All of my life I have been considered to be physically healthy. As the mother of six children born within a 8½ year time span as well as caring for large garden and helping with farm tasks as needed to say nothing of normal Mom’s family duties: preparing meals, baking, canning, and freezing garden produce, doing laundry (with a wringer machine) trying to keep a neat, clean home. Listing all those things I did makes me tired just thinking about it. And of course there were many other things I could add.
Along about 1997 I began to have serious pain in my left hip. I consulted our family doctor who ordered X-rays and then a series of work with physical therapists, exercises, manipulation, and even drug therapy but none of those enabled me to do my usual activities without constant pain. So I was sent to a surgeon to be evaluated for implanting a new plastic joint which was expected to function well for the next 20 years. Recovery time for the surgery was to be four to six weeks for a healthy, strong person like … Well, I had the surgery on May 15, 1998. That first joint replacement of the six which carries me around at the present time seemed almost miraculous. The fact that it was rated to last 20 years didn’t bother me at all; surely I wasn’t worried about being around in 20 more years.
My family, parents, aunts and uncles, cousins, all died of cancer of one sort or another. I told myself and others that I would not go that way, even though the odds were against me. (So far so good)
But a couple of years after that first joint replacement, I began to have serious pain in my right hip which led to the whole process of therapy, etc., and my second joint replacement. It too gave me new life, it was worth it. The years since that second one which happened in 2001 have been a series of joint replacements: left knee joint, left shoulder joint, right shoulder joint, and right knee joint just two years ago.
Because I have very strong bones, replacement of the joint between the bones is very successful as long as the plastic joint part lasts. Strangely, the one which gave out first was the right one which was originally replaced in 2001. Why? I have realized that is the leg joint with which I “dig, brace and lift”.
All of this has shown me what is the weakest part of my anatomy; the natural cushioning in my joints is weak. I have lost about three inches of height in the past several years as I have lost most of the “disks” between the vertebra of my back. It shrunk me, which doesn’t feel very comfortable, and it’s not easily if at all fixable. It seems that my body just doesn’t make what one needs between bones or doesn’t what wears well. Many places in the body needs “cartilage,” a general term for all different parts to hold ones bones together functionally.
I’ve often thought how limited my life would be without my artificial joints — probably wheel-chair bound. Presently I’m looking forward to the complete healing of the replacement of the replacement of the original replacement of my right hip joint. One of my favorite relaxing recreation is hiking in a woods, which I’ve not been able to do for several years. I also love gardening in my 40-by-25-foot vegetable garden. I love to see things grow and can and freeze tomatoes, green beans, etc. Right now my front yard is bordered by bright yellow daffodils, colorful tulips; through the summer many perennials will take their turns until fall. My body is not what it once was — my hearing requires hearing aids which help some — my vision allows me to do much reading — I had my driver’s license renewed last October with no restrictions.
My surgery on Feb. 24 went well; but other parts of me still let me know that they’re there. “The Old Gray Mare Ain’t What She Used To Be” as the old saying says, but she can still do a good bit of kicking. I’m not willing to give up all the things I love yet!
Lee Haight is a lifelong resident of Wisconsin whose background includes farm wife and mother of six, legal secretary, teacher and pastor.