This 51-year-old, male, RBHR hippy is now repaired and freed from the right hip OA that had been the monkey on my back for the past 5 years in the form of pain, limping, and decreased ROM. Being from Rochester, MN, the most common question I get is "why would you want to go over to Madison, WI, for your resurfacing surgery, when you have the Mayo clinic in your back-yard?" The answer, simply put, is John Rogerson and the Capitol Lakes rehab facility. I described my experience at Mayo Clinic in another post on this site, so I won’t go into that again. It’s sufficient to say that upon my initial visit to Dr. Rogerson’s office last October, I knew this was the procedure, the device, and the surgeon for me. Here is my surgery experience story.
I arrived in Madison on Wednesday for the pre-surgery visit at Dr. Rogerson’s office, with the surgery scheduled for the next morning. With us traveling from Rochester, MN, they were happy to schedule the orientation visits on the day before surgery. allowing my wife and I to consolidate it all in one trip. Freshly baked cookies were on a tray in the waiting area, and the receptionist June offered us some piping hot coffee. Dr. Rogerson’s daughter Joanna, one of the P.A.s at his office, went over every aspect of what to expect the next day and the ensuing recovery days. Towards the end of the visit, Dr. Rogerson stepped in to say hello, meet my wife, and answer any final questions I had. Then we were off downtown to find Capitol Lakes rehab facility. After a quick tour of the building, we were greeted by Desiree, the main PT therapist, for our initial meeting and crutch fitting. There was a plethora of tips, timelines, restrictions, and techniques thrown at us in this half hour meeting, so much so that I just couldn’t take it all in after a certain point. No matter, I knew we would go over these things many times in the ensuing days. The rehab facility, basically a 15 story retiree assisted living community building, is only a few blocks from Meriter hospital where the surgeries take place. The room is a small studio apartment, with one bedroom and one living area with a sleeper sofa, a kitchenette with an upright bar table, and a bathroom with a walk-in shower. If you’re a 6-foot man like myself, be prepared to be slightly uncomfortable in the small chairs and sofa as you cannot really sprawl out the way you would at home, but it’s still not bad. You’ll be spending most of your down time in the bed most likely anyhow for the first day after leaving the hospital to get some rest finally.
We took a quick ride over to the Wal Mart on the belt-line highway a couple of miles south of the downtown area, to buy some groceries. Being from the midwest, I found this Wally World a bit unique since it’s the type with a parking ramp below the main store, and we were at first confused by the missing "sea of concrete" parking lot and main external entrance. It was a hoot watching our full cart ride down to the escalator beside us back to the parking ramp. We planned for small breakfasts, quick lunches, and efficient, easy dinners, which has proven to be prudent planning with all the PT sessions and visits from OT’s throughout our stay, and the numerous naps I have taken. After a great steak dinner at the Tornado Room two blocks up the street towards the capitol building, we settled into our apartment for the night, avoiding any further food or drink intake after midnight.
The next morning, after showering with the anti-bacterial body wash given to me the day before, we arrived about 2.5 hours before surgery time at Meriter. The patient registration desk grand-motherly lady was efficient and got us registered and up to the proper floor for pre-op in no time. This is about when the anxiety, the weight of the whole situation, began to set in for me. The pre-op nurse met us in the waiting area and brought us back to a hallway full of preparation rooms that resembled one of those zoos that have reptile and shark viewing tanks arranged in a walking tour fashion. Strip down please, gown on, brush your teeth with a special liquid to kill any remaining critters in your mouth, draw some blood for the lab, insert the I.V. etc. "What’s your birth-date for the seventh time, please?" It wasn’t long before the anesthesiologist, Tom, popped in to give me his speedy, yet personable overview of what will happen, and he was right. Shortly after this, Dr. Rogerson came in wearing his usual broad smile and blue scrubs to visit with me, and in the remaining few minutes that I was in pre-op, he exuded the sureness and confidence that we used to see in the live feeds from the crew of the space shuttle missions. At about 10:30am, I took a short gurney ride down the hallway, passing by various faces smiling down on me with a "Clockwork Orange" kind of vibe to it, and I was being transferred onto the operating room table. There seemed to be about 5 dudes in there, not counting my rickshaw driver. Renee, Dr. Rogerson’s other P.A. was there already decked out in her blue "space" suit, arranging shiny steel things on a sterile tray. "Don’t you guys have any tunes on in here?" I asked. One of the assistants immediately plugged his ipod into the room speakers and my request for some Rush music to pass out to was granted (yep, just like back in the 70s). I think we were actually doing a sing-along to "Limelight" when the lights went out without warning.
The next thing I remember was waking up at about 3:30pm in the recovery room, and having a very deep, meaningful conversation with the nurse there, the content of which I cannot even remotely remember to save my life. Somehow, I was suddenly in a hospital room with a TV monitor staring at me from the ceiling, and a beeping, blinky, Rosey the robot looking thing beside my bed. The first night in the room, I was pretty wiped out, but I didn’t experience any of the horrible nausea, etc. that others have complained of. I was able to, at one point, get to my feet and use the cute little plastic urinal bottle like a man. That’s was over-achieving in my book at that point, so I retreated to bed for the rest of the night. Having not eaten for a good 20 hours or so, outside of the ice chips, water, and cocktail of pills the nurses had given me, I convinced the night crew to let me order up a cheeseburger and fries from room service, with a few vanilla ice cream cups from the nursing food pantry for desert. Those ice cream cups can magically keep coming if you want them to, so keep asking for them if you’re a fan. No strawberry, but the vanilla and chocolate seem endless. I had better not be paying for these. The night was filled with lots of vital checks, pain pills, buzzers and bells, and the drone of the electronic leg compression devices, so not much sleep was to be had, but again, I was asleep for most of the day anyhow, so the night seemed to pass faster than I expected.
The 1st day after surgery I was able to get out of bed a couple of times and use the crutches, slowly and tentatively at first, and paid some visits to the restroom. This day also included my first visit to the PT center where they have you walk a bit on the crutches, and while lying down, the lovely Tammy started to move my leg around in various directions to bring it back to life. Later that evening, I was able to stroll around the hallways for a couple of short walks to the nurses stations which made me pretty happy with the progress I had made the first day. Better have some more ice cream.
It was a good, restful second night which included about 4 hours of sleep strung together somehow. The worst of it all for me was, and still is now, the damn anti-clot TED nylon stockings. They are tight, uncomfortable, but a necessity of life for 3 weeks they tell me, so far.
The second day after surgery, Saturday morning, was filled with preparation for transport back to Capitol Lakes. As the day before, I started with a huge breakfast of eggs, toast, french toast, bacon, yogurt, and a couple of milks and OJ. By the way, contrary to popular belief, the hospital food at Meriter was really quite good in my opinion, a bit inconsistent in delivery time (anywhere from 5 minutes to 50 minutes), but quality and portion sizes were not issues at all. You can linger until about noon, which I did, time enough to grab one more room service lunch before you’re on your own nickel back at the rehab center.
Back at Capitol Lakes, we settled in on a sunny afternoon, and attended a short, in-room PT session. All of these PT sessions somehow magically just keep coming for the duration of your stay, not always with the same person, but they are all setup for you ahead of time, which is nice. If you had to set them up yourself, you may be inclined to blow them off. As much as I wanted to take a walk outside for couple of blocks to the capitol square, I was too wiped out and instead chose to instead stay in for a performance of one of the several symphony orchestra ensemble groups from the university that practice in this building’s main floor music hall. This is a nice side-benefit of staying here, so take advantage of it when offered.
Sunday, the third day after surgery, found us on a brilliant sunny and unusually warm February afternoon. After a morning land PT session with the lovely Liz, the wife and I and my two new best friends, the forearm crutches, decided to take a stroll outside towards the lake front. Madison has a nice jogging and bike trail network, and we followed this around one side of the now frozen lake adorned with a few ice-fishing shelters here and there. We walked for about an hour and a half, using the parking ramp elevator to take us up to the capitol street level, past the capitol and what was left of the weekend’s Winterfest activities, and looped back to the rehab center. I was feeling good about the walk, using the cross country ski crutch technique most of the way, and was thinking that this wasn’t so bad.
Monday, the fourth day after surgery, I paid for the long walk with more pronounced swelling and stiffness, but a pain pill got me up and going for my in-pool water PT session first thing in the morning. This was a welcome experience. After "sealing us up" with, for lack of a better description, a sheet of saran wrap with adhesive around the edges, we were allowed to enter the warm pool. Desiree put us thru a few of the standard leg extensions and high stepping exercises, and pool-noodle supported cycling motions in the water. This all culminating with allowing us to simply walk around in the deeper water. This was an interesting experience, because it allows your brain to get around the aspect of trusting your new hip without fear of falling on a hard surface. Yes, I am actually walking without crutches naturally, albeit in the water, and I will soon be doing this on the land also. Some time to relax followed, and a quick lunch led to an in-room visit from Amy the occupational therapist, with two student therapists in tow. This was more of a Q&A session, during which the students were allowed to take notes. The afternoon PT session, which I must admit was becoming a bit tedious by this time in my day, was interesting in its own way. Desiree focused more on walking with me using one crutch only and got me walking more "normally", without swinging my right foot outward a bit, and with keeping my somewhat swollen thighs together to produce a tighter, more balanced, walking gait. This ended with an in-room PT exercise session, and a lying down massage of the incision area. Nice, very nice. We were told earlier that Dr. Rogerson would be stopping in at some point late in the afternoon, so we decided to use the remaining time before his visit to take a quick walk back up to the capitol. Dr. Rogerson arrived about 4:30pm and stayed for about 15 minutes or so, just to see how I was doing and answer any questions. My wife commented just how personable and caring this guy is as a doctor, and I can’t agree more. He told me that things are looking great, and even though we live only about 3.5 hours away, if the 6 week followup visit didn’t work into my schedule, that I should just have his office order a couple of x-rays from our local clinic and send them over to him to evaluate. I’ll probably hand deliver my x-rays in person at that time, but it’s nice to know there’s really no pressure at this point to do so.
Tuesday, the fifth day after surgery. After an early morning land Pt session with Desiree, which included a short jaunt on an elliptical machine at the fitness center, we settled back into the apartment for some R&R and online work. The elliptical walk was an interesting experience. I wanted to see what it felt like, and more importantly, how to get on and off the thing in this condition. I was surprised to see how high the knee was going on the operated leg in the forward position. Stand on your operated side of the machine, lift your good leg onto the opposite foot-pad, then shift all your weight onto the non-operated side and lift your new leg onto the remaining foot-pad. A short nap in the afternoon, and I was off to the final in-pool PT session. Much the same as yesterday, lots of surprising flexibility, and it felt very good! I had asked Dr. Rogerson during his last visit about using the Tegaderm to get back to swimming before the incision was completely healed. He said he just doesn’t trust the stuff, since after staple removal, the glue-like seal applied during surgery to the outside is now breached, and we can’t afford the risk of a water-based infection of any type. Given the ramifications of such a thing, I’m OK with following that restriction.
Wednesday, the sixth day after surgery. Joanna came over early, at about 7:15am, to remove the 45 little staples from my hip, and this was welcome as that "zipper" was starting to itch somewhat. Yes, I took a few digital pics of the staples for nostalgia sake that I can look back on later. With sterile strips now in place over the incision, we were free to get on the road for home. The 3.5 hour ride home was completely doable, but it surely did not seem that way a few days ago when I left the hospital. I used a couple of ice packs on the trip, and took a couple of leg stretching breaks on the way home.
Thursday, the seventh day after surgery. As I write this, I’m relaxing comfortably after my first full day back home. I’m regularly walking around the house without the crutches, but still use 1 crutch often inside to get out of chairs and for going up or down the stairwell (2 story home), and I still choose to use 2 crutches for walking outside. I am nearly off the pain meds, just taking one before retiring to get a good night sleep, and keeping the leg elevated while sitting or lying down seems to help with the swelling. The worst part at this time are the dreaded TED compression stockings that they want me to wear for 3 weeks. I’ve been spreading out the PT land exercises throughout the day and I’m feeling the squats.
I am now starting my new life with my new hip, and I plan to take it slow and easy and observe all precautions to make a full recovery. Overall, this has been as wonderful an experience as could be hoped for a resurfacing patient. Yes, going downtown to Mayo Clinic would have been more convenient in one respect, but I would be fumbling through my own self-directed PT sessions by now, instead of making professionally guided, sure and steady progress each day. Another aspect of this trip is that you are able to isolate yourself from all the friends and family that would inevitably show up at all times of the day to visit too soon after surgery, and you can focus entirely on your rehab and getting well. All of the professionals I met over at Madison are caring, friendly, personable, and above all, completely competent. I know that armed with this great week of rehab and good habit formation, I’m going to be successful in getting back to my previous activities and then some over the next few months.
Thanks Dr. John Rogerson, and many thanks to your office team and the the "extended family" at Capitol Lakes! You are all THE BEST!