A New Hip, A New Dance
I have a new hip. My second prosthesis.
For a dancer, mobility is everything, and even age doesn’t really put a damper on someone who never pirouetted on pointe and never lifted and carried a partner across a stage. My dancing has always been of the mild variety, experimental only in its storytelling and in its adaptation for unconventional performers (i.e. those in wheelchairs or walkers.)
When I watch my 85-year-old students dance, I see not the limitations of their bodies but just the newness of steps and weight shifts and rhythms. They use their canes, not airborne like Fred Astaire, but like a third leg. I think that if these women had danced all their lives, they would be a lot more secure on their feet, and better able to remember choreography. They would have whatever problems arthritis and medication and eyesight present, but nothing that detrimental. Their movement now is more like that of fledgling birds, feeling the ground for the first time, finding their space.
But back to my hip. I remember vividly back 7 years ago when my husband had to push me around a museum in a wheelchair. That was a whole month before my right total hip replacement and I had no idea what to expect afterwards. I thought, it can’t get worse than this. The pain, the waking up at night, the lack of surety that my leg would hold me up when I stepped out. I was terrified that I might end up in a wheelchair for life, but I was damned if I was going go this way. A fake hip had to be better! And it was.
This time, I didn’t wait that long. I taught my last class 4 days before surgery and although I was walking with a cane, I could still dance with the bum left hip. What was harder was standing on a street corner (I leaned on my cane) or walking more than 5 blocks on the hard pavement.
But I was still scared. I am 7 years older; hospitals are now terrifying places because of all the infections that run rampant; and the body is fluky. I was looking forward to physical therapy with the amazing Ed, who made my last recovery possible, but I was well aware from my yoga practice that I was not supposed to look ahead. The present moment is where it’s at. And from here, the view was not as nice.
My doc told me that this time, the procedure would be faster and better, the prosthesis is smaller and more flexible, and because pain management is partly done locally (an anesthetic placed into the wound site before the incision is sewn up), the ingested drugs are not as potent. I was astounded to be up and about 3 hours after the procedure, walking stairs and getting into a fake car in the PT room. I was discharged 28 hours after my surgery.
This has to be Star Trek medicine. Fortunately, I was able to get subs for all my dance classes; I took off a month; I rescheduled a photo shoot of my dancers into October, and we did it just a few days ago--it was swell!
My surgeon was right. This time I literally skipped 4 weeks after surgery. I was able to tell my classes, “I just had my hip replaced—what’s your excuse?” I think (I hope) they are working harder to catch up.
Healing isn’t all in the muscles. It’s in the mind, too.