The one problem with having had JIA for so long (and for being an absent-minded yoof for the most part of it) is that I kinda lose track of when things actually happened. Example: I don’t know how long I’ve known that I will one day need hip replacements, but I know that I will. My parents can’t remember either.
I knew before I turned 16, as that was the year when I went to see my orthopaedic surgeon (who specialises in children and tiny people) and my friends made up a hilarious song about “The Hip Doctor” to distract me from the fact that I was a 15 year-old with the hips of an 80 year-old. The song is to the tune of “The Witch Doctor” and is tip-top bants, by the way.
4th August 2008
I knew before May 2008. I know I knew before then, because it was in May 2008 that the Hip Doctor said he could whap my old hips out and stick some new ones in just in time for me to be walking again (albeit on crutches) for Freshers’ Week. The date was all set for 4th August, and all I had to do was actually get some muscles in my legs to help with my recovery.
Anyone who met me in Freshers’ Week (or just knows me well enough for me to have told them just how bitter I am about this whole thing!) will have realised that the replacements did not happen then. Nor have they happened since.
The thing is, to have hip replacements you really do have to be in a tremendous amount of pain, and (rather fortunately for me) I am not. Rather unfortunately for me, my hips are pretty damaged and while they remain as they are, they’re kinda ruining the rest of my body, which is something I really don’t want to happen.
I think I’m a lot better now, but I wasn’t always very good at dealing with the limitations of my condition. From 2008 up to around April 2009 I tried to forget about my arthritis, and did so with a great deal of success due to me being in virtually no pain at all, until a Terrible Thing happened – but more on that later.
This incident led to a sudden, really bad, flare up of my arthritis. Later that year, I found out I’d have to get my left knee replaced as well as my two hips. Honestly, if I had been less of dick, I think I might have been able to spare myself that one – I don’t know if that’s medically the case, but believing it myself definitely makes me more watchful and responsible and I know I’ll never let things get that out of hand again. My doctors don’t always believe me though!
The bionic woman
I went to see the Hip Doctor last week, on my own, for the first time ever. I always ask for the replacements, and he always says no. Sometimes he says not yet, and sometimes he cryptically says “Come back in a year”.
I always cry when I go see the Hip Doctor. He understands this and tends to ignore it, but last week I saw his registrar instead and when I (inevitably) started crying at him, he got me some tissues and that made me cry more.
The reason I always cry is this: I don’t know what I want to happen.
I always convince myself that I want the replacements doing now, because I want the damage to the rest of me (my back, knees, feet, ankles, etc.) to be nipped in the bud. But the problem with these clever bloody surgeons is that they know a lot more about surgery than I do, and they always manage to convince me that it’s best for me to wait.
Replacement joints last for 10-15 years, and they can only usually re-do them once. If I had them now, I’d be looking at having three completely destroyed joints by 52. I don’t think that’s what I want, but I don’t think I want to be forty with fab hips and ruined ankles either.
For now, I just know it will happen in the “middle term”, as opposed to the short or long. No, I don’t know what that means either. For now, I’m just happy to say that I’m 22 and all my joints are my own.
Understatement of the year goes to the registrar I saw last week, with this beauty: “That is by no means a normal knee.” But normal is over-rated anyway!