"Nancy Brown"

Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown at Camp Augusta in Nevada City, California

On the disabled list – or am I? One travel writer’s journey

This is the first in a 4-part series that will help you deal with total hip replacement (THR) and travel.

Part 1: Denial to acceptance

Part 2: Preparing for surgery

Part 3: Recovery and travel

Part 4: On the travel road again

Disclaimer: Many people suffer from disabilities – either as a result of accidents, injuries, congenital or acquired disability, or other factors. Fortunately for me, my disability is temporary, yet my experience opened my eyes to inclusive travel and the physical and emotional challenges disabled travelers face. I am fortunate to have the choice of Total Hip Arthroplasty.

Hip pain equals travel pain

“Wow, you’re walking like my mom did right before her hip replacement surgery,” observed Katherine Johnstone of the French Tourism Office. “You should insist to your surgeon that the time is now. You shouldn’t have to put up with this much pain.”  As I limped along the cobblestone streets of southern France, popping Advil, I cavalierly offered this response. “After my visit to the Orthopedic surgeon and looking at my x-ray, he said that I had hip dysplasia – something I thought only Labrador retrievers got. He said that I would eventually need hip replacements. He sent me home with a prescription for Naproxen and told me to come back in 10 years. That was a year ago.”

"Nancy Brown"

Nancy Brown riding Quarter horse Jett on a cattle drive at High Lonesome Ranch in DeBeque, Colorado

From fit to fat; the downhill slide of a baby boomer

It hadn’t always been this way. In my youth I swam, rode horses and played tennis.  As an adult, I continued riding and added walking and a gym membership to my routine. Initially, I thought my left hip flexor muscles were the problem and added chiropractor and physical therapy to the routine, all to no avail.

Eventually, I gave up my gym membership and walking shoes, opting for deep water aerobics.  It was in my water aerobics class that I met Lucy Talbot. Fit and fabulous, Lucy had two hip replacements at the age of fifty.  She suggested that I return to the Orthopedic surgeon for a follow-up visit.

"Esther Vélez"

Esther Vélez performs at Museum of Flamenco Dance, Seville, Spain

Dance with denial takes center stage

My husband is the first to point out that I am a rule follower. I took a surgeon’s dismissive remark about my hip pain as authoritative. I had heard rumors that artificial hips only last ten years and didn’t want to have multiple revisions.

I have had multiple staph infections in my life and didn’t like the idea of having to take antibiotics the rest of my life before dental cleanings to stave off infections settling in my artificial hip.

I’m a writer, specializing in equestrian travel. Would I set off the metal detectors at security every time I went through clearance? Would I be able to horseback ride again?

As I watched my weight move up the scale and my interest in walking wane, I continued my dance with denial.  Finally, at my husband’s insistence, I returned to my primary care physician and made an appointment with the Orthopedic surgeon.

X-rays don’t lie

While the doctor was in his office, reading my x-ray, I was looking at the same results in the exam room. To my untrained eye, I could see that there was no cartilage in my left hip. The pain I was experiencing was from bone on bone contact.  The doctor considers many factors such as your pain level, weight and activity level before determining the best method of treatment.  Ultimately, the patient determines when a hip needs replacing.

I see the logic behind this hip replacement approach. The patient needs to come to terms with the trade offs and the reality that a hip revision may be in their future.  My approach to total hip replacement; I wanted quality of life now, at age 51.

Preparing for joint replacement surgery

What about you? Have you had joint replacement surgery? Are you facing hip or knee replacement in your future? How will joint replacement affect your future and travel? Let’s travel on this path together.