In June of this year, I had my left hip replaced. I like to think of it as a rebuilt: my truck is on its second engine, I’m on my second hip. Now I can think of it with pleasure, but in early 2017 when the surgeon said, “total hip replacement” I thought my world of beekeeping had come to an end.
Mind you, it had been getting pretty difficult to work hives with my hip in the degraded condition it had achieved. Moving boxes while dragging one’s leg behind and wincing in pain the entire time does not contribute to good beekeeping.
I was very lucky on many fronts: I was able to have anterior surgery (from the front). My surgeon was excellent. My physical therapist was great. My friends pitched in on everything from driving me around for the first few weeks, to putting on that darned compression sock, to helping with the bees. And I was determined to get back on my feet.
It was still very frightening, especially at the beginning. I did not know what to expect or if I would be able to keep bees. Plus I had this nagging thought: “I’m young, this shouldn’t be happening.”
It Can Happen To Anyone
Genes, you can’t fight them. I have osteoarthritis. My mother had it too. Then there were all those years of carrying heavy equipment in the film industry and in beekeeping. And that habit I had of throwing 50 pounds on my back and going walking for a few weeks in the wilderness. These things rather wear down the joints. I did appreciate the friends my age that called and wrote to say, “I had mine done years ago. You’ll love it”
Of Walking, Exercises and An Enforced Vacation.
After the operation I had to “learn” to walk again. As all hip replacement patients do, I started out in a walker. It was an interesting conundrum.
My world is one of dirt roads. Walkers do not roll well on dirt. After a few futile attempts to push it along, I took to carrying the walker. It would hover just above the dirt and descend when I needed it. Sometimes that need was simple stabilization; often it was protection from my goats.
Of course I took my pack goats and dogs with me. To go for a walk without them would be unthinkable, to them and to me. Goats like to nudge and run into you. When they would come near me, I would plant the walker on the ground and just hold on. A friend watched this maneuver one time and said, “It’s not a walker, it’s shark cage.”
By week three I moved onto two walking sticks. It was a vast improvement. Slowly the goats, dogs and I progressed from quarter mile walks to 3-mile walks. I am lucky that I can walk straight off my property and in a forest.
Throughout the entire time I did my exercises. Are they dull? Yes. Are they necessary? Yes.
I tried to look at my situation as an enforced vacation: I learned how to cook! One can move beyond stir-fry. I started to paint! I sat on my deck and read books! And I walked, and walked, and walked.
Back To Market
By week three I was allowed to drive, as long as it was an automatic. I didn’t bother to mention to the doctor that my automatic is a ¾ ton market van. With that freedom, I returned to my booth at the Ballard Farmers Market.
I couldn’t load, set-up or pack-up, but I had a wonderful young man help me. But I could stand and sit and work the booth. That part of my beekeeping world could continue.
Hiving A Swarm
At that point one of my hives swarmed.
Happily they did it onto the side of some stacked bee boxes rather than up a tree. It was still a challenge. The entire time I worked on it I kept thinking: “Face forward, slow turns, deep knee bends, not too far.” My previous blog post has the entire story (wordpress is not letting me insert links today). When the hive was tucked into their new box, I was tired but happy. Happy for the bees, but also because I could still work bees.
The Good News / the Bad News
At week six my surgeon gave me permission to lift 60 pounds. The good news was that I could load my van and set up my market booth alone. I could once again pour honey and move bees, gently. The bad news was that I could do all that: The end of my enforced vacation.
A Friend Indeed
I returned to working my bees. But I could not have done so without the help of a friend who wanted to learn more about beekeeping.
He helped me check hives, and did the heavy lifting and carrying that our work demands. I’m happy to say he’ll be starting 2 hives of his own next year.
5 Months On
It’s been about 5 ½ months now since the operation. I am better than I have been in years. I can dance again, cook, and now that winter is here, paint – both pictures and the walls. Those long dark nights and very wet days all keep me inside. But best of all I can continue to do everything necessary to keep bees. There is definitely beekeeping after hip replacement surgery.
That’s the news from Brookfield Farm Bees And Honey in Maple Falls, Washington. What’s happening right now? I’m making frames as the rain pours down on us. At least it’s not snowing, yet – that’s expected in about a week.
Hope your days are happy, and if the dreaded words “hip replacement surgery” appear in your life, be assured you will be a much happier beekeeper after it.