to a wall.
  • Go and watch someone else.  I’ve been to local riding club dressage and the Hartpury Festival of Dressage.  If you can’t ride you can still pick up some tips from others.
  • Make plans.  Work out your schedule for when you can ride again whether that is planning how you are going to build up your fitness, booking lessons or looking up your next competition.

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I’m sure before long I will have a whole new set of activities to add to this as I am getting so much closer to walking.  In fact today I walked from the field shelter to the gate in Pea’s little paddock without my crutch.  I might be ‘can’t ride’ for a few weeks more but I’m nearly at ‘can walk’!

Just Keep Swimming!

I actually feel amazing today, probably for the first time in a long time!  My wound has healed up really well into a pretty neat scar.  The horrible scabby, bumpy indented wound with the swollen, numb skin around it that I showed in Sleeping, Scoffing And Stepping Through Week Two is amazingly well healed.  I don’t think I even need to warn you not to look now.. unless you don’t want to see bare skin!

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My physio had okayed me to go swimming but I have been putting it off until my scar was good.  Today was the day.  As I mentioned in My Hip Journey So Far, swimming used to be a big part of my life and has been slightly pushed out by horses in the last few years.  Even so, every time I go, I love it.  This time last year I joined a team in an overnight 12 hour swimathon and racked up over three and a half miles of swimming in four sessions.  I hadn’t trained or prepared for it, it was knackering going through the night but it was amazing.  Today didn’t quite feel as triumphant but it was pretty good.

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Part of the reason I wanted to go swimming was to have a go at walking in the pool.  Although the resistance is greater in water, you are supported and it was so much easier to walk in the water (unattended) than it is on land.  I also did my standing exercises in the water and didn’t have to cling onto anything for support like I do normally.  Aside from all that, I swam, normally, just like I used to.  It felt incredible.  I also used my kick board to just do kick – with all this crutch work my arms don’t need anymore of a work out!  It would have been far too easy to overdo it but I made sure I didn’t do too much and I rested up and floated around the rest of the time!

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It is worth me mentioning that as amazing as the swimming was, getting changed and negotiating the wet changing rooms on crutches wasn’t easy.  Luckily I had my mum with me to help me with my stuff and to give and take away my crutches at the right time.  My local swimming pool has steps with a handrail in the shallow pool too which meant I could get into the pool myself once I was at the top of the steps!

Not quite sure how I’m going to feel tomorrow, if I’m not too knackered I’m definitely going to go swimming again this weekend.  Without sounding completely big headed, being the best swimmer in the pool even though I’m five weeks post hip replacement was great for my ego!

Week Five – Owning My Own Recovery

I wasn’t going to do a five week update as all the important next steps are earmarked for the six week mark HOWEVER this blog wouldn’t accurately document my journey if I missed out the feelings of this week.

Up until this point I have been really pleased with my progress, the op went well, the wound is good, the physio is going well, everything has been getting easier and I have pretty much smashed all of the goals set out for me in the generic hip replacement document and those I have set for myself.  That is until this week.  I have been panicking about the fact that six weeks should be the point at which I can walk unaided but I can’t see how that is going to be possible.  I can speed along with two crutches or one as long as I’m not tired, I am walking 2-4km a day but when I try to take a step unaided, I just can’t keep my right leg (my good leg) off the ground for enough time to take proper steps.  I just can’t do it.

My boyfriend has reminded me that in the space of a week (last week) I went from lying on my side and not being able to lift my left leg off the other one at all to being able to lift it right up several times.  My mum said that it doesn’t matter how many weeks I am on crutches, my brain will let me walk when my body is ready.  My top visitor Rachel (from My Last Week Of Pony Freedom), who has visited me every other week since my operation, said that it is just like when you are running up a sand dune; you start off with good forward momentum and then at some point it gets hard-going but you can work through it and get to the top eventually.

All this, and reading people’s words on the Facebook support group, reminded me that this is my journey and that each hip replacement recovery is individual.  It doesn’t really matter what it says in the book, it doesn’t really matter what other people do.  I desperately want to walk next week, I even had a dream last night that I could, but if I can’t, it is not the end of the world.

At the school I used to work at we used to talk about the children owning their own behaviour (essentially taking responsibility for their own actions and not getting bogged down in what other people are doing).  I have decided to embrace my own journey and own my own recovery!

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The Four Week Itch

I can’t believe four weeks have passed since my operation!  I have had quite a busy week and I feel physically tired in the old familiar way I used to before my operation (although from a lot less activity!)

When I wrote my week three blog, I aimed to get more secure using one crutch, which I have but I am still using two for proper walking.  If I wasn’t doing very much I think I would be fine on one but I have spent a lot more time at the yard and doing other things which involve lots of standing around and walking and my leg gets tired quickly. When it is tired I can’t walk properly with one crutch, I guess it is just not time yet.

I am now able to walk up the stairs normally, just holding onto the hand rail which is amazing.  I take my crutch with me and put it on the steps my left leg goes on but that is only really because I need it when I get back onto the flat!

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The big aim this week was to get back to work.  I have done several tutoring sessions and one full day back at the shop where I work.  Everyone has been very understanding and considerate and it has all gone really well.  I did have a major brain fuzz when I was first in the shop but I soon remembered what I was doing! It isn’t going to help my tiredness but I need the money!

Another change this week has been that I have started to forget that I am on crutches.  Sometimes I find myself standing up and then realising I have to sit back down to get a crutch otherwise I can’t go anywhere!  As long as I don’t have to go very far there are some things I can do crutch free.. this morning I had a proper standing up shower (without the shower stool) and managed to get in and out without a crutch, I am also pretty good at grooming and tacking up with as little movement as possible!

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Things ARE still moving forwards but I’m feeling more and more frustrated that I still have two more weeks before things really change.  I still have to wait two more weeks until I have my next physio session and can (in theory) ditch the crutches, ditch the anti-embolism stockings, start sleeping on my side and start driving.  My parents will also be going back home to Devon in two weeks which is going to be a massive change for me.  My mum has done SO much for me and aside from the fact that she is helping, it has been so lovely to have them close by for a change and spending some time together with our patchy pets.

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I am predicting that the next two weeks are going to be quite tough, I am working a few days a week and resuming my normal tutoring schedule as well as spending more time at the yard and trying to continue to progress.  Mentally, the tricky thing is that I also feel a bit like being four weeks down the line means I should be just cracking on with life and that I shouldn’t still be all about the hip  anymore.  I don’t want to bore people, I don’t want to be a broken record but my recovery is the big thing going on right now and it is pretty all consuming.

Week Three – My Brain Has Come Home!

Yesterday marked three weeks since my operation.  This week has whizzed by but it has been a good one in terms of progress.  I am feeling much more like myself which has allowed me to get back to some more normal activities like doing yard things and reading (though that is usually strictly a holiday activity) and some slightly alternative ones like watching football!

Aim one was to get off the codeine.  I haven’t taken any codeine this week and I have coped without it just fine!  I am still experiencing pain from my wound and pain when I do my exercises (particularly in my knee which the physio said she expected) but it is nothing anywhere near like what I was experiencing before.  I am still very tired but no longer feeling like something else is in charge of my moods.  It is not too bad being tired now that I’m able to sleep on the sofa (which Mum has been photographing again!)

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My second aim for this week was to progress to using only one crutch when around the house.  It is amazing how much more I have been able to do for myself since I have been doing this, I can actually carry things from room to room which means that when I am home alone, if I want to get food or a drink I can AND I can comfortably stand and do things unsupported (including taking advantage of Mum’s top cooking!)  Groundbreaking!  On Tuesday, I took the one crutch strategy to the next level, although my aim was to only do it in safe places, I went down to one crutch while I was at the yard so that I could hose off Pea (whilst my mum held her), sweat scrape her and clean and carry my tack..  Not sure it counts as necessarily a safe place but it made me feel good.  This morning I actually picked out her feet and put her bridle on, if I’d be given pony care goals for recovery I would be winging through them this week!

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Aim number three was to become more independent which I was and am still sure is the route to feeling more like myself.  In the last week I have been left unattended outside of my house by my mum and boyfriend (my top carers) on four occasions; at the pub with my friends, at Hartpury Festival of Dressage for 15 minutes while my boyfriend went to the garage, at the yard for a while and at a music concert at the school where I used to teach.  Totally aware that these don’t sound like grand achievements BUT I’ve always been a person who does my own thing so being able to do some normal activities was exactly what I needed.

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This week’s schedule of activities has thrown up a lot of feelings for me.  Going to the Hartpury Festival of Dressage gave me a massive boost of ambition.  I have always been an average person, average at school, average at uni, a very average swimmer, an average waterpolo player and, lets be honest, an under average rider!  I don’t have the benefit of riding all my life, nor have I had weekly lessons for all of the four years I have ridden and, awesome and bombproof as she is, Pea isn’t exactly a push button schoolmistress.  I have struggled with my confidence for nearly the whole time I have ridden (as I said in Riding – How It All Started) and if you add that to the fact my left leg basically did nothing it should have done and threw the rest of me out..  I have always been pretty hopeless.  Back in the day I wanted to do everything, showjumping, cross country, the lot.  I can’t put my finger on the point at which I decided that actually I like hacking around and I want to do dressage.  I’m not fussed about jumping, I know what I want.  I’m not saying I’m suddenly going to become the next Charlotte Dujardin but the combination of feeling like my leg might work in the future and watching people at the top of their game made me excited.  I keep watching this video of my last lesson which I edited together on one of my down days and thinking of all the ways I can improve on it!

Going back to the school where I taught for four years was another biggie.  A year ago I was preparing to move house, move yards, move to a new and exciting job.  Some of the parents whose children I used to teach weren’t aware of the roller coaster that I have been on for the last nine months and it is a bit of a weird one to explain.  Also apparently when you are on crutches and are wearing knee length hospital socks you are not meant to answer the question

‘How are you?’

or

‘Are you ok?’

with

‘I’m fine!’

I have no regrets about the journey I have been on, I wish that I hadn’t had to leave the job that I so enjoyed but moving back to the place I know and the place Pea is sorted was definitely the right decision.

I’ve done a lot of thinking about the past this week.  I’ve also done a lot of thinking about the future but very very short term! The aims for this week are to get more secure on one crutch outside of the house as well as in it, to develop my stair climbing and to get back to work!!  I had physio yesterday and I’ve got some more strengthening exercises to do, some of my muscles are very tight and overworking whilst others aren’t doing enough so I need to try to change that.  Walking on one crutch and stepping up the stairs in different ways is going to help.  I was initially told to do the stairs good leg up first going up and bad leg down first going down but the physio has told me to switch it up and I’m pretty sure with the help of the banister I’m going to be stair walking pretty normally by four week mark.  Getting back to work will help that as the shop I work in has some very steep steps!  I’m a bit worried about going back as I’m still sleeping in the day most days at the moment but unless somebody is going to hand me a winning lottery ticket, I need to do it!

 

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