The Joint Effort walk was much more than just a fundraiser for Orthopaedic research. It was an opportunity to become better informed about hip and knee replacements,
We can tell ourselves that we are perfectly relaxed, but hospitals will always make ordinary human beings tense. There are difficult choices to be made and the outcome is always haunted by a slight air of uncertainty. It becomes important to focus on the big issues and the big decisions. There will be time enough to sort out what to do when your hip replacement sets off an airport metal detector when everything else has been dealt with. Your first priority is to get back on your feet. There are also many things you do not need to know about because it would be impossible to become competent enough to make a wise judgement anyway. You need to trust your doctor.
There are, for example, six competing suppliers of artificial joints for hip replacements. Where should your preference lie? The brochures make everything seem better than everything else, and only a fool would believe the brochures anyway. The doctor needs to know that promises will be matched by delivery. Every time. It is hard to imagine discovering in the middle of an operation that what you need next is not there. As you sit on the operating table waiting for your spinal you hear a check being made, but only much later does the reality sink in.
There are design issues. It is easier to work with some tools rather than others. Familiarity plays a part. The surgeon needs to intuitively do the right thing. Then there are process issues. A Birmingham hip is common for those under 60 as it keeps more future options open. New technology can be “leading edge” but it can also conceal some unknowns. The new open texture titanium lets the bone grow through it. That seems like a good idea. Making the right choice is however very different from buying a car. The componentry is going to end up in a living body, and that body is already suffering from failure.
When you are walking around again all this becomes interesting in a remote way. People ask how you got on with your hip replacement and you realise that there was so much you did not understand. The “Joint Effort” walk gave a chance to talk to suppliers as well as surgeons, and even to watch a DVD of the operation itself.
This kind of post-operative gathering has much to recommend it. It is a celebration, and that celebration has real meaning when it is shared with others who have also had hip replacements, as well as all those who have made it all possible. When an 86 year old goes up to get a prize you start deciding about all the things there still is time to do. When someone raises $2000 in sponsorship money you realise that you need to try quite a bit harder.
The egalitarian nature of the gathering was fantastic. Ginger nuts, somewhat blackened sausages, onions and tomato sauce. The hospital corridor and courtyard rather than some fancy restaurant or one of those terrible air-conditioned spaces where architects seem to gather. The surgeon who had organized it all came for the walk with the rest of us, and brought his child along too. Hamish, with a twinkle in his eye, was a great MC.
In this relaxed atmosphere it was possible to ask questions. Yes, after three months you can bend your hip past 90 degrees. No, you really should avoid crossing your legs for the rest of your life. Yes, take one of these cards to show security when you set off that airport metal detector. So that is how your leg can be extended by a millimetre or two. Fascinating stuff which was off no interest until your life took a sudden unexpected turn and you found yourself in hospital.
The organisation of the “Joint Effort” day was impeccable. Free parking, with a special ticket to let you out. A smile at the entrance. A name-tag and a receipt for your sponsorship money. Really interesting displays. A fun walk with no one competing with anyone except themselves. Prizes for just about everything. A sausage to take home if you wanted it.
The psychological release from the trauma of the operation left you feeling like a million dollars. Auckland Hospital certainly knows how to treat people like human beings, and how to get it exactly right. Congratulations and thanks to everyone involved.