• Jackie Bradbury

Joining the Titanium Hip Club

So I had a total hip replacement on November 11.


It's a super-common surgery among martial artists. I personally know over a dozen people who've had it done. It's great, because I have a circle of people to talk to about the process, what I was to expect, and what my prospects might be.


Knowing so many others with hip replacements was a big relief. Being able to ask questions from people who've been there, who had the same concerns that I have... that's golden. I thank you all who helped me and encouraged me through this process. Many of you reached out to just talk it through with me and I appreciate it more than I can say.


However, as much as they - and now I - can tell you about the process, it isn't at all the same as experiencing it.


Each of us has our own journey in these things, much like each of us has our own unique martial arts training journey. While what I went through was similar to what others went through, the specifics of the journey were unique to me.


As I publish this, I'm almost 1 month out from the surgery. Here's some stuff that's occurred to me...


To all the martial artists with permanent physical disabilities - I am so, so, so impressed by all of you. I experienced it for a very short period of my life and wow, you guys are all total badasses.


I didn't expect the sensation of sitting on large, irritating metal ball in my back pocket. That might have been the most difficult part of the entire experience. There was no way to sit or lay that alleviated that - it just took time and healing and my brain deciding to ignore the sensation. As of this writing, that sensation is still there, but fading, slowly. Eventually, my brain will learn to ignore it, mostly.


I had to use a walker for about a week. I don't think it's possible to use a walker as any kind of self-defense tool when someone needs one for standing up (y'all feel free to show me where I might be wrong, but I'm going to take a lot of convincing on this one). I was utterly, UTTERLY, dependent on that thing keeping me upright - no way could I have swung it around or used it for any other purpose.


As an aside, I totally get why my mom uses the fancy-pants walker with the wheels. Mine was a basic model and lifting that bad boy up to walk was a big-time strain on my upper body muscles. That was especially fun to do on a partially torn rotator cuff in my shoulder.


After I graduated to a cane (which was such a huge event it made me cry with joy, and I'm totally not kidding), I also started re-thinking what I thought I could and couldn't do with a cane for self defense. I just can't see anyone with real mobility issues using a walking cane as a fighting tool for very long.


Now, sitting down... there's definitely a lot of potential there. It also made me think that firearms and blades are a real necessity here vs. blunt weapons which require a lot of force and space to be the most effective.


Walk, walk, walk. And do your Physical Therapy. Those things do matter to your healing process. If you're reading this, you're a martial artist, and you KNOW how much that stuff matters anyway, right? RIGHT. Think of it as training.


This was the easiest part for me. Keeping motivated to heal quickly kept me totally engaged in PT and in walking.


You will, by necessity, have to sleep on your back at first. But be aware that after a few days of healing there is a side-sleep method that gave me a MUCH better night's sleep (and faster healing). More about sleep positions here.


Get back on the mat quick. I didn't attend a seminar and our classes the weekend after my surgery. I did attend - and slightly contribute to - classes a week later, and by week 3, I was back teaching, although I had to sit down a lot.


Just being on the sidelines was emotionally really helpful to keep my spirits up. When I was finally able to actually train a little, it was a huge boost to my self-esteem and to my outlook. So don't avoid training if you possibly can, even if it's just watching.


You will be very impatient with the healing process, but it is going a lot faster than you think. Kind of like how when you start training, earning that black belt seems like such an impossible, far-away task. And then before you know it, bam, someone promotes you. One day there was NO way I could walk without a walker, the next day... I could, just like that.


The healing process has been like that. One day I couldn't do something, the next, I could, like someone was flipping a switch.


I am not the most patient person in the world, so wow, this was maybe the hardest part for me.

Basically, me for the last month. Click on the image to see the source.

Cut yourself some slack. This is a HUGE surgery to recover from, ok?


Speaking of which, I have some way to go before I'm back to my pre-June initial injury "normal". Plus, in the new year, I start therapy for the shoulder problem I've had for a year and a half.


I get my hip fixed, I get my shoulder fixed... y'all better watch out.


I'm on the mend, and the blog is back up and running. It's good to be back.


Have you had a joint replacement? What pieces of advice would you give other people about the process?

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