I have been reading a lot of blogs from people who have gone through the same surgery I did (a Periacetabular Osteotomy / PAO) and hip dysplasia in general, and it has been a huge encouragement to me.
That being said, I want to do the same for others. Those of you who have had a PAO, are set to have a PAO or are dealing with hip dysplasia. Even if none of the above apply to you and you are simply curious, I hope you get something out of this. I never planned on sharing this journey in detail until I was so blessed by others who did the same.
Before I begin, please realize that I am completely aware that my situation is nothing compared to what people all around the world are going through. I know that my life is blessed beyond words. I love love love the life I live, and I’m so thankful to God for His immense generosity.
So, without further or do, here is my journey with hip dysplasia.
* PTL stands for Praise The Lord. This is important information because this is one big PTL story. 🙂 *
Background : So when I was four months old, a nurse in training found a click in my hip; a common symptom of hip dysplasia. One thing led to another, and after braces of every variety did not do the trick, surgery was the next step. I had surgery on both hips to hopefully prevent any major hip joint problems in my future.
So obviously that didn’t work too well. 😉 I had x-rays when I was thirteen, just to make sure everything was okay. The doctor said everything looked great and he never wanted to see me again. I was in minimal pain at the time, and my dad being the awesome PT he is (PTL PTL PTL) made sure I stayed strong enough to prevent future injuries. When I started high school volleyball, my hips became more of a problem, but nothing intolerable. As long as I did plenty of stretching before each game I was aye-okay.
How I Knew Something Was Wrong : During spring of my sophomore year of high school, I was in the best shape of my life. I was working out at least four times a week along with going to soccer practices (which I coached) and volleyball open gyms. I was eating healthier, staying hydrated, and feeling amazing. I was so ready to kill my junior year of volleyball. I was on varsity my sophomore year, but was pretty much a bench warmer. However, with six spots open in the starting lineup, I was determined to step up and be who this new team needed me to be. Before that could happen, I had to finish the school year. During state testing at the end of the year, we were stuck sitting in the same room for days at a time, even when we weren’t testing (small school probs). For some reason, those few weeks made my hips unbearably painful. My pelvis kept shifting out of place, making walking, sitting and standing nightmares. It was awful. I stopped working out, hoping giving them a break would help. It did, but as soon as I began again they would get aggravated.
I stayed out of volleyball open gyms for about a month which definitely helped, but not permanently. My dad tried and tried to calm down the angry monsters in my hips, but nothing he knew helped. No matter how much strengthening I did, they were still mad at me all the time. When the season finally rolled around, I was doing okay. Not necessarily better, but I wasn’t getting consistently worse. Then, about halfway through the season, I couldn’t take it anymore. I had to sit out of several games in a row, including several big ones. When I was ready to play again, I just couldn’t move fast enough. By season’s end, with my hips taped, heated and stretched plus a knee brace, I could barely get through two sets. I’d hobble out of the gym, get home, crash on the couch and ice them until I went to bed. Still, they were always incredibly sore the next day, sometimes to the point of barely being able to walk.
Getting Help : During summer volleyball (before games had started), my dad took me to a doctor who he sends his hip patients to for surgery. I wanted so badly to know that something could be done. Chronic pain, I’ve learned, makes people hopeless. I didn’t even realize how hopeless I was until I learned that I wouldn’t live like this forever. The doctor said that I had a labral tear. This news filled me with relief, for one of my very good friends had had a surgery to repair a labral tear in her hip not even a year before and was feeling so much better. He believed it was caused by structural abnormalities and was aggravated by my increase in activity. Before he did anything more, however, he wanted me to get some more tests done. He was concerned because when I walked, my knees turned inward, yet my feet stayed straight.
I got an MRI and went back to the same doctor who still wasn’t sure. He said he believed I had significant femoral rotation (everyone’s femur is rotated, but mine was significantly more than most). However, he did not understand why my feet did not turn out or in at all. He studied my test results, and asked other doctors who he knew. Finally, he decided that I needed to have my femur broken and rotated, but my tibia needed the same procedure so as to prevent major foot and knee problems. Talk about stress! I was in the middle of volleyball season, the hardest year of high school yet, and in constant pain that just reminded me of the looming surgery. Thankfully I have a family unlike any other who was there for me every step of the way.
He did not feel that he had the skills to perform this procedure due to the fact that I had “really weird anatomy” (yes, those were his exact words) because of my first surgery, so he advised that we go to one of three specialists to get a second opinion and a more skilled hand. Our choices were Detroit, New York City and Seattle. Living in Ohio, Detroit was our best option. The anxiety I felt leading up to that appointment was crippling. But I was so ready to get answers. Real, final answers. But we didn’t get them. We ended up having to go up to Detroit five times for various appointments / tests before we finally scheduled the surgery (PTL). A Periacetabular Osteotomy. Instead of my-not-at-all-medical-self explaining exactly how this surgery works to you, here is a link that will explain it to you in detail. All I know is that I have four big screws in my hip and I am in much less pain then I was before.
January 17. Three days after my birthday.
The Final Countdown ( 😉 ) : The countdown was on. We scheduled my surgery on Halloween, so that gave me two and a half months to get my body strong enough to survive the upcoming six month recovery. This was hard considering my hips were pretty much in the worst shape they had ever been in and even the thought of working out made them want to explode. So that plan didn’t go super well, but I somehow managed to get in about two simple workouts a week. The worst part about these months was the questions. I talked about this in chapter ten.
People ask me, “Are you scared, sad, mad, relieved?”, and I usually give them a simple, short, lacking-in-depth answer, because a true answer would involve thinking. And to think is to remember that I won’t see my grandpa again in this lifetime and that there is a chance I will never play volleyball again.
To think is to process.
To process is to realize all of my struggles are completely out of my control.
To realize this is to be forced to either, continue to rely on my own understanding and struggle immensely, or lose my stubborn nature and give my life to God.
The questions were endless, and I was in a bad mood 99% of the time, which was dumb considering the fact I was about to have my life changed for the better. So yeah. Looking back, I was a total jerk.
The best thing about those months?
I mean really freaking amazing. People sent us gift cards and presents and prayers and cards and everything in between. I didn’t even know the names on half of the envelopes. It was so God. ❤ (PTL)
When Christmas rolled around, I was doing better emotionally, because, I mean, Christmas! 🙂 Then, of course, on Christmas day, I was in the worst pain I had been in in months. It started in my hips and ran all the way down my legs. (If you’re reading this because you’re going through the same thing, I’m sure you can relate.) I did not understand. I was trying to enjoy my family and focus on God and have a truly happy day, but instead I was stuck on the couch with tears running down my face and frustration filling my heart. I couldn’t understand why God felt that was necessary. I still don’t fully understand why He chose to do that to me, nor do I know why He chooses to do anything. Here’s the crazy thing, though:
God had a reason. He had a plan. Something came out of that day that brought glory to Him through me having the worst Christmas ever. Maybe He was trying to remind me that the surgery was going to make this go away. Maybe He was trying to test me. Okay, honestly, I have no idea. But that’s the theme of this whole journey. I don’t know why it happened, or why it is still happening, but He does. And He’s doing something really crazy cool…P T L.
The days before surgery were terrifying. I went to each of my teachers reminding them that I was going to be out of school for at least a month. That was incredibly stressful. None of them seemed to know what to do. Not many people miss a month of school. Luckily, my tutor was my sophomore year English teacher, and super cool (TOTAL PTL MOMENT). She was very helpful in getting me my work efficiently.
Then came the weekend. Birthday fun and packing anxiety. It was honestly the weirdest birthday of my life. It was kind of like, “Okay, yeah one year older, now let’s just make it Tuesday.” Then, finally, it was Monday. One. More. Day.
Pre-Op : Monday we left our cozy little town in Ohio for big, bustling Detroit, Michigan. I was coming off of a weekend full of friends, family and fun. I knew that I was going to have a hard time on that five hour trip, with no distractions. Yet to my surprise, I wasn’t scared. My parents and I had fun on the way up. That had to be Christ, blessing me with the peace that surpasses all understanding. I knew so many people were praying for me, and I was so grateful. That peace stayed with me all day. We went to my uneventful (PTL) pre-op appointment. We went to dinner at a delicious local resteraunt and went to see La La Land (AMAZING). We got some ice cream and went back to the hotel, and I still wasn’t freaking out. I fell asleep with no problem. I woke up in the morning, showered, beat my dad up ( 😉 ) and did about 5 million squats. We left at about 8 AM to get the day that would change my life started.
The Day : Surgery day itself was essentially nonexistent. After getting my IV and all other
pre-op stuff taken care of, my parents and I hung out and waited for the anesthesiologist. When she and the rest of the army of nurses came in, they gave me some relaxing medicine and the next thing I know I’m waking up!
When I first woke up, all I remember is being in the worst pain of my life. The pain medicine they gave me in the operating room wore off, and let’s just say I didn’t do anything funny…
Anyways, once they got it back under control, I fell back asleep, and that’s pretty much what I did the entire time. Its funny, I brought a ton of stuff to entertain myself with and didn’t touch a single thing. I literally slept, worked with PT, slept, ate, slept, ate some more, slept, watched movies, fell asleep during those movies, and slept some more. I was in the hospital a grand total of four nights, which was one night less than what we initially thought (PTL). The staff at Beaumont was amazing. They were all so sweet and genuinely caring. We couldn’t have asked for better care (PTL).
Okay, BIG PTL MOMENT : I had been dreading the ride home since I knew I would be
having surgery so far away. Long car rides have never agreed with my hips in the slightest, so I could only imagine how a hip with four giant screws in it would do.
I slept the. whole. way. home.
P T L P T L P T L P T L
Recovery (So Far) : I got home, and so began the long and daunting road to recovery. The first two weeks were one massive roller coaster. There were days that I would’ve forgotten I had had surgery at all if I wasn’t walking with crutches. Then there were days where I could barely get out of my recliner because I was so nauseous and sick. It was bizarre.
Emotionally, I had a lot of trouble dealing with guilt the first two weeks. I felt like I shouldn’t be feeling so bad for myself. I felt like I should be doing more schoolwork. I felt like I should be doing something. I also had a really hard time dealing with the fact that Grandpa wasn’t across the street anymore. I knew if he were still here he would have brought my mom and I anything we needed. He would’ve come over and checked on us all the time. Instead I was left staring longingly at his house trying to will him out of it.
At my two week check, he said everything looked good! I asked when I could go back to school on crutches, and he said not for at least another month since my bones were abnormally thin because of my first surgery.
This, at the time, seemed like the worst thing that could have possibly come out of his mouth. (Looking back, it obviously wasn’t that big of a deal…) I tried to be cooperative and as positive as possible throughout recovery, but the thing I hated most about all of it was the wheelchair. I hated going anywhere in it. I hated the attention it brought with it. I hated how helpless it made me feel. I go to a crazy small school, and going back in a wheelchair would’ve been so hard. In my head, it was not an option. Turns out, I wasn’t physically well enough to go back to school for another month anyways, so it all worked out. 🙂
Week three was kind of transition week. I was taking less pain medicine which helped me feel less tired and a lot better emotionally. I was able to get a lot more school work done, and my friends were able to come hang out more often.
Week four was Abby-finally-feels-like-a-person-again week. I made it back to church, was able to go out with my mom, and switched to a much less intense pain medication. That was a game changer. I literally felt like a new person.
Weeks five, six, and seven were filled with schoolwork on top of schoolwork. I only had a few days during which I felt too bad to work on anything, and still I didn’t get caught up until the day before I went back to school, which was seven weeks and six days after surgery. It felt good to be productive, but it was also so boring.
At my six week post-op appointment, I was so nervous. I had to go back to school. I was
losing my mind at home. When the doctor said everything looked good and I could go back to school and start weightbearing, I was almost as thrilled as I was when I was finally able to put on real clothes. (Kidding. 🙂 ) PTL!!!
Since then, I’ve managed to get off crutches completely (BIGGEST PTL YET) and start driving again. PT is going great! I can already tell the surgery did its job, because I never would have been able to do everything I can do now on just one hip. I would’ve died before, and now I can’t get enough. (That’s not really true, but you get the point.)
So yeah. I am currently two months and twenty-two days post-op. In the midst of the past two months, I thought God had purposefully slowed down time. Now, I can’t believe I’m out of the thick of it.
I can’t believe what God just brought me through and is continuing to walk me through. I know He will continue to hold my hand as I go through the rest of this recovery, and another surgery (left hip…not sure what is going to happen with that yet). I feel closer to Him then ever. I’m loving (and sometimes hating) this journey, and I feel like a better woman, daughter, sibling and Christian because of it.
Thank you for your love.
Thank you for your support.
Thank you for your generosity.
All my love,