Four Weeks and… Heels?!!

Yesterday marked four weeks since Caitlin’s surgery. Already, those bleary, frightened
hours are fading under the business of everyday life and now, the holiday
season. But I can honestly say, there are many moments in every day that I
stop….to just pause and be grateful. When you are speeding by scenery on a
train at high speed, you can’t always appreciate how beautiful the landscape
is.. and that is how her recovery has been. But when I stop, and think about
how far she has come, and how things might have gone… I can appreciate how miraculous
it is.

I think that as soon as the doctor told us that the muscles were what were
pulling things out of whack… and the x-rays showed that everything was firmly
implanted as it should be, the door to recovery was opened. Caitlin started
putting pressure on that right leg. She started letting me manipulate it during
exercise. She started getting dressed in her normal clothes… and put the black
velour sweats we bought for post surgery away. I doubt I’ll see those again
soon! In her mind, she was recovered… and so it was.

Two weeks after surgery, when the family all had gone home after Thanksgiving,
Caitlin removed her own wound dressing. The tegaderm had kept the bandages nice
and dry. She has a clean, pink, healing scar. Slightly larger than the last one…
but still small enough to hide under a bikini bottom. These things are
important to a 12 year old… and as I always ponder….they will be equally, if
not more important to the seventeen year old she will be later. The weather has
been fairly warm and dry the last two weeks… that scar has been itching. But it
is healing and fading, just like the trauma of the surgery. She puts Mederma on
it to help the scar fade.
The biggest hurdle has been physical therapy. Despite the fact that her first
replacement was more complicated – there was much more severe damage on that
femoral head / cup…. Her recovery this time has been more challenging. It’s
truly amazing what muscles can do to pull your alignment out of whack. And so,
we have gone to physical therapy twice a week (most JA parents have probably
already figured out that we are also trying to use as many of the benefits
allotted for the calendar year before the new allotment clock starts on January
1…..). The difficult thing has been making Caitlin understand that therapy is
going to hurt. For a child who has spent much of her life in an effort to avoid
pain, teaching her to run to it and embrace it has been difficult. When Caitlin
was five or six, PT and OT were all about improving the range of motion, but the
therapists masked it in play… so Caitlin considered it all games. For a twelve
year old, there is discussion of musculature, degree of flexibility, charts of
exercises…. It’s pretty straight forward. And always it comes down to needing
to push, really push and stretch to make some progress. This kind of progress
will hurt. It’s the whole no pain, no gain thing. But we always use heat and
ice appropriately, and I’ve become quite the masseur, so we try to make it as
easy as possible. It’s just been a struggle to keep pushing her… especially
when it would be easier not to.

Caitlin went back to school last week, three weeks post-op, and nobody could
tell that anything had changed. She still has a limp… and we are working on
that. It’s clear there is a differential… and that it will probably be there
after all the therapy is done. But it’s too soon to tell how much it will be,
and she is not ready to talk about any sort of lift in her shoe to help even
things out. We saw the surgeon on Monday and of course, he thinks she looks
great. He really is not very open to the idea that there is a big differential.
“It’s small! It’ll even out as she grows…”. We don’t even have to go back to
see him until the end of February. Isn’t that kind of amazing?

Last Friday, we attended a special event for the Arthritis Foundation Pacific
Region… an event to thank volunteers. Caitlin insisted on wearing the same high
heels she wore to the Gala a few weeks before her surgery. We took them to her
PT appointment where she proudly walked across the room in order to win the
therapist’s blessing. (Just for one night, she said.) So when we were called up
to the stage, and Caitlin went up… they commented that she had only had hip
replacement surgery three weeks earlier. You could hear the gasps…. And the
giggles when our presenter pointed out that she was wearing her high heels. I
got to speak with Matt, a young adult leader from our region. I remember
meeting Matt several years ago, and he had given me much hope when he shared
his story of growing up with systemic JIA and having had THR at 13. Now, he
climbs mountains – and I mean that literally. He is an avid outdoorsman –
hiker, biker etc. He came up to us and said, “Three weeks? Really?!” When he
had his surgery, he was not allowed to put weight on his leg for three months,
because the thinking was that the bone had to have time to grow into the
prosthesis. That was over ten years ago… a lot has changed.

So, here we are. A family rushing to get to school on time, trying to remember
to bring the science paper and the gift for the teacher… with a twelve year old
that I am harping at because it’s her turn to empty the dishwasher and she
forgot the clean the front bathroom. No post surgery flare… all her joints calm
and quiet. A twelve year old that argues because she wants to stay up late, and
doesn’t want to study for her history test again…. Who thinks she should be
able to wear lipstick, because all the girls do…. And who wants to wear heels
to a fancy event. Three weeks after hip replacement surgery. Normal life. How
lucky are we?

Here’s a short video of Caitlin in PT:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5HLEZH-nAzw&feature=channel_video_title

 

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