My Health Experience: ‘I still look at the X-rays to see the shape of the replacement joint’

I decided to travel to Miami to try out stem cells as an alternative, but it didn’t have any effect

Anne Le Marquand Hartigan, at home in Ranelagh, has had both hips and knees replaced since 2002. Photograph: Alan Betson

Anne Le Marquand Hartigan, at home in Ranelagh, has had both hips and knees replaced since 2002. Photograph: Alan Betson

Tue, Aug 5, 2014, 01:00

I decided to talk about having both hips and knees replaced because I’d like to encourage others to do so. I made a great recovery from each operation.

I had my right hip replaced in 2002. It had been giving me a lot of pain before then, particularly when I was walking or cycling. I continued swimming for as long as I could because, of course, that’s not a weight-bearing exercise.

It was a very simple operation really and I still look at the X-rays to see the shape of the replacement joint.

It’s quite long – it extends down into my leg. I was in hospital for about 10 days but I was up and walking the day after the operation. Then I spent two weeks in rehabilitation – doing physiotherapy exercises each day.

The pain was excruciating at the start but you’ve got to do the exercises. I needed help at this stage. I was walking on crutches at the beginning and I couldn’t drive for about three months which is also very restrictive but I have family nearby if I need them.

The following year, my left knee started to give me a lot of pain so I decided to have it replaced. I have private health insurance so I’m sure that helps in terms of not having to wait for surgery. Also, I would advise anyone considering having hip and knee replacements to go to a surgeon who specialises in this type of operation.

I had my left knee replaced in 2003 and I still have those X-rays too. I had an epidural injection for each operation.

Osteoarthritis

I suffer from osteoarthritis so it was only a matter of time – 10 years in my case – that my other hip and knee joints started to give me a lot of pain.

In spring 2012, I decided to travel to Miami with my son to try out stem cells as an alternative to having more joint replacements.

This entailed healthy stem cells from other parts of my body being injected into the infected knee and hip joints.

It didn’t have any effect, but I do believe that in about 10 years’ time, we will grow our own replacements rather than put metal in our bodies.

It’s important to have a good relationship with your surgeon. Your life is in their hands. I write poetry and plays and my surgeon likes my poetry so that helps too (see annehartigan.ie).

I opted to have the left hip replaced first and, within a year, the right knee. It isn’t really advisable to have two operations in the one year but my surgeon saw that I made such a good recovery after the hip replacement that he agreed to go ahead and do the knee nine months later.

I heal very quickly but I do have scars down each hip and leg. I went for two weeks’ rehabilitation after each operation.

Security checks

All my joints are metal so I beep a lot when going through the security checks at the airport.

Also, it’s a very strange sensation to kneel down so I don’t do that now that I have two knee replacements.

Sometimes, my knees brush together when I walk but I am hoping that will improve. I walk for about half an hour every day.

I don’t really believe I’ve had to have joint replacements because of wear and tear. I think it’s some sort of disease process which causes osteoarthritis.

It is not an ideal situation to have them all replaced but it’s not like cancer or other diseases that can come back again.

That said, one of my hips is getting a bit clunky so if it needs replacing again, I’ll go for it.