Write In Between

Friday, July 11, 2008

Hip Trip: In search of a good leg to stand on, Part 2

Psalm 139: 1-6; 13-16. RSV

O LORD, thou hast searched me and known me!

Thou knowest when I sit down and when I rise up;

thou discernest my thoughts from afar.

Thou searchest out my path and my lying down,

and art acquainted with all my ways.

Even before a word is on my tongue, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether.

Thou dost beset me behind and before, and layest thy hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it.

For thou didst form my inward parts,

thou didst knit me together in my mother's womb.

I praise thee, for thou art fearful and wonderful.

Wonderful are thy works!

Thou knowest me right well;

my frame was not hidden from thee,

when I was being made in secret,

intricately wrought in the depths of the earth.

Thy eyes beheld my unformed substance;

in thy book were written, every one of them,

the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.

SOME OF THE MEDICAL FACTS. As I wrote before in Part 1, the path to hip replacement started with pain. My first medical work-up revealed I had congenital bilateral hip dysplasia and early osteoarthritis in each hip. Meaning: the deformity of my hip joints have been with me since the womb, and over time, they have develop secondary issues.

Hip dysplasia is routinely screened for in infants these days. And most likely, I was screened for it as well as an infant. Perhaps my case was so mild back then that it went undetected. And since I never suffered hip pain in childhood or young adulthood, there was never any previous investigation prior to age 42 when my hip pain first began in 2002.

There is some research that says some of the most likely hip dysplasia candidates are first-born, female, and breach. Yours truly was all three.

Looking back, as I have reviewed my medical history for the doctors, I didn't exhibit painful symptoms, but some symptoms were there for as long as I could remember. For example, I always wore leather-soled shoes to go with my Catholic-school uniform. Loafers, Maryjane's, etc. They had leather or rubber heels. I habitually wore out the right heel of my shoes and needed new taps on my right shoe before my left shoe wore out. (It was my right hip that was replaced.)
As a youth, I played many sports, some on the varsity level. I backpacked. I rode horses. I swam in the ocean and trained to be a life guard. I played guitar and stood for hours with the weight of it slung around my neck while I performed. I never once had a hospital visit for illness or pain.

As an adult, I had very sedentary jobs in offices and studios. Not that much on my feet, but I was active on the weekends--gardening, traveling, taking part in Church and community events.
My first encounter with "illness" or feeling poorly for an extended period of time were my pregnancies. (Sorry kids! Don't mean to complain! You were worth it!) My first hospitalization was for my first baby. During my pregnancies, I was always "borderline" high-risk. I had every negative symptom imaginable, usually right under the the threshold of "serious". I also suffered very bad sciatica pain during my third trimesters, resulting in occasional use of a cane toward the ninth month. We always thought it was due my short-waisted carriage or my lower back giving me problems. One orthopedic specialist said, no, it was the hip all along.

In 1991, after a head-on car collision, that resulted in seat-belt related injuries and a whiplash, I landed in physical therapy for a year. My physical therapist constantly had problems helping me adjust my hip and leg alignments. He was the first to tell me: you have one leg longer than another. This, I later learned, is one of the most common complaints of hip dysplasia patients.

In the late 90s, I noticed I was not as limber and lithe as I use to be... I had trouble crossing my legs now and again, and set out on a path of weight loss and exercise. Despite weight loss, the ability to cross my legs continues, and by 2002, the diagnosis was made.

Over the last few years, I have gotten much relief from chiropractic care. And have learned that after hip replacement, I can still be "adjusted."

Between 2002 and 2008, as I wrote in Part 1, I saw a slow decline in movement and range of motion, and I just adjusted my life accordingly. I also sought the medical opinions of three renown orthopedic surgeons, in two different hospitals, and settled on be treated at Mass General Hospital in Boston by Dennis Burke, MD.

Surgery was June 30. I am on Day 12 in my recovery.

SOME OF THE SPIRITUAL FACTS. As a breast cancer survivor, also treated by the talented surgeons at Mass General, I was a bit nervous entering the white coat zone for another go-round of long-time rehab. Of course, this was orthopedics and not oncology. And if I had to pick one, I'd go with an orthopedic problem each time. But the ghosts of old memories can tend to linger, so I was none too quick to submit to another round with the scapel.

The news of needing a new hip did not sit well with me for a long time. For a long time, I denied it. Until I realized I was turning into a cranky person when I was in pain all day long. Even when I was eating Advil like candy. As I became more enfeebled physically, it messed with me mentally. I often felt like a weak person in character. I needed to attack a creeping pessimism that was taking hold of me.

I was also a little perturbed with God in that I needed to suffer another "big" medical thing. As if by having breast cancer already, I had somehow paid my dues in the suffering dept. What a childish lack of faith on my part.

But, in time, I sought God's light on the subject in prayer and in the Scriptures.

Psalm 139, listed above, became my go-to prayer verse in doing war with the negativity I was feeling about this next yet-to-be-removed body part. I came to notice that my hip condition predated my birth and my baptism. The only one it was known to initially was the Lord himself. And He Who had the power to change it must have had a reason why he left my little deformed hip as it was. Maybe it was going to be for His Glory. Maybe it was going to be for my sanctification. Maybe it was going to be the death of me. Maybe it was going to be life-changing in a positive way for me. But this psalm strangely brought me deep, abiding, comfort. The kind that stays with you. I, who had done nothing to cause this problem, could do nothing to cure it. I must rely on Him, and ultimately, others that He would use, to help me when the time came.

My frame was not hidden from God's eyes. My bones were, you might say, ordained by Him in that He allowed me to be created in this unique way. I had to come to trust that his Divine Love allows for imperfection and weakness to manifest His Perfection and Strength. If not now, in eternity.

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