Category Archives: Recovery

Summer 2014

Holy macaroni has a been a while! 6 months since my last post is inexcusable so I have made a commitment that even if I do not have an impending surgery scheduled, that I will update my blog at least once per season. And this, dear readers, is summer.

Since I last posted, I completed the “plan of attack” I mentioned in my previous post — a combination of 2/week pilates, 1/week physical therapy, daily anti-inflammatories, and monthly meetings with my surgeon.  I still need to lose weight (for health reasons) but am hopeful that the regimented schedule required by part-time law school in the fall will help that along.

I am happy to say that my right hip, the PAO side, is doing really well.  In general, I have no pain unless I walk for a really long time and even then, the pain is mild (though I have to acknowledge that I haven’t pushed my hips beyond basic activities like walking).  Dr. Sink has been very happy with this recovery as well, although he did acknowledge that my recovery from the PAO was about 200% of the average.  I am the turtle of recovery but dammit, I think I pretty crossed the finish line.

The left hip continues to strengthen but unfortunately, the pain caused by activity – specifically any significant distance walking – has steadily increased.  As a result, my left hip is out of line and thus in pain.  Often, after sitting for a period of time, my left hip will ache just from standing up and I limp around for a while like a Weeble-Wobble.  I avoid stairs as much as possible because they cause the greatest pain.  On top of it all, I have maxed out of PT sessions because apparently I am ‘all better.’  All of that said, Dr. Sink and I agree that it seems possible that it will continue to improve, if slowly, so I am going to wait a bit longer see him around Christmas to discuss next steps and to have new MRI and X-Rays taken.  Based on my symptoms and the pain level, my guess is that I will have a total hip replacement within the next 9-15 months.

All of that said, I start back at my last semester in of law school in 2 weeks, followed by the Bar in late February, and then I’m DONE!  While it is unlikely I will ever run again, I’ve wrapped my head around that fact.  However, I continue to take pilates, bowl, golf, ride my bike (on occasion) and even take weekly trapeze classes — strangely, trapeze doesn’t bother my hips a stitch —  and here is video proof from my trapeze show on August 8th.    Onwards to Fall!

Dramatic Improvements

Just under 3 weeks post screw removal and I did something today that I had honestly believed I’d likely never do again. I ran!

I decided to try to go for a walk to see how my hips are really doing by testing them out. I’ll admit that and it was rough at first – the bursitis in both hips (especially in my left) is definitely still there and both psoas were a little crabby – but felt a little better after a while (or maybe I was just numb – it was pretty cold outside). So after I’d been out about 20 minutes and was feeling a little cocky, I figured what the heck and just jogged/ran a block. It didn’t hurt any more or less than walking and felt so incredibly freeing that it was like I was dreaming. I proceeded to walk/run for the next 40 minutes, mostly walking but taking breaks to jog a block or two. I smiled the entire way.

I’m gonna ask my physical therapist if there is any reason I really shouldn’t run a bit but I think that as long as I’m careful and take time to strengthen and stretch they’ll be on board. I was never a very good or fast runner but I really loved it. I am so happy to imagine that it could someday be a real part of my life again!

Oh, and I had my 2 week post-op last Monday and all went well. Dr. S. was really happy with my progress and pleasantly surprised that I wasn’t using any sort of walking aid, either a cane or crutch. My scars are healing quickly and I’m not due for another follow-up until April. I got my operative report which did note that they’d had to repair my bursa when they removed the screws and that I’d had a lot of bursitis in my left hip, a fact that came as no surprise to me based on my previous levels of discomfort. I am meeting with PT before that so they can give me guidance on what I should focus on.

Onward and upward!

Sleepy Saturday

It’s been 4 days since bilateral hardware removal and today I was finally allowed to remove my bandages and take a proper shower. I saw the new incisions on each hip for the first time and truthfully, they’re not as bad as I’d anticipated. At about 4″ long, they’re each approximately half the length of the incisions from the original surgeries. They are healing nicely (although they look a little gory with dried blood and steri-strips) – I decided not to post pictures of them until they look a little bit better (you’re welcome). I can’t yet tell if surgery fixed my remaining issues – it’s just too soon to tell. I probably won’t know for certain until the inflammation goes down which might take a while. That said, I am cautiously optimistic.

Earlier today I made the exact same mistake I’ve made after pretty much every surgery – I acted like I had not just had surgery and tried to do a couple things around the house. I paid for it with a serious bout of nausea and exhaustion. I know this was a “minor” surgery but it still involved somebody cutting into me and my body feels the need to remind me of that fact. In general I’m worn out most of the time and get so sleepy that I can doze off at the drop of a hat. I’m sure it’ll take me several weeks or even a month or two to really get back to feeling normal.

I’ve started to pull back on my pain meds since the pain has lightened a bit. I haven’t had leg cramps in the last day (a huge relief) and the itchiness has gone now that I’m off the Percs (a definite downside to opiate medication). That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if I have to kick them up for a period of time since recovery is all ups and downs.

I’m hoping to try some PT exercises at home once I feel up to it, starting with mild things like bridges, clamshells, squats and the like. My next appointment with my surgeon is January 13 when he will clip the ends of the dissolvable sutures and will likely discuss formal PT and steps moving forward. For now, I’m falling asleep. Goodnight and sweet dreams.

(Mostly) Hardware Free 2014

Happy New Year! I hope everyone had a fantastic time celebrating the end of 2013/start of 2014.  I spent last evening at home, recovering from yesterday’s removal of 7 of the 8 screws that were installed during my PAO and Open surgeries. Here’s a (rather long) recap of how surgery went and how recovery has gone so far.

Before surgery...

Excited pre-op

Surgery was initially expected to take about an hour and a half; it ended up taking closer to two and a half hours. Anesthesia consisted of a spinal and sedation. Dr. S started by removing the 3 screws from the left side which had bursitis that he had to clean-up and then removed 4 of the 5 screws from my right side (1 of the screws was positioned too deep to be easily removed).

I woke up in the PACU in a lot of pain in my left side, a burning ache from my left hip down my left side into my knee and cramping my left calf, pain at about a 7 or 8/10. The pain in my right side was not nearly as bad, about 3/10.

...after surgery

Exhausted post-op

The nurse injected liquid Motrin into my IV (which basically had no effect) and then injected Dilauded which worked right away (thank goodness). Dr. S stopped by to check on me (I only vaguely remember that he was there, I was still drugged from surgery) and talked to my husband about how the procedure went. The nurses in pre-op and the PACU were very warm and helpful (another great experience at HSS).

I was in the PACU for 2-3 hours, had 1/2 a cheese sandwich and some ginger ale, and my first dose of Percocet. I got to the point where I felt ok enough (pain at about a 4/10) that I managed to dress myself and was released last evening.

The evening was uneventful and I faithfully took my Percocet every 4 hours, even through the night which was restless and insomnia filled. Unfortunately, this morning I made the mistake I tend to make the day after surgery – I felt so OK, pain wise, that I thought I could wait 5-6 hours to take my pain meds. Bad, bad idea. The pain in my left side, which had been at a steady 3 or 4 out of 10, spiked to 8/10, and I was suddenly in tears. Just then a nurse from HSS called to check-in with me (perfect timing) and reminded me that I MUST take my pain pills every 4 hours on the dot. So I’m on it, the pain’s down to about a 5 or 6/10, and we’ll see how the next few hours go.

Right hip

Screw removal -- Right hip (gauzed) (2)Here are some photos of the surgical coverings (and a peek at a few of my tattoos).  My left hip is on the left side, my right hip on the right.  I can’t take off the gauze or take a shower until Friday so I won’t know how long the incisions are until then. Bathing in the sink until then — Yippee!

My next appointment with Dr. S is Jan 13th when the stitches will be clipped and the steri-strips replaced.  For now and the next few weeks I plan to take my pills and take it very easy.

My Unscrew’d New Years

It’s that time again – time for New Years Champaign and celebrations another hip surgery!  Heck, I would barely know it was the holidays were it not for my annual surgery (in case you’re counting, this is year 3).

The good news is that this one’s supposed to be WAY easier than the last two.  As of 12:30pm tomorrow, New Years Eve, I am having all of the screws in my hips removed.  The procedure, expected to take less than an hour, will be bilateral (on both hips) and will involve my fantastic surgeon removing 5 screws from my right hip and 3 from my left greater trochanter.  Two big incisions to be sure (they will be reopening the incisions that were previously made and healed), but hopefully not TOO much pain.  If all goes perfectly, I could be home in time to see the ball drop.  Otherwise, I’ll see it from my bed at HSS.  I honestly hate New Years Eve so spending the day in the hospital didn’t sound like such a bad option.

The screws have been rubbing the soft tissue and causing a lot of pain and inflammation, especially on my left side where the pain shoots into my knee and all the way down to my ankle.  On the right side, I can feel the heads of the screws through my skin — CREEPY! On a positive note, the screws are no longer needed.  Since they were initially installed (in December 2012 and May 2013), new bone has grown in the spaces that the screws were holding in place and now they are superfluous.  The idea is that once the screws are all removed and I get back to physical therapy, there should be no impediment to my getting better — like all the way, walk without pain or a limp, do things like a normal person, better.

Until tomorrow!

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!

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!