Thursday, October 15, 2015

The wrong side of the bed

Yes it has been awhile.  Sorry, seems that land life and internet predispose me to FaceBook and gmail.  But, an update is in order.

First off - although this will be a brief update on our life in NZ since I last posted, I am primarily doing this to post about my year long struggle with my hip, so if you are not interested in a blog about how I have come to be having an old person's surgery, don't read past the next paragraph.

The crew of s/v Evergreen are pretty much entrenched in land life in New Zealand.  After 14 months of living aboard, which included a winter with me working, full time school + teenager activities for Josh and at long last a full time job for Dennis, we bailed to a flat on land.  Josh and I are much happier and Dennis is dealing.  Hey there is plenty of room for beer, wine and spirit making, so how can he complain?   Now we are only weeks away from Josh finishing up year 13 at Takapuna Grammar.  He will head down to Wellington for University at the end of January.  Hard to believe he will be leaving the nest..... wasn't it only yesterday I was singing "Twinkle, Twinkle" and wishing he would sleep?  Not sure what Dennis and I will do once he is settled. Right now we are examining our options.  Oh yeah and we got a cat - Ronan.  Yes, pretty sure we have lost our minds.  Ronan is  - well a cat with a cat personality.  He likes his humans, and would hang out with us more during the day if we were home, but we're not, so he hangs out with the upstairs neighbors.
Josh and Rose pre Winter Ball Party
Ronan from his throne high above his subjects

Okay this paragraph is not about my hip so read on.
Our application for permanent residence is being processed.  Having permanent residency will make planning for the future much easier.  I will be able to move jobs at will and we will be able to come and go from NZ as we like.  I know I would be fine with missing the winters here - maybe hanging out in some blue lagoon in Tonga or Fiji or Vanuatu or New Caledonia.  With sailing in mind, we are looking at purchasing a mooring in the Bay of Islands (N. end of the N. Island).  It is beautiful up there and the sailing is good.

Keep in mind the population of NZ is 4.5 million which is less than half of the population of LA county. So, no way to get economies of scale - in anything.  Fewer people - good in our book. Fewer choices and a "she'll be right" attitude toward things is what makes NZ - NZ.  We love it and as with all loves we take the good with the bad.

Okay here comes the hip part - won't hurt my feelings if you bail out here.

Healthcare in NZ is actually pretty good for socialized medicine.  As with all healthcare, NZ is heading the way of the US and the world in terms of affordability.  The question becomes how does a government funded healthcare system keep up with the demands of an aging population and technology?  There is a private insurance component, but - get this - it is really only for surgery.  For an outrageous sum (approaching US premiums) you can get office, drug, dental and vision coverage.  Most people just go to the public or pay for a visit to the GP.  Sort of like the old days in the US, sort of.

So how did I become a consumer of this healthcare?  Did you know that not only do the Kiwis drive on the wrong side, but bicycle brakes are reversed as well?  I didn't know that when I got my mountain bike in June 2014 - I do now  - through painful experience.  Yep  first ride out on my bike I braked hard (with my right hand) and went flying over the handlebars.  Landed on my right shoulder and hip.  Now this was far from my first ever fall - right?  You all know that "I fell" should be my middle name.  Anyway I figured a little ibuprofen (which i might add is stinking expensive here) and a few adjustments by the chiropractor and I would be back to normal in no time.  WRONG!  After 10 weeks of chiropractic treatment my neck and shoulder were back to normal,  My back/leg/hip - not so much.  So off to the GP, who sent me to PT (or physio as they say here).  After a month with little or no improvement Sam (my amazing physio) referred me to a sports medicine doctor.  An xray and mri later, that doctor referred me to a surgeon specializing in hip arthroscopy.  The wait for that appointment was close to 3 months, so in the meantime the sports guy sent me for a steroid injection in my hip.  That really helped the muscles around my hip and got me exercising again (to a degree) but i still had the grinding pain in my groin. Walking and stairs are the worst, thankfully once I am on my bike it is great.

I got through our hike of Milford sound - which was hard but amazing.  Loved it and really loved seeing Corinne and Larry from New Mexico.  Also did the Timber trail 42 km on our mountain bikes in July - cold and beautiful.
Milford Trek

Timber Trail

I finally saw the hip arthroscopy specialist in May.  Really nice man, sadly he said that arthroscopy was not a treatment option for my hip and referred me to a joint replacement surgeon.  I saw the Joint replacement surgeon (Hugh) at the end of May, and the rest as they say is history.  It was a real process to get ACC (accident coverage provided by the government) to finally decline to pay for the hip replacement.  I had been told by both surgeons that it was highly unlikely that ACC would cover as the hip deteriorated rapidly after the accident but the arthritis was already there.  Anyway now our private insurance will cover and off we go.

My surgery is scheduled for Wednesday 21 October (that is the 20th for you Northern Hemisphere folks).  I am not first on the schedule (or list as they say here) which is a bummer, but that's okay. I anticipate I will be home on our Sunday.  I am trying to stay positive about the recovery, Hugh (my surgeon) is adamant that I am off 6 weeks and will not release me to drive for that time.  I will have a ceramic on ceramic hip something like this:

It should last 15-20 years.  No marathons in my future, but hiking, biking, swimming, sailing are all in.  May I also add that I look forward to being able to put my right shoe and sock on without pain and contortions.  Trust me its the small things.

They say you should never undertake these types of surgery until you just can't stand the way things are.  Well I am there.  I always said I would be a poor chronic pain patient - I was right.  It has been a real struggle to not define myself and my life by my hip pain.  I feel old and my sense of self is all out of whack.  I take drugs so I can tolerate other drugs.  I exercise and it hurts and I don't exercise and it hurts, so I exercise.  Finding that amount and type of exercise that keeps me strong enough to rehab well but doesn't push me over the edge of pain and/or mess up my sleep has been a tough negative feedback loop.  And it is a constantly changing target, seems to me that I am slowly deteriorating.  so yes when I got the text from Hugh at 930pm asking if I wanted a surgery date less than a month out - I said yes (hell yes really, but these guys are still not used to me :)  ).  So it is only 6 more sleeps and I think "surgery" has finally made the top 10 on the worry list. Dreamt about it last night - nothing bad, which says to me that my inner self really is ready to move on from this stage of my life.

Well, there you have it - you are caught up with my life and its little dramas.  I will keep you posted on how things go.  Feel free to communicate with me somehow over the next 6 weeks.  I will be dying for human interaction.