Memorial Hermann Hospital, like other major hospitals in a medical center city like Houston, has a special operation they call a Joint Center through which “Experts … carefully plan every step of your care to help ensure a speedy and successful journey to recovery.” They assured me that I “would be in excellent hands every step of the way.” To further illuminate their holistic services they host two-hour educational sessions, aka “Joint Camps,” twice a month.
Even though I would be attending one of these sessions less than a week before my surgery I was curious about various pieces of the joint replacement puzzle and did have a few questions. Even though my doctor tells me to “feel free to call with any questions you may have,” in my experience actually calling has tended to make me feel as though I was disrupting the smooth flow of their practice. Plus, I liked hearing the answers to other participants’ questions. So I attended a Wednesday morning session.
My Joint Camp was run by the Center’s very capable director, Rhoda, a nurse who had been around for awhile. There were ten of us prospective patients in attendance plus eight spouses or significant others. Half the audience would be knee replacements and half hip. Of us hip cats, half would be getting the anterior technique (like me) and half posterior. After her introductory comments she showed us a video of each procedure.
Now I know enough about orthopedic surgery to know that I certainly didn’t want to watch a video of it being done. An old neighbor of mine from a previous life was a highly paid representative for Stryker medical devices, and he told me enough stories to keep me throwing up for days if I’d been a barfing kinda guy, but Rhoda assured us these were merely innocent animations of the procedure that would leave us better informed and not sick tour our stomachs. The four minute vids were fine, but still brought home that this was a major event not to be taken lightly.
We reviewed things to do and things to be concerned about before surgery.
We discussed what to expect as we checked into the hospital, prepped for surgery and slept our way through to recovery.
Coolest thing was was we would have our own section of the hospital. We would each get our own private room and private bath. I could see in my mind’s eye the rope line to get into the V.I.J. (Very Important Joint) section complete with a big bouncer in a pale green lab coat and extra dark Ray Bans checking his list and waving through the chosen few. (I would end up a wee bit disappointed that we didn’t get special designer-logoed hospital gowns.)
Of course we would get room service. If the operation went as expected we would be on our feet the same afternoon and walking to our in-crowd-only V.I.J. physical therapy the next morning.
An anesthesiologist (an incredibly handsome cuss who might have just stepped off the set of a television drama) spent 20 minutes talking about how critical it was to properly dope us and to be on the alert for any negative post-op side effects. The most likely side effect would be nausea and vomiting although one of our post op drugs would (one would hope) help prevent the worst of it. We would all get a prescription (mine was for Zofran) to deal with this problem at home.
After the movie star left, the lead physical therapist for the Joint Center (a very attractive lady in her own right) went through her speil. She indicated that in addition to straight physical therapy we would also get a little occupational therapy. Someone would be stopping by our room to reiterate certain activities we should avoid and to offer instructions on how to perform tasks we didn’t even have to think about now – like getting into and out of bed, chairs and motor vehicles; using the toilet; bathing; picking up items from the floor; and getting both dressed and undressed. There were tools we could purchase or maybe even borrow that could make each of these things easier. Heck, I was thinking I’d be too cheap to even buy a walker – which they made sound mandatory – much less buy a shower stool or toilet booster seat.
All the speakers stressed how important it would be to have an involved, active coach with us as we recovered. (I think they misspelled “servant.”) I can tell you with total confidence that my wife of 49 years was EXCITED to assume this role!
My number one takeaway from this two hour session (which lasted only the promised two hours) was how important it was to stay ahead of the pain. The hospital would take this so seriously that they promised to wake us at the appointed hour to keep us on schedule. A corollary lobbed out by one of the significant others present was to not underestimate the importance of ice to help minimize swelling and pain.
My number two takeaway from Joint Camp was to give thanks was that I was getting re-hipped rather than re-kneed. The knee replacement surgery sounded more complicated, painful and extended in terms of recovery and rehab.