Summer hiatus was the right medicine

Ed Forry

Like many pre-baby-boomers, when I reached my 60s I first began to notice that my walking gait was not what it once was. My daily excursions took longer to complete, a hike around Castle Island’s sugar bowl became more of a stroll, and walking alone at my own pace was preferable to slowing down a companion.

There were even a few times when I stumbled and fell in mid-stride, once on a curb at a favorite restaurant, and another when I hit the ground after my foot caught on a raised brick sidewalk in front of a watering hole in Lower Mills.

I slowly began to realize the fact of growing older: the limbs were not as nimble as they once were. I wasn’t truly stable on my two feet. Plus, the simple task of putting on my socks had become difficult, because I couldn’t bend to reach my right foot. It clearly was time to see an orthopedist to see if this body could be repaired.

So last spring, Dr. Dennis Burke looked at my X-rays and declared: “It’s bone on bone” in my right hip, and it wouldn’t self- correct. He told me a replacement hip surgery was needed and we scheduled it for a day in late summer.

On August 25, I was admitted to Milton Hospital, and just before entering the surgical suite, Dr Burke asked: “Do you have any questions?”

“Yes Doctor. Will I be able to play the piano afterwards?” “Can you play now?” he asked. “Well no, but all my brothers and sisters could. They took lessons from the nuns at St Gregory’s, but I was too busy…” I don’t remember anything after that.

The good news is the anesthesia for this surgery puts you out— fast— and is infused with an amnesiac, so I have no memory of what took place in that OR. After waking and being moved into a hospital room upstairs, I noticed that the part of my body where once I had a right leg now felt like a dead weight.

I was assured that pain management has taken great strides, and although there was some discomfort, I felt little pain. The nurses asked me, on a scale of one to ten, to grade my pain, and I honestly said it was just a one or sometimes a two. Before the surgery, I struggled not with the fear of the operation, but I was anxious about pausing my daily, busy life to undergo days-weeks?- of recuperation. Type A that I am, it was difficult to admit that maybe I would need some extra help in making a recovery.

With almost divine intervention, a dear friend, Rev. Tom Kennedy, called me and encouraged me to spend a week in recuperation at the Sherrill House in Jamaica Plain. Those early days after the operation are better spent there instead of at home, he said. Imagine everyone’s surprise when I actually accepted his advice!

After three hospital nights, I was transported to the Sherrill House. And what a marvelous facility it is! The physical therapists there took me twice daily for an hour’s PT, while the nursing staff saw that I received my meds like clockwork, 24/7.

After nine days I was back home, and with the help of three visits from a nurse and a therapist, I was able to manage alone at home. On September 15, I caught a ride to the office and spent three hours at my desk, surprised that somehow the business had gotten on without me.

And on September 26- just one full month since the good Dr. Burke installed my new titanium hip, I resumed regular daily work hours. The road ahead includes daily PT workouts at home, and soon I’ll begin more physical therapy at an outpatient PT facility.

The advance advice I heard about hip replacement is that most wish they had done this a lot sooner. I cannot say I am there yet, as the biggest issue I deal with now is a struggle to get sleep overnight, when the discomfort in my leg seems to come and go in the wee small hours. But as I write I’m five weeks post-op, doing the PT every day and I’m feeling pretty good.

And next week, I might even begin taking piano lessons!