I had my right hip resurfaced (BHR) by Dr. Emil Schemitsch at University Hospital in London, Ontario on January 27, 2020. I’m a 53 year old, active male. I officiate high school basketball, play a lot of golf, and a bit of baseball.
I started having issues with my right leg 5-6 years ago, and had no idea what the problem was. The most common pain/discomfort was in the lower back on the right side. I’d occasionally feel pain in my thigh and groin. I visited a chiropractor friend, and he treated it as a SI joint problem, which referred pain down to my leg. I feel ridiculous today for thinking that was the problem for the first couple of years. I continued to stay active, although it got more and more difficult. My older brother has had both hips done (one resurfacing, one replacement), and he suggested that I have it checked out by my family doctor. In January 2018, we had it X-rayed, and sure enough, I was virtually bone-on-bone in my hip. No local (Chatham, Ontario) surgeons perform resurfacing, but I wanted to try the procedure, so I was referred to Dr. Schemitsch in London. I saw him in early December 2018. He thoroughly explained the procedure, and we scheduled it, with an expected wait time of “a year, or a year and a bit”. I muddled through 2019, staying active at his suggestion. His thought was that if I cut back on activity, it would weaken the rest of my body, and would make recovery that much more difficult. That made sense to me. I tended to take an Advil For Arthritis prior to any exertion, and that worked well for me. I had also had a cortisone shot in the hip joint in September 2018. That provided strong relief for several days, but that was about the extent of it.
I had my pre-op day at the hospital on January 14, 2020. It was a very efficient, organized process, and I was extremely impressed. I saw no less than 5 health care professionals that day, but didn’t have to leave the room; they all came to me. Counting a visit to X-ray, I was in and out of the hospital in 3.5 hours.
I arrived at the hospital at 6:00 am on the 27th for my 8:00 am surgery. Just like the pre-op day, everything was done very efficiently. I joked with my wife that I hoped I’d fall asleep quickly, because I watch medical dramas, and I know that the staff just talks about their social lives and stuff during surgery…lol. I had a spinal epidural, with freezing above the waist. Sure enough, the last thing I recall before going under was a few of the staff talking about what they’d done on the weekend. Perfect! The next time I saw a clock, it was about 10:20 am, and I was in recovery. I will never forget looking down at my legs and seeing them both aligned perfectly. It was the first time I’d seen that in years; was so used to seeing that right leg splayed outward. I couldn’t help but laugh, and I did that a few more times while in the hospital. It really was a cool moment. An X-ray tech came by with a portable machine, and showed me the X-ray of “my new hip”. Dr. Schemitsch came by after a bit, told me that everything went great, and made sure that I was aware of the restrictions that I’d face for the next 6 weeks. I didn’t know that he had already spent about 10 minutes talking to my wife about the surgery and recovery. I appreciated that he was in no hurry to finish the conversation with either of us. I lucked out and had a great roommate, and we chatted for hours over the course of that day and evening. Later that afternoon, an occupational therapist stopped by to ask if I wanted to try and take a few steps. I slowly got up, grabbed the walker, started to step, and was profusely sweating by about step #8. Back to the bed for me, with very low blood pressure, and that was it for getting up for that day. The next day (the 28th), I felt good, proved that I could manage crutches, and we were on the road to come home by noon. The nurses, and all of the hospital personnel involved, were outstanding. I’d recommend University Hospital to anyone.
The unique thing about Dr. Schemitsch is that he mandates feather-weight bearing on the hip joint for 6 weeks. I knew I wasn’t going to be one of those stories where I was climbing mountains in week 5. I found that using a walker to get around the house was easier than using crutches. A claw-foot cane helped me to get into and out of chairs. Attaching a small lunch box to the walker allowed me to carry whatever I needed around the house. My wife worked from home during week one, and I can’t imagine how anyone could get through week 1 without help. After that first week, I was fine on my own during the day. I’d highly recommend staying as active as possible leading up to your surgery, as I really felt that has aided in my recovery. I’d also recommend trying to develop some upper body strength, as that helps a lot with walker and crutch use. There were some early days when things were tough; it was hard to sleep, and there was lots of sweating involved. I used the prescribed 500 mg acetaminophen for about the first week, but didn’t touch the prescribed opioid. I truly did not have much pain at all throughout the process, but felt that the acetaminophen took the edge off at times. 27 days of self-administered blood-thinning needles wasn’t fun, but honestly, it was not a big deal. I had basic exercises to do each day, but given the restrictions (ie.- no weight bearing, no violating the 90 degree rule, no crossing the midline), there wasn’t much I could be given. I work at home, and started doing an hour or two of work per day in week 2. That progressed to a more normal work day of 4 to 5 hours by week 4. During week one, there was no way I’d have been able to concentrate enough to get anything done. Netflix was one of my best friends over the first 3 or so weeks.
I had my 6 week check-up with Dr. Schemitsch on March 10. Again, it was a smooth process, with an X-ray followed by a visit with him. My X-ray was “excellent”, with the stem at a 45 degree angle to horizontal, the stem right in the centre of the femur, and the cup sitting perfectly. He was very friendly, and just like after the surgery, in no big hurry to move on to his next appointment. He fully answered every question I had. My “new” leg is a tiny bit longer than my left, which is something that Dr. Schemitsch had told me could result. It’s almost imperceptible, and I don’t anticipate it causing any problems. I left with instructions to put full weight on the joint, and to wean myself off of crutches and a cane over the next several days. It has been a pretty smooth 3 weeks since that visit. I now have about 20 different exercises to do each day, and they vary a lot between simple motion work and weight bearing exercises. There have been a few days when I really didn’t feel like getting into the exercises, either because there were other things I wanted to do, or because the exercises weren’t feeling great when I began. I pushed through, and my advice is to do exactly that. Make the time to do them, and your recovery will thank you. When I began walking without aid, I noticed that my right foot wanted to turn inward. I assumed/hoped that was simply because certain ligaments weren’t yet strong enough to allow the foot to stride properly, and that’s proven to be true. So, my advice is to not worry if your foot initially wants to do what mine did. I’ve increased the distance of my daily walk to 2.25 km, and I plan to up that to 3 km by the weekend. There were a couple days since the check-up that I felt I wasn’t improving, but those days were quickly followed by good days. Recovery is not a straight line. My physiotherapist estimates that the muscles, tendons, etc. were about 30% healed at the 6 week mark, are about 70% healed by the current 9 week mark, and should be around 90% healed by the 12 week mark. I still have lots of stiffness in the joint after sitting or laying for any period of time, but that is apparently normal, as swelling in and around the joint takes several months to resolve. I am pretty sure that my right leg, at around 70% “strength”, is now stronger than it was pre-surgery. I can still remember how weak and sometimes unstable my leg would feel, and am very glad that I pursued surgery at a relatively young age. I have my 12 week visit with Dr. Schemitsch on April 21 and I hope to receive the all-clear at that point.