Freaking Out

What started out as a little doubt and fear has grown into a full fledged panic. There is
definitely something wrong. The legs that were even right after the surgery are
not anymore. The difference in length is staggering, alarming and totally
freaking us out.
Immediately after surgery – a surgery in which one of the top orthopedic
surgeons in the field used the best state of the art technology in one of the
top rated hospitals…. The legs were even. They took an x-ray which we can refer
to if necessary. They took it when she was still in recovery. I held her hand
as they slid the film under her – she was barely awake. And I saw it with my
own eyes – two feet ending at the same position. It was a badge of pride for
the surgeon that they were even, and the limp that has plagued my daughter
would be gone.

But something has changed. I think I know when it happened… but at this moment
it seems unimportant. All that matters is that her right leg, with the new hip,
is visibly MUCH longer than her left. We tried to pass it off as inflammation
in her hip, contracted muscles pulling the leg out of balance. We told
ourselves that once we were home, and she started walking, things would settle
in to place. In a crazy twist of circumstances, the surgeon only saw us once
after surgery. He did not see us the day we left the hospital. Perhaps, we
might have been able to address this sooner…. We might have been able to point
out the new difference. But that’s not how it happened.

So, we’ve been home for five days. After the last surgery, Caitlin was walking
easily without a walker at this point. She went out for ice cream with her
girlfriends Tuesday after the surgery and left her walker at home. This time,
she can’t stand flat on it and have both feet on the ground. She already has
verbalized our fears, and has spoken the things we have tried to keep from her.
We speak in whispers and go outside to talk – but still she has said –
“Something is wrong. My right leg is too long! What did I do this for if I’m
still gonna have a bad limp….”
We started calling the surgeon on Friday. Calm down – if the hip had come
loose, she would be screaming in pain. OK, we said. We’ll see how the weekend
goes. She mostly stayed lying down, watching TV… and managed to get to the
dinner table with a walker. She played a couple of games sitting at the table.
And when she napped, we stared at her legs, pleading with them to be even.

On Sunday, after a day of rain – we had the most gorgeous sunny afternoon. She
went outside to the front lawn and sat in a chair watching her brother and
cousin toss the football around… we had talked about how vitamin D is important
for healing after surgery. The sun felt great. I asked her to get up and walk across
the yard – her right leg splayed to the side and she walked on her toes. It was
victory… but it wasn’t.

On Monday, somebody (another doctor) recommended that I use a tape measure to
measure her legs – from belly button to ankle bone. They said it would put my
mind at ease…. A slight differential is normal in these things. Maybe as much
as a quarter of an inch. People often have to wear a shoe insert after hip
replacement to make up for it. So I measured. And re-measured. And again. The
difference was 3 cm. It’s more than an inch. More than an inch! Her knees are
visibly out of alignment. Her right leg hangs longer like a Barbie doll that
has pulled a leg loose from the socket.

We called and called the office and got only a return call from the scheduling
clerk – making an appointment for us to see the doctor tomorrow morning. For an
advocate like me, it feels pathetic. I feel powerless….

We are holding our breathe and waiting anxiously for tomorrow morning. At this
point, I cannot imagine that the response will be to “wait for things to
settle”. Something has gone wrong. Very wrong.

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