Saturday, 6 December 2008

It's the Most Wonderful Time

of the year.

Yeah. Christmas. I like it - well, the family side of things and the looks on the kids' faces on the morning of the 25th, not the the shallow orgy of consumerism - and am looking forward to it.

Still, things have been a bit all over the place in the last month or two. I finally had my cathter ablation on 23rd October in Middlesbrough, under the care of the wonderful staff at the James Cook University hospital. It's still early days, but things are looking good in respect of having my atrial fibrillation problem fixed. Fingers crossed.

A couple of weeks after my procedure I lost my job. I was told it was because of the lack of work, but have a sneaking suspicion they were just looking for an excuse after a couple of weeks on the sick following the op. I was philosphical about it because there were other (exciting) irons in the fire.

The biggest, most exciting iron was the chance of a job in the USA, in New York. I got a call completely out of the blue from this company a day or two before my ablation, and picked up the conversations with them afterwards. I talked it through with the family and they were keen on the idea. I went through numerous telephone interviews with numerous big cheeses and things progressed slowly but surely towards a point where an outline offer was made and I looked at places to live. I was then invited to New York for a five-day trip to meet the people and see the place, so I took the plane over the atlantic, buried my hatred of flying as deep as I could and spent 5 whirlwind days seeing New York City and Long Island, meeting some lovely people, eating far too much amazing food. I flew back with a firm offer in my hand and a dream of something great in my mind - a fresh start - a great opportunity.

Of course, being the man I am - a worrying, doubting, paranoid android - I soon started having a few doubts a few days after I got home. They were the usual doubts about the enormity of moving to a new country and all that stuff, but on top of these doubts were my paranoid feelings that something would go wrong. There was some detail that would get in the way.

I should have realised what it would be. I can't believe that I didn't consider it more seriously. I suppose, if I was to make an excuse, I woud say that I have lived with this thing for so long that I have just accepted it as a part of me. I knew that this day would come, but it has always been away in the future.

But everything changed when I went to see an orthapeadic surgeon on Friday.

It was one of a long line of appoitnements I have had with specialists like him over the years. I had something called Perthes disease as a child whcih is basically a degenerative disease of the hip joint. Since about the age of 3 I have had problems with my right hip following the disease, which pretty much wrecked the joint and ruined the femur head, transforming it from a nice roud ball into something resembling a bit of dog-chewed toblerone. I had an operation at the age of 10 to correct the twisting to the leg caused by the poor shape, and then reached adulthood with my right leg more than an inch shorter than my left. I got used to it; I adapted to it; I developed a limp, but I was still pretty active well into my 20s. I even played football (not very well, I admit).

Then, in my mid-20s, I was told by a specialist to stop playing football, as it wasn't good for the joint. Who was I to argue? There wasn't any other exercise that I particuarly enjoyed, so I became pretty sedentary, but didn't cut down the eating to match my reduced activity - and within a couple of years became a fat bugger. By my early 30s I was knocking on 20 stone (280lbs). I really should have learned to love swimming or cycling, but just didn't and couldn't. I tried Weight Watchers, I tried hypnosis, I tried Atkins, I tried exercise regimes - all have ultimately failed, and I have stayed at around 20 stone for a while.

This has probably been worse for the hip than playing football, but at my regular visits to the orthapeadic surgeon, I was told that nothing was really changing and that I should keep going as long as possible until the hip was at the point of failure and the need for a replacement was overwhelming.

In the last year the pain has been getting worse, that's for sure, but it would come and go, and I had x-rays in the middle of last year that apparently showed little change. I took to using a walking stick for the bad times and took pain killers to help me sleep. Although there was a sneaking feeling in the back of my mind, I was surprised to hear the specialist say these words to me on Friday:

"It's time to give you a new hip."

Ah. That's the American Dream on the back-burner then, eh? Recovery time of 3 months? No driving for 6 weeks? I would also have to lose a substantial amount of weight before the op...

Still, the silver lining of this cloud is that I can now get it over with and get back to an almost normal existence. I will be able to function and have a good quality of life with a new hip. The timing is just rotten, though, especially when I've been out of work for a month. I am hoping the people in the US will wait for me. I hope they will understand. I feel a tad foolish for failing to see this as an issue before now, but I'm also glad that I wonn't go out to America and risk a catastrophic collapse of the hip and not be able to get it sorted.

Yet another thing is sent to try me, but I've got bored of feeling sorry for myself. I'm gonna get on with it.

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