Thank You NHS!

Today is the 70th birthday of the NHS and I don’t feel I can let it pass without some acknowledgement for how the NHS has helped me.  I’m not here to get political (I don’t know enough to do that) I’m here to show my appreciation.

Whilst on the waiting list for my hip replacement I looked into the costs of private surgery which are just not realistic for normal people.  I feel so lucky to be living in a country with the opportunity to have surgery on the NHS.

The surgery I had as a child was never going to make my leg perfect, or give me the same physical abilities and opportunities as my peers but I was told that it was going to make it better than it would have been without the surgery.  Similarly, I could have struggled on without having the hip replacement but I know that once I have recovered, my life will be so much better for it.  I actually can’t imagine how frustrating my life would have been if these opportunities hadn’t been offered to me on the NHS.

Quite aside from me, even just in my closest family, my mum had four children under NHS care, my sister is an NHS midwife, my nephew was born under NHS care, we’ve had vaccinations and (some of us) physiotherapy and cervical and breast screenings on the NHS.  None of these things are insignificant.  If it wasn’t for the NHS care my dad received when he was rushed to hospital critically ill nearly two years ago, he wouldn’t have made our family Christmas walk that year (pictured below) and he certainly wouldn’t have made his birthday which we celebrated on Tuesday.  As well as that, I can’t even count the many other friends and family who have been well served by the NHS due to motorbike accidents, heart conditions, riding accidents, cancer and so much more.

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Everyone knows that the NHS are stretched.  Even in the beautiful new facility at Southmead it was clear that though their wonderful staff were giving all they could, each body was required to do the equivalent work of many.  Nevertheless, I wouldn’t complain.  I couldn’t complain!  We all owe a lot to those people – I know I couldn’t do their jobs!

On the radio the other day they were talking to a 93 year old man who still has the same left hip that the NHS gave him 70 years ago.  If mine lasts even half that long I will be over the moon!  Even if it doesn’t, I’ve got lots to thank the NHS for.

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Sleeping, Scoffing And Stepping Through Week Two

I did pretty well with week one (The Highs And Lows Of Week One), week two has been a little more challenging.  My goals for week two were to be less tired, eat proper meals, walk more and be allowed to shower.

I hoped that I would be less tired but what has actually happened is that I am just as tired but I am sleeping more.  Considering recovery is meant to be an uphill climb I felt a bit miffed to be going back to bed in the day on Friday (for the first time since I left hospital) although a. that had more to do with my dad watching tennis on TV downstairs and b. I felt much better for it!  I am following the old adage of ‘listening to my body’ and while I’m still drugged up, sleepy and not at work, I am resigned to the fact that whether I like it is not, I clearly need sleep so I should just do it.  It is still frustrating though, the simplest things knacker me out – yesterday I went to see my zebra pony for over-the-gate cuddles, cleaned my tack, was completely whacked and spent the rest of the afternoon asleep!

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I have completely smashed the eating thing.  I watched a few old episodes of Supersize vs Superskinny at the beginning of the week and seeing people munching down takeaways seemed to relight something in me!  I’ve had a Chinese takeaway, fish and chips and a meal out in the last week (and a whole host of much healthier things).

Walking more was another of my aims.  My ‘hip replacement bible’ booklet said to walk at least 100 yards for weeks one and two, progressing to at least a quarter of a mile from week two.  I think if I stuck to that my walking would be done just by trips to the toilet and my chair!  I have been averaging between one and two kilometres each day and it still feels like nothing!  Although it is more than the booklet says, I’m certainly not overdoing it on the walking.  Walking from the house to the car and from the yard to Pea’s field is fairly effortless racking up of steps.  In addition to doing a bit more walking, my physio gave me a few challenges to add to my normal hip exercises.  As well as doing my standing exercises with my ‘new leg’ she suggested I also do my standing exercises with my other leg while standing on the new one and gripping onto a sofa/chair/anything!  It feels very weird to be putting so much weight on it for so long but it actually feels ok.  What doesn’t feel good is using the ‘yellow band of pain’ (an elastic resistance band) for my hip abduction and bridging exercises.  This is definitely one of those ‘no pain no gain’ things!

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Today I went to the nurse so that she could take off my dressing and see whether I needed a new one put on or whether I could go bare and have a shower.  The dressing came off almost perfectly clean – a good sign.  The poor nurse then had to contend with the worlds largest collection of steri-strips.  She kept apologising as they were stuck very well and quite tricky to peel off but I couldn’t have minded less..  I was so excited!  She was really impressed with how neat the wound is and although there are still some scabby bits, gave me the all important news that tomorrow I can SHOWER!  She said I have to be careful of it, pat it dry and apply Vaseline to the wound afterwards but that I should be all good to keep it uncovered.  Before my operation, my surgeon told me that as he would be opening up the top of my old scar, he would try to neaten it up when he stitched it back together.  I said I didn’t really mind as to me a scar is a scar; it is a record of something you have been through and it is nothing to be ashamed of but he did what he said he would and it looks amazing!  Look away now if you don’t want to see it!

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One thing that I didn’t say I was going to do but I had decided to do was to start reducing my drugs, more specifically, my codeine.  In my discharge documents it said that I should take 30 or 60mg of codeine four times a day for two weeks.  For the first week I was taking 60mg four times a day without fail but I know what codeine is like and I don’t really want to be taking it for a long time.  Since Thursday I have been gradually reducing my doses and the pain still seems to be ok.  Fingers crossed I can kick the codeine completely this week.

On what I assume to be a related point to the drugs, my mood has been all over the place.  I have had some days where I have felt so rubbish with no real rhyme of reason to it but other days I feel good.  I think I’m being quite levelled and coping fairly well even when I feel completely down; I’m generally not screaming, shouting, crying, lashing out or anything like that, I am just quiet and flat.  It is horrible to feel so down when actually I’m on the mend, I’ve got fantastic support around me and I should be feeling good.  I feel a bit like I can’t control how I feel which is not nice (being such a control freak myself!)  I am hopeful that once the horrible drugs are out of my system I’ll start feeling a bit more in control.

I was told that the first two weeks would be the rubbish ones.  Although week one started off horribly, it improved massively whereas week two has been a bit more of a plateau.  I have high hopes for week three!  Firstly I’m aiming to get off the sleep inducing, mood altering codeine.  My second week three aim is to progress to using one crutch around the house and in safe places as I am now pretty stable and putting a fair amount of weight on my left leg.  With one hand free, this will also help with aim three which is to be a bit more independent; if I can prove that I am safe to do things myself and stop getting so tired, I might have a bit more freedom!  When I was at university we had the catch phrase of being ‘strong, independent women’ – I’m not feeling strong or independent at the moment but hopefully I will be soon!

The Highs And Lows Of Week One

I can’t actually believe it has been a week since I had my hip replacement.  Sometimes I think the days are speeding past but other times it feels like time is moving so slowly.  I feel really positive about some of the progress I have made and I have exceeded my own expectations in some ways.  In others I feel like I am going nowhere and I am worried about whether I am going to achieve the goals I have set for myself or whether I have been far too ambitious.

One of the biggest highs of this week has been the outpourings of support and encouragement I have received in such a variety of ways.  I have had lots of cards (some of which have genuinely made me well up) and my window sills and tables are covered with beautiful summery bunches of flowers that remind me of the beautiful outside world during the many hours when I am too tired to be out there.  Top tip for anyone having a hip replacement is to get some vases – we are using a teapot, pint glasses, a tankard and a biscuit tin!  The messages from friends, family, acquaintances and new online connections have helped to keep me sane and levelled at a time when I feel like I could easily have completely lost the plot.  I have seen the full contingent of my siblings and my mum has been an absolute godsend.  If I didn’t have her to help me get sorted in the morning and to take the pressure off my boyfriend, I don’t know what I would do.  He is doing an amazing job and gets the worst of me (morning and evening), it can’t be easy being at work all day and coming home to this!

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The other high has been being able to go to the yard every day.  I knew this was what I wanted to do and what I intended to do but I never actually expected to be able to manage it!  Obviously this is all down to my super chauffeurs but I cannot underestimate the healing power of breathing in that familiar horsey smell and putting my arms round that fat cobby neck!  If I can keep up my horsey fix I know it is going to help keep the frustration of not being able to ride at bay.

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Another high has been the progress I have made since my operation.  Considering on day one I wasn’t allowed to move and by the end of day two I had gone up stairs and been signed off from hospital physio, I have done really well.  I couldn’t drag my leg across the bed unattended and now I can lift it up and move it outwards.  My muscles are getting less stiff, my leg is starting to feel like my own and I am moving in the right direction.  I had physio at the local hospital today and she was pretty impressed with how I’m doing so it is onwards and upwards with my exercises.

The lows of hospital were documented in The Big Day and An Even Bigger Day!  I am so relieved to be away from the bedpan drama, the sickness and the out of control pain.  I am glad that I hadn’t realised that I wouldn’t be up and using the toilet the day of my operation and I’m glad I hadn’t thought of the sickness.  I think I would have felt far less positive going into the operation if I had known what the first 48 hours was actually going to be like!

I talked about my first home based down day in The New ‘Normal’.  I tried to roll with my feelings during the day but it all came out when I hit the keyboard!  Yesterday was another down day.  After having a good few days of visitors and starting to feel more and more normal with everything becoming easier and easier, I had a rubbish night’s sleep, I was late on my first painkillers, I felt sick when I got up and then things didn’t get much better later.  My visit to the yard resulted in a major dizzy, nausea moment – a blinding fog came over my head.  I didn’t actually faint but if it wasn’t for my mum and the YO sticking a chair under me and a drink in my hand I would have.  I think it was too hot, too much standing, I hadn’t done much walking but evidently hadn’t quite got the balance right.  I ended up having a two hour sleep to recover which my mum decided to photograph (nothing quite like showing the reality of the situation!) Little things like spilling apple juice all over me, my dress, my blanket and my chair in the afternoon was just the icing on the cake of another frustrating day.

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Although one of my highs was how much progress I have made in terms of my hip, one of the lows of this week has been how slowly I feel like I am progressing in terms of my energy.  I feel so tired and every small activity completely knocks me out.  Each time I think I have some energy or I think it is a good day, it quickly turns into a tired day.  I’m not getting enough quality sleep to get me through the day but I am assuming that the anaesthetic and drugs aren’t helping either.  I don’t want to plateau and I want to do more walking (which I should be doing), I just need to get past this energy block.

Hopefully by this time next week I will be less tired, eating proper meals, walking more than once a day without crashing and.. excitingly, I will have had my wound checked and will have the all clear from everyone to shower!  Keep your fingers crossed for me!

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