The experience of hip surgery has been an interesting and challenging experience. First, there’s the fact that I haven’t had a stay in hospital for any kind of surgery for over 55 years, when I had my tonsils removed. I don’t remember much about the tonsil episode other than standing at the window watching my parents and brother drive away after depositing me on the ward (parents weren’t welcome to hang around in those days) and the ice cream and jelly served post-operatively. Arriving on the ward of the hospital in Hoofddorp two weeks ago at 06:45 to be prepped for surgery at 08:00 was a very alien experience.
Second, the level of sophistication of the medical care here in the Netherlands and the fact that I only waited a few months for the op, stands in stark contrast to what I hear is the situation in Northern Ireland. Plenty of staff, large clutter-free corridors, QR coded wrist bands and everything happening exactly when you are told to expect it, meant that there was plenty at which to marvel. Mind you, everyone is obliged to take out health insurance on top of income and social taxes, so the system is well funded.
Third, the challenge of coming to terms with a measure of disability, even though temporary, has been a salutary experience. It’s best typified by my naked right foot. There are strict rules about the level of movement in the operated leg permitted during the first weeks of recovery, including never allowing the angle between your raised leg and the rest of your body to be less than 90 degrees. Break that rule and the hip is likely to dislocate and that would introduce a whole new world of pain and grief! Consequently, because I didn’t invest in one of those aids for putting on your socks, I’m entirely dependent on Dot dressing my naked right foot each morning. Most other things I can manage myself – but not that. On the day after the op I could walk with a zimmer frame or crutches and mobility has improved markedly since. I can shower, dress, cook, make coffee, climb stairs – even if somewhat slower than usual – but I can’t put on my right sock.
My naked foot stares at me from the end of the bed, it mocks my inability to get anywhere near it. It dares me to try and calls me pathetic when I don’t. I believe I heard it threaten to go find another leg somewhere that would care for it better – but maybe that was the painkillers talking. As time goes on, it seems my naked foot is teaching me something about dependence, patience and humility.
I had been well briefed by the medical staff on what to expect post-operatively, but no one mentioned the challenge of the naked foot.