We started our overland journey from London to Johannesburg in January 2013 – seven months after my total hip replacement. It was at this point I felt my hip and leg were mobile and strong enough to make the trip as I had a good few months of rehabilitation under my belt. However I was a little concerned about the lack of movement and sitting for long periods which could tighten up my hip flexors and weaken my gluteals.
Interestingly, I was half contemplating taking a mountain bike and my turbo trainer! I remember my brother saying I should take your bike and just do some awesome cycles through Europe and at the same time keep fit. I thought it would be bonkers for me to take a bike on such a long journey and become some rehab junky! If we were traveling alone and not with Nic’s dad in his car then possibly I may have brought the bike and Nic also and we would have then taken it in turns to cycle whilst the other drove with Lily. Instead I took my exercise mat, my trainers and a 5kg kettle bell.
Looking back I think the trip and the rest (not going mad in a UK gym) did my hip some good. Although we sat for long periods, climbed into a raised suspension Land cruiser, put up tents, made fires, collected wood, climbed up the ladder into the roof tent, pulled luggage and water containers out of the vehicle and ran after our 2 year old, my hip generally felt good. One other interesting point to mention was having to start squatting down for a wee. The toilets in Greece turned into a ‘hole in the floor’ which initially was quite challenging to do especially as the position requires a lot of hip flexion and there is always a possible risk of dislocation in the back of your mind. In Africa the toilets were mostly dirty ‘holes in the ground’ or behind a bush! However the squatting practice certainly seemed to make my hip more flexible and strengthen my leg considerably without seemingly doing any harm to my new joint. The more I practiced the better I became!
I managed to exercise well in Europe and Israel (3 x a week) by walking, swimming, doing my hip stretches and gluteal strength work. However, my plan for Africa would be to do at least one cardiovascular exercise a week which would be a mile swim (if I found a pool!), 30 minutes on a bike (if I found a gym!!??) or a 30 minute walk. Egypt was a bit more challenging. I managed to find a swimming pool in Nuweiba and we snorkelled in the Blue Hole in Dahab, Sinai Desert. Walking the filthy streets in Cairo with Lily in her push chair dodging the burnt out cars and puddles from the water cannons in Tahrir Square the night before, was all we could manage. Aswan, Egypt was a good base as we were there for a week waiting for the Lake Nasser crossing and we found the pool at the Old Cataract to be perfect! Once we were in Sudan exercising became much harder as at 45 degrees it was just too hot to do anything. Surprisingly I did do my exercise regime at least once a week through the rest of Africa – Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi and Mozambique which was just enough to maintain and keep ticking over.
Overall I would say driving from the UK to South Africa with a total hip replacement was definitely manageable and worth doing!
I am now 3 months and 3 weeks post new hip. All seems to be doing pretty well apart from what I thought was a set back a few weeks ago (around 11 weeks post op) when my mid thigh started aching and I had difficulty going up and down the stairs without holding on to something. I then released that I was still very weak especially in my quadriceps. It was my friend and physiotherapist colleague Jose Marcelino who said perhaps you are not strong enough. Strangely I hadn’t thought of that. I think you get so caught up in your post op recovery and noting every sensation or discomfort with the new prothesis you forget somehow that perhaps you are just not strong enough and you need to step up the exercises. I was doing squats but thought I would try lunges aswell. Now I have increased the number of thigh strengthening exercises (lunges) I do not feel my thigh pain and walking up stairs feels stronger.
Life for me really started to improve at around 3 months post surgery but even more so at 3.5 months. The recovery was quite amazing. Since getting back on my bike again to cycle to work (16th August was the first time – 3 months) I have felt stronger and certainly more able. I have done this commute now 3 times and tomorrow I am thinking of cycling to Kingston which will take around 1 hour, as long as it is not raining…. I only got back on my bike when I felt confident enough and able.
My relationship now with Lily is quite normal now and I can lift her and hold her where by for the first 6-8 weeks I was not really able. You worry as a mother that if you cannot do the basic things with your baby it may affect them. There was a period after surgery where she did go to daddy a lot more. Now she holds her arms out to me more and I am able to hold her for longer. I was in Battersea Park today with our friends Ginty and Stuart who adore Lily. I was able to hold and carry her for much longer with out pain in my hip! Amazing. This was something I could not do before my operation and if I did it was literally for a few steps and then I would have to hand her over to Nic due to the biting pain in my groin and outer hip.
Since January 20th 2013 I began traveling from London UK to Johannesburg South Africa with my husband and 2 year old daughter. We are currently in Aswan in Egypt waiting to board a ferry across Lake Nasser to Wadi Halfa in Sudan. Apparently Wadi Halfa used to be a lovely town but it no longer exists in its true sense as it was flooded by the creation of the dam in the early 20th century.
We are traveling in a Toyota land cruiser with a raised suspension. I remember first time getting into the 4×4 after my operation at Guy’s hospital London at the end of May 2012 with great difficulty and transferring my weight in order to not to twist or knock my operated leg. It must have taken me a few minutes (about 10 actually!) to make this maneuver and get into the car onto a raised seat with cushion.
Now 10 months later I am traveling and able to get into the car quickly and also climb onto the roof of the car but needed some help getting down. I am certainly not gazelle like doing this but it makes me feel more like myself again. Our tent is on the roof of the car which means you have to climb a ladder to crawl into the tent. Our 2 year old loves this especially when she keeps both parents awake as she kicks us in the head all night!
Exercising and traveling like I am doing now is proving very challenging and requires massive amounts of discipline and motivation especially when it is so hot and you have a toddler to mind. When I find a pool I’m like an addict and jump in at every opportunity to do some cardiovascular work and hip exercises even if it costs 10 pounds at the Movenpick Hotel in Aswan (which was a rip off!) and then when I have a hotel with space i.e. a roof terrace or a large bedroom then I will get on the floor and do a sequence of 10 exercises or a tabata as my personal trainer brother Rob Turner would say, http://www.mountainmanpt.co.uk. The tabata worked well for me as it lasted for about 20 minutes and combined of a cardio workout and strengthening.
As a woman in her 40’s it is even more important to do some sort of resistance exercise ie Pilates, yoga, weights or floor exercises using your own body weight (press ups, tricep dips, squats etc), in order to maintain strength. The reality is as we grow older we lose muscle mass and in addition our metabolic rate declines. If you are over 40 years and you are aerobically active (run, cycle, swim), this will not prevent the loss of muscles and if you continue to do exactly the same thing, you will lose muscle and gain fat!! Not great. Strength training is the only way to increase or preserve muscle mass and I have found after having a big operation, being 42 years and traveling for 5 months a big challenge to get the strength back in the operated leg (let alone the rest of your body) and it takes a lot of discipline and dedication.
Needless to say I will persevere !