It was about now that I realised something had to be done about my hip. Both hips, in fact, but the right one in particular was very painful all the time, and excrutiating for most of the time. Apparently I was groaning in my sleep, and certainly I could only get round Sainsbury’s by leaning heavily on the trolley and scooting myself along. I was short-tempered all the time with the pain, and aggressive if I felt someone was being dim. Which I did most of the time, because … I was short-tempered all the time with the pain. I dreaded going to bed at night because lying down and turning over brought tears to my eyes, but once there I dreaded getting up because every movement was agony.
An injection of silicone into the socket eased things for three days, and apparently proved that the only real answer was either a replacement or something called a ‘Birmingham resurfacing’. While this sounds like something interminable that’s always being done to the Spaghetti Junction, it was in those days a revolutionary process designed to be used on the younger (hurrah!) patient, and involved scraping away the roughened lining of the hip socket, and the top surface of the ball joint, and replacing them with new titanium layers. Resurfacing or replacement: either only lasts about fifteen years, but I was determined to wait as long as possible for a full replacement – longevity runs in my family and I was keen to spend as little of my future as possible in a wheelchair. Matters came to a head, however, one morning after school drop-off.
No2 was by now at a local Prep school and with great bravery (or so I told everyone) I drove her in one wet morning and walked her to her classroom, leaning on the wall all the way and puffing with pain. I just about made it back to the car and was about to drive off when two friends approached: wreathed in smiles I wound down the window and then, to my horror, burst into tears.
‘If I have it done now’ I sobbed ‘that’ll do me for fifteen years, then a double replacement for another fifteen, and then what? A wheelchair for the rest of my life!’
‘Right. But in the meantime’ said my forthright friend from Carolina (a logical, obvious step: Carolina to Lincolnshire) ‘You’ve got no life. You haven’t got an option. Go do it.’
It was as though someone had turned the lights on. It was as if I had been stumbling around in the gathering dark for the last few months, in such a stew and in such pain that I simply couldn’t see a way out. It was suddenly utterly and completely clear that this had to be done, and the sooner the better. As if someone had turned off a tap I stopped crying, and just looked at her.
‘Of course.’ I said, and that was it. I went home and googled the name of a surgeon I had been given. His CV was frightening and completely beyond my comprehension but he had a nice face, so I sent him an email, and that evening the phone rang. It had never occurred to me that he might ring, and even once he had convinced me this wasn’t a prank I was more than a little taken aback, but we talked and got on well and arranged that I should come to London the next week to see him. Before I wasted time and effort and a train fare on getting there however, there was a question I needed answering.
‘I’m really sorry to ask you this’ I said ‘But are you any good at these?’
Now the discerning among you will think that was odd. Was he ever likely to admit he wasn’t, and ring off? No, maybe not. But I didn’t think it was unreasonable: if I was going to let him cut me open, dislocate my hip – how, I didn’t dare imagine – put a sling round the end of my femur, hoist it out of my body, grind off the top of the ball, grind out the lining of the socket, reline one, recap the other, lower it again, whack it back into place and sew me up again, I sort of wanted to know that he knew what he was doing.
There was an indrawn breath, a pause, and then a chuckle. ‘See you next week.’ he said.