|The following is an account of my bilateral hip resurfacing adventure gathered from some emails I had sent and some of which were posted on the Surface Hippy website. I hope they will give an insight for anyone interested in traveling to Belgium for hip resurfacing with Dr. Koen De Smet.
Arriving in Ghent
I finally made it to Ghent. I left Portland at 7:40 am Saturday and arrived in Ghent at 8:30 am Sunday. Time to catch up on some much needed sleep. Jurgen, one of the Cuberdon B&B owners was to pick me up at the train station but I didn’t have a phone card so I jumped in a taxi. Once at the Cuberdon Jurgen gave me a ride to the center of the old town for their Christmas festival. The old town area was crowded with people perusing the Christmas booths, eating the tasty fares, or ice skating in the rink. I was in chocolate heaven. I first had a pannenkoeken, kinda like a pancake with rich chocolate inside. Next, I had stopped at a chocolate bar, Belgium’s version of an espresso bar only you get heated milk with chocolate shots. I had a “chocolade dubble shot” ..a. chocolate explosion!
I visited an 18th century church full of amazing art. Inside I found a Reuben painting depicting a knight’s presentation to a cardinal or pope..not sure. The painting was enormous in size and beautiful. The church was a museum unto itself with countless paintings, sculptures, and relics. For a country bumpkin from Hood River, OR it was quite the experience.
It wasn’t long before my hips yelled, “Mercy!” so with some help from a local girl at the bus stop I was able to find my way back to the B&B. The people are so nice here. I made it to about 4 pm and crashed in my room resting some very sore hips. My rubber tipped trekking poles worked well.
Well, today Yurgen is taking me to the Villa for pre-op testing. Tomorrow I get a new set of wheels.
The initial recovery was hard especially waking in the recovery room. I had no side effect (that I could tell) from the general anesthetic and no constipation from the procuet. I am steadily getting better each day.
Crossing to the Other Side in Belgium
Yea..the most difficult part is over. Awakening in the recovery room feeling like I had been hit by a Mac truck wondering what happened was a tough experience. “You have just had bilateral surgery” a Belgian nurse spoke with a strong Flemish accent. Oh yeah, now I remember the anesthesiologist saying good night just moments ago. I remember why I was here. Taking deep breaths I quickly settled down and felt something in my hand with a button on it. Ahh, the painkiller.
The hip resurfacing was a success. I am now endowed with two new hip joints and a return to the normal fun world I like so much. As the surface hippy expression goes: “I have crossed to the other side.”
The Jan Paljin Hospital in my view was your basic hospital. It was clean and friendly assistance was always available. Although I was prescheduled for a two bed room I ended up in a four bed room with two local guys. They both spoke excellent English and were interesting room mates. We had a beautiful view of the crooked Tower of St. Martens where the architect jumped from the top after an unsuccessful attempt to straighten it. The food was very basic.. bread, spreads, and coffee which was all I needed at day one post op. Once getting the English version of the meal selection list I found I could order different items to go along with the regular meal which again were very basic.. bland. At the time food was not an issue for me. Getting back on my feet and to the Villa was my goal.
Back in the Villa 4 Days Post OP
Man, am I a happy guy at this point. The hardest part is now over. I am back in the lap of luxury of the Villa rehab center getting ready for Christmas dinner with the De Smets and several other patients. I am a bit sketchy but I somehow was sprung from the hospital. I think Michelle, another bilat, may have been pulling for me. It was so hard coming out of surgery but that is over. My legs are like two logs right now. I can barely walk with crutches and it is painful if I accidentally twist or lean too much. My hips are soooooo loose. I now have to use muscles I haven't used in years to keep from wobbling. Dr. De Smet said I was a very difficult case as my femur heads and ace tabular, hip cup, were not matched up size wise. But he is a master and fit in my two new prostheses which was hard work as I have very strong bones. “You’re telling me?” was his statement when I mentioned that I had strong bones. So..more hard work ahead as I now have very wobbly hips and muscles that have not been used in years.
Christmas with the De Smets
The Villa Cento Passi is really incredible for hip therapy. The quiet, peaceful atmosphere is wonderful for recovery. I get both legs massaged followed by hands-on manipulative exercise, walking and last stair work. That's before lunch. The meals are always very good. I'm putting weight back on after the bread and butter at the hospital. In the afternoon we go to the pool for water therapy where it’s amazing what you can do in the water i.e. walking without crutches. I would recommend to bring a short sleeve, 1 mil neoprene top as the water is kept on the chilly side to guard against bacteria. As most of you know my surgeon, Dr. De Smet is one of the best hip surgeons especially in the area of resurfacing hips. Other surgeons come to Ghent to observe his operations. He's very considerate and caring. His whole team is like that. We had Christmas dinner with the De Smets here at the Villa my first day out of the hospital which on day 4 after simultaneous bilateral surgery. I was a bit wobbly. The dinning area on the top level of Villa was a Christmas masterpiece with colorful red festooning the beams and walls. The long tables covered with candles and wine. All through dinner I noticed our hosts keeping their eyes on me. Dinner was fantastic! After three hours, just finishing the main course, I was becoming very stiff and painful. I needed to return to my room. As I started to rise up out of my chair, Koen (Dr. De Smet), Gaitana (his wife), and Hugo (Gaetana’s brother) surrounded me, making sure I was steady. My argument that I would be ok was totally ignored. I remember Michelle saying that I wouldn’t win that battle. A wheel chair suddenly appeared and Gaetana wheeled me into the elevator and back to my room. Back in my room Koen was helping undress me while Gaetana readied the bed, making sure the remote for the large lcd TV was handy. Half hour later she came back with a platter filled with incredible Belgian desserts. I ate them all. Life is good.
The Journey Home
I left the Villa after 10 days sharing a taxi with my new bilat buddy, Michelle. She was a wonderful person to be around during rehab. Full of encouragement and helpful with just about anything she made my stay at the Villa a time of good memories. We stayed at the Sheraton at the airport virtually a walk across the street from the check in counter again thanks to Michelle for finding some affordable discount prices.
At the Continental check in it was a long wait for the wheel chair. No matter as the wait at the gate was longer. They wheeled me several long switchbacks to the door of the plane where I trudged on with my trusty crutches. After sitting on the tarmac for quite a long time we were finally thrust into the skies where upon leveling off my reward arrived, a hot cup of coffee..aaah.
What began as standing every 30-40 minutes to walk in place soon developed into a routine of walk in place, 10 knee raises each side, 5 abductions each side, stretch lower back, and walk in place. The stewardesses were great even letting me use the 1st Class bathroom in front my bulkhead seat. It was a long, long, long journey back with some delays but I finally made it home. After my stint in the Villa life at home is a piece of cake.
Update January 1, 2009
Hello Friends and Hippies,
I am now at the start of the third year with my two resurfaced hips. Darn! It's raining on Mt. Hood today so no morning skate skiing session. Sake skiing is an amazing workout. Last summer's kayaking business went really well with absolutely no hip issues. For those who may not know whitewater kayaking puts a lot of torque on the hip joints. Most days allowed time for road cycling through the beautiful orchard laden foothills of Hood River or single-track mtn biking our many trails with, again, absolutely no hip issues. I spent the latter part October and most of November kayk surfaing and mtn biking on the west coast of Baja.
Thanks again to everyone here for all the information and help I needed in making the woderful decision to have my hips resurfaced.
Happy New Year,
Hood River, OR
Bilat/Dr. De Smet 12/20/06