You may have noticed that I haven’t been posting many walks recently. That’s because I’ve been finding it harder to walk any distance. I can walk, say to the swimming pool, or for half an hour along the river and back, but that’s about it. This year my unusual gait has become more pronounced and I feel less stable. I find it hard to stand up and sing properly – to firmly root myself in a comfortable position to support my voice. And I’ve been having more trips to the osteopath to re-align and reduce the pain in my upper body and head.
It feels like something has changed in the way I’m held together.
It has been four years since I last saw my orthopaedic consultant and over 19 years since he performed my total hip replacement. So this week I went along for a consultation and x-rays expecting to discuss hip revision surgery. The plastic liner to the joint wears over time, just like cartilage does in a real joint, and causes abnormal motion – and so I expected we’d reached the point where that, or other parts, might need replacing. I was pleasantly surprised to see from my x-rays that there has been very little change in the last four years (even after completing the South Downs Way in 2019) and the revision will be a future challenge.
The curved ball – or knee to be precise!
The issue with my current walking it seems, is my right knee. Nearly 50 years of bearing more than its fair 50% share of weight and compensating for the surgeries on my left side, plus dealing with the unusual shape of my right hip (my hip dysplasia is bilateral) and my crooked pelvis and different length legs, has taken its toll. The outside half of my right knee is now totally arthritic (with no gap between the femur and the tibia above and below it) and it’s veering inwards to try and compensate). So in short, I will need some sort of partial or full knee replacement on that side. My consultant is referring me to a different specialist to see if a partial knee replacement is possible, or whether I need a totally new knee. And to have more physio in the meantime.
Whilst my right knee has always been a bit painful, I hadn’t expected this diagnosis. I have always known that I’d need several hip surgeries throughout my life; it’s an expected part of the Jill plan. A bionic knee wasn’t on my radar. And it’s taken me a few days to get my head around it.
Funny what first flashes into your head isn’t it. My first question was “so how will that work on crutches then when it’s the side I rely on that will be in rehab and the side I can’t bear much weight on that I’m trying to rely on?!”
My whole brain is wired to rely on the right side and have surgery on the left.
This all happened the day I returned from a camping trip on the South Downs Way where I’d had the chance to ramble with my poles along a short stretch of the path I took two years ago. And in the week where the top sportspeople from the #WeThe15 differently-abled population are showing us what’s possible at the Tokyo Paralympics.
I know that I will work through this next challenge. I’m still swimming, still singing and still walking – just with smaller steps and bit more caution, for a while. I’m nearly half-way on my virtual walk – 130 miles down, 138 to go. Every step counts, however small.
Will I finish it before or after I get a new knee? I’ll keep you posted on that one xx
Jill was born with bilateral hip dysplasia (DDH) in 1971 and has had various surgeries including a total hip replacement. She walks, swims and blogs about hip dysplasia to raise awareness of this diff-ability and money for Steps charity. Follow @WalkingJill on Facebook.