Artist Mary Rouncefield relates the story of her hip replacement operation in words and pictures. All of her compelling watercolour and ink drawings are available in Wellcome Images.
At home indoors for a couple of weeks after the operation, I decide to make a series of drawings about my experience as a hip patient. I really enjoyed doing this and it helped me to express some of my feelings.
My drawings include ‘Pills’ – drawn because for a while, my life seemed to revolve around taking pills: pain relief, anti-inflammatories, vitamins, iron tablets, herbal sleeping tablets and so on.
By the time I had an appointment with with the consultant my physiotherapist had told me that she couldn’t do any more to help me and that my hip had completely seized up.
I went into Southmead Hospital in Bristol to have the hip replacement operation in November 2013. I was initially very worried that this was a condition reserved for the elderly. The hospital though organised a pre-operation class in which the procedures were explained and we were taught our exercises. I was relieved to see that there were people in their forties and possibly even thirties in the group. What a relief!
I was admitted at 7am on the day of the operation and was first to go down to theatre. There I met the anaesthetist (wearing ‘ordinary’ clothes rather than her ‘greens’). She seemed very nice and also very capable- quite the sort of person I could entrust with my life! She explained that I was a suitable candidate for an epidural rather than a general anaesthetic – but that I would be asleep under sedation. (More relief!).
Inserting the epidural into the spine was a bit uncomfortable but that was the worst bit. From then on I was drifting in outer space unaware of what was happening to me and completely unable to control events in the operating theatre.
I found myself in a hospital ward later that morning and felt well enough to eat lunch. The next day though, some of the pain relief I was given seemed to induce vomiting; undignified and humiliating at times.
I was home by lunchtime on the fourth day – and dependent on my partner’s help. I was unable to walk far, unable to bend down and even sitting down had to be done with care.
Visitors included the phlebotomist sent to check whether my red blood count had improved, and the district nurse (a man on a bicycle!). To my regret, I did not get to see him on his bicycle – so no drawing I’m afraid.
My drawing of the phlebotomist is based purely on the imagination. I hate needles and had to close my eyes while the blood sample was being taken, and this was the picture in my mind.
The main thing I had noticed was, at times, the total dependency on other people and lack of control throughout much of the hospital experience. Nine months on though, I am feeling much more like my ‘old self’, after more physio, plenty of swimming and walking and I even feel like tackling the DIY!