“If you break your hip, you will die within a year”

Informant Data: The informant is a second year medical student at John A. Burns School of Medicine with the University of Hawaii. She is Caucasian, and with a distant Irish and Russian lineage that she feels little connection to. She grew up in Seattle, Washington, and obtained an undergraduate degree in Bio-medical Engineering before starting her medical school journey. She is very enthusiastic about medicine and healing people.

Item: The saying that goes “if you break your hip, you will die within a year.” The following quotations are direct transcriptions of my dialogue with the informant, while the additional information provided is paraphrased.

Contextual Data: The informant first heard this expression in medical school, speaking one-on-one with a doctor about a hip-fracture case. The doctor regarded the saying as well-known within the medical world; however, not in any way a medical fact. The informant describes the phrase as “it’s not a fact, just a general indication that patients who break their hips don’t recover well. It’s really hard to rehabilitate from. They tend to recover from the hip replacement just fine, leave the hospital just fine, but they just never get back to their original strength and function. Some of it could be the long term complications from it, pulmonary embolism or fat embolism, but a lot of it is the weakened state, definitely not a hard-fast rule but you just know they will never be the same.”

The informant went on to explain that “doctors do not tell this to patients, and people don’t know because they recover fine from the surgery and get to go home.” The morbid saying is restricted to the medical community and serves as a reminder of how essential preventative measures are with elderly patients. Elderly people are often resistant to take certain precautions—“they don’t want to lose their independence, they don’t want to get a hand-rail in the bathtub or a railing on their staircase, or get rid of rugs in their house. Moral of the story is doctors need to remember to ask about rugs and nightlights and how well they see and do they have stairs and all the things that could be a risk factor.” While it may reduce one’s independence, they don’t realize how much one fall could change their life from then on.

The informant said that doctor she first heard it from in fact had a personal experience with the saying as well. He, already privy to the saying with his career, had his mother pass away not six months after a hip replacement. “While his family was rejoicing her return home post-surgery, the expression loomed in the back of his mind.”