Rethinking rehab in lockdown

Gary Henson explains how he used the local environment for self-managed recuperation after Covid-19 halted normal post-op rehabilitation 

Gary Henson CSP’s corporate communications officer

It had all gone to plan. The waiting list locally for total hip replacement (THR) was just three months. I was under the team of Britain’s best hip surgeon and, excitingly, I was part of a research study into the use of robotic-arm assistance in theatre. 

I was to use the 73 steps to my flat as part of my rehab and I was to swim, swim, swim my way back to full mobility.  

My THR took place in the last week of February at a central London hospital. Then, Corona was still a fizzy bottled drink, although there were rumours of some big bubbles of coronavirus infection in Whitehall. 

Just three weeks later the orthopaedic ward where I had spent three nights was a busy Covid-19 ward, along with seven other floors of the hospital. Most of the therapy team staff had come down with the virus – other staff had died. 

I was one of the last patients seen by physiotherapy outpatients on 17 March. Louise showed me how to take my first step on stairs. 

That was the last time I saw a health professional. After initial feelings of abandonment, my self-directed rehab began. 

What I learnt from the sometimes wacky US-based Facebook patient groups was to walk, walk and walk. This was what I was left with, as all the pools were closed. There was to be no swim, swim, swim. 

Eight weeks post-op I was walking up to three hours a day exploring every hill in north London. I walked forwards and backwards along deserted lockdown streets. 

But the most important breakthrough in my DIY rehab was the long-jump sandpit at the local closed athletics track. The deep sand was ideal exercise and I built up to 100 lengths, alternating walking and running. To mark the key 12 weeks post-op, I did a very slow lap of the 400m track.  

Like many other users of the health service overwhelmed by Covid-19, I had no choice but to get on with it. 

  • Gary Henson  is the CSP’s corporate communications officer 

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