Almost eight months have now passed since my hip replacement. I am back to report on my recovery. This chapter will sound like I am blowing my own horn. I suppose that I am, but I am hoping that in doing so I am providing encouragement to those of you who have trepidations about your life after surgery. As any thinking person would, I had thought quite a bit about what would happen in the aftermath of surgery; I wondered whether I would be able to do everything that I had not been doing prior to surgery because of hip pain. Thus far, I can say that—within reason—I can!
Before I chronicle some of my exploits, I would like to thank the many people who have sent me e-mails after reading this book. Their hip replacement sagas have been very positive and uplifting. If I never find that publisher with deep pockets, I will have been rewarded many times over by knowing that I have helped others who have reached the hip replacement decision point. Thanks for writing and thanks for all the kind comments about my meager work.
Doing things with your feet is one of the major problems after hip surgery. One is cautioned not to bend too far, but doing anything with feet requires such bending. The fear of dislocation becomes ingrained to the extent that I did not even try. I had bought shoes with Velcro closures prior to my surgery, so that I would not have to concern myself with how to tie shoes thereafter. For six months, I wore them and other slip-ons in my shoe collection. (I am an aspiring male version of Imelda Marcos.) However, I can now bend down and tie my shoes. Each time I can do something new with my feet, I rejoice.
For example, there was the time I forget
to take the sock helper along when I was visiting my family in
The toenails on my left foot were getting
a little long when I visited my cousin Paula in
I mentioned in the previous chapter that I had been doing a little gardening, but could not stoop to pull weeds. I am now proud to say that I can actually pull weeds, but I still prefer to let somebody else do it.
I like to travel. My wanderlust even existed when I had so much hip pain that I paid dearly for even short, domestic trips. Whether traveling by car or by airplane, there was pain; whether I was traveling for business or pleasure, that pain would get in the way. I could drive only a few hours without having to make a pain stop. I also had to wonder whether the massive doses of anti-inflammatory drugs were impairing my reaction times, making me a dangerous driver. When I traveled by air, I had to bring along a folding cane, which enabled me to hobble through airports. Standing up after a long flight was an exercise in how much pain a person could endure. Yet I dragged along carry-on baggage and battled for position with the other frequent flyers. A day of travel wore me out so completely that I was worthless the next day. One of the big lifestyle improvements I was hoping to derive from the hip replacement was the ability to travel painlessly, and to be fresh and ready for action the next day.
The first out of town trip was a few
days after the September 11 tragedy. A friend, Georgia, who was moving from
My first air trip after hip surgery
was a football weekend in
As I mentioned when I was talking about
toenails, I went to
I was ready to test the hip for a longer flight. I made plans to visit friends in Jolly Old England. This eight-hour flight would surely test my mettle, especially because I was unable to get the first class upgrade on the eastbound flight. There again, in the past, I would have been in agony because of the small seats with little legroom. Worse, sitting in a rows immediately in front of and behind mine, in the center section of a jumbo jet with 2-5-2 seating, were families with several infants and toddlers with small mouths that belied their ability to shriek loudly. I did not get even a minute’s sleep on that flight. Yet I arrived at Gatwick at in a good mood (no doubt relieved that “it” was over), and was even able to handle the announcement from my friends that there would be no toilet facilities at my destination until the following day because the septic tank had overflowed. I could only imagine what my response might have been if my old hip had been in control of my emotions.
One more pleasure trip is worthy of
noting here, especially because it involved heavy use of the artificial hip.
In December, six months after surgery, I went to
There has been only one other trip between
then and now (end of January 2002). I successfully completed a one-day trip
Some of you are no doubt wondering about
metal detectors and your new, metal hip. I have to say that not a single metal
detector has yet detected my hip. This was surprising to me, because the hip
prosthesis is a big piece of metal. Nine different airports since September
11, and one sports venue (
I have not yet picked up my golf clubs, which have been silently rusting for about 10 years. It has been that long since I played my last round of golf. I definitely want to get back into something competitive, and golf seems to be the best sport for me to accomplish that. My surgeon told me that basketball was definitely out of the question, not that it would matter. I once played a respectable game of golf, and perhaps I will be able to do so again. My clubs are 30 years old, though. If I find that I can actually swing them whenever I finally get the motivation to do so, I will have an excuse to spend some money buying a new set.
Why have I been dawdling on this issue? Aside from the fear that I have lost my swing completely and will have to compensate for the hip such that I will hit the ball even more cockeyed than before, I have not yet worked golf into my routine because I am filling the time with a many other things for which there was a pent-up demand. Eventually, I will give golf the place it deserves in my schedule.
Recreation aside, I am able to do everything I need to do around the house now. I have been up and down ladders with no problems. I have been down on the floor. I am up and down stairs many times a day. I can use normal bathroom equipment, handling even low toilet seats with ease. I am elated. Six months ago, I was happy to be able to get out of a chair without feeling that awful blast of pain. Now, I do things that I could not even do at all in the months before surgery, and I do them painlessly. Total hip arthroplasty made all this possible. I cannot even imagine how badly my life would have deteriorated had I not gone through with it.
I am going to shift gears for a moment to one of my pet peeves. No book of mine would be complete without a few parting shots at the sorry state of the health care industry. This time the subject is billing for medical services. Most of the bills for services relating to the surgery were paid by my insurer and by me within two months. However, the two biggest bills, from the hospital where I had the surgery and from the rehab hospital, have taken a while to straighten out. My insurer was the first culprit. The insurance company sent me an explanation of benefits for the hospital stay claiming $2000 was my responsibility, but it was done in such a cursory, lump-sum way that it made no sense to me at all. It took me at least two months of irritating telephone calls to get them to revisit the matter. Finally, they did. In December, six months after surgery, I paid the hospital what I actually owed: $825. The other bill, from the rehab, is still outstanding. This time, both the hospital and the insurance company agree on the amount, which is $552. However, I have been asking for an itemized bill to support that amount for three months now without success. Again, I have been through the wringer of aggravating telephone calls and bi-weekly dunning letters. Every time I manage to speak to someone at the billing office, she tells me that she will take care of the matter. I have been making this simple request since November. It is now the end of January, and I have received nothing. I have even told the billing people to go ahead and turn the bill over to their collection agency, because I know I will get what I want if they do. The collection agency will get me a copy of the original bill, because it will be an easy way to make a quick buck.
The reason for this stupidity is something
that is increasingly common in the health care industry. Hospitals have found
that billing and collection is something they can effectively “outsource,”
so they do. The particular hospital system that runs the rehab facility in
which I spent three days is a large, regional, supposedly non-profit organization.
I can recall a major dispute I had with them over a mere $36 several years
ago, where all they would have had to do was submit the claim to Blue Cross
as they were originally instructed to do and, in fact, they were contractually
obligated to do. Instead, it wound up going to a collection agency even after
I had fully documented the case. The collection agent, upon hearing my story,
communicated with the hospital, getting the problem fixed. That was perhaps
15 years ago, when the hospital organization was doing its own billing. Now,
they employ a billing service in
I have no doubts that I owe them some amount, for indeed I had a private room while my insurance pays only for semi-private accommodations. The detailed bill is necessary for me to confirm that the $552 for which they are billing me is the appropriate amount. When I check out of a hotel, I resolve any difference with the cashier at that moment because he or she presents the detailed bill to me. I am not accorded that same opportunity in a hospital. Hospitals must think that because they are supplying necessary services and because they are being paid largely by insurance companies with whom they have special deals, they are immune from the need to be courteous and accommodating when billing patients. They sling threats of collection and of damaging one’s credit rating without even taking the time to determine whether anything is wrong. I ask you this: In what other industry do suppliers of services have the audacity to expect that one pay their bill without having any notion of what it represents? If a dealer repaired your car, then told you that the warranty covered all but $552, would you not ask for substantiation of that amount?
They can send me to collection. I do not care. Let them take me to court. There, I will make them look like the disorganized, uncommunicative dolts that they are. This is silly. Just send me the itemized bill and I will pay the damn $552!
There you have it. Not even three quarters of a year have passed since surgery, and notwithstanding some hassles with medical billing, I am enjoying life as I once never thought I could. If you still have any doubts about whether this surgery is right for you, read the books I have recommended in Chapter II, talk with others who have had their hips replaced, and talk with your orthopedic surgeon. This operation has proven itself over time, having helped many people lead normal, pain-free lives. I have no regrets.
I would again like to thank all of you who have read my story. I wish you all well with your surgery and recovery. Once again, if you have any comments or questions, I am happy to answer any e-mail directed to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright © 2001, 2002, Benjamin
All Rights Reserved