Mimi, 65, is married with two adult children. She works full time at the University of Southern California athletic department as a learning specialist. Mimi played golf, tennis and was a long distance runner. She first felt hip pain while training for her first LA Marathon. But it wasn’t until five years later the pain intensified. She, at first, thought it was back pain. Walking around, getting in and out of her car and caring for her two young children became difficult. After a surgeon recommended hip surgery, Mimi called her brother who had had the surgery 10 years prior. Though he warned her about the operation and recovery, Mimi knew that there had been a lot of medical advances. When she finally agreed to the surgery she saw how different her experience was from what he had described.
MIMI: Mm-hmm. I'm Mimi. I'm 65 years old. I have a husband and two adult children, and I work full time at the USC athletic department as a learning specialist working with high profile student athletes. I love my job.
MIMI: Before hip pain, I was really active, played tennis, golf. I was really into long distance running. That's actually when I first started noticing my hip pain, was when I was training for my first LA marathon, and I was running on sidewalks rather than a track or grass. And, I noticed after I would run for like an hour or so that sometimes I had a little bit of pain. And, that was really my first indication that I had anything wrong with my hips at all. And then, it subsided and I didn't really think of it that much 'cause then I wasn't running as long of a distance. It was-kinda remained that way for several years, and it wasn't until, you know, probably at least five years later that I started to have pain.
MIMI: At first we thought it was back pain. So, I was dealing with my back quite a bit, and then I saw a different orthopedic guy, and he said, “You know, I think you have some hip pain.” And, that's when we started paying attention to my hip.
MIMI: When you have chronic pain, no one can appreciate what that's like until you experience it. And, you take for granted things that are really easy to do like sleeping, and getting in and out of the car. Getting in and out of the car was… 'Cause it was my left pa-hip that was the initial problem, and I even got a SUV so I was elevated so that I could step down rather than stepping, uh, laterally. 'Cause that was easier. In my job, I sit, and I couldn't sit for long periods of time. My children were younger, and I-I had to take care of them, and, you know, walking up and down stairs in my house was difficult. Walking, uh, from the parking structure to my office was difficult, and there's no point complaining about it because there's nothing anybody can do. So, you just kind of live with it. You just, kind of, gut through it. So, I could walk, and do all those things. I didn't do any long distance running anymore because it just was way too painful.
MIMI: The point where I decided I needed to do something was when my sleeping was just so difficult because you can never get comfortable, and you can't sleep on the side where the pain is. So, you try sleeping on the other side, but then the weight of your leg drags it over. And, even though you are not sleeping on it, [it?] starts to hurt. So, you're never really comfortable, and I think that's where I decided that, you know, this is crazy. So, that's when you know that you can't continue anymore. When the-the daily functions of your life are no longer easy to do, and you get compromised.
MIMI: When the surgeon first suggested that I might need hip replacement surgery, um, I called my older brother because he had had both of his hips replaced. But, that had been quite a while, and I do remember going down to see him when he had his hip replacement surgery. And, that had probably been 10 years earlier, and there was a whole different procedure at that time. I love my brother dearly, but he kind of scared me because he told me, “Oh, you'll have to be on crutches, and you're gonna do all these different things.” And so, he goes, “You need to put it off until you absolutely can't stand the pain any-anymore.” You know, I just kinda kept putting it off, and putting it off, and then when I finally decided, “Okay, this is it. I gotta get it done,” it was so different than what he had described to me. I kind of wished I had done it earlier just because, to me, it was like a light switch.
MIMI: I remember the weekend before I was gonna have my surgery it was my brother's birthday, and we had a big birthday party for him. And, he had a band. We were dancing. I thought, “Okay, if I'm having surgery I'm gonna live it up the weekend before.” So, I was dancing, having a great time. And, I thought, “Maybe I don't need the surgery 'cause I'm doing okay here.” I'm dancing and everyone goes, “Oh, I know. You don't need it.” You know, I thought, no. I-I need it. I need it. So, I went in and had the surgery.
MIMI: Going into it, I really had no fear. Even though my brother had told me different things that he had had, I knew that his surgery was 10 years prior to mine. And, I knew my s-procedure was going to be different. So, I think that's my personality. I just didn't worry. I thought, “What's the point of worrying?”
MIMI: As soon as I had the surgery… You know, you have surgical pain, but you don't have that pain where every movement you feel the pain of your hip. That was pretty immediate. So, that was pretty nice. Although you're just kind of tender where the surgery is. Within 24 hours the nurse and physical therapist came in to get me up and out of bed, and I was not prepared for that. I was really shocked. I thought, “I have to stand up?” And, that was probably the only fear I had was, “Is it gonna hold me up?” And, it did. And so, then as soon as I got my footing, and it-that was fine, they said, “Okay, now walk over to the door.” [LAUGH] I'm thinking, “What?! I'm gonna walk to the door?” And, I did. I walked to the door, turned around, walked back to the bed, got in bed, and I thought, “Ha, okay.” And then, they keep having you get up and walk around, and walk up and down stairs, and since I lived in a two-story home they wanted to make sure that I could get up and down stairs right away before they would let me go home.
MIMI: You know, my husband was so nice, and he had, sort of, made things in our house so that it would be easier for me to get in and out. But, the ride home was kinda scary, just the jostling in the car because you're-you've been lying down the whole time. You know the nurses are there, and, you know, if something goes wrong somebody can help you. My husband had gotten a hospital bed put in our downstairs library area, and he had this whole downstairs library area set up with that l-hospital bed, and the little port-a-potty thing, chair seat for me. And, so it was like the room was nice, and I could be there, and I wasn't isolated. I was, kind of, still within the family area, and I stayed down there for probably a week after I got home from the hospital. And then, I eventually went upstairs. At that time we had an old bathtub and shower, and he had put a seat in the bathtub so that I could-a bench so you could kind of sit on the bench and then swivel/pivot into the bathtub to take a shower and get cleaned up. And, as long as you kinda pace yourself in those things you find that you can do more than you think you can.
MIMI: When I first came home from the hospital, I don't really care for pain medication so I kept that to a minimum. The main thing that I found that was the most helpful was this thing called “Game Ready” that circulated cold water, and you put, like, this Velcro, um, belt around your hips. And, it just circulates the water all through this Velcro pad that you have on your hip. And, that made all the difference in the world 'cause it keeps the swelling down.
MIMI: I think the first two weeks after surgery is the most critical. You need to have a lot of ice to keep the swelling down, and to keep your comfort level up. Because if you have a lot of swelling it's harder to do the exercises and the physical therapy. That just gave me a lot of relief. And, my kids were so nice. They would fill this thing up for me all the time, and they kind of viewed that as their little job. And, you have to wear those stockings so that you don't get any blood clots. And, my daughter was in charge of putting the water in the ice machine so that I would keep that going, and my son would help me with take these socks on and off because that was kind of hard when you want to change those. So, my kids and my husband really took good care of me, and I have to say there were my motivation. I wanted to demonstrate to my children that when something goes wrong in life, you stop, you take care of it, and you move on right away. And, you don't dwell on the negative, and you have a positive attitude. And, it's important to do what the doctors tell you to do.
MIMI: I had a physical therapist come to my house, and walk me through the exercises each day, and then I had to do more on my own. So, I did that, and I'm not always a model patient, but this particular time I was. I did everything they told me to do exactly how they told me to do it because I really wanted to get up and on my feet as fast as I could.
MIMI: When I first came home from the hospital, I had the walker. I didn't really like using that, but I needed it. And, it did give you security. And so, I walked all around the house with my walker. Then they tell you to go outside and walk a little bit, and I would walk with a cane up and down the street. And, one of my kids or my husband would walk with me just, you know, in case something went wrong which it never did.
MIMI: I went for my checkup, and the doctor said, “Okay, you c-doin' great.” And, I said, “Do I still need this walker, do I still need this cane?” And, he goes, “No, you can use whatever you want.” And so, from two weeks on I didn't use anything after that.
MIMI: My son was playing baseball, and I wanted to go to one of his baseball games during that two week period. And so, I walked across this baseball field with my cane. That was a mistake because I had pushed myself too far. And so, that kinda set me back a couple of days. So it's-it's kind of important to pace yourself, but not push yourself so far that you set yourself back.
MIMI: The day after my six weeks clearance, we went to Hawaii for a week because it was our anniversary. And, the one thing I do remember about that that was funny is because the hip implants were new I was setting off all kinds of security sensors at the time. I didn't realize what was going on, and even in stores I was setting s-sensors off as I was shopping for some things before the trip. I mean, I went into the water, and things like that, but I didn't go out on the boat because I thought that might be a little too much jostling. And then, I went back to work full time after that. And, that was probably eight weeks total from when I had the surgery to-to when I actually went back to work, and was driving and doing everything on my own.
MIMI: When I went back to work, the first couple a days, um, I remember I got tired earlier than I thought I would. After I finished meeting with students I was tired. And then, rather than staying and doing reports, or doing extra work, I wanted to go home 'cause I had, sort of, had it. Maybe the first two days, but then after that I was fine. A lot of it is your attitude. I mean, you just kinda have to push forward. I-That's how I dealt with it, at least.
MIMI: Four years later when I started having pain on the right side, and I went to see the doctor and he took the x-rays. And, he said, “No, you're bone on bone again. You need to have the next hip replacement done.” And, I said, “Okay, fine. Let's schedule. Let's do it”. I had the same ice circulating. I had, um, did all my same physical therapy. We'd had our house remodeled so I didn't have the same shower issue. My friends were so nice to give us meals for like a month, and after two weeks my husband said, “You know, tell them to stop bringing the meals 'cause you're answering the door, and you're just walking around fine. This is getting embarrassing.” So, after two weeks [MAKES GESTURE] I didn't have free meals anymore [LAUGH].
MIMI: Yeah, after having both hip replacement surgeries, you know, I've pretty much returned to a fully normal, active lifestyle. Although, I don't do any long distance running anymore. I do walking, a lot of walking, and a lot of hiking. In fact, in the last year I hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, and around the bottom of the canyon the next day. And then, the third day I hiked out of the Grand Canyon. That was four years after my second hip surgery.
MIMI: You know, I talked to my doctor, “Is there anything I can't do?” And, he… [LAUGH] The only thing he told me not to do was bungee cord jumping which, you know, I wasn't planning on that anyway. So, it's okay.
MIMI: And, I'm really glad I did the second one earlier the-before I had the massive pain, the chronic pain that I had the first time. Because, uh, I think, you know, it's just easier to recover. I mean, you're just stronger 'cause when you have that chronic pain it just wears you down.
MIMI: The mental side of chronic pain is probably the worst part of it. You wake up, and you know you're gonna hurt all day long. And, you're always kinda thinking, “Okay, can I move this way without… Which way is gonna be less pain.” You know, I didn't get depressed, but I know other people have because when there's no relief you think, “Oh, what the heck.” That's the hard part about chronic pain is there's no escape. There's no getting away from it. And you can take pain pills or whatever, but it would but last for a little while. But then, it was over, and then you were right back where you were. So, it's just a cycle that you don't wanna get involved in. So, it's better to get the surgery so then the pain's gone.
MIMI: I think the message that I would have to anyone who's considering hip surgery because they've been in this painful situation is do it as soon as you can. Because, you'll have so much relief when you do, and there's really no reason to put yourself through all this pain. The surgery, you recover from, you're good to go two, four, six weeks later, and it's like you got a whole new life all over again. The surgery is so minimal compared to the chronic pain. So, I would encourage anyone that was thinking about having hip surgery to do it because it is literally like a light switch. You're in so much pain, and then you're in none, and you get your life back.