Sunday, October 28, 2012

Nan's surgery

Nan's hip replacement surgery on Friday afternoon went well. The surgical team successfully replaced both of her hip joints in about three hours, with a minimum of blood loss. Now the long, slow recovery begins.

I'm sitting in Nan's room at St. Mary's Hospital in Grand Junction. She is drifting in and out of sleep, trying to find a balance between the pain and the nausea caused by the pain medication. The nurses have been trying different combinations to find what works best and encouraging her to eat more to buffer the oral medications, which are longer lasting than the ones administered through her I.V.

Nan's sister Monica is staying with us for a few weeks to help with Nan's care. She has been wonderful. She just massaged Nan's legs and now she is helping her brush her teeth. She keeps Scout and me fed with her cooking, and she keeps family and friends up to date with texts and phone calls.

The hospital will not discharge Nan until she can walk out of here under her own power. She is making big strides already. The physical therapy people have had her up and walking with a walker twice a day. Today she walked to a chair and sat up for an hour. She should be able to go home on Wednesday or Thursday if all goes well.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The End of an Era

Nan sprinting for the finish line
Nan has been running for 35 years. From March through November, you'll find her entering a race almost every weekend. And she does well, placing in the top three in her age division more often than not. She has boxes full of ribbons and trophies, and she can recite her best times at distances ranging from 5K to full marathons. In 2003, she ran in the New York City Marathon. She considers it the crowning achievement of her long running career.

Now it's all coming to an end. Osteoarthritis and endless miles have taken their toll. Nan has used up all the cartilage in her hip joints, leaving her in a bone-on-bone condition of constant pain. On Friday, she will undergo bilateral hip replacement surgery to replace her damaged hip joints with new bionic ones. The procedure is invasive and involves the removal of the tops of her femurs and the sockets of her hip joints. The prosthetic replacements are designed so that the remaining bone grows solidly and securely around them. Full recuperation normally takes up to twelve weeks, though she should be able to walk out of the hospital under her own power after a four-day recovery period.

Nan's new hips will relieve her pain, but they will not withstand the impact of running. She will need to give up running in favor of low-impact activities such as bicycling and swimming. She says it will be worth it, but you can sense her regret.

The photo above shows Nan in a final sprint to the finish line of the Boogie's Buddy 5, an annual Fourth of July race in Aspen, Colorado. She's not sure of the year, but it was probably taken at least ten years ago.

Please keep Nan in your thoughts this week as she prepares for her life-changing experience.