This story was sent to us by Paul Cockerton, who had a hip replacement five years ago. Please be warned, this article contains graphic content not suitable for sensitive viewers.

“I wasn’t even aware that I had problems until one Sunday evening after a lower league football match when I was fidgeting around on the couch. My wife hit me with a cushion and asked me to quit moving around but it was right then that I became aware that I have a painful left hip. I guess that up until that point it had crept up on me. She encouraged me to go to the doctor which I did the following week. The doctor sent me for an x-ray; diagnosis osteoarthritis at the age of 36. I went to see a specialist but it wasn’t bad enough to warrant any intervention, so I went away to monitor the situation.

“I tried the usual support drugs but to be honest, they never did anything for me so I just got on with it.  I endeavoured to stay active and set about improving my fitness, and it worked well for about 4 years until I had to go back to doctors due to increasing pain and reduction in mobility. Back to the specialist again who checked me over and firstly said that he couldn’t believe that I was still running between 5 and 10 km at a time and indicated I would likely be a good candidate for a hip replacement within 2 years. At the age of 40, this was a bit of a shock but I kept active and controlled the pain with infrequent pain meds. The only irritating thing was explaining to co-workers and friends why I was limping around all the time!

“Keeping active was working well, but one winter I managed to pop a calf muscle, and then strain an Achilles tendon which took me away from running for a while. This seemed to be the catalyst for increased hip pain and, exactly as predicted, I was back at the specialist and in for a hip replacement.  Fortunately, my work agreed to pay for the surgery which I am so grateful for. At 42, I had a total LH hip replacement.

The operation (right person at the right time)

“I am an engineer by trade and I am curious by nature. When the pre-operation paperwork had a tick box for ‘do you want your body parts returned to you?’ I just had to say yes…and there it was, on the table next to me when I woke-up, in a plastic tub in a brown paper bag, the ball joint from my femur. 

“I was amazed to see the damage ‘in the flesh’ but wondered how much pain can be caused by such apparently small damage. The funny thing at this point was that, with my curiosity satisfied, I asked the nurse if they could dispose of the part and she replied ‘no, we can’t do that now, you have to take it with you’. 

What was I going to do with a pot of my human remains?

“It didn’t seem right to simply throw it away, so I buried it in the garden, happy to be presiding over a small part of my own funeral! I then totally forgot about it…”

Five years later…

“The COVID-19 lockdown descended on us and I am one of these people who needs to be busy. I undertook a bunch of projects with the resources I had available and I was lucky that before the lockdown I had bought some plants that I hadn’t got round to planting. With the sun shining, I started working in the garden. As I dug the hole for a plant to move in to, I accidentally dug-up the femur bone.

“I didn’t notice at first because it was dirt coloured and blended into the pile, but I noticed it there and then instantly remembered that I had buried it there almost 5 years previously.

“By this time, two things had happened, the bugs and insects had removed all of the fleshy bits around the joint, and my eldest daughter was now in the third year of her Biology degree and was fascinated!

“She took it and cleaned it up and emailed progress updates to her University Professor who was equally fascinated.

 

“The real amazing bit was seeing the arthritis damage that was under the cartilage and unseen by me 5 years previous. Arthritis had eaten away a large portion of the bone exposing the marrow – no wonder it was so painful!

Once the lockdown is over, the bone will head-off to Auckland University as a discussion point for the Biology department. I am so pleased that I got to see this, got to see exactly what was causing me the pain and seeing exactly what arthritis looks like both in the flesh and under the flesh.”

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