I try not to complain about health insurance very much. I have experienced the benefit of having great health insurance coverage over the years and I am very thankful my husband has provided these benefits for me. In his words, “my job in this marriage is to provide health benefits so Theresa can do whatever the heck she pleases.” Sounds about right to me.
In 1984, before medical costs skyrocketed and the health insurance plans became so complicated, Kindra was born 9 weeks prematurely, weighing in at 2 pounds, 14 ounces. She was life-flighted to Children’s Mercy while I lay in intensive care at another hospital. She underwent a surgical procedure and was in the NICU for 75 days.
In total our medical expense for that experience was in the range of $125,000. I believe we paid only our $200 deductible. According to the consumer price index inflation calculator, $125K in 1984 is about the same as $266K in 2011 dollars.
The costs for my December hip replacement to date:
Physical Therapy 2,823
Home medical equipment 334
This does not include any drug costs, over the counter or prescription.
If you watched TV in the 70’s you remember a show called the $6 Million Dollar Man. The plot centered around a former astronaut, Steve Austin, whose body had to be rebuilt after a training accident. The six million dollars in cost to rebuild allowed him to run at speeds up to 60 mph and provided him with several other specialized skills.
Being the geeky accountant that I am, I thought it would be fun to calculate what my personal reconstruction would be given a few assumptions:
I am going to live to be 100 years old. I am sure that the life insurance tables would disagree with that considering the state of this decrepit body, but I am going with that.
The useful life of a joint replacement is 15-20 years considering several factors. I am usually an optimist so I will go with 20.
Given the facts above, there is a potential I would need my joints replaced 2 additional times after this first go round. For you math nerds out there, (100-54)/20=2.3
If we assume all four joints will cost approximately the same, $66K, then a full set of replacement parts will cost approximately $264K.
If I have three total replacements of four joints over my life, the cost will be approximately $792K. (In 2011 dollars of course).
Finally, according to the Consumer Price Index, the annual rate of inflation since 1913 has been 3.37%. If you assume that rate will prevail, when I am 100 years old my reconstruction costs will be $3.6 million dollars.
Are you still with me people? OK, I will not be the $6 million dollar woman, but you would think for half the cost I should be able to run at least half as fast……say 30 miles per hour?
Bottom line…….I am STILL very thankful for health insurance.
This past weekend convinced me that physical therapy is working. My ability to shop (even though I took frequent breaks) demonstrates that my stamina and endurance are increasing. For now I am doing pool therapy 3 times per week. It feels great, the water is 92 degrees. I am able to do much more in the pool than I would be able to do on land due to my other three non-replaced joints. After my second surgery I will move to half pool and half land.
I only have about two and a half weeks of therapy left. Then I will have a month before surgery number two. I need to find someplace with a WARM pool that I can continue these exercises so I do not lose the momentum I have gained.
Physical therapy is not always convenient, it is an interruption to the work day and takes time to dress/undress and drive to the pool. However, I am hoping my efforts now will make my recovery from the second surgery easier and faster.
Just returned from a great three-day weekend in Branson. Friends asked us if we would like to join them at their time share this past weekend and we had a really nice time. They were so nice to us, making sure we had a first floor condo so I would not have to do stairs and giving us the master bedroom.
I was a little worried I would slow down their fun since I am not nearly as mobile as I would like to be. However, I even surprised myself at how much I was able to do. I guess the physical therapy is really paying off. We shopped, went to a 60’s musical review show, shopped, ate, shopped, went to see the movie Lincoln Lawyer (which we all liked), ate, shopped and ate some more. We visited the Tanger Outlet three different times and the great thing is that it has benches outside every other store. I would shop, rest, shop, rest, etc.
I spent a little too much time and a little too much money in this store, but I came home VERY happy.
Several people have asked me if I will be 100% normal after all these surgeries. GREAT QUESTION! I actually asked Dr. L that very thing before the first surgery. His response was “If that were not the expectation, we would not be doing this.” I think that was doctor speak for “I sure hope so!” I understand everyone’s case is different and everyone responds differently to treatments but I sure would have liked him to say, “Absolutely!”
It is not that I expect to run a marathon or anything, I would be happy with some pretty simple things like walking through the grocery store or going shopping without pain. I am getting frustrated easily these days. I am thinking that I have had surgery so I should be MUCH better. I should not have to use this darn cane to walk. And in reality the achy arthritis pain in my left hip is virtually gone. However I still have three joints that do not work well and my left hip occasionally does hurt but in a different way. It does not feel normal yet.
Here is where that patience and endurance thing comes in again……as most of you know, patience is not my best virtue but I really have no choice. I have started this journey and now I have to finish it.
For the past several months Kindra and DL have been training for the Houston MS150 which will be held in April.
My husband and his father participated in the MS150 – Kansas City ride for many years. DL wrote a nice tribute about Kindra’s grandfather expressing the reasons he is participating in the ride. Below is a picture of David and his Dad on the ride DL mentions in this article.
Molly is on spring break this week but took on additional hours at work so for the most part she is staying at school. She did decide to come home for the night and made sure we would wait on her for dinner. In honor of Ms. Nutrition and Dietician to be, I decided to make a nice home cooked meal. We had chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes (made with lots of butter and cream cheese) and a salad on the side. Then to top it off we went to Dairy Queen and had ice cream cones for dessert. OK, I am guessing my 45 minutes at physical therapy today did not even make a dent against the calories in that meal. Oh well, as usual, the diet starts again tomorrow.
This will be a long post to catch everyone up from December 2010 when this journey started until now. I promise future posts will not be even close to this long……
November 27, 2010 – Thirty one days until the beginning of my new life…..at least that is the way I am trying to think about it. Not thirty one days until the most painful experience of my life or not thirty one days until the most challenging days of my life. Thirty one days from today I will undergo the first of four surgeries that will replace both of my hips and knees. At the end of that process I hope to be able to:
leisurely walk through the grocery store as I fill my cart
walk around the block or on the trails in our subdivision
get up from a chair or the couch without having to think about it for thirty seconds, contemplate the pain, then take thirty seconds to actually stand up and move the first leg forward
go shopping with my daughters
walk up and down stairs without pain
go on a vacation and do some sight seeing
get through the day without pain medication
December 20, 2010 – One week until surgery. Here I sit at 1:18 am, unable to sleep due to the pain. I took a pain pill so maybe in an hour I can try and sleep again. Today I will go to the hospital for a pre-operative appointment, provide my medical history and visit with an anesthesiologist. The last few weeks my mobility has decreased even further, I have no idea how I will be able to negotiate a new hip with limited mobility in my other joints. I feel this first surgery will be the hardest recovery. A friend told me she was praying for me to have patience and endurance. That is exactly what I need right now.
There is a ledge I am walking between doubt and confidence, one side is dark, the other light. The doubting or dark side is a crevice that pulls me in and covers me with fear and despair. I go there almost each time I rise from a chair and feel the pain of putting one leg in front of the other trying to manage just a few steps to the next chair. I do not know how I got here. I use to walk around the block in the evenings, enjoy walking up and down each aisle of the grocery store and even ride a bike around the neighborhood with my husband. I feel those days are gone forever. I want my old life back. Then I try and talk myself out of this fissure, trying to think of what might be on the other side, the light side of the ledge. I read stories of others who have had joint replacements and see how they have managed to not only survive but thrive. Of course the disclaimer in these stories, “every patient is different and recovery is dependent on age, weight and physical ability” often pushes me back on the ledge. I try and remember that many people 20 and 30 years older than I have this surgery and are able to walk again. I remind myself that I am a hard worker….at least mentally….now I need to be a physically hard worker. One thing I have not seen in any of the inspiring stories I have searched out is someone who has had all four joints replaced……..back on the ledge.
This weekend is Christmas which I have always loved. All three girls, both sons-in-law and both granddogs will be here.
I have all the presents purchased and wrapped. The Christmas day menu has been created and I have each day mapped out to finish the cleaning, food shopping and cooking.
I am feeling the light headedness of the pain medication kicking in so I will try now to get some sleep.
Sunday, January 2, 2011
I survived! I had surgery on the morning of December 28 and woke up with a new left hip. Unfortunately, I also woke up with a small fracture of my left femur that was caused during surgery when the stem component of the hip prosthesis was being placed in the marrow cavity of the thigh bone. It was small, but my ortho doc (Dr. L) felt a metal band placement around the top of the femur was necessary to provide support. It may cause some extra pain during recovery and there will be some minor restrictions to physical therapy for a short time, but overall it should be a minor issue.
Dave stayed with me at the hospital the entire 4 days, only going home for an hour or so to shower each day. He slept on a cot by my bed and attended to my every need. He is a wonderful husband and I feel so blessed to have him.
The first 24 hours after surgery consisted of a continuous morphine drip as well as “shots” of morphine when needed. The “shots” I am referring to were not the “getting stuck with a needle” kind of shots, but the hand held dosage regulator I just clicked when I felt any pain. It provided quick relief. By the second day, they had removed the IV with the morphine drip and started pain pills every 4 hours.
I also started physical and occupational therapy. The occupational therapist showed me how to get clothes on while still maintaining my hip precautions. The hip precautions are to prevent dislocating the hip while it heals. Everyone keeps quizzing me on what the three hip precautions are:
-Do not bend my new hip beyond 90 degrees
-Do not cross my legs
-Use a pillow between my legs when lying down.
Trust me….I am taking this seriously. The thought of dislocating my hip is not too appealing. The physical therapist also came twice per day and we started with just sitting on the side of the bed, then actually standing up holding on to a walker. Soon I was walking a few steps in the room and eventually I was walking out of the room, down the hall and back again. I was pretty slow but actually amazed at how little pain there was in my new hip. Granted I was on pain meds, but I assumed the pain would be much worse. I did not have much energy though, by the time I would get back to the room I was exhausted.
On the morning before I went home, the physical therapist showed me how to walk up and down stairs with the new hip. Up with the old, down with the new. We practiced on three or four stairs. I was tired, but successfully navigated the stairs.
I came home on New Year’s Eve and after hanging out on the first floor of the house for a couple of hours, I decided to tackle the stairs to my bedroom. We live in a traditional two story house and have 15 stairs from the first floor to the second floor.
I knew it would be a challenge, but I made it! When I got to the top of the stairs I was not sure I was going to make it to the chair in my bedroom but I did it. I was totally worn out…..that took so much effort. At that point I decided I would probably stay in my room, on the second floor, for the rest of my life!!!
Wednesday, January 5, 2011
The Home Health nurse and physical therapist have both started coming on a regular basis. I was started on the drug Warfarin for blood clots before I left the hospital. On each visit the nurse tests my blood and calls Dr. L with the results. Based on that test they determine the dosage of the Warfarin. Blood clots are one of the biggest issues after a hip replacement. I also have to wear beautiful and fashionable support stockings 24 hours a day.
The physical therapist gave us a great tip on ice packs. She suggested adding 1/3 cup of isopropyl alchol to 2/3 cup water, putting that in doubled Ziploc bags, then freezing it. Due to the alcohol, the water never freezes solid but is VERY cold and mushy which means the bag is very flexible and can fit against your body exactly as you need it to. She also suggested making two bags so we always have one ready to use. The ice packs help tremendously. I am still surprised that overall my pain level is much lower than I anticipated. Granted I am taking the pain meds and using the ice packs regularly, but I am still pleasantly surprised at how little pain I have.
Friday January 7, 2011
Family and friends have been visiting, bringing food and offering encouragement. I am so grateful for their concern and assistance. My biggest complaint now is trying to sleep comfortably. I have never been a back sleeper and right now that really is my only option. For this reason I have spent every night since I have been home in my new recliner that I purchased right before surgery. A friend who had undergone a knee replacement a few months earlier told me I may need it and I am really glad I listened to her. I am not sure how I would have slept at all without it. I do miss my Sleep-Number bed and the down-filled duvet comforter. Hopefully soon I will be able to sleep there again.
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
My days consist of doing physical therapy, being waited on hand and foot by my husband and watching Season 1 of “The Good Wife” (my new favorite show by the way). The Physical Therapist comes twice per week and I do the routine by myself on the other days. So far it is very tolerable. I am still having trouble sleeping. I lay in my bed for as long as I can and when I can not tolerate lying on my back any longer, then I get up and spend the rest of the night in the recliner. I am literally trying to add five minutes each night. I would have never thought prior to the surgery that this would be my biggest complaint!
Wednesday, January 13, 2011
The physical therapist showed me how to roll from my back to my right side while in bed today. That does not seem like it would be a big deal, but for me it was heaven. Of course I have to use my hip precautions, keeping a pillow between my legs so I do not dislocate the new joint. I have also been ULTRA cautious about any movement so between the pillow between the legs and the fear of pain, moving from my back to my side was harder than it sounds. Wow, it sure felt good though once I got there. Now that I have two positions I can sleep in, I am hoping my bed time will increase at night and my recliner time will decrease.
Thursday, January 13, 2011
It has been two and a half weeks since the surgery and today I went back to work for 4 hours. Going to work for me is a little easier than most because I work from home and only need to walk down the hall to my office. I can dress in my sweats and not worry what I look like. I also had an ice pack rotating on and off my hip the entire time. Not sure I would recommend going back this early, but it was not too bad. It was nice to think about something other than my hip for a few hours, but I must admit I was ready for a nap when I was done. It is amazing how just sitting at your desk can wear you out.
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
I am back to work full time this week and it has been challenging. I am very tired in the evenings and have been going to bed early. Between working 9-10 hours a day and doing in-home physical therapy, I am just wiped out at night.
Saturday, January 22, 2011
Big news….slept through the night in my own bed! Went to bed around 10:00 p.m. last night and woke up around 6:00 a.m. No recliner all night……major milestone!!
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
I am a worrier by nature and was a little, ok, maybe a lot worried about how this week was going to go. Dave is on a business trip to Rapid City, South Dakota and I am home alone for the first time since the surgery. I am still using the walker but recently started using a cane some of the time. I was not sure how I would handle the steps by myself, feed Cleo each morning, feed myself, etc. Dave offered to cancel the trip but I knew he would really like to get out of the house for awhile.
Over the weekend we bought a little compact refrigerator for the bedroom and stocked it with the essential water bottles and diet pepsi. I also bought some non-cook food items like cheese and crackers, peanut butter, yogurt, cereal, etc. We also brought all of Cleo’s food to our bathroom and set her water and food bowl on the ledge around the tub. Due to the hip precautions I can not bend to the ground to pick up the bowls so this arrangement has worked out well. Cleo easily found her food and has not missed a meal all week.
We provided the Physical Therapist and Home Health nurse with the entry code to our garage so they have been able to get in the house without me going down the steps to let them in. The J girls (Julie, Joyce and Joy – my best gal pals) have been wonderful as usual and each have brought food and much needed conversation.
Nothing to worry about after all……..
Sunday, January 30, 2011
Last night Dave and I actually went out to eat with our group of friends. It was my first time out in public with the walker, except to go to the doctor’s office. There was still some ice and snow around so I had to be extra careful getting from the car to the restaurant. Dave dropped me off as close to the door as possible and our friends walked with me while Dave parked the car. We went to our favorite little Italian restaurant in downtown Lee’s Summit called Ciao Bella. The food and conversation were excellent. For a few hours I forgot I was recovering from surgery and it seemed like a normal Saturday evening for us.
Being an accountant, this time of year is always a challenge. Besides working my normal 50 hours each week, I have also worked each Saturday since I have been back from surgery. Sitting at my desk for hours at a time is causing my entire left leg and especially my foot to swell. I was so concerned that I actually called the doctors office this weekend. Swelling is one of the signs of a blood clot and that is a known complication after hip surgery. Dr. L said that since it has been almost 5 weeks since my surgery that the chance of a blood clot is fairly slim. He suggested elevating my leg and if the swelling did not reduce in 24 hours to go to the emergency room. By the time I got up this morning, the swelling was gone. I really have to make an attempt to get up from my chair and walk for a few minutes each hour.
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Today I started outpatient physical therapy. The first session was really just an evaluation and discussion of my plan. The physical therapist asked me what my goal was which I thought was interesting……..I explained to her that this was the first of four surgeries I am going to have so I was thinking that besides greater mobility in my new hip I would also like to build my overall strength to help prepare me for my upcoming surgeries. She said that was a great goal…she said she often asks that question to manage expectations. Six to twelve weeks of PT for me is not going to have me walking like a normal person, however it will definitely be the start of a program that will eventually get me to my long term goal.
Saturday, March 5, 2011
What a great day. We spent the daylight hours with two of our daughters and one son-in-law visiting, eating and meeting a new family addition, Whitley the cat.
Whitley is just 7 pounds and is deathly afraid of her big brother Dakota, an 82 pound lab puppy. He is actually about a year old, but still has the energy of a puppy. In an effort to get the two new siblings use to each other, the vet suggested putting Whitley up on something high in the air so she could watch Dakota and get use to him. Kayla thought the top of the refrigerator would be the perfect spot and gently placed Whitley up there. Dakota, watching all this very intensly was not to be out done, he backed up and took a running start and attempted to get his 82 pounds on the kitchen counter. Unfortunately or fortunately depending on your perspective, only about two thirds of Dakota made it on the counter before he fell back to the floor. The coffee maker and assorted items on the kitchen counter did not fare too well either. When the kids stopped laughing (and scolding Dakota) they looked around and Whitley was nowhere to be seen. So much for that theory.
The evening was spent visiting with our usual group of friends….amazing how you can still find things to talk about after twenty years of seeing each other almost once a week. I am excited about a new plan we have. A couple of gals in the group want to learn to make t-shirt quilts for their kids. Since I have made three, one for each of the girls, I told them we could have a class and I would show them how to make one. In exchange, one of the girls is a great cake decorator so she said she would show us how to decorate cupcakes. I am thinking a cake ball class may be next….I love hanging out with my friends.
March 7, 2011
I had a big day today, besides trying to get in my usual 9-10 hours of work, I also visited Dr. L and had physical therapy. I drove myself to both places, found parking spots, walked in and then walked out. That is a bunch of activity for me….and I think now I am paying the price. It is 12:52 a.m. and despite taking a pain pill before I went to sleep at 10:00 p.m., I am now awake and both of my legs are aching big time. Sometimes it actually feels better to get up and walk than to continue to lie down. I have taken one of the stronger pain pills, the ones I save for the big pain, and now I am waiting for some relief to kick in.
In my exam, Dr. L could tell by the way I was walking that I am now using my left leg (with the new left hip) as my “good leg.” I have switched the cane to my left hand and am using it to support the right leg. I told him that the water therapy I have been doing is going very well and that typically the only pain I feel at all is in my right hip. He said I was doing great and if I am ready we can go ahead and schedule surgery number 2. He has always told me that I can pick the joint that is bothering me the most as the surgical candidate since all of them are in such bad shape….I chose the right hip. So now I am in the que….waiting on the insurance verification, then the scheduling of the surgery.
Due to my work schedule I really only have about two weeks out of the month that I can be off work. I am hoping to get the next surgery scheduled for either April 19 or May 18. April is preferable since Dave has a business trip scheduled on May 23, plus he was also invited to attend the Indy 500 race the following weekend with one of his childhood friends. He would probably have to cancel both if my surgery was in May. I do not think I would be ready to go it alone 4 or 5 days after surgery.
I am certainly not looking forward to those first couple of weeks after surgery. Although the pain was not too bad, it was a huge effort just to get to the bathroom or sleep at night. Overall, just a huge inconvenience. However, I remember thinking that at 4 weeks post-op I was feeling pretty good and almost normal. Of course normal for me is probably different than normal for most people. I have been living with OA for ten years and the last couple of years, my mobility had been severly limited. For the past 6 months prior to surgery I started using the motorized carts in the grocery store to get around. I basically do not go anywhere that requires walking for any distance.
However, I am envisioning that four weeks after surgery number two I should be greatly improved. With two new hips, I should have 50% less pain than I have now……..I can not even imagine how wonderful that will feel.
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
It is official, surgery number 2 is scheduled for May 17. Between my work schedule and Dr. L’s surgery schedule, this was the first date available. Sometimes I wonder what the heck I am thinking scheduling another surgery. I am certainly not yet at 100% since my first, however the pain relief I feel in my left hip encourages me to continue on. The thought of nice weather and the potential to be walking around the block by the end of summer, something I have not been able to do for a few years now, is VERY appealing.
Dave has cancelled his end of May business trip and turned down the Indy 500 offer. I told him I would just have the surgery in June, but he wants me to do this as soon as possible. Words can not describe how thankful I am to have such a supportive husband. I can not imagine facing all these surgeries and recoveries without him.
Friday, March 11
I guess technically it is Saturday, March 12 since I am writing this at 2:20 a.m. Getting up in the middle of the night is becoming a habit I really need to break. Hopefully when I have all new joints I will actually be able to sleep through a whole night.
Tonight we went to the first BBQ competition of the season. Dylan’s family competes in the Kansas City BBQ Society’s sanctioned BBQ competitions each year and luckily for us they usually invite us to attend the Friday evening party. Since these are usually large events I was a little concerned about how far away from the action we would have to park, which translates to how far I would have to walk. Although walking is definitely getting better, the right hip still screams at me if I have to go too far. Unbelievably, the team next to the Lil Smokers team did not show so we were able to park right next to the tent.
As usual, the food was incredible. I wish I would have taken a picture of the buffet table. We had sliced brisket, burnt ends, grilled shrimp and lobster and smoked salmon. We also had a large crock of broccoli cheese soup which was great since there was defiantly a chill in the air. Many of our friends and family were there so we had a great time visiting and eating. My niece Mendy brought a sampling of cake balls she made this week, Strawberry Margarita and Orange Julius. WOW, were those good! It was such a fun evening. If you have not already, visit the Lil Smokers webpage and order some of their BBQ sauce and rub…….you will not be sorry!
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Just got back from a great trip to Omaha. We travel to Omaha once a month to work and get some face time with our employers. Although Dave had made the trip a few times, this was my first time back since before the surgery. We decided to go up on Saturday and have dinner with a group of my work friends and spouses. We ate at 360 which is on the top floor of the Harrah’s casino in Council Bluffs, Iowa. The steaks and martinis were amazing….we laughed and talked for three hours before finally leaving the table. The rest of the week we put in some long hours at our offices, but were fortunate enough to get to catch up with a friend of Dave’s who was also the best man at our wedding. He lives about three hours west of Omaha in Gibbon, Ne, but travels to Lincoln on business frequently and happened to be there this week. He offered to make the extra hour drive to Omaha to visit with us over wings and beer….we certainly did not turn that down.
It is always so nice to get back home. I have missed you sleep number bed!
Friday, March 18, 2011
Warning! Warning! Major pitty party in progress….you may want to skip this post if you do not enjoy reading about a major meltdown. The day started on a good note with a quick visit to the Physical Therapist for the 4 week evaluation in which I am showing good progress. The work day was also going well, I was able to complete some tasks and mark items off my “TO-DO LIST” which is always a good thing. Then around 4:00 p.m. (on a Friday no less) I get the word that we will be making some changes in a task I have been working on all week. These changes would have a rippling effect in documents I had been preparing for several days. Of course, all needed to be updated and completed before my work day was over………I am pouting now.
We get a call from friends about dinner, but of course I have to say no and Dave goes out and picks up a pizza for us instead. I tell Dave that maybe when I am done we can go out for ice cream. At 8:30 p.m. I am finally able to call it quits for the day after working 13 hours with no lunch. This translates into my legs being VERY stiff and my left leg and foot VERY swollen from sitting at the desk the majority of the day. My stress level is high. I just do not have the energy to walk down the stairs and get into the car, so sorry Dave, no ice cream. Instead I decide to just go to bed. This is when I lose it……as usual I can not find any position that is comfortable. My right hip (not the new hip) and knee ache and I can not relax. Instead I just cry…….not just your “sweet little tears running down your face” cry, but the “whole body shake, air gulping” type of cry. I am feeling sorry for myself big time now……why can’t I just find a comfortable position to sleep, why can’t I fall asleep, why does my hip and knee have to hurt so much, why do I have to have OA, why me?????
Then Cleo jumps on the bed beside me….I have noticed that since my surgery, whenever I am feeling bad she is always right beside me. I truly believe that animals know when their person is in need of emotional support. She rubs her face against my hand and leans up against me. Finally she curls up as close to me as she can get. The crying stops and I start to relax a little…….thank you Cleo, I needed that!