I started having flashes of leg pain about 5
years ago. Just a stab here and there depending on how I stood, bent
or my level of activity. Mostly, in my crotch area and "upper leg".
I mentioned this to my doctors as the years went by and the reply
was always something like "you are getting to that "age" in your
life when "these things "happen. in other words it fell on deaf
ears. As the years went on, the pain slowly got worse. Finally in
June of this year I sent myself to a bone specialist because the
pain had just gotten out of hand. I couldn’t walk any distance
without doubling over in pain. Upon x-ray, it was found my hip was
bone on bone. I was 52 years old .This may sound weird, but after
the initial horror of seeing my bones hanging there with no
cartilage, I felt relief that at last I could see what was causing
all this pain.. It never occurred to me that it was a hip problem.
All these years it had just been dismissed as "Old Age". I do not
consider myself old today and I certainly didn’t consider myself old
6 years ago.
Deb and Glen Pendleton
I was told that my ONLY option at this point was a total Hip
Replacement. Now here is the kicker, .I was informed my best plan of
action was to wait as long as possible to have the procedure done. I
had heard of this before. I knew people who had been enduring
constant pain for years waiting until the “time” window was right.
It seemed like it was about the age of 70. I was also told that
there was a possibility new research would find an improved
procedure someday, etc. For now though, my ONLY option was total hip
replacement. Not to mention the pain seemed to be getting
exponentially worse day by day.
I suppose the damage one can do to their hip by waiting doesn’t make
a big difference if total hip replacement is the route one chooses.
That wasn’t even a consideration. I just wanted my life back. Free
to be physically active and pain free. I didn’t want to wait. I
figured that 20 years without pain was better than the alternative.
I had NO IDEA what a total hip replacement involved. I told the
Doctor I wanted to get the surgery as soon as possible. For
financial reasons, that for me was 6 months down the line . In the
mean time, what about the pain? I was given Celebrex and sent on my
way. Taking the Celebex scared me worse than the idea of surgery.
The Celebrex didn’t help my pain, so I stopped taking it.
My husband and I set up an appointment to discuss the surgery and
togged educated on what to expect. In the mean time (bless his
heart) my husband started researching alternatives to this very
major surgery. What he found changed everything.
My doctor had her PA with her for the meeting. She showed us
pictures of the operation and what it entailed. I know it is naive,
but didn’t realize I was going to have to have part of my leg sawed
off. She went on to say that we would have to set up my blood
donations forth transfusions I would need and that they would try
really hard not to leave one leg longer than the other after the
surgery but that that was a possibility I would have to face. Also
that because I was younger, it was likely the operation would have
to be repeated someday, but “research” was always coming up with new
procedures and better products. My husband asked her if she was
familiar with a procedure called hip resurfacing. Okay, it is not my
imagination. They glanced at each other and the entire tone of the
meeting changed. He went on to tell them of a surgery being
preformed in India and Belgium that was producing exciting results.
Neither had heard of the procedure. She told me then, I should
decide what I wanted to do and get back to her. Since I couldn’t do
anything until January, I told her I was going to do some more
homework but in the mean time, what do I do about the pain? She told
me to take arthritis strength Tylenol. I did. It didn’t help. The
only thing I could do to relieve the pain was to stay still. Not
really a long term solution.
My new office was on the second floor of a very old building in
Asheville, North Carolina. 55 steps, straight up. The Matahorn of
stair wells. Daily, I would climb and descend those stairs at least
5times. I showed condos. Some on the third and fourth floors, no
elevators. I maneuvered into crawl spaces, mounted rooftops and
scaled ladders. Part of the day to day work. After the first week, I
called the doctor for pain pills. I begged for pain pills. The
reality was that I had to work. She prescribed Percodan. Monday
through Wednesday, I could take half a pill in the late morning and
make it all day long without pain. Thursday and Friday I had to take
the other half by mid afternoon to make it. If I stayed in bed all
weekend, I was good to go on Monday morning. By Friday, I was
limping with pain and could barely walk. Forget stopping by the
grocery to shop for food. It was straight home and to my bed. My
husband ain’t a saint, but he is pretty darn close.
I suppose there is a blessing in everything that happens to us. When
I ran out of the pain meds and asked for more I was denied.
Actually, once they got the idea that I was seeking an alternative
to total hip replacement, they weren’t quite as sympathetic to my
pain. I was told that since I couldn’t do anything until January,
they didn’t “feel” right about prescribing pain meds. I was also
told, I should go to the emergency room or to my regular Doctor if I
wanted relief. In other words, if I didn’t agree to their surgery
right then and there they were done with me. I went ahead and the
appointment with the GP. It was that night I found Surface Hippies.
Desperate and looking for some relief to the pain I was in, I simply
typed the question, What do you do about the pain?
Early on, someone wrote that my story was everyone’s story. After
being on this forum and reading hundreds of accounts almost exactly
like mine I found comfort knowing that I was not alone. Not that I
was happy that other’s were suffering but happy that finally someone
understood what I was going through. After all, to look at me, one
would think I was fit as a fiddle. It wasn’t until you saw me
walking more than a hundred feet that you’d know something was
wrong. Within 5hours I had an avalanche of replies. After hours of
reading and weeping I felt hope for the first time in 5 years.
Keeping in mind that I was still working and still hurting and still
trying to maintain a civil relationship with my husband, family and
friends and workmates. I went on Dr. Gross website. I downloaded the
forms. My husband hand delivered my forms and X-rays to Columbia. I
waited for the news. Would I have to undergo the full hip
replacement, or was I a candidate for a re-cap?
OFFICE VISIT NUMBER 1At the GP’s office, I recounted my story. I
asked if he was familiar with Hip Resurfacing. He wasn’t. I offered
several website addresses and even the link to the surface hippie
forum. You would have thought I was trying to sell this Doctor Snake
Oil. I know better than to try and explain something that I do not
fully understand myself. I put it in a nutshell that I was not
satisfied that a full hip replacement was my only option and that I
wanted to wait until I got word from Columbia before I made such a
life changing decision. In the meantime, I needed some sort of pain
management and presented him with a form to obtain a temporary
Handicap Parking placard for my car. He examined me by having me lie
on the table. Manipulating my good leg first, he was impressed with
my “flexibility”. Moving to my right leg, I winced with pain as he
moved it right to left. Honestly, I felt like I was having to jump
through hoops. I understand his need for an exam, but at some point
I felt as if I “had my hat in my hand” . It was humiliating and at
the same time, I knew I had to remain steadfast and in control of my
quality of life. I had to appease this man if I was going to get
pain meds. I needed them . What I am going to impart to you next now
seems surreal to me.
First he said, I am not going to sign your parking placard. (Hold
onto to yourself here). “I have 90 year old patients who have the
exact same hip problems as you and I won’t give them one either. I
want you to walk. Walking is good therapy.” Nothing like a little
guilt to put me in my place. I guess he was saying that the parking
placards were for people with real problems . Hip replacements do
not qualify. Not to mention that in my day to day work, I did plenty
of walking and climbing. As I said, I couldn’t even stop to shop at
the end of the day because of the limping and pain. Strike one. Next
he wanted to get me in physical therapy. He suggested water therapy.
This was fine with me and I actually thought it would be a great
idea. He wrote the order and told me to wait to here from them. It
is two months later and I have yet to get a call or letter.
Apparently, the classes are full.
He said he was going to prescribe a drug called Ultram. I had seen
it mentioned on the forum. He said it had good results with “my type
of pain”. I was thrilled. There were 60 pills with 3 re-fills. I
thought surely, my prayers had been answered and this would get me
through until time for the operation, which ever one I chose. The
great thing he said was they were not habit forming. A win win! I
was take them twice a day. I explained to him that I only took pain
meds if I needed them and I could usually make it until the middle
of the week. He said to take them as I needed them but no more than
two a day. He wanted me to come back in in a month if I had not
heard for Dr. Gross.
I do not “blame” him or hold ill feelings for this Doctor for what
happened next but I will say, I have never been more afraid of
anything that has ever happened to me in my life. That afternoon,
was a “good” day. I wasn’t really hurting to the point I needed
anything so I didn’t start off with a pill. It was the next day at
work I took one. This was Friday. It didn’t help. As a matter of
fact, I had no reaction at all to it. I took another before bedtime
hoping that maybe they had some type of cumulative effect that I had
to wait for. I fell asleep and awoke the next morning feeling pretty
good. I went ahead and took a pill thinking that “it couldn’t hurt
“. My husband had to work that day, so I set about feeding goats and
mucking their pen. While in the pen, I got that “I stood up to fast
feeling” once but other than that, normal.
I was sitting at our snack bar doing our check book when all of a
sudden my face started to itch and I felt very hot. I started
shaking a little and I felt that I was having a reaction to
something. My mind started to race. I was thinking , Did I get stung
by something and not know it? I realized that I was getting excited
and knew I must calm myself down. I tried taking deep slow breaths.
I couldn’t catch my breath. I don’t know why I did what I did next,
maybe to just reassure myself if anything happened help was a phone
call away, but I picked up the phone just to hear the dial tone.
There was no dial tone. The phone was dead. As it turned out they
were working on the phone lines in my little town, all the phones
were out. Of course that sent me into more of a panic. I reached for
my cell. Now I was thinking, is this thing charged? O my god, what
if I pass out? Can a cell phone be traced? As I said, my mind
started to race and none of the thoughts I was having were good
ones. I turned on the TV and tried to divert my attention. This
lasted about 30 seconds. I dialed 911.
The Fire department was here in about 9 minutes followed by the
ambulance. I couldn’t believe what was happening to me. I told them
I may have had a reaction to the meds I was taking, so they brought
along the pills for the ER doctor. The diagnosis was an anaphylactic
reaction to the Ultram combined with a panic attack. I gave the
nurse the pills as I certainly would not be needing them. A couple
of hours later, I was back at home in a daze from the whole
OFFICE VISIT NUMBER 2
On Monday morning, I called the GP office and explained to the
receptionist what had occurred on Saturday. She told me to come to
the office for an exam and possibly a new prescription for the pain.
The GP who had seen me before was not available so, I saw a
different Doctor. After I recounted my experience with the Ultram
and went through the whole story of my Hip Replacement vs. Hip
Resurfacing saga, he actually turned to his computer and looked up
Doctor Gross’s website. He said, he had heard about the procedure
just before he left med school and that it made perfect sense to
him. I swear, I thought I heard angels singing. His only concern was
how many of these operations had Dr gross performed with success?
Normal questions. Long and short, he prescribed 30 Vicodine and
wished me luck.
BACK TO MY LIFE
Life became bearable again and I treated those pills like gold. I
still didn’t know if I was a candidate for the surgery and I knew I
had to stretch them out as long as possible. A week and a half went
by and still no word from Columbia.
Near and dear to my heart is being able to help others. It runs in
my family. A perk to being a property manager is helping families
find a home.
As a property manger I am in a position to help people who are
homeless. People who are homeless and have AIDS are really in
trouble. My company had a contract with the Housing Authority in
Asheville. One of the programs is designed to help homeless people
with mental or physical disabilities into permanent housing. One
afternoon after completing the endless paperwork that it takes ,I
was sitting at a table in my office with three wonderful people, a
Social Worker, and two homeless people with Aids . They both had
been homeless for at least a year. When I say homeless, I mean
living in the street, sleeping where they can. How they got there,
could be anyone’s story. Asheville is a city with a heart. With the
help of the city and my company these dear human beings were
finishing the final paperwork so they could get off the street and
into their own home. .Their social worker was finishing her lunch, I
was finishing up their leases when my cell rang and I saw it was a
South Carolina area code. I could not, not take the call. I blurted
out that I had to take this call and to please forgive me. It was
Doctor Gross. I half listened until I heard him say that I could get
the operation. At that point I thanked him. I couldn’t keep the
tears from falling. I told him, that I was in a meeting with clients
and could we please resume the conversation later in the day?. He
obliged. I hung up the phone .All three looked at me with an awkward
silence. The lady said, “that must have been good news”. I briefly
filled them in on my plight and there wasn’t a dry eye in the room.
The gentleman said “Well, this looks like a good day for all of us”.
The lady who now had a home of her own reached over and hugged me. I
will never forget that day and how close I felt to these three
I spoke with Doctor Gross later that day and the proverbial ball
started to roll. Later I spoke with Lee and then Nancy. Surgery was
scheduled for November 7th. It was happening. It was really
happening. The irony is that someone can be overjoyed that they are
going under the knife but you dear readers understand, I am sure.
The bug a boo in this scenario is that Dr. Gross is in another
state. Will my insurance cover it? Am I in or out of the network? I
decided that I would not let any barrier stop me. Against all odds,
I vowed to stay positive! I WAS ON MY WAY!
A few days later I was almost out of the pills again. This was on
Wednesday. I had two left. There were no re-fills. Keep in mind, I
never asked for narcotics, only pain management of some sort that
would work. I called the GP’s office with the news I had been
approved and had a surgery scheduled for November 7th. I had to
speak with the Nurse because the Doctor was with a patient. I
requested a re-fill of the pain meds to get me through until the
operation. She assured me that the Doctor would call me back later
in the day and that they would take care of it. She seemed excited
about my good news!
I never received a call back on Wednesday . I waited until around
2o’clock the next day before I called back. The Doctor wasn’t
available and this time I got the Nurses Voice Mail. I left a brief
message to remind her of our conversation and to please give me a
ring. No calls that day either. Friday morning I spoke with the
receptionist and found they had “left word” they wanted me to “come
into the office” for an exam. As you can imagine this upset me.
Again, I am feeling as though I am begging for drugs and these are
the pushers that I have to appease. I agreed to the appointment
thinking I would be able to just” pop’ in and out that day. After
all, I was in the home stretch. If I could just get through the next
month or so, I’d be under Dr. Gross’ care and then I’d be done with
this madness. The GP who had seen me before wasn’t there, but he
would be in Monday morning and I could come in then. Okay, this was
my breaking point. I’m a girl. I started to cry, but not where the
receptionist could hear me. I told her I would call her back in a
few minutes. I started to do the math. 5years of office visits. .00
every time I walked through that door.0.00 this time already plus
the Ambulance and ER charges. Wait three more days until I saw the
Doctor? Nothing had changed since the last visit except, I got
approved for the operation. NO MORE!
I called back and as politely as I could requested all my medical
records. I made an appointment with a new group of Doctors. I picked
up my records. The funny thing is, when going over my medical
records for the past 5 years with this outfit, my very first visit
in June of 2002 was for, you guessed it “pain in my upper right leg
Once again, I had to start from the beginning and hope and pray,
this time I got a Doctor who was listening. He did. He confirmed
with my original Ortho. He requested information from Dr. Gross
office. He prescribed a low dose pain med (enough to get me to the
operation) and the best thing ever……At the end of our visit he said,
“You are doing the right thing, taking charge of your health care”.
It turned out that even though the surgery will be preformed in
another state, it is IN Network for my insurance. I had to resign
from job but not to worry. I am on good terms and can probably go
right back after I heal. If not, I am thinking about starting my own
Property Management company. My husband (bless his heart) has time
off Thanks to Family Medical Leave Act, to help me after the
Today is November 2, 2007. I will be heading to Columbia on the 6th
and surgery on the 7th. To quote a song, “What a long strange trip
it’s been” is an understatement.
Stay focused. Know there is help. Don’t take NO for an answer. Don’t
ever, ever let anyone disparage what YOU know to be true. And PS. I
just got my Temporary Handicap parking papers from Dr. Gross office.
Much love to all who suffer!
Deb Pendleton after surgery with Dr. Gross
Lee Webb and Deb Pendleton