Reflections on my rehab after having a new hip

in response to Rachel Imms Easter article on Health and Safety

When itís drummed into you that you must not bend, turn or twist from the waist for at least 12 weeks post op, in case you pop your new hip out, you realise pretty quickly just how many times a day you actually and naturally do these actions. When living alone this becomes even more difficult, especially as this operation was caused by a trip, so no forward planning was in place.

On two elbow crutches and with poor balance, how do you get milk out of a floor-standing fridge when the bottles are usually placed at the bottom of the door for safety? How do you pick up the milk bottles delivered by the milkman? How do you cook food in a free-standing oven below waist height? How do you wash clothes/dishes in a machine? How do you carry anything more than a cup? Lots of one-handed carrying to and fro meant at least I was getting a bit of exercise!

The grabbing sticks were extremely useful and I picked up items one handed ranging in size from a pill to shoes and packets of food and lightish things in between. Vital as aids for dressing too, but no good for lifting heavier or smooth items like milk bottles though. For those I needed a good neighbour who lifted them up onto the dust bin for me to take in later. We solved the milk problem by decanting it into small jam jars and placing them on the top shelf of the fridge door. That was one of the first jobs for my visiting band of angels each day. Washing was done in relays: friend A put them in; friend B got them out and hung them on the line; friend C got them in when dried; friend D ironed if necessary. Not a speedy job, but I wasnít in a rush for clean clothes, as I wasnít leading the high life!

Everything I might need had to be to hand near my chair, my bed or on the kitchen worktops otherwise I had to wait till the angels appeared to get what I needed. Thank goodness for marvellous friends and family who cooked, made lunches, washed, shopped, rearranged the freezer/cupboards for my range of access, changed bedding and cleaned, retrieved dropped items, helped with physio, took me to their homes for showers, removed elastic stockings, washed and dried my feet, visited me with gifts of flowers, treats and puzzles, made me laugh and who did many other tasks which made life bearable after the shock of falling. I donít know how I would have managed without them.

As a consequence I now own a number of useful items which cannot be returned to the NHS!! If you need a grabber Iíve got 3 (oneís no use if itís upstairs and youíve dropped something vital downstairs and vice versa); a trolley almost unused, as I felt too insecure in the early days pushing it - more useful now; a raised toilet seat; a toilet seat on a frame; 3 pairs of elbow crutches (1 pair can be returned to Blackpool Vic) and a perching stool (this is still in use). I did borrow a toilet frame with arms from Jan Astley and I feel sure there are a number of items like these lurking in the possession of church members. If we had a directory of them then I could have borrowed items from Ďour stockí and saved money for the NHS. What do you think?

This whole experience has made me think about the ageing process as well as rehab after ops and how it will be useful to plan oneís future needs before being thrown into the mayhem of needing them now, and not having them, as I was in February! Iím having a shower cubicle installed in a downstairs cloakroom this month as part of the plan, as I canít access the shower over my bath now, but I will want to use the bath when fully fit. As I progressed to using just one crutch for mobility, I could do more light jobs whilst still not bending, but I often needed help to complete them. I could sweep the floor, but not pick up the pile of dirt, so one really useful item I will be buying is a long handled dustpan and brush.

Veronica Frost