An observant reader of my recent posts may have noticed that there has been a gap in my hikes and posts. Indeed, in my last posting I hinted that my hiking life was about to change dramatically, if temporarily, as of the 23 October date of that hike. In this posting I’m going to describe the beginning of that journey.
Just 2 days after I hiked the Stanford Rock loop I attended my ice skating class as usual (I have been skating for over 25 years). The class was practicing an important, if basic, skill – back crossovers – with special emphasis on technique for gaining power and speed. While focusing on pushing on each stroke I inadvertently executed what many skaters refer to as “the dreaded blade click,” and down I went, landing quite hard on my right hip as the initial and primary impact point. I knew I was going to have a heck of a goose egg and bruise. I had immediate assistance getting off the ice and receiving an ice pack. After observing the rest of the class and consulting with my classmates, I determined that I was able to drive, so I very carefully drove home.
The next morning it was still uncomfortable to bear weight on my right leg so I got out a pair of crutches I had and asked a friend to drive me to the minor injury clinic at the closest Kaiser facility, where I had made an appointment. The doctor who read my x-rays pronounced that she saw “a disruption in the bone structure” in the neck of the femur, which meant that I was to go to the Emergency Room at a larger Kaiser facility for further evaluation and, likely, treatment. So we stopped at home and packed up some things I might need for a few days, just in case, on the way to the ER.
As anyone knows who has been to an ER for something other than a life-threatening situation, there can be a lot of tests and a lot of waiting. I was trying to get used to the idea that, 10 days after walking a marathon in 6 hours flat and just a few days after a wonderful hiking weekend with 3 hikes covering 40 miles, the disruption in the bone structure meant that I’d broken my hip. I told just about everyone who attended to me that I’d just walked a marathon and wanted to walk another after my recovery, if possible.
Besides numerous ER staff I was seen by my surgeon and his assistant, and my repair was described to me: screws (probably 3), through a small incision perhaps 1 to 1.5 inches long. The surgery was scheduled for the next day, Thursday 27 October. My friend stayed with me until my significant other arrived from his work. I was glad to have a simple meal, since I’d only had a couple of sips of diet Coke since breakfast. At some point I noticed that I had a mild headache, so I got a Tylenol for that. I dozed off but woke up just in time to have a last small meal before the midnight pre-surgery cutoff.
In the morning there were more tests, surgery preparations, and waiting. One of the preparations was someone who verified (again) that I would have my right hip repaired, and drew a circle on my right upper thigh. Then, suddenly, I was on my way to surgery. I received a spinal anesthetic with a light general anesthetic. I remember the preparation for the spinal, and then I was waking up in the recovery area feeling quite refreshed, as after a nice nap (yes, really!). I had to stay in the recovery area until I could wiggle my toes. Have you ever tried to wiggle your toes after a spinal? – It doesn’t work, and feels kind of weird to send the signals with nothing happening in response. It took nearly 4 hours for the spinal to wear off, and then I was taken to my room.
During the evening I had some discomfort in my thigh – I thought this was due to the tape holding the catheter tubing in place, actually, so I requested a pain pill. Several hours later the night nurse repositioned me on my left side with pillows behind me, just to vary my position. This is standard procedure to avoid bed sores. I was supposed to stay in the new position for a couple of hours, but only managed about 45 minutes before asking to be returned to lying on my back.
Early the next morning (Friday) the catheter was removed and I started an 8-hour countdown during which I was supposed to pee; if not, the catheter would go back in. I had a physical therapy appointment later in the morning and was advised by my nurses to take a pain pill in advance, so I did. That was only the third – and the last – pain pill I needed for the entire experience. During the PT session I got out of bed and walked perhaps 10 yards down the hall and back, with a walker. Next stop: the toilet, where I practically flooded the collection container. (In the hospital they collect and measure everything.) After this was accomplished, the last part of the IV was removed from my arm.
The last major hurdle before discharge was figuring out how to administer the remaining doses of an anticoagulant medication that is standard after my type of surgery, or after having a spinal. This medicine is administered by subcutaneous injection in the abdomen – no pills. Considering that I had never even watched myself be injected before, I really wasn’t sure who would be willing to inject me every day for 9 days. In the end my significant other injected me Saturday, then I watched him do it Sunday, and after that I injected myself. I never thought I would be able to do it, but I did.
My next post describes my initial home-based recovery.