In which recovery from hip surgery is described in detail

If you're the squeamish-about-human-body-stuff kind of reader, stop reading now, and catch up with the narrative on the next post, okay?   

Next post will have flowers and ponies and stuff, I promise.   'Bye now!

For the rest of y'all:

It's come to my attention that I'm not the only person in the world who needed/needs a total hip replacement...and not only that, I'm not the only equestrian in that situation.  

So, for folks facing the situation, as well as for folks who have to live with the ongoing whining of friends and family facing the situation, here's my account of the recovery process so far.  

This post focuses on stuff I was told, stuff they forgot to tell me, and stuff they told me and I didn't believe--it's all here, plus updates for my friends and family who are curious but too polite to ask.

Not pretty, some of it.  But, hopefully, useful.

First stop:  The hip replacement recovery medicine cabinet.

Pain killers (opiates and OTC), anti-inflammation meds,
anti-nausea meds (tablets, seasick patches and peppermint oil extract),
yeast infection cream,stool softeners and laxatives, and aspirin 
Party Central, amiright?

At first, I was taking a dose of something every 2 hours.
After a week, I need a boost every 5 or 6 hours.  Progress!

Writing everything down was essential, especially at first: I was taking a lot of different meds on a lot of different schedules, and my attention span was completely sh---is that a chicken?

After two days at home, I was completely done with prescription pain meds.  Yes, meds containing codeine kill pain better than anything...but they are also very effective at shutting down my digestive system.

These taste better than pills.
 And...there is no way to say this delicately, sorry...if your bum hurts like hell, you do not want to spend hours perched on a toilet seat.

Perching, by the way, has become my go-to skill for a lot of things, including getting in- and out-of chairs and bed.  I am deeply grateful for all the strength and balance exercises that Bob and Lance at Engineered Sports worked me through in physical therapy this winter.

Seriously, folks.  I've needed those skills this week, and they were totally there for me.

Before veering off the topic of meds (hey, a chicken!) a couple more points that I didn't know or had not considered:

Aspirin.  Every day.  Forever.
One tablet of regular strength buffered aspirin is now part of my daily routine.  The artificial joint makes me a little extra-susceptible to throwing a blood clot.  A blood clot might be painful, or it might be deadly.  And a daily dose of aspirin knocks the likelihood of throwing a blood clot back down into the range of "I can live with those odds."

Also:  me + antibiotics = "honey, can you pick up some Monistat at the store today?"
Your mileage may vary on that point, but mine probably never will, sigh.

Tools for Recovery
After a few days home, Patty came to visit and brought with her the therapy laser she uses in her veterinary practice.

This is the tactful photo of the treatment.

If you don't want to see a photo of my bum, close your eyes and hit the"down arrow" about 20 times to skip past the next picture.  However, if you want to see a very tidy seam and some lovely bruising, just scroll down normally.

The surgeon used dissolving stitches internally, and skin glue on the outside--
no stitches or staples!  He said that, because I'm so pale, the bruising might
extend clear to my feet, but the laser treatment prevented a lot of that.

The laser dramatically reduced the swelling and pain in my bum.  Here's something I need to emphasize about recovery:

My hip doesn't hurt anymore.  

The pain is all in the soft tissue now.

Before the laser treatment, I had a hard pocket of inflamed tissue in my bum that looked and felt like I'd surgically implanted a pack of playing cards.  After the laser, the "cards" were gone, and the pain now feels like I took a good solid kick to the butt from an unruly pony.

And that's all.

Okay, it's not pain-free yet.  But pain levels are already significantly lower (but also different) than pre-surgery pain.  That's important.


I've been outgrowing the need for tools much faster than I expected.

The walker, which kept me upright and steady while I was in the hospital, became unnecessary on Day 2 at home.

My recovery chair, my recovery dog

The dizziness was gone (sea-sickness patches and peppermint oil fixed that, as did ditching the opiate meds), and it was much easier to lurch from chair-to-chair around the house than propel the extra four legs.

About halfway through Day 3 at home, I realized that, as long as I rested often, I didn't need my cane anymore, either.

bye-bye, old buddy!
I know that seems really fast.  It seems really fast to me, too.  But I'm not dizzy anymore, and it isn't hard to walk now.  I'm careful on uneven ground, mostly because falling down this early after surgery would really suck.

I don't feel like I'm going to fall, but I'm extra careful not to take chances right now.

I do have a few useful tools available:

Betsey loaned me a grabber.  This is excellent for getting dressed,
and also for reaching Roo's toy and flinging it around for her!

This is a cool object:

It's a "sock-putter-onner"

Wrap the sock around the device

Insert foot into the tube made by the sock + device, and then
pull the device out with the straps.  Genius!

So, overall, here's how fast the progress has happened:
Day 4 post-surgery: I was finally allowed to come home.  That was a day later than "normal," but given my difficulties with turning grey and tipping over, the extra time was important.

Shetland Sheepdogs = an important part of the healing process

Day 6 post-surgery: I ditched the walker.  Before doing that, Monica walked Fiddle up to the top of our driveway so I could interact on mostly-even ground.

Note the walker in the background.  The basket holds horse cookies!

Although the surgery added a millimeter or two to my left leg,
my horse is still significantly taller than me. Sigh.
Day 7 post-surgery  I used the cane to walk down to the barn.  Didn't need it to walk back up the hill to the house.  I know, right?

This is the "Dippy-Bird" posture, used for reaching stuff on the ground
without stressing the new joint or putting it in the position where it might
dislocate from the new socket.

Day 10 post-surgery (today):  The soft tissue around my my hip joint continues to mend, but the muscles are still pretty stiff and sore.  Progress continues to be rapid--I feel better every time I walk, even if it's just a few steps.  I get tired, though, and I sleep at least 12 or 14 hours out of every 24.  I'm not ready to give up the ibuprofen or the tylenol yet, but I took fewer doses yesterday than I did before surgery, and I expect I'll take even less today.

Looking ahead
I have a follow-up appointment with the surgeon next Tuesday (day 15 post-surgery); at that time, I expect to be cleared to return to physical therapy.  

After that, we move towards getting me back in the saddle, driving again, and returning to work.  Maybe in that order?  

The Home on the Range ride is only a few weeks away.  I won't be competing this year, but I will be attending to help crew and assist ride management--and I'll be teaching an Endurance 101 clinic while I'm there.  

The Mount Adams ride is about six weeks after that.  Probably a little too soon for me to compete (drat!) but NOT too soon to expect to be riding again.

And then comes Renegade.

And this year, (unlike last year) Renegade is going to be AWESOME.


  1. Yay!!! Glad you're healing fast and everything is going well for you. Sending good thoughts from Western PA.!

  2. Talk about flying colors!! You are an inspiration Aarene. So happy to read the upbeat post surgery news. :D (still freaking out about hospital porn a little)

  3. You are absolutely amazing, Aarene. You ROCK.

  4. Been lurking around you blog for a while. Crawled out from under my rock to say how happy I am to see this post and how well you're doing! Congrats! :D

  5. I've been lurking around here for a while, happily eating up your stories and adventures. Had to crawl out from under my rock to say how happy I was to see this post! Congrats on your awesome progress! Can't wait to see more :D

  6. As usual, I learned a lot from your post. I wish I'd had the sock putter onner when I broke my leg. That part was a bitch.

  7. Oh wow! You're certainly rocking the recovery process. :-) Keep it up (safely!!) and you'll be back in the saddle in no time. :-D

  8. Wow - amazing recovery so far. I'm so happy to hear that things are going well. I hope you continue to make great progess when you start physio!

  9. Dang girl, you are doing awesome! Isn't modern medicine amazing? A new hip - like brand new! Then you are up moving around in no time at all! Yay you!!!!

    I am still giggling over the hospital porn...


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