The Newfangled Gramma had what has often been called a “bad hip,” as did both of her beloved oldfangled grammas. Back the 1950s, however, grammas with bad hips gritted their dentures and
limped; they wobbled; they ached; they poked butts with their canes when people ignored them. The upside? They predicted weather: “It’s gonna rain. I can feel it in my hip.” They swallowed aspirin by the handful and toughed it out.
On Oct. 5, this Newfangled Gramma allowed a well-respected, highly praised, experienced orthopedic surgeon to slice open her left butt from cheek to mid-thigh, saw off the top part of her femur with a power saw and (this is how she pictures the scene) toss that nasty, moth-eaten, eroded arthritic excuse for a bone over his shoulder. He replaced the worn out joint with a new ball and joint thingie made out of metal (which he showed her, in his office, a few weeks earlier), then stitched and glued the old muscles and tendons and fat and skin and assorted interior stuff back together.
It sounds scary and the NG was worried. The first few post-op days were not as scary as feared.
After the third day, once the anesthetic had drained off or trickled away, the future looked even more
promising. Pain was much less than anticipated, considering the frightening details of the procedure.
Hospital folk are demons about walking and exercising, beginning the day after surgery. Rightly so. By the third day the NG was cruising, albeit slowly, around the corridors with one of those two-wheeled walkers that really, really old people use. And loving it.
Then came rehab. NG went to what is called a sub acute rehabilitation facility, which means it’s a place where you get care and therapy, but with the goal of going home as soon as possible. The first few days, NG thought it was Hell’s waiting room.
It wasn’t. It got better and better, day by day, and so did she.
Here are six things the NG learned about sub acute rehabilitation centers:
1. Sub acute rehab centers are not hospitals. Nor are they hotels. They are something in between and one has to take some of the responsibility for one’s own care and contentment.
2. When paired with the Roommate from Hell, speak up. Ask for a change. “Do you want to move?” the director asked. The NG (to her own amazement) said, “No. I want her to move. I like this room.” She was moved. Things perked up immediately. The NG's second roommate was a gem.
3. Requirements for respected nursing homes and rehab facilities are ridiculous when it comes to what passes for “restraining”patients. No, they can’t tie anyone to the bed. But they aren’t even allowed to put up those little side bars, like they do in hospitals. Oh, no. In a nursing home, that’s considered a restraint. Instead, they rig the beds of patients who cannot walk by themselves with a 100-decibel car alarms that go WHOOP WHOOP WHOOP WHOOP if the patient’s hand droops over the edge of the bed or if she turns over or if she wiggles her foot the wrong way. This is supposed to alert someone who is expected to come and either help the patient -- or if it’s a false alarm – turn the damn thing off. The NG didn’t require a car alarm, but the Roommate from Hell did. It went off roughly 10 times every hour, all night long, for two nights. Try getting some much-needed rest with that! The R from H also watched TV all night long, on high volume. Family Feud, the most inane game show ever invented. She was moved to another room and the NG’s new roommate was a delightful lady. The new roommate was also fitted with a car alarm device, but hers rarely sounded.
4. Get off the freaking pain meds that make stomachs feel like rats are running a maze in there. The NG has been trying to lose 20 pounds for the last 20 years. For seven days after hip replacement surgery, she was able to choke down less than 100 calories of nutritious food a day. Those maze-running rats never settled down. No food looked or tasted palatable. For the first time in the NG’s life --it will never happen again, trust me -- somebody asked if she wanted an appetite STIMULANT.) Ha. The NG ditched the pain meds and started eating again. The pain wasn’t that bad.
5. The NG soon found out via rumor, reputation and personal experience, that this particular rehab facility had the best bunch of occupational therapists and physical therapists ever put together in one place.
6. The NG also learned, by experience, that the way to make the best of 10 days in rehab is to get the hell out of her freaking room! The place had lots of possibilities for distraction, education and more. There was a lovely patio and garden and this has been a particularly mild Michigan October. There was a large dining area, a small dining room and a TV room big enough for two daughters and four grandchildren to gather and be boisterous. There were games to use – the NG played Scrabble on the patio one sunny afternoon with a visitor.
Now, almost three weeks after the surgery, the NG is getting around inside her own house with a cane and sometimes, an old-lady walker. The journey is nearly half over. Even though it was her left hip, the rule is no driving for eight weeks.
Only five weeks to go.