Author Archives: dramaticallyhip

1 Year post-PAO

1 year ago at this hour I was in the PACU (Hospital for Special Surgery’s post-surgical ICU), newly broken hip held together with screws, drugged to the nines and unable to move my right foot (because, as we later learned, the epidural was in a bit too deep). I was just at the beginning of this latest stage in my hip journey. I was hopeful that my right hip would be in pretty good shape by this past May and had not even started to realize how hard my recovery would be.

There’s no new news today but I felt that this is a day I needed to acknowledge, like a birthday for my sorta-new right hip. In less than 3 weeks the 5 screws will be gone – they will be removed along with the 3 screws in my left femur (the remnants of my May surgery). My right hip scar is healed to the point that it’s hard to see, in some places, where the incision was. That will all be reopened soon enough but for now, it seems like such a long time since I really even thought about it.

People ask me if my right hip feels better than before the surgery. The thing is I think it does but I don’t really know. Before the surgery I had pain when I would do certain strenuous activities. Now, I have some level of pain anytime I’m not sitting or lying flat on my back. I don’t do strenuous activities because the pain makes it impossible. I feel confident that once the screws are out and the soft tissue stops getting rubbed the wrong way I will be able to give a better ‘status report’. Like the one year ago version of me I am hopeful.

Before my surgery I had posted a very personal message to those of you who have followed my surgeries and recoveries. I promised to update my site and all of you, to push myself out of my shell and write even when I wanted to hide. And I asked you to stick by me so that I would not have to go through this alone. Please know how incredibly thankful I am for all of you.  It has been a rough year and I cannot thank you enough for sticking by me, and continuing to do so.  I have also been happy to learn that my site has been a resource for other ‘hipsters,’ with over 12,000 views from people in 65 countries.  I am certainly not alone.

As an aside, some holiday carolers we’re wandering down my Brooklyn street and for the first time this year, it felt a little bit like Christmas. Since I likely won’t post again until closer to the New Year and my next surgery, let me wish you all a lovely and joyful holiday season full of love, happiness, and a whole lot of hope.

I’m still here!

It’s nearly 11 months post-PAO and nearly 6 months post SDD and I am still alive and kicking (although, technically, I still can’t kick, with either leg). I know I have been lax in providing updates but honestly, recovery is a SLOW game with small steps forward.  I have been in PT, off-and-on, since February, but recently my improvement, especially on my left side, is mostly stalled and in a holding pattern.  That said, I have a bit of news and some updates to report.  I also know that there are others who are going through similar surgeries and experiences that read my blog and I really want this to be a complete picture of what I have gone through (and continue to go through).

Right hip (PAO) first.  My right hip is doing pretty well with any remaining pain located in either my right greater trochanter or in my psoas at the front of my hip.  I’m hopeful that any remaining pain in these areas will get better with more time, keeping in mind that full recovery from a PAO is up to 2 years.  The only other problem I have with my right hip is that the screws along my iliac crest do give me some discomfort — not sure if they are unscrewing themselves (which is possible) or if the swelling around the incision has finally gone down.  I’ll get back to these screws in a bit.

Left hip (Surgical Dislocation).  Left hip is not doing nearly as well as the right.  I am finally off-crutch (for the most part) because my limp is gone (for the most part).  However, I still have pretty significant pain in my left greater trochanter and psoas.  The pain in the front of my hip seeps into the joint and sometimes I feel like the ball of the femur isn’t solidly in the joint which makes me wonder if I am subluxing my hip joint (click here – Hip Instability – for a bit of information on hip instability and subluxation).  The pain in the trochanter can get pretty severe to the point where I sometimes need to use my cane or crutch, both because of my limp and in an attempt to take the weight off my left hip.  The pain definitely gets worse 1) when it rains and 2) the more I walk.  Which leads me to…

I’m having another surgery!  Yes, that’s right, ANOTHER freaking surgery, and another holiday season sullied.  I am having the screws in my left hip (and possibly the screws in my right hip) removed in late December (exact date tbd).  Good news – it’s an out patient surgery, though I may be in the hospital overnight to ensure the pain is well managed.  Other good news — other people who have had their screws removed bounce back within a few weeks after the surgery and typically move quickly beyond the holding pattern of improvement to actually get better.

I am scheduled to meet with my surgeon on November 18th for my 6 month SDD follow-up and anticipate that my physical therapy benefits will be up around that time.  After my Dr. appointment I will know if any additional procedures (e.g., fluid drainage, scope) are required — I am hoping NO but we will see.

tumblr_mub3moYShU1qhvwbto1_500SO, aside from a new hair color (black and blue streaks), a new semester at law school (my second to last), and a new tattoo (amazing, huge, on my thigh, done by Seth Wood, and appearing at the bottom of the page [you can see the bottom of my PAO scar next to the bee above the flying bee]), that’s what’s new.  Oh, and Happy Halloween!

Time flys. Time drags.

It’s been 37 weeks/8.5 months since my R-PAO and 16 weeks/3.5 months since my L-SDD. Holy crap has time flown! Scratch that – it’s been so freaking slow! See, that’s the thing — it genuinely feels like time has passed both super fast and incredibly slowly. It makes no sense to me either. Clock

I met with my surgeon, on July 24th (a few days after my last blog post). At that point my right hip was achy and my left still hurt a bunch — lots of pain around the trochanter, still a flare in the psoas. Also, my back had been acting up and my left knee was causing enough pain to wake me at night. I had to walk with a single crutch, my limp was pretty bad, and I couldn’t lay on my left (operated) side yet. I went to PT weekly, did my exercises at home daily.

Fast forward to today. My right hip is still a bit achy, my left doesn’t hurt as much. It’s almost as if the volume on all of the pains on my left side got turned down a bit so that it still hurts but the pains not as loud. My back is much better and following an MRI on my left knee that came up with nothing, my knee is doing a bit better. I still have to use a single crutch to walk but the limp is looking a lot better to the point that for a few steps first thing in the morning, I don’t have a limp (it comes back quickly but those first steps are stellar). I can FINALLY lay on my left side, if only for a minute or two. I still do PT, I still do my exercises.

At my appointment back on July 24th, we talked about next steps, what they might look like (surgery?  hopefully no), and how recovery takes a long time.  That’s the crux — I don’t feel like I prepared myself for HOW long it truly takes.  Before my surgeries I read every article and blog and site but each surgery took mere hours — HOURS — to complete. I totally failed to fully grasp that following the procedures, I would spend weeks, months, likely YEARS recovering.  Couple that with the fact that when you are in the middle of something, like a recovery — when you’re actually going through it and where it affects everything you do —  a single day can feel extra super long.  Add all those extra long days together and you have an extra super duper crazy long time.

At exactly the same time, it has been 8.5 months since my RPAO and it blows my mind how much time has passed!  It’s like being in a time warp —  a crappy, non-dancing, non-Frankenfurter time warp.

My next appointment with my surgeon is on September 10th.  Before then?  PT, hydrotherapy, work, start back at school, try to have a bit of fun and maybe watch Rocky Horror because until I pulled that clip, I totally forgot how much I loved that movie.  It’s gonna be better, it’s getting better, I am A-OK.

10+ week status — Open Surgical Dislocation (SDD)

I started this blog with two purposes: 1) to inform the world of how I’m doing, and 2) as a record I can look back on to remind myself how I was doing at certain points in my recovery (really helpful when I’m coming up on a follow-up with my surgeon, as is the case this Wednesday).  This post serves the latter purpose (i.e., it’s probably gonna be boring and you might wanna skip reading it).  I warned you!

I am 10.5 weeks post-op on my left hip SDD (a little more than 7 months post-op RPAO).  I have had several sessions of PT (one/week) and one session of hydrotherapy (PT in the H2O).

PT Exercises — status:  

  • Most of my PT sessions are about determining my current level of ability to perform existing exercises and introducing new exercises into my routine.  The therapists also massage and stretch some of the tendons and muscles that are tight or sore so as to improve range of motion.
  • My limp has definitely improved since my first session, but it is still there and gets worse the more exercises I perform.
  • I continue to perform my PT exercises at home including PT Phase I post-op PT exercises (i.e., seated leg extensions, cow pose to child’s pose, core/glute tightening, and quad stretches) and SOME of Phase II post-op PT exercises (including bridging with red elastic band abduction, bent knee fall-out with red elastic band resistance, standing abduction on the affected side, core stability with hip extension + abduction, balance and proprioception, and upright bicycle).
  • I am unable to perform standing abduction on the unaffected side (where I have to stand on my left leg and extend my right), posterior gluteus medius strengthening (where I have to extend my left leg to the back/side at 45 degrees with a red band) or contralateral elastic band for stability (again, standing on the left [affected] side and extending the rights side with a colored band.
  • Hydrotherapy is great because, when you are in the water, your body doesn’t hurt as bad so you can do more than if you were doing therapy on land.  It’s also terrible because, since you don’t hurt as bad, you don’t realize that you are overexerting yourself until you get out of the water.  That’s what happened with me, and I will be avoiding further hydrotherapy sessions until I am stronger.

Non-PT activities — status:

  • I use one right forearm crutch (Millenial) whenever I walk to off-set the limp and because it’s painful otherwise.
  • To date, the most I have walked in the course of a day is approximately 15 blocks, and I was extremely sore/in pain and exhausted at the end of it.  In average, I walk no more than 2-3 blocks in a day.  I use Access-a-Ride almost exclusively for traveling in the city as my local subway station does not have an elevator and I have a terrible time going up and down stairs.
  • I AM able to ride a bike, which I do on occasion when it’s not a million degrees outside.
  • I am still unable to sleep on my operated side.
  • When sitting my left leg needs to be extended at least 75% of the time.  Otherwise my knee becomes progressively more painful.

Pain levels — status:

  • My pain seems to have increased in the last few weeks, from very little pain at 6 weeks post-op to some level of almost constant pain in my hip, back and knee.
  • I have constant pain in my left side of my left hip.  I would not say it is in the joint itself.  Rather, I would say that that it’s in the trochanter or in the muscles between the trochanter and my lower back (the gluteus muscles).  The pain is relatively mild (around a 2/3 out of 10)  most of the time but can spike to a 7/8 out of 10 depending on my level of activity.  I cannot abduct my left leg at all when lying down (i.e., no “clam shells” — a PT activity for abduction).
  • My Sacroiliac Joint (SI) on my left side has been hurting a lot since my hydrotherapy session.  Note that until recently, I have not had any significant pain in my back and SI joint since prior to my RPAO in December.
  • My left knee started hurting about 2-3 weeks ago, in the area behind and just below my patella.  I am guessing it has something to do with tight tendons / IT band but honestly I have no idea.  It looks swollen — I have tried ice and Voltaren anti-inflammatory ointment on it but without much luck.
  • I manage my pain through a combination of rest, elevation, ice, Tylenol and, on occasion and if needed, stronger pain medication (as was needed as few times in the last week).

Next post will be more interesting — promise!

Hey there freedom!

Tomorrow marks 8 weeks since my left hip Surgical Dislocation but today, for 26 minutes and 13 seconds, I rode a bike, outside, and was totally utterly free.  No crutch, no cane, no limp!  And it was fantastic!  I love to bike ride and lucky for me, biking is one of the few activities I can do with only limited pain.  Since there is a Citibike station around the corner from my apartment, I plan/hope to ride a bunch this summer.

In addition to getting back on a bike, over the last couple of weeks I have slowly been trying to get my life back on line.  I started PT on Monday the 24th — mostly stationary biking, bridging, leg lifts — but it was kinda fun and my therapist was really helpful (which is good since I’ll continue to go 1-2/week for many months).  I rode the subway for the first time since May 7th and was stunned by how exhausted I felt at the end of my trip.  I’ve been using Access-a-Ride to go to the city to work two days a week.  This past Saturday I met a friend for some shopping and brunch in the city and then my husband and I went out for dinner.  I think I am finally, slowly coming out of the hermit’s lair I have resided in for the better part of 6.5 months.

In terms of how I’m feeling, I would say that I am doing OK but not great.  I ache a lot more this time than I did after the PAO.  My left hip hurts, at least mildly, almost all of the time and for the first time, I have had trouble sleeping because of the pain.  I cannot stand on only my affected leg (the leg that had the SDD) or I fall over.  Technically, I can walk without a crutch but not very far and only with a pronounced limp (the limp magically disappears when I use the crutch).  Also, my PT says I’m not supposed to walk unaided until I get rid of the limp (they don’t want me to develop a bad habit) so anticipate I’ll be crutching for several more weeks at least.  My right leg continues to have pain when I perform certain movements and it aches but only when I have been sitting for a long time.

So that’s that – just a quick note.  Happy 4th of July to all!

6 week, 6 month Follow-Up!

I have been so lax in providing an update but luckily I have much to report!

Last Monday I had my physical therapy evaluation at HSS + six-week follow-up for my SDD surgery / six-month follow-up for my PAO surgery. As an aside, I have decided to do my physical therapy at HSS because I will be rehabbing both legs and want to be assured that I am in the best hands. The evaluation went alright (testing how far I can rotate my leg; can I pull or push against weight) although I was unable to balance all my weight on my left operated leg and had some pretty striking pains when I tried to do some of the exercises. Unfortunately, I am a bit weaker then they’d expect at this point in the recovery; however, that might be related to the pain and tightness issues I’m having around my greater trochanter in my left hip. The therapist advised me to not go beyond my pain tolerance when doing my exercises and suggested that I could use only one crutch starting this week. I have a full session with physical therapy for the first time tomorrow and I’m curious as to what they will have me doing.  I will be rehabbing both hips since I had to stop PT on my right hip in early April due to the psoas flare-up.

Hips 6.17.13

My hips! On the left side (my right hip) are the 5 screws from my PAO in December and in my right side (my left leg) are the 3 new screws in the greater trochanter from my SDD surgery.

My doctor then had a couple of X-rays taken to see if the broken trochanter was healed. I met with Dr Sink who confirmed that yes, the bone was fully healed (hooray!) and that I was cleared for full weight bearing / to move to no crutches. At my next appointment, in about 6 weeks and after I’ve been in PT for a bit, we’ll have a better idea of how my recovery is going.

I felt really freaked after the appointment.  It took me a day to realized that the reason I was shaken a bit was that, for the first time in a long time, I don’t have another surgery to plan for.  It’s not to say that another surgery is impossible or even unlikely, just that one’s not on the horizon. It’s been a while since I could say that!

This past week I’ve been using either two or one crutches when out, and no crutches while at home. Without crutches, I walk with a pronounced limp, which is why they prefer I at least use one crutch.  I literally can’t not limp when I walk.  I assume (hope?) it will go away as I get stronger.

I’ve really been feeling quite good to the point where I decided on Friday that I was sick and tired of looking out the window as the day passed by and instead took the Access-a-Ride bus to the city and to work. It was GREAT to see everyone, and to get dressed and out of the house.  I’m hoping to make it in two days a week (working at home the rest of the time).

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In other news, my husband, dog Boris and went canoeing on Long Island yesterday and it was FANTASTIC to do something (moderately) physical that didn’t require me to use my legs.  The weather was great and we capped the day off with super tasty Latin American seafood in Brooklyn. Today was brunch, puppy visits from Boris’ new pal Holly, house tidying and rest.

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It’s been a long time since I felt somewhat normal and this weekend I remembered what it was like to feel like me again. I am cautiously optimistic that I could someday be better(ish), hip wise, and that sounds like lovely music to me.

Lurching Into Month 2

Today is my one-month anniversary of my left hip SDD surgery. Although I’ve been reluctant to give an update since not much has been going on, I thought that the anniversary warranted a new post.

The first month of this recovery was easier in general than the first month following my PAO. I have been able to sit in a restaurant chair, go to the movies, work on my computer, ride in a car, and generally move myself. My scar looks good, though a bit lumpy – I will try to get a photo soon although it’s placement makes photo taking quite difficult. AbductionThat said, it’s not exactly cotton candy and unicorns. I cannot abduct my left leg AT ALL (see drawing) since even the most minor movement causes a pain that takes my breath away. My pain tends to center around the greater trochanter (the part of my femur [leg bone] that was broken and screwed back together), in my glute muscles, and in the joint where the surgeon repaired the labrum. The inflammation is still pretty bad, even a month out. I have discomfort in my hips legs and knees when lying on my right side and cannot lie on my left at all. I can’t bend over, or sit at a 90 degree angle, or put 50% of my weight on my left side, or cross my legs. I’m tired all the time and I absolutely cannot walk (crutches being my main form of transport).

Lurch Instead, I sort-of lurch around the apartment, hobbling and trying to keep my left leg facing straight ahead. Not an attractive look I can assure you. My physical therapy has consisted mostly of leg extensions, stretches, foot flexes and the like. Something about the pain makes me feel like the more intense PT (that I will likely do at HSS) is going to be a lot more difficult and time consuming on this left side. I’ll have a better idea at my 6 week follow-up in a week and a half.

I’ve been using my bone growth stimulator 24/7 — in the day time it’s attached to electrodes on my right hip, at night to my left. Bone Growth StimulatorIt doesn’t feel like anything is happening, no buzzing or vibrations as I had anticipated; however, it looks like I am permanently wearing an AM/FM radio clipped to my waistband (see photo). Hopefully it is working — I’ll know more at my next appointment.

I continue to use Access-A-Ride (the MTA’s paratransport system for individuals with disabilities) to get to my appointments. I can’t say enough positive things about the program – it is truly a life saver and saves me from having to take a cab every-time I need to leave the house.

In other news, I have been busily working from home (full time for a few weeks) and I started back at law school where I am taking two summer courses (one of which is almost entirely online — an incredible boon with my limited mobility). There is even a chance that I will be able to participate in graduation ceremonies in May 2014 (!!!). I’ve been in school for so long that the idea that I could eventually be done at some point literally never crossed my mind. I have to admit — I’m really excited!

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My next appointment with my surgeon, my 6 week follow-up, is scheduled for a week from next Monday. Until then, I lurch along.