Gratitude. If you read Hip Revision Chronicle 1 you might wonder why I am gong to devote a post to gratitude.
Let me tell you how grateful I am that my hip replacement device broke while I was brushing my teeth in my bathroom in my home in Little Rock.
I have lived at 7,200 elevation in a cabin on the side of a mountain in Pagosa Springs, Colorado for the last three years. We moved to Little Rock two and a half months before the incident. There is no cell service for miles around the cabin, so we used Wi-Fi calling in order to use our phones. The range of the Wi-Fi did not go much past the walls of the house. I couldn’t make calls from the deck for instance, and forget going out in the yard. The internet was spotty at best. It went out completely frequently. Not just at our place, sometimes the whole town was without cell or internet service for hours or days.
Our house perched on a steep slope. The dogs and Noodles houses were a good distance away. During the winter we dug paths in the snow so that we all could go back and forth. Those paths became very icy. We called them snow tunnels and toboggan runs. While we had a railing to help with footing there were several times when my feet went out from under me and I sat down hard. Steve was gone for hours almost every day playing pickleball. Not a good scenario. The Apple Watch and cell phone didn’t work there.
The slope of our backyard was such that I needed crampons on my boots to keep from sliding down the hill while waiting for the dogs to potty. I was out there alone during the middle of the night many times. Once I lost my shoes in the deep snow and spent several frustrating minutes on my stomach trying to reach them. I never could have crawled out of that. The temperatures were in the teens or minus zero frequently.
These are the stairs I used during the winter in order to get in and out of the house. They are made of sharp toothed metal. The driveways were impassable once it started snowing.
This is the special place that I spent many hours practicing yoga and developing my balance. I did tree pose on that leg on these rocks in the Rio Blanco over a mile from my house. The place is completely private. No cell service. What would have happened to Mick? Would my body have floated past our house down the road?
I went on hikes at high elevation with trails that were washed out on mountainsides of scree, which is treacherous loose rock and gravel. Hikes that crossed the continental divide. And of course no cell service. The drop offs were terrifying.
I rode my horse on rides that went miles into the wilderness where we spotted bear and moose. Miles from the nearest road, several hours of driving after reaching the trailhead to reach cell service. Many times it was just me and one other person. What would that have been like for me if I even survived? What trauma for the person or people with me?
I stood on that leg on a rock with a 5,000ft drop off.
My last horseback ride in Pagosa was with my friend Mary Beth. The helicopter circling as we rode the trail. A father and son had ridden out before us. The fathers horse slipped and fell on one of the switchbacks. His back broken, the father had to wait hours to be found, and then to be extricated from the area.
There are so many places and scenarios where this could have happened and I would be dead. No doubt. Or for me, worse than dead. A quadriplegic. In a coma. How many hours in what conditions waiting for help? And yes, there were many times when I rode or hiked alone. I carried a pistol for bears. I might have needed it for me.
As I lay in the hospital bed that first morning there was a beautiful sunrise. I cried, hot tears running down my face as my heart swelled with the knowledge that I was so very lucky, blessed, to be alive. I thought about what it would have been like for Steve to find me at the foot of the steep stairs in our house in Pagosa. If he had gotten up in the morning, thinking I was upstairs painting, not realizing I had frozen to death just a few yards from the house.
I loved my house in Pagosa Springs. But we also came to realize that it was not a house for us to grow old in. Shoveling snow, dealing with roof curl. Steve was outside for hours during the winter when it snowed. While incredibly fit and strong, he is 71 and it was hard. The outside stairs and icy slippery slope during the winter. And the stairs. The steep narrow stairs between the downstairs main living area and my upstairs art studio.
In February my 25 year old martial arts injury started to create havoc. Again. A torn quad after knee surgery resulted in leg and knee pain. I’d nursed it, even discontinuing long hikes, CrossFit. But the slope of our land and those stairs finally did me in. Beginning in February my leg and knee steadily got worse. I couldn’t bend it. I couldn’t straighten it. Yoga hurt. Walking hurt. I woke up during the night from the pain. X-rays showed that my knee structure was fine, the pain was muscle and tendons. I am so very grateful for that injury that told me in no uncertain terms that it was time to leave my beloved cabin in Pagosa.
Pagosa Springs is a beautiful small mountain town. It is relatively remote, Durango is the closest town of any size. We drove four hours to Albuquerque, NM to shop at the nearest Costco. Denver was five hours away. With this injury, I would have had to be airlifted to Denver for surgery. I would not have had the friends and connections I have here. No Kevin Heifner to clear the way at the hospital.
So yes. I know how lucky I am. Blessed. And the certainty grew, as I lay in that bed for ten days, that I am here for a reason. My life has a purpose.
The orthopedic doctor in Little Rock explained to me that this would be a very complicated and difficult surgery. It would be several days before he could schedule it. So I settled in to wait.
Because my leg didn’t have any bone structure holding it together anymore I had to lay in bed and move it as little as possible. It hurt, more each day. My right leg, my “bad leg” also hurt. I’d been going to physical therapy for it over the last few weeks, so as I lay in bed I did whatever movements and exercises I could to continue the progress I had been making. I was very aware that my bad leg was now going to have to be my good leg.
Getting out of the bed and going to the bathroom and using the toilet was not possible. Let me tell you about the Pickwick. It’s a blue tube with a tampon type cotton insert. It is connected to thin tubing which suctions the urine into a container on the wall. I was able to use this instead of having a catheter inserted. I am grateful for that
I mentioned in the previous blog that a nurse commented that I was in good shape. I was able to lift myself and use a bedpan without any help. I was able to lift my body when bedding or pads needed to be changed. That fact kept me from having to be rolled. I was able to maneuver around and give myself a bath. I am grateful for that.
Dr. Kevin Heifner stopped by every single day to check on me. Angels can be men too you know.
Steve was there every day, only leaving to go home and sleep and go by my house to feed Noodles.
My ex husband Charles took in Mick. His dog Pepper was a gift from us many years ago. Pepper and Mick were reunited and had a grand time together. Steve and I didn’t have to worry about Mick.
Friends and family called and texted. There were numerous messages on Facebook. I cried a lot, reading those messages and realizing that I am loved. I am so grateful for the support system I have in Little Rock.
The doctor who was originally going to do the surgery had expressed to me that it was going to be difficult and complicated. He was an orthopedic surgeon but this was not his specialty. I was concerned about that.
Monday morning, the day of surgery he came by the room very early. He said “I have an option for you. I was talking to a colleague at our Christmas party about your case, he has offered to do the surgery. He is an expert at this. Is this something that you would like to consider?”
Of course my answer was “yes”. I am forever grateful to that doctor, for caring enough about me and the outcome of the surgery to ask somebody else to do it. So very grateful for that.
Surgery was rescheduled a couple of times, I was resignedly patient and in retrospect grateful that mine was not done at the end of a long day of other surgeries for my doc. On Wednesday almost a week after the break I went into the operating room. The doctor explained that the best case scenario would be about a 45 minute long operation. I was in there for over three hours. I’m not grateful that it was the absolute worst case scenario surgery. But I am incredibly grateful that the man who did it has lots of experience, I was in the best hands possible.
And by the time I was released after ten days, lots of forced rest and inactivity , pain medicine and muscle relaxers, my “bad leg” was doing really great! I now have two good hips and two good legs.
So yeah. I am grateful. Because I had a ticking time bomb in my body for years. And I am sitting here in my warm house, alive.