A visual narrative by Emily Steinberg
Emily Steinberg is a painter and graphic novelist. She has shown her work in the United States and Europe. Most recently she was named Artist in Residence at Drexel College of Medicine. Her memoir, Graphic Therapy, was published serially in Smith Magazine and her short comic Blogging Towards Oblivion, was included in The Moment (HarperCollins: 2012). She earned her M.F.A. and B.F.A. from the University of Pennsylvania and is currently a lecturer in Fine Art at Penn State Abington. You can see more of her work at emilysteinberg.com
Panel 1: It’s been quite a year. Last June I went under the knife. And got a new hip. 6.5 years ago dancing like a 20-something freak at my niece’s wedding, my left hip snapped.
Panel 2: Yeah, I know, brilliant move. This led to bursitis, joint trauma, bone-on-bone, and physical therapy. Then guided steroid injections, to limping badly. Every step excruciating, and, finally, walking with a cane.
Panel 3: Doc said I would know when I was ready for hip replacement surgery. What? But I’m only 48…. March 2018, age 53, I knew. Complete physical breakdown.
Panel 4: Couldn’t walk. Became immobile. Blew up round as a full balloon.
Panel 5: The night before surgery was a stunningly beautiful June evening. The last night with my old, crumbly, irregular, jagged hip joint. I was scared.
Panel 6: I saw this commercial: If you had hip surgery between 2009 and 2016 and it went BAD, call this number! Very reassuring. And I took a shower with weird special orange antibacterial soap… Remember! Don’t get it in your eyes or genitals.
Panel 7: I needed to pack a bag. Looked at the moon. Can’t sleep. Heart racing. Wake up 4:30. Hospital 5:30. Surgery 7:30.
Panel 8: Surgery is otherworldly, from the disinfection shower the night before to the mysterious phone call the day before surgery telling you when to show up to the hospital.
Panel 9: The reception desk was quiet. But once they wheeled me back to pre-op there was a buzz of professional gaiety.
Panel 10: The chipper drug nurse waived her giant syringe with a grin and assured me all would be fine. Then, like at a pit stop, enrobed docs swarmed me, cut me open, sawed out my gnarly old hip, and put a new part in.
Panel 11: I woke up. Swam out of the anesthesia on the verge of rebirth, like Lazarus crawling out of the dark tomb and back on the road.
Panel 12: Day one. Don’t remember much. Fainted on the way to the bathroom. Alarm went out. 30 people rushed in to help.
Panel 13: First night. Slept on my back, not allowed to move. Legs in compression hose and wrapped in compression sleeves that palpitate your calves to keep them from clotting. Giant yellow foam-cheese wedge-like thing strapped between my legs.
Panel 14: Bathroom 5:00 am. Nauseous, clammy, sweaty, anesthesia mucking up the works.
Panel 15: June days, long and gorgeous, pass. Peering out from my swanky private room it looked like the lavender fields of Provence through my Oxycontin haze.
Panel 16: Day 3 Post-op. Friday, 3:00 pm I went home with all of my gear. Walker, compression hose…
Panel 17: …grabber, raised toilet, Oxycontin, ice bags!
Panel 18: Hip replacement precautions: No twists! No bends! Don’t cross legs! Knee can’t be higher than hip or it might dislocated!
Panel 19: Day 4 Post op. Obsessed that I haven’t pooped in 5 days. Monday morning, 6 days out, fixated on lack of poopage. Amazing, how it all comes down to poop. Tuesday morning, 7 days out, still not a sliver of poop in sight. No one tells you that Oxy equals constipation. Finally, late Tuesday… redemption, deliverances, joy. When the machinery works, it’s a beautiful thing.
Panel 20: 8 days post-op. Feeling better; still sleeping on my back. Can’t bend. Limited movement. Went outside for the first time in 5 days. One week and three days post-op. Sleeping better… exercises… more exercises… bridge… lift butt….
Panel 21: Weaning off pain meds. More exercises. The clam! Progress, progress, progress.
Panel 22: Walker, 3 weeks, roughly. Used a cane through the fall. Now, a year later, walking 10,000 steps a day. Humbled and grateful for each pain-free step.