It’s been almost a week, and honestly I am amazed at how little pain I feel and how quickly I am progressing. I’m able to put a little more weight on my leg and walk a tiny bit more every day. It’s pretty remarkable.
I am convinced that the hard part of this surgery is not the immediate physical recovery, but the mental game that comes with it. Granted, I was in relatively good shape going into surgery, and I am young, so I already have a massive head start in my recovery, but the mental part is different. I am constantly wondering if it should feel a certain way or if I am going too fast or too slow.
“Was that pain I just felt normal?” “Did I walk too much today?”
“Will I be able to do this again?” “How long until I can do that again?”
“Will I need a revision surgery in 15, 20, or 25 years?” “Am I ever going to be able to…?”
There is just so much uncertainty that really weighs on you when you are limited to very few steps a day.
On top of that, comes the forced slow down of life. Let’s face it, I am a very active person. I walk my dog AT LEAST twice a day, play with her, do stuff around the house, exercise, and find whatever I can to fill the day. It is absolutely killing me to not not be able to do those things AND to not know if I am overdoing it when I TRY to do those things. On top of that, my stomach has not entirely agreed with the anesthesia and pain medications, so there have been added challenges beyond my actual hip healing.
I am trying so hard to stay positive, but I can so easily see how depression could swiftly kick in to a person undergoing this procedure.
But as a whole, from the healing perspective, things are really great. I even dropped into a Crossfit New Haven class yesterday and did a few, light stretches. It brought me back to my Tae Kwon Do days when I stood in the back of class and did 100’s of push ups after my compartment syndrome surgeries. Fun times, fun times. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to do all that much just yet, but it’s been 5 days so….
Part of the uncertainty of what I am going through is the wide-array of internet advice on hip replacement surgery. There are SO MANY ARTICLES telling you what you should feel on a certain day and what you should or should not do in recovery. My take is that the vast majority of those articles are written for an age group of 65+, and my age group’s “advice column” doesn’t even exist!
These are purely my experiences. I am simply sharing so that a person going through this at a similar age may have some reference as to what they should be feeling on any given day after surgery, in bullet point form.
Days 3-5 after surgery:
I’m going back to my original theory that the reason there are no articles or guides for young people getting their hip(s) replaced is because everyone recovers so fast and forgets it even happened. Don’t get me wrong-- there are still moments of discomfort, and I am by no means out of the woods, but I am starting to believe that it might just be as easy as they say it is-- despite my mild mental turmoil.
I did manage to do a Zoom call with 30 4th and 5th graders and NO ONE KNEW anything had even happened to me. #forthewin
I am officially titanium. Although I don’t necessarily “feel” that way. It’s strange that they can literally cut a piece of your bone out and replace it with new parts and you wouldn’t even know it.
After going to the wrong hospital at 5:00 AM on Thursday morning, we eventually made it to the CORRECT location, only to have a wrench thrown in our plans by good ol’ Covid-19. Joseph had to essentially drop me off at the hospital and wasn’t allowed to stay in any way, shape, or form-- not even in the lobby while I waited to register. I was in this by myself. As if my anxiety wasn’t high enough already.
So I get checked in, change into my gown, shove this nasty iodine solution up my nose to clean it out, wipe myself with disinfecting wipes that smell terrible, and it’s time to put my IV in. Did I mention I don’t always do well with needles? Well, I don’t. The IV is inserted and I begin to see stars. “I’m going to pass out,” I tell the nurse. Sure enough, I wake up, surrounded by the nursing staff with a cold washcloth on my face asking me if I’m ok, and if this is “normal.” I suppose it’s not “normal” in the sense of the word “normal,” but for me, it’s pretty much expected. I’m glad I got it out of my system.
The next part totally blows my mind when I really think about it. You see, they had to do some sort of spinal injection to numb my legs. I was supposed to be “awake” for it. During my PAO surgery, I had an epidural inserted and I nearly had a mental breakdown, so needless to say, I was quite nervous for this spinal injection. They had me sit up on the side of the bed and all I can remember is asking for more drugs to calm me down. The nurses were asking me what I did for a living, “I teach elementary school music,” and next thing I know I am waking up in recovery. Of course, my first question was about the spinal injection, because I had no recollection of it whatsoever, and they shared that I didn’t have any problems and I was “awake” for it. Hah, ok. I wonder what crazy things I said when I was supposedly “awake.”
The surgery was SO QUICK. I went “under” around 7:30 AM, they were done operating around 9 AM, and I started to wake up around 10 AM. CRAZY! Fortunately, they let Joseph stay in the recovery room while I was waking up. Because of the injection, when I woke up, my legs were both numb, but I quickly regained feeling in them. Honestly, the pain level wasn’t all that bad.
Then comes the fun part...
Nurse: “Here’s your oxycontin!”
Me: “I don’t really do well with oxycontin-- it makes me really sick.”
Nurse: “Ok, we will give you some nausea medication to go with it.”
Me: “Alright, let’s try it.”
Nope. No. No way.
My stomach and oxycontin DO NOT MIX. Just after taking it, I had a nauseous, almost-black-out, blood pressure dropped, all-out panic attack. I think there were about 4 nurses and 3 doctors (including the surgeon) in the room with me, watching the color leave my face and my lips turn blue.
I should mention a couple of things in regard to this part of the story-- 1. My surgeon said the surgery went extremely well. He was able to take out the old parts and put a nice, new hip in there. 2. He said my hip was way worse than he expected it to be. His exact words were, “You had the hip of a 70-year-old in there.” 3. Because of my previous surgery, there was a lot of scar tissue in that area, meaning I lost more blood than is usual for this procedure. Hence my blood pressure dropping and mild panic attack.
Typically they don’t have hip replacement patients spend the night. Crazy, I know. But it really is true. They were really trying everything in their power to have my go home. My “goals” board even read, “Eat, Physical Therapy, Discharge.” However, this minor set-back led the doctor to decide two things. 1. I will get a unit of blood. And 2. I should spend the night.
I was actually pretty happy that he had me spend the night. I didn’t feel totally comfortable going home just yet. I was moving my leg a little bit, but every time I tried to sit up, my blood pressure dropped crazy low and I would get super dizzy. I was still very nauseous and not able to get up and walk or eat much, so my PT was pushed back and I was having a hospital sleepover.
After a dinner that consisted of about 28 saltine crackers, and a typical night in the hospital (being woken up every 3 hours to check my vitals), it was morning, and time for me to rise and shine. The nurses came every now and then to check my orthostatic blood pressure. They took it while I was laying down, sitting up, and standing up. Unfortunately, I still wasn’t able to stand long enough without getting dizzy and my BP dropping too low. It was touch and go for a while, but eventually, I was able to walk to the door and back, albeit, very slowly. Nonetheless, I cleared PT. Next, the occupational therapist came and did her own screening. My BP was still dropping when I stood up, but it would come up super quick, so after some hesitation, she also cleared me. The extra blood work came back all clear, so I was officially checking out!
I had busted out of the joint.
The pain hasn’t been too bad-- it was more uncomfortable than anything. I feel like there is a giant knot in my quad that won’t go away. It’s been tough to get comfortable, but it is definitely getting better every day. The first full day of being home (day 3 post-op), I was moving very slowly and putting hardly any weight on my leg. I started to be able to slide it up and down from a straight position to a bent position, without using my arms or right leg to help it. They want me to be able to slide it out to the left as well, but I’m not quite there yet. They also prescribed me glute squeezes, but really, I long for the day I can do FROG PUMPS again. (My CFNH friends will understand the reference.)
As of this morning, day 4, I am actually putting weight on it, moving better, and the pain is hardly any. There is definitely still some discomfort, but I can’t believe how quickly I’m improving. This procedure is pretty remarkable. When I look at my x-ray, I am blown away by the fact that they could do that to me and I was still able to get up and WALK the very next day.
If I’m being perfectly honest, it was a rough-go for the first 2-days. I tried my hardest to stay strong and be the “warrior” who so many people told me I was. I definitely doubted myself and questioned why I had this procedure done. But I kept telling myself that I could do it and that I had to do it. So far, my hip replacement has proven to be significantly easier than the PAO I had almost 10 years ago. I know my recovery is far from over, but I am completely blown away at the fast progress I’ve been able to make, even if I did regret it for the first day or so.
I’ll sprinkle some more details in from my hospital stay as they fit, but my biggest takeaway from this thing is that if you can embrace the suck for the first couple of days, it’ll all be worth it-- especially when your doctor says, “Your hip was much worse than I expected it to be. Good thing you had this taken care of now.”
Helllllo new hip! 😍😍😍😍
I am getting my hip replaced tomorrow. I’m 29 years old.
Common responses to this statement include: “What?” “You?” “Huh?” and “No way!” But yes, it is really happening, and no I am not making this up in any way. Here is the full story:
I grew up doing Tae Kwon Do. It was my ‘thing,’ if you will. Head kicks, board breaking, hardcore stretching, and all, it was everything. Then in 2009, I started to have some hip pain. It mostly hurt when I was stretching, but it was just one of those things that wouldn’t go away. So I went to the doctor and was told, “We don’t see anything wrong. Maybe you just shouldn’t do Tae Kwon Do anymore.”
I made my way to another doctor for a second opinion who showed me my x-ray, drew some arrows and angles on the board, and said, “You have hip dysplasia.” I replied with, “I have what???”
You may have heard of hip dysplasia in your neighbor’s golden retriever, but it does, in fact, occur in humans as well. In people with hip dysplasia, the hip socket doesn’t fully cover the “ball” portion of the hip, which basically causes the hip joint to wear out, leading to arthritis in very young patients. Basically, when I was 18 I already had arthritis. Hip dysplasia is also common in infants, but doctors are usually able to catch it and correct it, which is why it’s not something they look for in older patients. It’s not until very recently that they’ve realized the high number of ‘older’ individuals who have this condition. They aren’t quite sure what causes it, but no matter the cause, there it was, an acute angle on my x-ray, proving that I had this thing.
I had limited treatment options but learned about a new procedure called a “periacetabular osteotomy” or PAO. In a PAO surgery, the doctors go in and literally cut your pelvis, change the angle in a way that gives the hip the proper coverage it needs, and then hold it in place with some screws. It was a rough go. In 2011 very few orthopedic doctors did this procedure, so I had to travel to Chicago from Pittsburgh to have it done. After an 8 hour procedure, I spent 3 days on an epidural and 7 days in the hospital, only to return home and develop a pulmonary embolism (PE) which sent me back to the hospital for another week while I watched an IV drip blood thinners into my system.
The goal of the PAO surgery was to extend the life of my original hip. No one could really tell me how long it was going to last. I definitely thought it would last longer than 9 ½ years, but at the end of the day, I suppose it was “successful.” Since recovering from the PAO surgery I had a brief stint with swimming, cycled not one but TWO century (100 mile) bike rides, did multiple Crossfit competitions, earned my 3rd-degree black belt, got my L1 Crossfit Coaching certification, ran multiple 5Ks, won regional weightlifting competitions, and generally excelled physically. I would venture to say that many of my athletic high points came in the years between 2012 and 2019. Not bad, considering I was told not to do pretty much any of those things. Ever.
Fun things I did after my surgery that I wasn't "supposed" to do:
But recently, I have been having some trouble again. If I move at a certain angle I get a sharp pain, I have NO flexibility or mobility on that side, and my hip generally feels extremely weak. I put off going to the doctor for months, but when things just wouldn’t get better, I decided it was time. Thinking I had some sort of labral tear and expecting arthroscopic surgery in my future, I got the MRI and went into my follow up appointment.
“I think it might be time for you to consider hip replacement surgery.”
Um, excuse me, sir. I am 29. WRONG.
A second opinion can’t hurt, so onto the next doctor. Emory University Hospital. Reputable. Experienced with PAO surgery and juvenile hip replacement. He will surely tell me this isn’t necessary.
“You’ve got some SEVERE arthritis going on, so let’s talk about getting your hip replaced….”
Well, I guess we are doing this.
After numerous conversations with my doctor, coaches, trainers, husband, family, and friends, I decided I could do this. “The point of a hip replacement is to return you to your normal activities,” says my doctor, “No matter what those activities are.”
“Did Crossfit cause this to happen to my hip?” I wondered out loud to him. He replied, “No, I don’t think so. This was going to happen to you no matter what.”
EXCUSE ME!? A DOCTOR WHO DOESN’T HATE CROSSFIT…….
So here I am, going into Emory University Hospital, about to get a titanium rod inserted into my femur and a plastic socket put in. My doctor is using a dual mobility hip replacement, which puts my risk at dislocation (the biggest post-op risk) at less than 1%, so I’m feeling good. I also tested negative for Covid-19, a pre-op requirement at Emory these days, so I’m feeling good about that too-- despite having my brain swabbed to learn that information.
More "things I wasn't supposed to do"
But why am I writing about this? I was really fortunate in that my doctor just happened to do a DOUBLE hip replacement on a patient who is a month older than me. We exchanged numbers and after talking to this patient, I was both reassured and convinced that this was the right thing to do. With that being said, there is almost no information out there about hip replacements in young patients, and the information that does exist is mostly horror stories of surgeries-gone-wrong. The (many) people who have successful surgeries aren’t necessarily writing about it because they are out, living their lives, just like they were told they would. There ARE a few articles about juvenile/young adult hip replacements, but they are scholarly, and I needed a medical dictionary to even graze the surface.
So I decided to document my journey as a resource for others. So another 29 year old going through something similar who is thinking, “Holy &%@#! They want me to do what!?!” might stumble upon this and find some reassurance in the process. It’s also for me-- to keep me moving and motivated. If I have to report my progress publicly, I’m likely to take a few extra steps towards my own recovery.
So that’s the backstory. The rest is uncertain, but I’ve got this. I know I may not be back squatting 200+ lbs again, but I am certainly looking forward to the day that I can go on a walk and have ZERO pain in my hip.
For now, my new theme song:
Throughout my childhood and most of my college life I never really thought about race.
I don’t remember the first conversation I had about it. In fact, I don’t know if I ever had a conversation about race growing up. I don’t remember the first time I saw an act of blatant racism or interacted with a person of color. I mean, of course I knew to check the “white” or “Caucasian” box, but I never thought about what that meant. I never thought about how my race has benefitted me throughout my entire life.
I never thought about how we teach kids that the Indians were savages who needed to be civilized, when in reality we, the white Europeans, were the invaders.
I never thought about how when I thought about a Black person, I immediately pictured a slave.
(I was never taught that not all slaves were black.)
I never thought about how our culture tells kids from the time they are born that they should act a certain way— white— and look a certain way— white— through stories, television, movies, and literally everything else. All of the characters in everything I watched or read were all white.
All of them.
I never thought racism was something that affected me.
When I started teaching 4 years ago I knew there was something wrong. I knew that my most challenging classes were also predomintately Black and mostly from very low socio-economic backgrounds. I knew there was something wrong when I took my middle schoolers to a track meet at a middle school that I literally had to pass through a metal detector to enter and was afraid to be at past dark
I knew change needed to happen.
What I didn’t understand was that in order for that change to happen, I needed to examine my own race, identity, and self before I could even begin to worry about someone else’s.
This book, "Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria," was recommended to me by my first principal, Teresa Stoupas— an educator who continues to inspire me to go deeper, to have uncomfortable conversations, to challenge and push myself past my comfort zone— and it certainly did that.
At first I thought, "Oh, it's just another book about the inequalities between people of color and white people. I've heard that before."
But that's the thing-- we need to hear it. We need to hear it again. And again. And again. And over and over until something changes-- until we make something change. This book was first published in 1997 and is still relevant. It blows my mind that that is even the slightest bit possible.
I cannot recommend this book enough. Not just for educators, but for every person, regardless of race, gender, religion, or anything else. It needs to be read. It needs to be discussed.
We've got to do something.
Racial inequality is a problem that is embedded deep in our culture, our society, and our beings. So much so that many of us don't even see it happening right in front of our own eyes.
Success should not be determined by a person's skin color or zip code. Period.
“We all have a sphere of influence. Each of us needs to find our own sources of courage so that we will begin to speak. There are many problems to address, and we cannot avoid them indefinitely. We cannot continue to be silent. We must begin to speak, knowing that words alone are insufficient. But I have seen that meaningful dialogue can lead to effective action. Change is possible."
-Beverly Daniel Tatum, PhD and author of "Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?"
Over the past three months I have put over 800 pieces of electrical tape on the recorders of my 4th and 5th grade students. I have heard every variation of “Hot Cross Buns” and “Gently Sleep” you can imagine. I have argued with students over the fact that they HAVE to play with their left hand on top. I have given up my planning time, lunch, and just about every free second I have to hear my kids perform their belt tests. I have a google slideshow with over 300 slides of pictures of successful students earning their next belt that they obsessively scroll through (and inform me if I have not updated it). My iTunes is full of squeaky renditions of “Old MacDonald” and “It’s Raining.”
And that’s not even the half of it. I’ve seen the jumps of joy when they earn their green belts, the excitement over learning about the mysterious pink belt (aka the made-up belt), and the disappointment when I have to say, “sorry, keep practicing.”
In the past three months I have seen my 4th and 5th graders come to life through the recorder. The most unlikely pairs of students have practiced together and earned their belts together. Some of them surprised me by racing through the belts to earn their black belt. One student has surpassed every expectation I had and earned her 9th degree (by performing Eine Kleine Nachtmusik). My incredible autistic students proved once again that music is truly for everyone by earning their belts with the rest of their peers.
For me, teaching my students the Recorder Karate unit reiterated the importance of instrumental music study for every single student. Some students loved it, and truly thrived, others were just happy to earn their yellow belts. And yes, a select few were not huge fans of the instrument, but guess what-- they all earned their white belt. No matter what belt they finished at though, they all left knowing they accomplished something. I heard goal setting in action-- “Next time, I’m getting my RED belt!” I heard collaboration in progress-- “No, no, this is how you play a low E!” I heard support for one another and celebrations when goals were reached, and of course I heard gossip-- the gossip of who earned what belt and who had their recorder taken away because they were trying to sneak a practice session in on recess.
This wasn’t my first experience seeing children come to life through the recorder though. When I traveled to Kenya via my Fund for Teachers Fellowship, a large part of my trip was spent observing the Link Up Recorder classes with students at many different primary schools. I was blown away by the focus that the recorder brought to these young students, many of whom live with so little. Here they are, living in a slum with almost no money, and yet the recorder gives them everything they want. For them, it is a gateway-- a gateway to the Ghetto Classics Orchestra-- a gateway to performing in Poland and for Former President Obama-- a gateway to a better life-- all from this cheap piece of plastic. For us it is no different-- the recorder is not just a gateway to band and orchestra, but a gateway for students to feel confidence and self-worth at a time when they need it most.
I am so thankful I was able to share the energy that I felt in Kenya with my students Britt Elementary. At the same time, I am in constant awe of the power that music has to connect us all to one another. Here we are, in Snellville, Georgia, working on the exact same lessons as the students over in the Korogocho Slum in Nairobi, Kenya. How incredible is that?
The recorder gets a lot of hate mail. Yes it is squeaky. Sure, it doesn’t sound very pleasant the first few times you play it.... But you know what else doesn’t sound very pleasant the first time you play it?
Every instrument in the entire orchestra.
I am utterly amazed at the way my students came to life from this $5 piece of plastic, the same way I was in awe of the students I met in Kenya who played the exact same instruments.
Thank you Recorder Karate for the many glimmers of hope you not only gave to my students, but to me as well.
*All student names have been changed for privacy purposes.
One of my New Year's resolutions was to continue writing in my blog. It's literally been on my "to-do" list since January 1st, but hey, better late than never, right?
I’ve done quite a bit of thinking the past month, and things are looking up. Though I believe some of the change in attitude and mindset has to do with our new dog, Comet, who literally walked into our lives on January 2nd, I am convinced that she was the final piece to a puzzle that I had been assembling on my own for the past couple of months.
Rather than call this a “blog,” I decided to name it “Glimmers of Hope” because I hope that it will be just that-- little snippets of positivity-- stories of kiddos discovering the ukulele, Comet learning to walk without a leash, or why taking two months off from the gym was one of the best things I’ve ever done.
I am inspired by a friend from high school, Liz Buechele, who started her own nonprofit called The Smile Project. You can read about The Smile Project here. The mission is incredible, and so important in times of despair and uneasiness. For the past 2,600(+) days Liz has been posting “Happiness is….” posts. “Happiness is those perfect car rides where the radio just plays all the right songs." or “Happiness is the smell of fresh, warm laundry.” I love the idea of finding happiness in each and every day, so now it is my turn to share.
Happiness is… your first day back at the gym after taking two months off.
It’s no secret that both myself and my husband Joseph struggled during our move to Georgia. We left a place we loved, some really amazing friends, a job that I adored, a gym unlike any other, among other things. When we moved I was disheartened to find that the Crossfit scene in Statham, GA is rather bleak. (Surprised??) I was also disheartened to find I have a 50 minute commute to work every day and I’ve got to be there at 7:30 AM-- rough.
I tried out a few places, but none of them had the sparkle that my previous home, Crossfit New Haven had, and I wasn’t willing to drive an additional 30 minutes to go to a “so-so” facility.
Cue me joining a gym that was not at all the right fit but was ultra-convenient.
Without going into details, let’s just say this was not the right facility for me. I was pretty unhappy in general, and Crossfit used to be my escape. However, my so-called escape became an added stressor, and I was coming home from working out more stressed and anxious than when I arrived.
So I had to make a decision-- keep going there or change something. I opted for the “change” option, which leads me to my “Happiness is” statement. Rather than jump into a new place that might not be right for me, I chose to take some time off. Rather than leave work stressed about getting to the gym so I could work out, finish driving home, make dinner, go to bed, and do it all over again, I chose to come home from work and relax. I chose to find time for me. I chose to take my time and wait until I was ready to make any real moves or decisions.
I immediately noticed some things--
1. I was happier. The gym had actually been having the opposite effect it is supposed to have. Now that I wasn’t going, I was more relaxed, less tired, and able to adjust to my new schedule of pre 6:00 AM wake ups.
2. For the first time in my life, I wasn’t stressed about going back. I have been working out since I started Tae Kwon Do at 7 years old. I know it is in my mind, body, and soul to be active and work out. I reassured myself that fitness is a lifelong journey. In the grand scheme of things, taking two months off is such an insignificant amount of time and not going to make or break my athletic career. I knew myself well enough to know I would go back because it’s who I am.
3. I knew I would have to make a tough decision. There are no conveniently located Crossfit gyms in relation to where I work and where we live. Period. There is however, one gym that used to be a Crossfit affiliate and offers “functional fitness” type workouts. I realized that at the end of the day I just want to be healthy and happy. If I’m doing Crossfit, that’s great. If I’m not doing Crossfit, but am still happy and healthy then that is fine too.
I took two months off and finally felt like it was time to go back. I made that tough decision and found myself at Forge-RX, the first non-Crossfit gym I’ve joined since 2012.
Not only was the workout awesome, the facility was nice, coaching was spot-on, and above all, I actually enjoyed working out. For the first time in months I enjoyed being there, doing my thing, and putting myself through that self-induced suffering I’ve always loved.
Taking two months off was one of the best decisions I have ever made. It reset my mind, rejuvenated my body, and helped me to remember why I love exercising so much.
There is a special satisfaction that comes in knowing you made the right decision for yourself in a tough situation. That, right there, is without-a-doubt a glimmer of hope.
Hi! I am Nicole Guimaraes. I'm a K-2 music teacher in Falls Church City, VA. I've got an amazing husband and a fabulous dog who keep me busy. If I'm not teaching or walking my dog, you can probably find me at the gym!