Cable Removal Surgery

Today was my third surgery in 13 months to remove the cerclage cable placed around my right femur after my hip replacement on that side. It has done its job of holding my femur together while the bone knitted and formed around the stem of the implant. But, it has caused me a lot of pain and disability for these 13 months and it became very clear it had to go. 

Here’s the email I sent out this afternoon (I was actually able to comfortably sit in my chair at my computer and do it all by myself!):

Hello All!


I am so happy to report a quick, successful, pain free surgery and I was home by 9:30! We couldn’t believe how fast it all went, and easy, compared to hip replacements.


I went in at 7:00 and was out by 7:20. By 8:00 I was conscious and by 8:15 clear. They had me dressed and out the door by 9:00. Unbelievable!
I’m taking it easy at home, but feel well enough and can actually sit to write this email, so thought I’d do it myself. This also works well for Scott :-). 
You cannot believe what a nasty thing I’ve had around my femur for the last 13 months! No wonder I was having so much trouble and pain. It is large, with square rough edges. The end where they cut it after cinching it tight post-hip replacement (imagine a metal zip tie) is very sharp and frayed. If you aren’t careful while handling it, it can cut your finger. And that was rubbing on my soft tissue all this time! I started to cry when I touched it and felt how sharp and rough and bulky it is. I attached photos so you can see it. Scott, thought to add the quarter to show the size. I took one close-up of that sharp, frayed end. I’m so glad I decided to have this surgery to get that nasty thing out of there!

Scott put down a quarter to show the size.
It looks like something I’d have fixed fence with on the ranch!
This was the connector my leg muscles were snapping over.
There isn’t a smooth edge on the whole beastly thing!
Close-up of the connector and the sharp, frayed end where they cut off the excess cable.
This was sticking into the muscles of my outer thigh and I’m sure was causing most of my pain! It is so sharp that you can cut yourself just touching it if you aren’t careful.


I don’t have pain, though I am taking 1/2 a Tramadol every 4 hours to make sure I don’t get any when the blocks wear off… The really cool thing is that my muscles seem to be unaffected. I can walk, touch the floor, sit, bend my knees, reach my toes in a chair–all the things which are impossible for awhile after a replacement. I attached a photo of me doing tree even, on the surgical leg!

Photo was taken at noon, 5 hours after surgery and I’m standing on the surgical leg!


I came home with a new bandage (there’s a pic of that too). It comes with a battery/suction device that draws fluid out of the wound, so there is less chance of infection and improved healing. the surgeon explained that when he goes into the same incision a second time, there is greater risk and that this bandage system seems to ameliorate that significantly. The bummer is that I have to have this attached to me for the next two weeks! That means no pants and it’s getting too cold outdoors to be without them. I’m also not sure how I’m going to shower… May have to get creative with that! But, if it keeps me from getting an infection, I’m all for it in spite of the inconvenience. 

The Prevena bandage and wound suction system. Very cool!
Its main purpose is to remove fluids and prevent infection.
Attached to a battery pack in the black case.
This will be my little friend for the next two weeks…
I include this for my fellow hipsters in case you want to ask your surgeon about it. 
Here’s the link:
https://www.acelity.com/products/prevena-incision-management-system


My sense is when that bandage comes off, I’ll be doing awesome. I’m already noticing that the snap is gone when I flex my muscles. It is now fluid and easy like the other side. I also discovered that I’m already standing more on that leg than I have been. I usually favor it and list to port when standing. I have had to consciously remind myself to stand on both legs, but already that is changing! Isn’t it amazing what our bodies can do?


Thanks to all of you for reaching out and keeping me in your prayers and thoughts. I always feel swaddled in all your love when I go in for a surgery. I dearly hope this is my last.


Much Love and Gratitude,
Rhonda

Soaking in Nature Before the Cable Removal Surgery

We decided to take a trip to the Redwood Forest and the Trinity River to soak in nature and all its good energy before my cable removal surgery. It was such a needed sojourn! 

Here are some of my favorite photos:

Soaking in the energy of this giant redwood
Scott peers through the remains of a burned, fallen redwood 
Our little cabin on the Trinity River
The Trinity flowing by in front of our cabin
Walking down the country lane behind the cabin
Trinity River with Trinity Alps in the background
Painted sheep and their guard dog made this old shepherdess smile
and wonder… who paints their sheep and why?

I came back renewed, yet still having difficulty psyching myself up for my third surgery in thirteen months. But, hiking through the hills of the redwoods, I had so much pain that I knew there was no option. It was the first time I’d done hills since my hip replacements, and even with hiking poles, it still hurt. I really don’t want to live the rest of my life with this kind of pain and disability. I want to be able to hike moderately in beautiful places and not fight this anymore. So, it has to go.

One more day. Tomorrow I spend half the day in pre-op appointments and then, at 7:00 a.m. on Wednesday, the cable will come out. Happy Halloween! Pray for me. 

I’ll let you know how it goes on the other side, when my head clears.

4 Months Left Hip; 1 year Right

Wow, it’s hard to believe I’ve reached the one year mark with my right hip! Unfortunately, I am still struggling with that danged cerclage cable around the femur (aka The Zip Tie). I did a new video which demonstrates the problems I’m having functionally because of it. You can see it at this link:  Rhonda’s Hip Adventure Videos.

So, I went to see my surgeon for the one-year follow up appointment on September 18th. Both he and Davis watched me demonstrate for them what is on the video. Dr. Shukla had me stand next to him, so he could touch my thigh as I contracted my muscles. You can both hear and feel the snap of the muscles over the cable. I winced with the jolt this always gives me and he winced right along with me. I will always remember him looking up at me with his cherub face and telling me he was sorry, but he had to do it. I could tell by the look in his eyes that he understood how much pain and difficulty this cable has caused me over the year. I looked down and said, “I know you had to do it. We always agreed the structural integrity was the most important thing, and you nailed that. You told me the cable might bother me and if it did, we’d take it out. So, let’s just take it out.”

It was one of those sweet moments you never forget, when compassion shines through and you realize why you trust this man to help you function again with your legs under you and without pain. I know we are getting there. One last surgery to go. 

On October 31st (Halloween), they will take out the cable. It will be about a 20-minute operation. They will cut a 2-inch incision into the bottom of my current scar, part all the muscles to the bone, clip and remove the cable, and put me back together. I’ll have a different bandage this time that has a battery-operated catheter in it to remove fluids and help it heal faster. I’m looking forward to getting that thing out of there and seeing what I can do then!

Leftie is doing very well at four months, getting stronger and more flexible all the time. I occasionally get a little stiff and sore if I overdo, but mostly I can’t even tell I had a hip replacement on that side. I can’t wait to feel the same way on the right side!

Meeks Bay Trip

Last weekend, we went to Meeks Bay at North Lake Tahoe for a 4-day camping trip with our neighbors, Bruce and Peggy. It was beautiful! The temps got a little chilly at night, but thankfully Scott bought us a Little Buddy propane heater that made the inside of Pearl nice and toasty. This was our last camping trip of the season, which is always a bit sad, but what a way to end it! I was able to do a 2+ mile hike with them through the meadow which was lovely. We also met a new friend, Sandy, from Oregon who was camped next to us.

Sitting area in our camp site
Their tent trailer and Pearl snuggled in the trees
The Beach
View back into campground from the beach
Martinis to celebrate Bruce’s Birthday in real glasses!
The traditional trip to Garwoods for Wet Woody’s and delicious food!
Rhonda, Scott, Bruce and Peggy
Yoga and kayaks
Bruce, Peggy, Sandy and Scott standing under Pearl’s galley door
Kayaking in Tahoe

3 Months Left Hip; 11 Months Right Hip

I am at that magic 90-day mark when they say you are over the biggest hump of your hip healing. It’s WAY BETTER with this hip and I continue to be very grateful for this. My walk is back to normal, though I am still working on the stamina to go longer distances and to stand longer. Here’s the latest video of my walk (the last one):   Rhonda’s Hip Adventure Videos.

As you can see I no longer have a limp or stiff hip. Yay! I can do a mile pretty easily now and 2 miles once a week. I did learn this month that doing 2 miles three times in one week was a bad idea and I set myself back and had more pain and stiffness as a result. It’s taken a couple of weeks to get over that. I was just so excited to get back on all my familiar trails and favorite places… But there is nothing like pain to encourage you to return to your Goldilocks Zone!

My new routine includes swimming three times a week, walking a mile once a week and 2 once a week, plus short walks around the neighborhood more frequently. I also do Tai Chi and Qigong every morning for 30 minutes to wake up and warm up. I do yoga 3-4 times a week in the afternoons to stretch, keep up my core and upper body strength and work on my one-legged balance poses which strengthen my legs and improve my balance. 

I tend to move from one activity to another (sitting, standing, moving) at least every hour. This seems to keep me from having too much pain and stiffness by overdoing any one activity.  I can sit for 2+ hours if necessary (e.g. to watch a movie or performance). I do some stretches and flex muscles around the hips in my seat when I sit that long. 

I am down to taking 1-2 ibuprofen at night and one dropper of CBD oil for sleep. This is working well. 

I continue to have problems with bearing weight and really contracting the muscles in my right leg. At this point, I am solid in my plan to request the cable be removed at the end of October. I see my surgeon to discuss this on September 18th, so I’ll include the result of that conversation and some video footage of the problems I’m having with the cable in my next monthly update. 

Until then, I’m cruising along, staying in my Goldilocks Zone and listening to what my body tells me. It’s amazing how smart it is! You would think by now I’d be better at listening to it instead of what my head’s agenda is. But, the tricky thing is I still don’t know when I’m overdoing it until I’ve done it and then it’s too late! My advice to my fellow hipsters is take it easy and slowly build up your stamina and strength, even if it feels like you could keep going.

Silver Lake Trip

We just returned from a beautiful trip to Silver Lake, one of the lakes on the June Lake Loop off 395, near Mammoth, California. I used to ski at June Mountain when I was a kid, but had never been on the Lake Loop before. 

We went with our friends, Lisa and Terry (and their dog, Beauty). They planned the trip last winter and we decided to tag along once we knew my hip could handle it. They are easy to be with and experienced campers. They have a Mercedes van conversion which is very cool! We spent a whole afternoon eating and talking and drinking wine in this sweet spot in the aspens overlooking the lake.

Beauty, Lisa, Terry, Scott at our picnic table — Silver Lake Resort

View from our picnic table–not bad huh?

We stayed at the Silver Lake Resort and RV Park and had a great spot looking up at a waterfall.

On the second morning, they went on a hike to Parker Lake, about a 3-4 mile round trip hike. My “girls” said there was no way they were taking me that far! So I stayed back and took a short hike up Rush Creek which meanders through the Silver Lake Campground. It was beautiful and easy.

We stayed two nights and I got this cool, crazy shot of the sunset on the last night:

It was a very relaxing and pretty trip, even with the smoke from all the wildfires. I’m happy to report I was able to stay in my “Goldilocks Zone” and not overdo it like I did on the Graeagle trip! See, old gals can learn new ways of being…

First Camping Trip in Pearl since May, 2017

For my 52nd Birthday I decided what I most wanted to do was go camping in Pearl, our sweet teardrop! Here’s some pictures of her:

We bought Pearl in 2015. The first big trip we did with her was for my 50X50. This was an insane trip in retrospect! I wanted to see all 50 states by my 50th Birthday. And wouldn’t you know what was left? North Dakota, Minnesota and Kansas! So, we did a boomerang trip to Duluth, Minnesota for Fourth Fest. We went through North Dakota on the way over and Kansas on the way home. We also passed through Wyoming, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, Colorado and Utah! We traveled 5,500 miles through 12 states in 3 weeks! CRAZY! But we sure had the teardrop experience down by the time we got home…

Pearl is an awesome way to camp. She is super easy to deal with because she is basically just a bed with lovely maple cabinets for all your stuff and a kitchen galley in the back. We stay at RV Parks or campgrounds that have bathrooms and they usually give us a spot close by. She is set up and ready to go during season, so all we have to do is pack our clothes, bathroom stuff and food and we’re off! Scott found the most awesome shade structures that we use to protect against sun and rain. Pearl can actually fit under these if necessary.

Here’s Pearl at our camp spot for this trip in Blairsden/Graeagle, CA at the Dream Catcher RV Park, a sweet little campground near national forest, lakes, and great hiking trails:

The nice thing is it’s only an hour from our house! They had a nice, cool recreation room where I set up an office and yoga studio:

One of the things we notice about RV parks these days is most people don’t get out of their big trailers, so we get most of the facilities/amenities all to ourselves.

Our first day we explored Eureka-Plumas State Park and took a 1.5 mile walk around Madora Lake:

We drove to the beautiful Nakoma Resort and peaked into the restaurant at the Lodge:

We had an awesome Italian dinner at Cuccia’s in Graeagle overlooking a horse stable:

The last day, on our way home, we drove through the scenic Lakes Basin area and visited Sardine Lake, passed through Sierraville, and stopped in Truckee for a beer at the Fifty/Fifty Brewing Company. We enjoyed a nice, smoke-free sunset at home in our garden!

It was a great trip to end a wonderful Birthday week for me. This Birthday has been about celebrating that my Hip Adventure is (mostly) behind me and now I have a new behind! The camping trip reminded me that I am not yet that strong. I stood and walked too much and so I am sore, stiff, weak and tired today. But it was worth it! I’ll need to pace myself better for our next trip. I forget how much standing and walking is involved with outdoor life and how much I want to hike! But my girls are always good reminders of my limits and that I am still healing from two major surgeries in one year.

The other thing that was special about this week was all the calls, visits, meals, texts, emails, and cards from the people in my life. I felt very loved! This is my favorite thing about Birthdays! (Well, that and the cake 🙂

Here’s a photo of Scott’s dad-Jim, my mom-Anita, me, mom’s friend-Wanda, Scott, and Jim and Scott’s old neighbor-Kitty having dinner at Jim and Kitty’s place (5 Star, Premier Residences):

A photo of me celebrating my 52nd in one of my favorite places, our back yard:

 

2 Months Left Hip; 10 months Right Hip

I have some exciting new milestone moments to share! My healing continues in leaps and bounds these days, surprising even me. I AM SO GRATEFUL!

This week I made it out to the Hemlock Grove for the first time in over a year. This is a very sacred place for me and it has been so hard to be unable to get there for so long. When I entered the grove, I started to cry and couldn’t stop for some time. It was like seeing a long lost friend. I could  feel all the special energy filling me up, restoring me at some deep level, like a drink of cool water for a parched soul. I laid back on the bare trunk of the old fallen Hemlock and stared up into the canopy. Evans Creek chuckled through the little meadow in the center. When my tears finally stopped, I knelt beside it and rinsed my face. I stayed until I felt complete, then wandered home slowly, stopping along the way to stretch my hips and legs. It’s about a 2-mile hike round trip, so I got stiff and had to loosen up and rest before continuing on. I was pretty sore the next day.

Today, I went out again with Scott and his family who are visiting. Luckily, one of them had a phone and took these photos:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yesterday I swam 1000 meters again for the first time since my second surgery! It felt effortless with no ill effects today. I didn’t think I could make it back out to the Hemlock Grove after doing that, but I did and I didn’t even have to stop this time! I guess we’ll see if I can still walk tonight…

I’ve been able to resume most of my yoga, but still struggle with one-legged balances, particularly the extensions out over my right leg (first hip). I am aware that I am favoring that leg all the time and it is weaker than my left. I’ll do the best I can with it until the cable can be removed in October. Then, we’ll see what I can do!

Being Tolerant of Intolerance

That was the topic of a conversation after Quaker silent worship yesterday. A small group of us stayed to chat. The topic of intolerance came up. We wondered together how do we respond to intolerance without becoming intolerant and aggressive ourselves? How do we stay true to our values of peace and non-violence?

Our consensus was that it is important not to meet intolerance with intolerance. But we were uncertain about how to share our values when confronted with intolerant attitudes, speech and behavior. I’m sure we all left continuing to ponder this increasingly important subject in our country.

Then an amazing thing happened. We were with Scott’s father in the emergency room of the Veteran’s Hospital. He is 92 and was not feeling well after a trip to see his twin sister in California. I was sitting in the waiting room while Scott was with Jim in an examining room.

There were two men behind a glass partition in the lobby behind me. One of them had helped us when we entered. I was sitting behind a partial wall with my back to them, reading. I had noticed they were two large men who seemed to double as greeters and security guards.

One of the men began a long, angry diatribe about children’s exposure to homosexuality in the schools. He must have been reading an opinion piece from the local paper, because he kept quoting passages from it. I gathered a video had been shown to local schoolchildren depicting homosexuality as a lifestyle choice, and the writer of the opinion piece objected to this. This man was also outraged, though he had no children, because his taxpayer money was paying for this atrocity.

Occasionally, through the diatribe, I heard the other man’s soft voice interject content into the conversation. Sadly, I couldn’t make out his words because of his soft voice and my distance from the conversation and the glass partition. (Which tells you something about the volume of the other speaker’s voice.) The angry man seemed to take in the calm man’s comments/questions and then launch into another phase of his attack.

I’m not sure how the topic changed, but he began to rant about Pearl Harbor, the Japanese and the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The general gist of his point was that we needed enough nuclear weapons to destroy as many of an enemy as we could, because that is what ends wars. Again, I heard a calm, soft response to this. Then, the angry man accused the calm man of being a liberal and a Nazi. He made some accusation about him being from Columbia, so not a “real” American. I remember raising my eyebrows. I wondered how he was going to respond to this.

I so wish I could have heard it. But again, it was calm. Suddenly, the angry man switched tactics and softened. He began talking about his 4th of July plans and asking the calm man about his. If you hadn’t heard what had come before, you would think they were two congenial co-workers. The angry man announced he was headed home and came out from behind the glass partition, heading towards the door. He paused and bantered some more, then wished his colleague a Happy 4th of July before leaving.

I sat there and soaked all this in and I thought, “Now that is Spirit giving you a real life demonstration to your question from earlier today!” I became curious about this calm man. Who was he? How did he learn to respond in this way to intolerance?

Later, when it was decided that Scott’s father would be staying the night in the hospital, I got the opportunity to see him in action. He was the one who handled the admission. It was quick, maybe 10 minutes. During this time, the gentle giant quipped and made jokes with my recalcitrant father-in-law, softening and cajoling him. I watched Jim grin in spite of himself. The man was probably in his mid to late 50’s and had a slight, Spanish accent. He must have been in the U.S. most of his life. His badge said he was a veteran.

Hip #2, 6-Week Anniversary

This morning I had my 6-week follow up with Davis. He was in one of his vintage suits with a very cool pair of shoes–such a dapper guy! I showed him my one-legged balances and demonstrated the difference between my right and left legs. I can easily hold a balance in any direction on my left leg (Hip #2), but I can’t stand on my right leg (Hip #1) and extend my left leg behind me. As soon as I try to extend out, my IT band hits the cerclage cable (zip tie) and gives out. I told him the PT’s and I discovered that when I do one-legged strength exercises, I’m stronger on Hip #2 and Hip #1 is atrophying. I asked to have the cable removed, if at my annual follow up in September, I am still having the same problems and cannot restore the strength and balance in my right leg. He agreed and said he would document it. He said, “If it really bothers you over the summer, let us know and we can schedule you for surgery to remove it.”

I am relieved that this didn’t require a fight, but wonder what the insurance company will say? Most of it will be on me, due to our high-deductible plan, so hopefully they won’t object. I’m certain at this point that if this doesn’t improve significantly by September, I want that cable out!

Overall, I told Davis, I am so thrilled with what they have done! I feel like I am structurally strong and balanced and I am having no other issues. This recovery is so much faster than the last one, and I’m very grateful for that.  They did an awesome job! I made sure he knew that I have never questioned the need for the cable and I’m glad they made the call they did, it has just been a sucky recovery because my muscles don’t like it. Fortunately, that is fixable.

This week I continued to make progress. I was able to walk a mile a few times, and I got up to 750 meters in the pool! My usual is 1000, so I’m pretty darn close already! My next goal is to work up to 2 miles and get back out to my favorite Hemlock Grove. My yoga and Tai Chi practices are getting back on track, except for those one-legged holds and strength moves on the right side. My flexibility is returning quickly, including being able to cross the left leg over my midline into a supine twist. Yay! That always helps my back release tension and it feels so good!

At this point, my restrictions are all officially lifted, so I can play at will and see what my body tells me. This is always a fun day! Last time I was still limping and experiencing pain, especially with walking very far and trying to go up stairs. This time, I have none of these issues. This is what I’d expected at this point last time. I remember Davis telling me it would come in 7-12 months and not to worry. I’m so grateful to be this good already, to not have to go through 7 months of painful frustration.

My annual follow-up is scheduled for September 18th. At that appointment, we will decide on the cable removal. If we decide to do it, I think I’ll aim for later October, before the holidays and after camping season. I don’t want to miss another summer and I’m good enough to get out there now! So, onwards and outwards into the world!

I will continue to do at least a monthly post for the next year, so my hip readers can see how things evolve over time.