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February 28, 2012 > On becoming a bionic woman

On becoming a bionic woman

By Margaret Thornberry

"My grandmother had her hip replaced and never got out of the wheelchair for the rest of her life."

Not encouraging words to hear as I make the decision to replace a badly worn hip joint. "Why do you have to have surgery, can't they just inject some lubricant?" No, they can't. I know this because I saw the X-ray showing the cartilage is gone... gone... gone, leaving the head of my femur bone rubbing directly against the pelvic socket nicely decorated with a couple of cysts and a bone spur.

You may recall a few years ago this newspaper ran a series of articles about my adventures walking across England, from St. Bees on the west coast to Robin Hood's Bay on the Channel. Now I'm inviting you to come with me on a journey of a different sort, as I exchange my ailing hip bone for a modern bionic model.

My stroll across England did not cause this problem - while the literature isn't able to pinpoint a single cause, opinion has it that a combination of heredity, trauma, and a long lifetime of normal wear and tear causes the cartilage to tear and fray, leaving the hip socket without its natural cushion. The symptom that drove me to the orthopedist was pain, aptly described as being "a toothache in your leg", keeping me awake at night, and causing me to flinch and gasp when making certain movements. I knew it was time to take action when I recently found myself swearing like Colin Firth in 'The King's Speech' after walking or standing for more than a few minutes!

Two years ago I asked for a hip X-ray, and the orthopedist said I was due for a replacement then. Why such a long wait? Another combination - this one of stubbornness, denial, and a family whose stoic refusal to acknowledge physical pain is legendary. Two years passed with acupuncture, acupressure, physical therapy, exercises, yoga, visualizations and treatment with moderate pain medication, all while keeping up with my usual schedule. Now, even I must admit it's time. I'm scheduled for hip replacement at Washington Hospital March 5th.

While I've heard a few grim tales, almost all who have had hip replacement surgery say good things about the process and results. In the days before surgery I will be doing some exercises, properly equipping my home for post-surgery ease and safety and reading through a large, rather daunting binder that is to be my constant companion for the next few weeks. I hope you will keep me company on this journey as well.

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