My operation had been scheduled for 13th August. Yesterday, the hospital phoned and asked if I could switch to the 8th due to staffing issues. So now, I’m feeling rushed trying to get everything ready in time.
Living with hypermobility as a performer meant that for many years, my body was extremely flexible – I could do the splits without feeling a stretch, and get both feet around the back of my head. Yoga felt like doing a bit of a yawn. Now, I realise that the elasticity in my joints is caused by a problem with the collagen in my body, which means the joints are very stretchy, but not strong. So every time I was doing those extreme stretches, I was actually dislocating and damaging my joints. Those movements – and the pride I felt in doing them – are now haunting my body as I’ve now gone from being flexible, to very inflexible. And the years doing dance, movement, yoga and martial arts contributed to the arthritis developing at a much earlier age (I’m now 52) than it would have done otherwise. Would I have changed this with hindsight? No. The experiences I’ve had have formed me in such a way that I couldn’t imagine not having done those things, been that person, even with what I have to deal with now. But as hypermobility is becoming more widely known, it’s important for those training young dancers, gymnasts etc to be aware of the danger of over-stretching. To spot a young child with the ability to be very flexible can mean they’re plucked out for elite training, and encouraged to push the flexibility further and harder, to extreme levels, resulting potentially in damage in later years. So it’s important for trainers and coaches to have an understanding of the condition, and adapt what they do with young people accordingly. But I also know that the feeling of the over-stretching is very satisfying, and that to stop short at hyper-extending feels as frustrating as not finishing a yawn. The renowned yoga teacher Iyengar recommended that anyone with hypermobility only goes to 70% of the stretch – I found it really hard to do just this much, and stop. But now, I’m mostly capable of doing only 10%, if that much, so instead work on trying to extend the inner energy of the movement, even if the outer body can only manage it to a small extent. I’ve no idea how much more than this I’ll be able to do after the surgery.
Due to the hypermobility, I’m at a high risk of dislocation following the operation. My surgeon has decided that he’ll use a dual mobility joint as a result. The ball at the top of femur is actually a ball within a ball, so the outer ball is fixed stable within the socket, and the ball inside this outer ball is the one which moves. This reduces the range of mobility , but is much more stable as a joint, and so greatly reduces the risk of dislocation. The image below shows the difference between a standard replacement on the left, and the dual mobility one on the right.
I still find it hard to imagine that in less than a week’s time, my body will be cut open, my joints dislocated, my bones sawed into, and the artificial joint hammered and cemented in place, before muscle and skin is sewn up again. Being able to visualise the new bionic joint inside me helps to think about how to integrate it into however the new body will be.
This is why this experience is, for me, a practice-based research project. I’ll be researching my body, thoughts, and feelings as I go through the recovery process. Which starts in six days time.