Road to Recovery

Journey from pain to rehabilitation
At 45 years old, Personal Trainer, Steve Young needed a hip resurfacing. His story is about positivity.

For two years plus I had been self-managing the grinding, catching, internal, inescapable, toothache type pain, with anti-inflammatory drugs and specific exercises. I knew that my genes for wear and tear of joints were more from the gene pond than pool, (quick to blame the parents me) but I never really thought I’d have to replace joints at an early age of 45!

Doctors reckon the biggest contributing factor derives from the mother line, thanks Mum and Nan. However, so far I’ve neglected to mention: 5 marathons; 10 years in the Army including such things as jumping off 12′ walls; Cambrian long range patrols; running in boots; cycling the Tour de France route two and half times; cycling time trials and sportives galore; a year teaching adventure training in Canada; slalom kayaking; downhill and cross country skiing (Biathlon); rock climbing; adventure racing; racing in the Race Across America; so many half marathons and 10 km races I can’t remember; climbing hundreds of mountains; crashing off my bike in Wales, Scotland and England, oh and Personal Training for 20 years. Not the type with a clipboard at the side of a treadmill but the type that would lead from the front and encourage you by being with you, sometimes 5 clients a day. (Maybe not all to do with my parents then!)

There’s a sound argument for the amount of movements a joint can make before signs of ageing show themselves. I thought though, as I was a provider of advice for others, I was exempt from having to suffer such inconveniences, after all I walk-the-walk when it comes to taking physical care. Surely I was never go to wear out!

The ‘falling off a cliff’ moment came in Torsby, Sweden. I was training in a snow tunnel, cross-country skiing, when I crashed chasing a GB youth development squad athlete and felt an almighty grinding in my right hip. Everything went from bearable to unbearable and functionally from occasionally having to think about posture to regularly seeing my reflection, or shadow, and thinking ‘that’s not me, that’s my old Grandad!’

So, once I’d decided I required medical intervention, rather than self help and Google advice, I visited the Doctor. I told him my feelings and thoughts and he told me I was mad and that it was a soft tissue issue! I think the look I gave him was one that may have killed an SAS soldier at 250m. The thing is it’s my job to understand myself and others as best I can and it wasn’t that I blamed him he just was not, lets say, listening very well. Luckily, I obtained an X-ray chit and took myself immediately to Radiology in East Surrey and sat amongst the 60 somethings waiting my turn.

I purchased the picture disk so I could inspect it myself and have one or two friends look at it to assess the situation. X-rays are the best way to determine the severity of the problem when it comes to arthritis. Once you know what the problem is you can take control and for me this was a tipping point. I could now instigate the required intervention and meantime alter physical approaches and adaptations to exercise and find a distraction till the operation date. Staying positive was paramount to me. I have, after all only got a sore hip. I’m ex-Army and have mates who have had parts of their brains blown out and still get on with life. I’ve also helped several stroke victims. One, Charles, whose attitude to life is totally incredulous. At close to 70 he’s just project managed his new house build, skis, horse rides and although slowly falling apart keeps going. He optimises my mantra of ‘don’t give up – never give up!’

The ideal distraction came along when a great long-life friend, Nick Speakman, asked me if I’d like to enter the Devizes to Westminster canoe race. A small adventure of 125 miles, 77 portages and the complication of meeting the tide at Teddington at the right time. Probably about 24 hours constant effort. Upper body activity mainly and a skill to refresh and evolve. What could be better? The race would be Easter weekend and my hip operation 4 days later. Fabulous, just enough time to recover and then get on with the new challenge of rehabilitation.

With further reading and understanding from a truly excellent advice from Bridgeham Clinic, (Trevor and Jo Strutt) I realised there is such a thing as pre-habilitation! This is where you put in the work and effort to get to the operation date in the best possible situation you can. A really positive way of thinking, don’t rely on medicine itself for 100% assistance. Take charge and get your physical and mental self into the best shape you can to assist in the repair process. In short this ensures you bleed a lot! Sounds grim but we know blood is the equipment required to do the repairing of soft tissue and bone. So, you really don’t want to end up on the slab with withered, grey-yellow, ligaments and tendons and the capsule stiff with severely reduced range of movement. Pink, bright white, vascularised tissue is what is required. Using reformers, bands and prescribed exercises for several weeks before the operation maintained the focus and, although at times a bit uncomfortable, well worth the short term pain for the long term gain.

As you become ‘less young’ time seems to travel faster and before I really knew it the 24th April was upon me. I’d recovered from the Devizes to Westminster and it was time to let Mr Khalid Drabu put some CrCo into my right hip.

I can’t complain at all about the care I was given, Mr Drabu’s team made me feel relaxed, comfortable and very well looked after. There are two things really worth noticing post op. Firstly, the internal hip pain had immediately and completely gone and secondly, the external pain from the operation itself, with some pain management, was completely bearable. This highlighted to me what had been mentioned previously, ‘you don’t really know how much pain you were in until you no longer have it.’ The fabulous effect this shift to external pain has is an uplift in mood. I know this will only improve and the previous pain was going up a one way street to further discomfort.

So the upshot after 6 days post surgery is I’m using one stick to travel slowly and cautiously. I’m doing three small sessions of exercises daily to aid in blood flow and proprioception (the awareness of muscles and joints in movement). I can see small improvements daily and I have a feeling of impending freedom and a return to wanting to get out on my bike in the summer. I can nearly feel the freedom of the road and joy testing myself physically in the Surrey Hills and eventually the mountains of France.

I know of one or two others who are tottering on the edge of having to decide if the surgery is the answer for them. I can’t really say, I suppose it depends on what quantifies quality of life for you. For me though I’m thrilled life is good, there’s a pain free future just round the corner and staying positive has had a huge part to play in my rehabilitation and future plans for work and family life.

Trying hard to stay Forever Young.