My mother has had hip trouble all through her life. A direct result from being born with one leg a few centimeters shorter than the other. Her hip joint has been replaced many a time (I forget how many times), forcing her to use crutches for short trips and a walking frame for longer walking distances for years now. But at least she was able to walk without help around the house and to drive her (adapted) car.
The short leg also might be the root cause for a few spine operations, she had to have over time. And using the crutches harmed her shoulder. Plus both her knee joints had to be replaced. Ah, the list goes on and on. It is such a pity, because my mother is the one sports person in my immediate family. She was the avid skier in the house, teaching us all how to downhill as kids, before we could even walk properly. Savely logged between her knees, we swooshed down the hill in front of my granddad’s house.
She also loved to roam the mountains, getting us all up in the middle of the night, in order to enjoy the sunrise from the mountaintops around her home village in the alps (much opposed by me and my dad, who argued, that a sunrise might be just as beautiful when enjoyed in a rested state from the bottom of the valley – but there was no use in protesting, we all had to come along).
And unforgotten her relentless bike rides everywhere. Before she learned how to drive a car around age fourty, her means of independence was the bicycle. We kids had to keep up with her furious speed up any hill or mountain in the way. I have to say, this childhood memories are not among my favourite ones, as I was not able to keep up with her speed and remember much anger and frustration. Which is, why I hate cycling to this day.
Mom also loves to swim. Which is the only sport left to her, apart from pushing her walking frame cross country with verve. She swims with much energy. Almost every day she is at the city pool to go up and down the line for one to two hours. Or was until recently.
Last spring, her hip joint had to be replaced once more. But this time, the joint would not heal in properly. At a former replacement some ten years ago, her acetabulum broke, which made the replacement more difficult, this time over. And an advancing osteoporosis wasn’t helping, either. So they took the joint out again last autumn, tried to put in some substance that should help fixate the bone, made sure, they had more surface to place the joint at, in order to keep it in place. To no avail. After going through all the rehabilitation and physio-therapy over winter, the joint wouldn’t fit in any more and started to regularely displace itself. They found, that the construction had moved again. Doctors would give it one more try. So my mom went under once more a couple of weeks ago.
Everything seemed to have gone quite ok. Mom was told to not put any pressure on the leg at all but to stay in bed or use the weelchair only for eight weeks, in order to let the new construction heal in undisturbed. Not a step allowed. She was ok with this and sounded upbeat, despite the pain and the heat and the fact, that noone is allowed to see her (due to the pandemic). But we chatted along cheerily on the phone. She already started to pick a fight with another patient lady in her room. I was happy, to hear this – when she is up to fight, she is getting stronger. But two weeks ago, she sounded weak. Not a word about her neighbour patient. The wound had startet to open again, releasing lots of blood and liquid. But mom was still quite positive. The doctors would punctuate regularly to release any liquids, her post-operative stay was sorted (thanks to the hard work of my sister, finding a suitable institution after hundreds of calls) and if she only stuck to all the instructions and stayed patient, she was hoping the joint would grow in. Her biggest fear being, that she would end up with no hip joint at all, thus being forced into a wheelchair for ever. Which is a fear, we all share.
Monday a week ago, my brother rang me at work. This was not a good sign, he never rings me at work. And the news were bad, indeed. On her way from bed to wheelchair, something went wrong and mom suffered her second acetabular fracture, thus setting everything back to zero. A long operation and a few days in ICU were to follow. And I am still reluctant to call her. My sister texts, that the second operation went well. But my brother reports, she is in very low spirits. Neither of us really believes, that the damn joint will stay in place this time. It is as if mom’s body is doing everything to get rid of it.
Meanwhile, my sister organised cousins and uncles willing to rebuild mom’s house to an extend it can be lived in with a wheelchair. In part, anyways (it is a couple of hundred years old and with thick walls and diffent floor levels, only parts can be made inhabitable for a wheelchair user, building ramps and widening door frames- but better than nothing). My brother and I will gladly pay for any cost, as we can not help in person from afar.
But nothing can spare me this: I will have to pick up the phone and call my mom rather sooner than later. I just don’t feel up to it. I don’t want to lie to her. I don’t want her to hear my fear, that she might not be able to get up again. It was her, that told me only last year, when I visited her after her operation, that it was possible to live on without a hip joint at all. She pointed out a lady in a wheelchair at the end of a long hospital hall with her crutch to me. See, it is possible. Yeah, I just don’t want it to be you, mom.