Narrative of recovering from a Broken Hip
I just read a pretty discouraging commentary by the possessor of a broken hip.
I thought it worthwhile to offer a slightly more encouraging viewpoint.
If I had read that piece early on, with nothing to counter it, I'd have
been quite depressed, I'm sure. Some of the below is reconstructed from
memory, some from notes, some by filling in very sketchy notes. I can't
swear for its absolute reliability, but I don't think it's far wrong.
After about the middle of March, entries are being made in real time.
I was 71 years old at the time of the incident, an emeritus instrumental
scientist at an observatory. (Yes, I kept going to work after they quit
paying me -- what else could I have done with the time that was half as
much fun?) I've lived alone since my wife died a few years ago. I used
to be six feet two inches tall. At the time of the incident, I weighed
about 225 pounds, way overweight but not obese. For exercise, I walked,
went swimming once or twice a week, and went to a yoga class twice a week.
Day 0 - December 7, 2009.
Pearl Harbor Day. That evening, I was on my way to a Community Chorus
concert, at 7 PM. Well past dark, and the lighting was none too good
in the parking lot. I didn't see the curb extending a bit beyond a
dumpster, and tripped over it. I fell, hard, on my right side. There
were plenty of people about and a couple came over to assist. They
said, "Are you all right?" I could only answer, "I don't know."
Eventually I asked them to stand me up. It was clear that I could
put zero weight on the right leg. I asked them to help me into my car,
saying that if I started to feel better, I'd drive myself home and put
myself to bed, and if not, I'd drive myself to the ER. By the time I
was in the car and settled down, it was already clear that the first
choice was not in the running. I drove to the ER, and tooted my horn.
They toted me into the ER, and ran me off to be X-rayed. After a bit,
they came back and got me to be X-rayed again, saying they needed a
slightly different angle to be sure. Yep, classic broken hip. Called
the hospital in Albuquerque to get me admitted. Turns out the
orthopedic surgeon on call was a guy I had seen a few months previously
about maybe having my left knee replaced. (After talking to him, I
concluded I didn't hurt bad enough to justify that.) He admitted me,
and I thus fell into quite good hands. A couple of times later on,
a nurse asked me who my surgeon was, and when I told them, they said,
"Oh, good. His cases usually come out right."
Allowing for all the diagnostic i dotting and t crossing, and the
bureaucratic munging to get me a room organized in Albuquerque, I
spent something over four hours in the Socorro ER. They then put me
in an ambulance, and drove me to Albuquerque, arriving at my hospital
room about one AM.
Day 1, December 8, 2009.
So long as I lay absolutely still and did not move, I was really not
in much pain. So, not being a big fan of opiates, I declined their
offer to dope me up for the trip. Which was fine. Only one time, when
the ambulance went over a bump at a repaving project on the interstate
did they get me to say "ouch". And in the hospital, I actually got a
few hours sleep that night.
Bright and early, the surgeon and his associate stopped by to make my
acquaintance before the main event, which they told me was scheduled for
10 AM. An hour before that, they took me down to the OR area, and
proceeded to ask the usual barrage of intrusive questions and opaque
paperwork signing. (I do remember, though, signing the piece of paper
saying that the hardware salesman could come into the operating room
to consult about fit.) They asked if I wanted a spinal anesthesia,
and I informed them in the strongest terms that I did not want to be
present when they did their thing. General anesthesia for me.
And so it was. Next thing I remember I was in the recovery room, in
an interesting state of partial consciousness. I could hear fine, and
there were loud voices, perhaps some even addressing me. But the part
of my brain that decodes language hadn't woken up yet, and I had not
the vaguest idea what the voices were saying.
But I eventually woke up enough that they took me back to my room.
I think they had me rather doped up. I really remember little
of the rest of the day, except that dinner was clear liquids only.
Day 2, December 9, 2009.
The big event of the day was that PT came up to my room and stood me up.
I immediately got very dizzy, and had to stand down again. So much
for being able to stand up and walk immediately after surgery, as
the doctors told me I'd be able to do. Menu for the day was opaque
liquids, including an excellent cream of mushroom soup for dinner.
I watched a lot of TV. This included a possibly morbid fascination
with the Discovery Health Channel. There was an especially memorable
and especially gory incident about a tornado victim with a two-by-four
blown through her neck.
Day 3, December 10, 2009.
Repeat of day 2. PT came up, stood me up; I got dizzy, sat down.
They decided they weren't going to take that sort of behavior
without a fight, and ordered a blood transfusion, to, they said,
make me a bit peppier. If they had asked me, I think I'd of said
no; that I would prefer being dizzy to getting somebody else's
blood. They didn't very specifically offer me the choice, and, as
I usually do, I went with the flow. They permitted me to have real
food, which was pretty good, despite all the foul canards about
Day 4, December 11, 2009.
Discharge day from the hospital, to a rehabilitation hospital.
PT came by in the morning, stood me up; I got dizzy, sat down.
This time they came equipped with a blood pressure cuff, so they
could watch my blood pressure drop as I claimed to get dizzy. Making
sure I wasn't faking it, I guess. They arranged for an ambulance
to transport me to the rehabilitation place. Early afternoon, before
the ambulance was due, PT showed up again. This time they said to take
my time, sit on the edge of the bed a few minutes, get acclimated before
standing up. And indeed, I didn't get dizzy, and managed to take a few
steps with the walker. PT was much happier at seeing me go away this
way, being able to stand up, and told me to always take it easy. But
I have an alternate theory why this attempt worked. In preparation for
the transfer, I was dressed in street clothes. I felt human. My morale
was up 100%. I was ready to take on the process of recovery. Can
depression make you dizzy? You betcha.
Day 5, December 12, 2009.
Saturday at the rehab hospital. A pretty slow day. A PT came and
evaluated me, making cryptic notations on the whiteboard by my bed.
Somebody later translated them for me. They said I needed substantial
assistance to get out of or into bed, that walking with a walker I
had minimal range, that I was not to be trusted to go to the bathroom
without somebody watching. Nobody ever revised that note, so I guess
the nurses and therapists had the good sense to believe what they saw
rather than what the whiteboard said.
They issued me a loaner wheelchair and walker, and various pieces of
rehab equipment, about which more later. I loved the wheelchair, and
was wheeling myself about the place almost at once.
We discussed pain medication. Since I am not a big fan of narcotics,
and since I hurt very little as long as I did not move whatsoever,
I asked for pretty minimal medication. We eventually settled on a
regime of massive amounts of time-release Tylenol, with a mild opiate
on request. They recommended I ask for the opiate just before therapy
so I could stand the torture, but I, a strong believer in never anticipating
the worst until it's staring you in the face, didn't ask for it except
after therapy, those times when it left me too sore to relax.
Day 6, December 13, 2009.
Sunday is also a slow day at the rehab hospital. They took me for
therapy a couple of times, but didn't get way serious about it.
My roommate was admitted at the same time I was. His problem was
parkinsonism and a moderate dementia. He was in to have his meds
adjusted. Day times he was a nice man. One would even call him a
charming man. Even in the daytime, there were occasions when he
didn't grasp the situation as readily as one might expect. But it was
at night that all bets were off. Pity the poor phlebotomists who had
to get a pre-dawn blood sample to measure the med levels. The real
extreme came when he called 911 and claimed to be being grossly abused
by people who didn't even work for the hospital.
Day 7, December 14, 2009.
Monday, and the regular routine begins. Quickly settles into a routine
of four hours of therapy per day: One hour upper body exercises (I
guess so I don't veg out entirely), one hour PT directed to my bad leg,
eventually involving walking with the walker, for maybe 100 feet, one
hour OT on how to take care of myself in my current condition, and one
hour PT or OT miscellaneous.
One requirement to be a PT at that hospital appears to be in an advanced
state of pregnancy. In one case I think the PT had an excessive fondness
for the recumbent bicycles, so she could park her patients on the bikes
and sit quitely behind watching for twenty minutes or so.
At this time I have almost no capability of doing something with my right
leg. The therapist tells me to raise my right knee; I send the order to
the muscles, but nothing happens, no motion, no perception of tension in
the muscles even. Similarly, when I support my knee and command the leg
to kick the foot out, nothing happens, and I perceive no inking of the
muscle even trying. But I can rotate my lower leg almost normally, so
I can often drive my right leg to where I want it by a little heel-and-toe
dance. Every patient is different. Some of my confreres could kick and
make the seated marching motion just fine, but some of them couldn't do
the heel-and-toe thing.
Day 8, December 15, 2009.
A shower at last. It is a unified bathroom facility at that hospital,
so one showers sitting on the toilet, which is a little strange, but
whatever. Although I am not one of your ultra clean types, getting a
shower is a step to normalcy, to social acceptability.
Today for the first time I survived sitting up in the wheelchair all day,
without having to lie down for an hour in the middle of the afternoon.
Day 9, December 16, 2009.
They had a caregiver conference today, and set my release date - to
December 29. "Not after Christmas," I wailed. "My Children and
grandchildren are coming." So the case manager said, "OK, how about
December 22?" She took a black pen and crossed out the 9 and wrote
2 above it. A good decision, even without the familial excuse. Place
would have gotten very boring indeed after another week. A generalization -
the purpose of the rehab hospital is to take care of you until you can
take care of yourself. I am unconvinced that recovery goes any faster
in the presence of PTs than it does at home. (I guess maybe there
could be an exception for people who aren't really motivated to recover -
a taskmaster might be useful in that case. And maybe another exception
for people zonked out on opiates.) But in my case, my proposed bottom line:
don't take rehab specialists very seriously when they are deciding how
much time you need in the rehab hospital.
Okay, time for a few words about the various rehabilitation implements
they gave me. I have no idea what the accepted names for the devices
might be, so I calls them as I sees them. First was the foot lasso.
This is a loop on the end of a stick. The idea is to put the loop
over your bad foot, and pull to lift that leg into bed. I used it once
or twice. I found it much more effective to hook the left foot under
the right calf, and use it to hoist the leg into bed. For reasons I
never understood, the therapists didn't much approve of that, but from
this day forward it gave me the ability to get into bed without help.
Next was the light saber. It is actually a long shoehorn, but with a
handle like a hilt and a long shiny blade, light saber was a good name.
I never used it for its intended purpose. My everyday shoes were walking
shoes with Velcro fasteners, and slipping the feet into them was no
problem. I did use the light saber a couple of times to undo the Velcro,
which was sometimes a bit too tough to undo with the grabber.
The grabber is a couple of feet long, with a trigger in the handle to
close the jaws. It was absolutely indispensable. It gave me access to
the floor, which was otherwise unreachable.
The last device was the sock putter-on device. It was demonstrated
to me, but in the hospital I was wearing compression hose, and there is
real doubt that these could be put on even by a healthy person by
themselves. The putting on these stockings was the one service by the
nurses that I couldn't avoid. And yes, my operating philosophy was that
what I could do for myself, I wouldn't ask somebody to do for me.
Day 10, December 17, 2009.
My family started showing up. They had been planning to come to New
Mexico for Christmas anyway, so they merely rearranged dates a bit.
The Boston son few in, and met the Denver daughter at the airport.
This daughter frequently grouses about it a bit, but no matter the
obstacles, she is always there for me when I really need her. So
that was a pleasant interlude, and things went much faster thereafter.
Day 13, December 20, 2009.
By now I can, lying in bed, raise my right knee a few inches off the
sheet. I can, sitting in the wheelchair, pull my extended right leg
back towards me, nearly to the vertical; I have to use my hand to help
extend it again, though. Sitting on the right surface (the wheelchair
cushion is too soft), I can, with the exercise of great willpower and
with considerable pain, lift my foot off the floor.
Plans are progressing for the family get together. We have rented a
largish lodge near Colorado Springs for four days beginning Christmas
Eve. My son has rented a smallish SUV to take me there. Somehow,
we never got around to discussing these family plans with any medical
personnel. Why ask for trouble.
This afternoon my Hong Kong son showed up, with wife and four grandkids.
Too large a mob for a hospital room. After dinner we went down to a
little lounge area at the end of the hall, and sang Christmas Carols,
all nine of us. They had some sheet music, but mostly we sang the first verse
(all we could remember the words to) of every possible Christmas Carol.
This took over an hour, and was a real emotional high point, a very special
time. At least one other patient came down to listen in person, and there
were comments from other patients and staff that our caroling was heard and
appreciated for quite a range.
Day 15, December 22, 2009.
Release day! Only my case manager called in sick, and nobody else knew
what needed to be done or where all the paperwork was. So my planned
11 AM release dragged on and on. In a fit of impatience I declined lunch
and demanded that my son and daughter continue hanging around as well,
since I would clearly be released any minute now. They finally
decided they had a sufficient weight of paperwork to let me go about
one PM. We sallied out to freedom, and lunch.
We left the hospital with a chit for a handicap parking placard - essential -
and a prescription for the mild opiate, just in case. The prescription
was for 50 pills, which I knew was absurd. When we got it filled, we got
half. In the end, I took three pills.
I had inclined to go home for a couple of nights, and then go to
Colorado Springs in one long day on the 24th. My son and daughter,
though, declined to head 75 miles in the wrong direction. So we drove
north, stopping soon after dark in Trinidad, Colorado. It turns out,
that in a well equipped handicap room in a good motel, I can do for
myself pretty well.
Day 17, December 24, 2009.
Spent last night in a Colorado Springs motel, again a very nice handicap
room. Boston son left for Denver airport last night to pick up his foster
son joining us. Denver daughter would have liked very much to go home
for the night, but I was nervous (causelessly) about staying by myself,
so she stayed with me.
Then out to the lodge, where the kinfolk descended in droves. A very
memorable Christmas, though I couldn't much participate in the more physical
Day 19, December 26, 2009.
Pretty much wore myself out on Christmas day. Late in the afternoon, my
leg started feeling tight and lumpy. I immediately started to worry
about clots and thrombosis, and went to bed. Later found out that the lumpy
leg was just a muscle throwing a fit and tying itself in knots. Rub
the lump for a few minutes and it goes away. But I decided to go back
to the compression stocking for a while.
In one of my better ideas, I had the kids pack and bring my late wife's
bedside commode. Putting the frame over the toilet in the lodge brought
it up to a reasonable height. Without it, I would have had to have one
or maybe even two children help me onto and off the toilet. Terminally
Day 21, December 28, 2009.
We did all the usual tourist things, with me along. I usually wasn't
much problem. Couple of minor exceptions - restaurant in Manitou
Springs had no parking place less than a block away, even with the
handicap placard. Long walk, but I made it. Pikes Peak Railway,
we had seats at the opposite end of the car from the door. The aisle
down the middle was too narrow for the walker, and the seats spaced
a little wide to go seat-to-seat. Sort of faked it getting in,
managed to borrow a cane to get out, which worked well.
Then off to a comfortable handicap room in a motel in Parker, near
my daughter's house, for a little more family vacation.
Day 24, December 31, 2009.
Highlight of the stay in Parker was a visit to a museum. They had
loaner wheelchairs, and I could zip around and keep up with everybody.
Point of strain - I misunderstood which building they were pointing at
and agreed to walk from the hotel to a restaurant. Turns out to have
been about two blocks, a little beyond my comfortable range. There
was ice and snow here and there during the trip, but turns out not
to be that much problem. I figured I could manage my feet pretty
well, as long as the surface was reasonably level and I could keep
a good grip on the walker. On tricky places I asked people to brace
the walker, so it couldn't possibly slip, and I was in good shape.
Day 27, January 3, 2010.
Back home in Socorro. My daughter and son-in-law drove me down, and
my daughter will stay with me for a week, or rather spend evenings and
nights with me, as she takes a class in Albuquerque. First order of
business next week is to make a lot of health care appointments - my
primary physician, a physical therapist, my surgeon.
Day 31, January 7, 2010.
My house was well set up for handicap access, which we did for my
wife. All on one level, no steps. A raised toilet, with handrails.
Even a shower seat. No problems there.
My daughter took me grocery shopping. Our store
has electric shopping carts, which worked just fine. I foresee a
problem, though, in how to get groceries from the car into the kitchen.
Not doing too well on the appointments scene though. My primary
physician is on vacation. Home Health Care PT and outpatient PT
bounced me back and forth a few times, decided I belonged to outpatient,
and made an appointment two weeks hence. My surgeon, who said to come
see him after four to six weeks, made an appointment for seven.
Getting in and out of my small sedan is, it turns out, a lot easier than
with the SUV, which I was never able to do without help.
Week 5, January 11, 2010.
I can drive OK. The pivot of the right foot from accelerator to brake
works as well as it ever did. Only thing that didn't work as planned
first time was use of the cruise control. As the freeway exit approached,
I realized that I had, naturally, pulled my right foot back to let the
robot drive. I hadn't allowed for the time and effort of getting the
foot back in position. Before leaving rehab, they lectured me sternly
that I shouldn't drive before seeing my primary physician. But the
reason they gave was that the effects of my pain medications needed to
be properly evaluated. Not expecting adverse reactions from Tylenol,
I ignored that stricture.
I plan to go back to work this week, a couple of hours a day only.
This is more for the pleasure of seeing my friends than in expectation
of doing anything useful. I'm guessing it's over a block from the
handicap parking space back to the elevator in the back of the building
and then back to my office in the front. A non-negligible but doable
trek. And, above all, a step toward normalcy.
Week 6, January 18, 2010.
Friends took me grocery shopping. I find I can do just fine supporting
myself on the back of a regular grocery cart, and that way I can reach
the stuff on the top shelf, which I can't from the electric cart. But
carrying the stuff from car to kitchen is a useful service.
I have taken a few tentative steps supporting myself on a cane instead
of the walker. Nothing catastrophic occurred, but the security of the
walker is very comforting. Not quite ready to go to cane entirely.
I decided the Tylenol is not offering enough to be worth the bother.
I dropped the morning dose last week, am dropping the evening dose now.
Week 7, January 25, 2010.
Appointment with PT at the outpatient clinic at the hospital. She
spent this first appointment evaluating where I am and giving me a
massage. She says the latter is necessary as muscle can get all
blood engorged and then unresponsive. I suspect that is what was
happening with the various lumps on my legs some time ago. I rather
think it wasn't terribly necessary now, because of the large elapsed
time between my surgery and the first PT appointment, which allowed
most of that to resolve on its own. What she did that was most helpful,
actually, was rather to explain what this muscle did, and why it wasn't
working right, for a large selection of muscles. The basic summary:
"The muscles near your right hip are very angry at you right now."
I now get around the house pretty much exclusively with the cane,
rather than the walker. It is more tiring that way, so for long
distance transport, like to the PT's office and to work, I still use
Week 8, February 1, 2010.
Saw the surgeon last week. They took X-rays, and said things seemed to
be healing nicely. I was a little shocked when I saw the X-rays at the
great mass of metal they seem to have inserted. When I found out they
were willing to make copies for a mere $10, I bought one for a souvenir.
I get around mostly by cane these days, although I still take the walker
to work, because, as I said before, it is a long walk from the parking
lot to the elevator and back to my office.
The PT spent my second appointment designing an exercise program for
me, and working me through it. There are thirteen exercises, seven
lying and six standing, which I am to do twice a day. Three of them
are pretty painful to do.
Week 9, February 8, 2010.
Saw my primary physician. Per the recommendation of my surgeon, he
ordered a bone density scan. But he told me "It will show some
degree of osteoporosis. You can't break a healthy femur just by
falling on it."
Went swimming. Caned my way over to the ladder and slowly lowered
myself in, after warning the lifeguard that it was not unlikely that
I would need help getting out. Swam 500 yards, half what I was
accustomed to. Leg felt a little tired after that, but I could have
gone on, I guess. Swam to the ladder. All but the last step was
easy, and having got that far, I declined to back down, and climbed
out, after a little struggle.
PT last week was a little time on her Exercycle, treadmill, and
mini-tramp. OK, but nothing I couldn't do for myself.
Week 10, February 15, 2010.
Bone density scan diagnosis was "osteopenia", not as severe as osteoporosis.
Although the radiologist's report was that I met the criteria for one
of the fancy prescription bone loss preventers, my doctor recommended
just calcium supplements, and see how it goes for a while. He's very
conservative about prescribing things, which I like.
Finally started going to work with just the cane. Enormously advantageous;
I can carry a cup of coffee from the coffee maker to an easy chair
without spilling it.
PT and I agreed that there wasn't much point to my coming to PT any
longer. What I really need is to be able to walk in front of a PT
for three minutes every couple of weeks, and have her give advice on
how to improve my gait, instead of a one hour workout. Confided to
her that my goal is to walk the Chupadera Trail before the first
anniversary of the break.
Week 11, February 22, 2010.
I've been getting around the kitchen by hanging my cane on the sink,
and working my way around the L shaped kitchen by leaning on the counter.
Works very well if the left hand is on the counter, somewhat less well
if the right hand is on the counter. Anyway, I absentmindedly set off
down the hypotenuse of the L, and got two or three steps in before I
realized I had no support at all. What could I do? I shrugged and
Didn't discuss with the PT how long I should continue to do her exercises.
I decided that, just to have a goal to look forward to, I would drop
one exercise very two weeks, easier ones first. So the last of the
thirteen should go away in August, a long time from now.
Week 12, March 1, 2010.
Slowly working my way up in swimming distance, to about 800 yards.
Doing a little caneless walking about the house. Not a practical
means of transportation yet, though. Have walked around the block
each of the last two Saturdays with the hiking pole. Not pleasant,
but very practical. At work I now go upstairs with no problems.
Going downstairs is possible but difficult. Since I injured my left
knee a couple of years ago, it has insisted on being favored going
downstairs. Can't seem to keep both sides happy. One thing I can't
do is go downstairs while carrying something, even just a sheet of
paper. Then I take the elevator.
Week 14, March 15, 2010.
I have contracted to get a dog. A friend from long ago is having
to give up a loved family pet. My New York daughter has been urging
me to get a dog for years; she thinks I need somebody to look after
Walked eight blocks with the hiking pole, about half a mile. Things
are coming along in that department. Maybe by the time the dog gets
here, I'll be able to walk him enough to keep him happy.
Week 16, March 29, 2010.
Went to a valedictory vist with my surgeon. He says everything is
fine. Then he said "Besides the hip, how are you doing in general?"
I was almost too stunned to answer - a doctor, a specialist, inquiring
about something other than his joint of specialty. I finally managed
to mutter something along the line of "Oh, pretty good."
Walked twelve blocks with the hiking pole. Now swimming 900 yards,
a 10% senior discount. But not this week. Pool closed to take down
the bubble. I have dropped four of the exercises the PT gave
me, all of which I considered pretty useless. But now I may be
getting down to more substantive ones. Only one still hurts, to
lift my right thigh to horizontal while standing. That, of course,
will be one of the last to go.
Week 18, April 12, 2010.
My new dog is a winner. I celebrated his accession by taking him
on a walk, on leash, up to the Tech campus and back, a bit more than
a mile, I think. I've been walking him around the block (or rather,
the half block - we take the alley) in the morning, and again in
the afternoon (a full block this time). These are fine; I was
starting to feel a little tired after the mile.
Week 20, April 26, 2010.
Mostly get around the house without a cane these days, though I
still take the cane to work and around town. I can't really step
of a curb without something to lean on, and having to walk to a
curb cut is a nuisance and funny looking. I still have the most
horrendous limp. Wondering about the physiology of that has led
me to speculate on matters far beyond my
competence, which I have shoved to one side here, so they can be
Haven't gotten too ambitious about walking. Although a mile and a
bit is doable, and I've done another since I last mentioned, I don't
see the need to push things too hard, and I only do things I am
confident won't hurt me.
Week 22, May 10, 2010.
Walked a real (sort of, anyway) trail, the nature trail at the
Socorro Nature Area. About a mile and a half, counting the side trip
to look at the acequia. First time I've walked doggie off leash,
which he really loves. He has a thing about cats which makes me
reluctant to take off the leash while in town. On the nature trail
he takes his own time investigating one point of interest, then
sweeps past me with all four feet in the air to the next one.
I have finally stopped using the sock putter-on device. I've been
able to put on my socks for a while, and in fact have done so after
swimming, because I couldn't picture myself carrying the device into
the swim center locker room. But it hurt. I don't like being hurt.
It finally stopped hurting. Still a strain, but that's OK.
Week 24, May 24, 2010.
Now my left knee has started hurting. I don't know if it is because
it is being asked to take extra strain with the limp enforced by my
right hip, or whether it is just doing its thing. It hurt like this
a year ago, which prompted me to consult an orthopedic surgeon in
the first place. Then, after a month or six weeks, it quit hurting
so much, and I decided I did not need an immediate knee replacement.
Whether I need a knee replacement now or not, I'm not willing to
embark on a knee rehabilitation before pretty well being over the hip
As for the hip, I now get around most places without the cane. It
rides around in the car, in case, but I haven't used it in a week or
two. I do use a hiking pole while walking the dog - I get very tired
if I try to walk caneless more than three or four blocks. Our latest
foray was about two miles round trip on the diversion structure west
of town. I felt OK while doing it, but the rest of the day it seemed
to take an almost insupportable effort to take the first couple of
steps after standing up.
June 7, 2010 - Six months after.
Well, I walked a very slightly more respectable trail, the Canyon Trail
in the Bosque del Apache, about 2.5 miles.
Even at 8:30 in the morning, it was hot, hot. No more valley floor
walks until it cools off a bit.
It was interesting in several ways. First, soft sand is not really
a good surface to walk on with a bad hip. It was interesting, though
to look back at my tracks; it was very easy to say "this guy has a
really bad limp." There were a couple of aspects of walking on slopes
that I hadn't anticipated. Going down a step where the trail surface
slopes away at the bottom of the step seemed a bit frightening, and
these had to be approached with a great deal of care and planning.
And when the gravel rolled under my left foot, my right leg accepted the
sudden load OK, but it was not very happy at doing so.
Overall status. As above, I can walk reasonably, and even enjoy walking.
I can go up and down stairs (the latter only by leaning hard on the
banister). I can get around town OK, both walking and driving. I
haven't tried getting up off the floor, but I think it should work.
I do take a bath, instead of a shower, sometimes, and I can get out of
the tub OK.
I do, however, still have a horrendous limp, that seems to have no
inclination to go away. I also have a serious "first step" problem.
After standing up, it often takes four or five baby steps before the
normal, full stride, limp starts to work.
July 7, 2010 - Seven months after.
Trail walking has got me to walking the Mesa Trail, about
four miles. It is a trail I have actually walked before. The other
time I walked it, though, it was covered with six or eight inches of
fresh snow, somewhat increasing the level of difficulty.
My legs worked pretty well. However, I did get very tired, and
had to stop and rest every few minutes, even going downhill.
I'm clearly not up for long walks yet. I was averaging well
less than 1 MPH.
Overall status. As above, I can walk reasonably, though I do get
unreasonably tired doing so. Going downstairs works pretty well,
almost as well as before the break - the remaining lurch is due to
my bad left knee.
The terrible limp is still there, though there is a bit of hope. If
I warm up by walking a half-block or block, and then concentrate
intensively on walking symmetrically, I can get rid of the limp. For
maybe half a block. After a block it is back in full force. As
implied above, I still have a serious "first step" problem. After
standing up, it usually takes two or three shuffles before I can walk
at all, and then only with the major limp.
August 7, 2010 - Eight months after.
Still the limp is there, but perhaps more annoying at the moment
is the first step effect. The real first step after standing up,
I can't lift the left foot off the floor at all. After three
or so shuffles, I can walk, with a major limp. The limp goes
away after I've walked half a block or so, but comes back if I
The longest I've walked since the break is now 6.25 miles, says
the GPS. And about 1500 feet of elevation to be gained. That was
a little longer than I intended, but I either missed a turn in the
trail, or else there were some dead-falls crossing the trail that
seemed pretty impenetrable to the agility impaired. Anyway, I
turned back and returned the way I came. After this I was totally
exhausted. And this is of more concern than the limp. I seem to
have no stamina at all. I'm not sure if this is due to the hip
or if I'm just showing my age. I hope the former, and that it
gets better soon, but maybe I'm just whistling in the dark.
September 7, 2010 - Nine months after.
I'm trail walking again!
True, at 7 miles, the Hop Canyon to North Baldy trail is the shortest
of my favorites. But the 2000 foot elevation gain belies any attempt
to call it too short. Yes, I was tired, but only normally tired. And
yes, it took 7h to walk, but I still finished in daylight.
When I first went to the PT, she said that nine months after, I'd
occasionally forget entirely about the broken hip. It isn't true.
I've still the "first step effect" that reminds me every time I
stand up. I typically limp around inside, because inside isn't
big enough to satisfy the first step limp sequence. Walking with
a hiking pole is pretty limpless, or medium distances (half block
to maybe three blocks) without any support. But really the limp I
have now is just bad aesthetics; I no longer use the broken hip as an
excuse to not do something. (True, I can often find other excuses.)
I'm undecided about what, if anything, to do about the left knee.
True, it causes me to hobble down stairs in a most ungainly
fashion, or, in the absence of a banister, to go one step at
a time, stepping down with the left foot always. But it seems
to hang in there while trail walking, and isn't generally painful.
Getting it fixed doesn't strike me as worth another few months of
rehab right now.
October 7, 2010 - Ten months after.
When I broke my hip, the thing that hit me hardest was thinking
about the things I'd have to give up. First among these was falling
down. Well, somehow I didn't quite give up falling down. To give
up falling down means taking great precautions against doing so.
This means walking, most of the time, with a cane, and means
refraining from various fall-prone activities:
Walking the dog at night
Walking as fast as possible when I'm in a hurry
All have, in the past, provided the context for a fall of greater or
lessor seriousness. Despite knowing quite well what is best for me,
in a series of gradual decisions, I have eschewed the cane and
gradually taken up the activities above.
So I fell down. While trail walking, of course. The gravel rolled
under both feet at once, and the hiker pole wasn't in the right
position to help out. So the first decision was whether to fall
gracefully, or flail around in hopes of recovering my balance. The
conservative decision was to fall gracefully, so I
set out to lower my center of gravity as smoothly as possible. At
that point, it occurred to me to wonder if there was something to
do to minimize the impact on my right hip. But I impacted before
I could finish that calculation. I landed squarely on my glutei
maximi, a little more heavily on the right than on the left. In
retrospect, this was probably better - I'm sure that with the
massive titanium shelf bracket they installed on the right, it is
probably stronger than the left.
My first reaction on falling was to call the dog to come provide
comfort and compassion (he had trotted half a block or so ahead).
But when he didn't show up after thirty or forty seconds, I stood
up and walked on.
I was a little stiff the next day.
November 7, 2010 - Eleven months after.
When I went to the physical therapist after my broken hip, I confided
that my goal was to walk the Chupadera Wilderness Trail (10 miles,
2000ft) before the first anniversary. Now I've done that. Took
six and a half hours. Quite a bit slower than a speeding bullet,
but still a fairly pleasant way to spend a day. Nice to have that
out of the way. Now I can enjoy each walk for its own sake, not
as a step in a training program.
Still have a limp, though I think it may be slowly resolving. The
muscles that seem to be still weak are ones exercised in normal
walking, so I guess I'll just putter along.
December 7, 2010 - One year after.
Hmmm. A blog about a broken hip. Did I have a broken hip?
I must have, otherwise the walker folded against the utility
room wall behind the water heater and the sock putter-on device
in a nook in the bedroom are sort of hard to explain. Also, it
is almost certainly the cause of this annoying limp. Objective
tests show that the right glutes are just not quite working right.
Alternative explanations blaming the left knee do not quite work,
despite the fact that in situations like going down stairs, or
climbing the ladder out of the swimming pool, or steep spots on the
trail, it is clear that the right leg is the good leg, in the sense
of "up with the good, down with the bad".
In any event, this blog seems to be winding down in events and
interest, so I guess it's time to put a stop. If I get into
an interesting situation with another joint, I'll come back here
and drop in a link.
So long for now.
Would you believe that I did the same damn
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