Bone Saws, Opiates & the Daily Black Pants

I have been asked to provide an update on my recovery:

I knew that I was having major surgery — but I admit I didn’t really grasp the scope of the recovery — how long it would be, how slow it would be. Just — the whole of it.

Which, I have to believe, was probably good. I realized, a couple of weeks before, while watching an episode of Westworld with R, upon seeing a bone saw, that this was probably the tool that would be used to cut off part of my femur to allow fitting of the new joint parts. The sight of that bone saw sent my stomach into a whirl — and I promptly announced that we would not be watching anything that would have anything to do with blood or surgery.

That was a wise choice.

Today is Day 17 following my total hip replacement surgery. I was in the hospital for thirty hours following my surgery — I was home for dinner the day after my surgery — in no condition to be at home….in my humble opinion.

This surgery is a trauma…a knocking-about and sawing and fitting. There is blood loss. All of this matters only because it affects how quickly one will recover from it. As G said to me this week: this surgery is not for wussies.

So now I am home, on the couch, two days after surgery, white-knuckling it because I have somehow gotten behind the pain — probably because my physician shamed me 24 hours after my surgery into not taking the medication I needed to keep my pain under a 7 out of 10. For a week, at least.

And I am trying to distract myself. I am breathing, I am looking out the window. (I am praying)

I am thinking of the events in my life I am hoping to attend in the coming weeks. I am thinking I need black pants. Of a certain shape to fit my post-surgical self.

I start ordering some. It’s all about the distraction.

Days go by. I am using the walker to find my way to the bathroom where I am greeted with the raised toilet seat…with handles. I am suddenly the Queen of Medical Accommodations.

I change my clothes daily.  I have a clean face, clean teeth.  I have a semi-permanent matte of knotted hair on the back of my head from lying down…like a toddler.

It’s ridiculous.

Every few afternoons my dog barks and packages appear at the front door. Boxes and boxes of black pants…the Daily Black Pant Arrival, we call it. I send almost all of them back.

I obsess about my niece’s wedding in a month…will I be able to go? I obsess about what I will wear.
Suddenly packages appear at the front door…dresses to wear to a wedding which can be worn with plain flat shoes and won’t look ridiculous if I still have my walker.

The Daily Wedding Guest Dress Arrival. They all are sent back.

But hey, it is all about the distraction. I find an online forum, learn tools to manage pain…to manage nausea, digestive consequences of opiates. I learn about the ODIC — the OverDid It Club…when you hardly do anything at all — maybe you go to the bathroom one or two extra times that day or take a shower and suddenly it is all too much and you are in bad shape and praying…for a few more days.

Friends come to visit me one morning with their three year-old. She discovers my toilet lift (with handles!) and loves it so much she uses my Super Potty four times in the twenty-five minutes she is here…Super Potty Adventure!   (And…they brought donuts.)

I am grateful to friends who have brought food. So grateful.
I am so grateful to people who have suggested things to watch — but truthfully — I haven’t felt like watching much.

I did feel well enough to read a book a few days ago — and I was really proud of myself.

Today is Day 17, as I mentioned. I am on the couch most of the time. I am, at this point, still using my walker. Yesterday I thought I should graduate to two crutches…and today I am fully aware that I was not ready and my online cohort has welcomed me into the ODIC…I have overdone it.

The largest adjustment to this surgery probably is psychological. It represents a change of how I see myself. Temporary though this recovery may be…it is a huge adjustment nevertheless. I cannot do for myself, I am knocked off my feet. I thought that maybe I couldn’t write this post until I felt ‘funny enough’ — but the funniest parts of my day involve my walker, prunes and the Daily Black Pants.

And who wants to write about that?

After years of being the practitioner, I am now the patient.

I am winter. I am still. I sit on ice most of the time. I wait, like winter. Like winter, I am rest, I am forced patience, I am bare.   It is January…in September.

In time there will be more movement. There will be movement that won’t result in more pain, that won’t be ‘doing too much’.

But not yet.

I thought there were things I would be able to do this week…in the coming week…that will not happen.

I listen to podcasts…the news. I look at the walls. I breathe. I wait to heal.

This is an opportunity for me. I know it is. In the same way that a tulip bulb rests under the snow for months, waiting for its time…that is me. Soon it will be time.
But not yet.

And tomorrow there will be another arrival of the Daily Black Pants.


  1. I fell down a flight of stairs onto my right shoulder … in Mexico. Luckily I was near a major city and got excellent care including same day surgery and two days later flew home. After I ran out of my take home drugs from the hospital I also struggled with managing my pain. I was taking overdose levels of Ibuprofen in a vain attempt to handle it and finally got back onto a sensible pain management regime. One side effect was constipation of near biblical levels (involving a midnight trip to the emergency room).

    I spent 2 1/2 months sleeping in a recliner. And it was a happy day when I was able to shower by myself. A happy day when I was able to feed myself with my right hand. Another happy day when I drove my car three blocks (had my husband with me to take over if needed).

    And then my hair started falling out, pitter-pattering down like summer rain. I found large bald spots where my bangs used to be. But it finally grew back and I learned to eat right handed again and sleep in my big girl bed and drive and dress myself and life is pretty much normal except I do physical therapy every single day and will for forever.

    Your post brought back a lot of memories of just how far I’ve come since that sunny day in Mexico.

  2. I had two total hip replacements a few years back, six months apart, and you are not kidding about how much it knocks you for a loop. The very hardest part for me was feeling at any given moment like I was *never* getting better. I’d ask my partner every time he came over, “Do you think I’ll ever be able to walk/do laundry/garden/drive/whatever again?” and he’d help me list all the things I could do that I hadn’t been able to the week before.

    I recommend reading as much as you can – lie on the couch, read, nap, and have other people prepare food. The temptation to overdo is strong!

    I’m two years out now and am happy to report that a. six weeks really IS a turning point, although you likely won’t be totally healed up for a while after that and b. the chronic pain and limited mobility I struggled with before surgery is really a thing of the past. I don’t run, and occasionally I have some twinges of pain, but I’m otherwise completely back to my pre-pain level of activity (I walk, bike, do stairs, garden, cut the grass, etc. etc.). You’ll feel better sooner if you rest as much as you can.

    Healing to you!

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