I just got back from the Progressive International Motorcycle Show. Seven weeks away from my hip surgery and I managed to put in 2.5 miles at the show and between the Convention Center and the rest of my day. That is a low mileage day, I know, but it's not bad considering that about fifty days ago a guy in a white mask cut off my leg and nailed a titanium railroad spike in the hole. Considering that my left leg felt like it weighed hundreds of pounds six weeks ago, it's amazing that I can walk at all, let along take more than 6,500 steps and climb 11 flights of stairs. (Yeah, I'm anal. I wear a Fitbit thingy that tells me how much harder I should worked each day.)
I ran into MMM publishers, Victory and Tammy Wanchena, at the show. Victor had to remind me that a hip replacement is pretty much a geezerly credential. Athletes have knee replacements. Old farts have hip replacements. He's right. Between 200,000 and 300,000 hip replacements are done in the US every year. Only about 10% were patients younger than 50. Mostly, that's because docs advise patients to put off hip replacements as long as possible because "the limited life expectancy of the prostheses" and the relatively long and painful post-surgery recovery period.
Creepy, don't you think? Me too.
I found at least one prediction that US hip replacements will rise to 600,000 by 2015. There could be one coming to your town any day now. At about $50,000 per replacement, hips ought to wipe out Medicare alone. On the other hand, about 300,000 knees are replaced every year, just in the US. About 70% of those are geezer (over 65) surgeries. Knees are even more expensive.
The upside is that most (65%) hip replacements last at least 25 years. My upside is that I'm in less pain today than I was on December 13th, the day before my surgery. When I got back from the bike show, I made my first attempt to get on the WR250X. I didn't try to get on to a single bike, even the handicap-enabled hippobikes, at the bike show. If I was going to fall on my ass, get stuck halfway between on the bike or on the floor, or end up buried under a motorcycle, I wanted it to happen privately. When I tried to swing a leg over the WR's tall seat, I half-expected to be disappointed. I was not. Painlessly and fairly smoothly, I found myself sitting on the seat, comfortably. Damn. I don't know if it ever felt so good to be on a motorcycle seat.
Two months ago, I worried that I was making a choice between walking or riding. Walking is nice, but riding is something I live to do. Not just motorcycles, but all things two-wheeled. I enjoy riding my bicycle almost as much as my motorcycles. Almost. If the choice had been clearly "walk or ride," I might have given up walking. My surgeon kept telling me, "You'll be able to do what you want to do." I decided to trust that very non-specific statement and it looks like he wasn't whitewashing the pig (me).
My wife reminds me, regularly, that this should teach me something about being positive.
A week into "recovery" and I was convinced I'd ruined my life, that I would be lame for the rest of my life. I was miserable. My usually sunny outlook was darker than a black hole. [Yeah, I know. I couldn't buy a sunny outlook with Warren Buffett's money.] I was walking, slowly and carefully, from the kitchen to the living room; for exercise. I couldn't put on my own socks or shoes, find a comfortable position for sleep, or think half-clearly on my morphine-laced meds. A week later, I was dragging my ass to the malls and struggling to knock out a half-mile in an hour. A week later, my wife and I walked about 1/2 way around Lake Como. That week, I crawled on to my wife's stationary bicycle and managed to put in ten minutes before running out of steam. Week four, I walked a mile for the first two days, a mile and a half the next, and by Saturday, I was covering two miles a day.By the end of the week, I was pedaling the stationary bike for thirty minutes and that has been my minimum routine since. The big benchmark in week five was tying the laces of my hiking boots. Week six, I could put on my shoes without a long shoe horn.
Now, at seven weeks out, I'm walking 2 1/2 to 4 miles a day, doing a half-hour of therapy, pedaling a stationary bike for a half-hour, and working on increasing my flexibility. I got on the bike today, but I'm not strong enough to ride safely, I couldn't pick up the 250 if I dropped it in the garage. I'm working on that. I'm almost as strong as I was before the surgery, which was a pretty poor benchmark.
Every day is a step closer to getting back to being me. I'm on the edge of being able to imitate a sunny outlook. For the first time in years, I expect to be in less pain and more mobile in a couple of months. Come May, I will be back in the saddle.
Ride safe, ride hard, and "rage against the dying of the light."
MMM Spring 2012