The Guardian tells me that 30 years ago history was made at the Barcelona Olympics by the presence of the US ‘Dream Team’ competing in the basketball and setting standards which had never been seen before.
I remember those Olympics because that’s when I was in hospital having my hip op and although I had TV in my room the choice was essentially the Olympics on Swiss TV, we were living in Switzerland at the time, and the Republican Party convention on CNN.
My hip deteriorated badly through the winter of 1991/92 but the signs had been there much earlier as I noticed reduced mobility on my left side. It didn’t affect me much and I was pretty active through the summer of 1991 even competing in a sprint triathlon in September of that year.
I was just coming up to my 45th birthday and that’s young for such an OP to be necessary. That prompted the question ‘why?’
I recalled a few years previously I’d taken Clare ice skating and fell particularly heavily on my left hip. I always reckon that somehow displaced it, not too much but enough to cause a subsequent gradual deterioration. When I ventured this theory to my GP (Dr Berghof) at the time he dismissed it but could give no other explanation so I’ll stick with it.
It must have been sometime in 1990 that I began to worry a little and met and visited a friend and local doctor (Dr Chantel Fuessler) who’d reinvented herself as an acupuncturist. She treated me and referred me successively to a masseur, then what I imagine was an osteopath and finally a fully fledged Naturarzt (Dr Romano, a homeopathic doctor) in Canton Argau.
I visited the Dr Romano throughout the summer of 1990. In my very first consultation he asked me to demonstrate something which I could not do. He then put me though a little hypnosis after which I could do it! He put a metal stud in my ear and advised me to eat lots of strawberries, mashed in red wine, to address some imbalance in my blood.
I visited both doctors several times during the year and they prescribed me an assortment of homeopathic remedies. On one occasion I was presented with a sort of pick ‘n mix choice. I dutifully did what I was told, I guess I believed, and although a cure didn’t seem to be in the offing maybe the deterioration was at least being slowed down.
Sometime late in 1991 I must have decided that I needed some more serious treatment. Although I’d done a lot of cycling through the summer, including a successful ascent of the Clausen Pass (1400m), my fellow riders remarked on the asymmetric nature of my stye. Then I recall finding myself unable to run. I visited Dr Berghof again and he referred me to a specialist, Dr Schick (pictured).
My consultation with Dr Schick early in 1992 was illuminating. He told me that from my x-rays he was surprised that I could walk but that my excellent muscle condition, I still attended a gym regularly, was what was holding me together. He said that an operation was inevitable, he was a surgeon after all, and that I’d know when it was time.
I was never actually in any pain, for that I must be thankful, but it became increasingly hard work for me to walk any significant distance. It felt like my hip was seizing up. I also reckoned that it would not be long before my other hip started to go given the stresses it was being put under as a result of the way that I was now walking. As I look back at photographs at that time you can see me generally standing on one leg. That in itself was tiring.
Medicine in Switzerland is private, albeit well covered by insurance, so when I had decided it was time it was just a matter then of agreeing a date with Dr Schick and my best guess is that the due date was Tuesday the 4th of August, 1992.
I’ve described my stay in hospital for the op in a previous post (click here). The infection notwithstanding it was not a bad stay. Under the terms of my insurance I qualified for a private room and it had a balcony and a view out over the Zuerichsee. I remember it was very hot and there was no air conditioning. The food wasn’t bad and the coffee was excellent. There was a cafe in the hospital where you could get non-alcoholic beer but my friend Tony Pearce brought in large bottles of Cardinal which we shared as we sat on my balcony.
Fast forward now to 2022 and I confess there’s a bit of a niggle in my left hip. No big deal but it’s there and maybe reminding me to take it easy now because a next op won’t be so easy to arrange unless I fork out £15K to go private. In the meantime I’m keeping my muscles in good shape and my weight down but I don’t know if that’s enough to keep me going without another op for the next 10 to 15 years.