I’m a single, 48-year-old female, living in Louisville, Colorado, and after suffering from osteoarthritis (OA) for 4+ years, I feel compelled to tell my story.
My OA experience actually begins about 25 years ago…
I was having some cranky sensations (pain is too strong a word, given what I feel these days!) in my left hip. At the time, I was at university, a card-carrying pedestrian—with a pounding style of long-stride walking. Plus I was taking ballet. Hot tubs and someone (anyone!) pulling on my leg (yeah, I know, the jokes abound) provided immense relief.I finally went to a pro bono clinic and was diagnosed with bursitis. Rest (ha!) & OTC anti-inflammatories were recommended. I made no significant changes to my lifestyle, save the recommendations above, and the crankiness would come and go, and eventually faded. For the most part, I never felt the same level of discomfort as I had the year I was “diagnosed,” and I assumed that my “chronic” condition was limited to flare ups a couple of times a year, if that.
Fast forward to 2003…
The range of motion in my hips at this point is not what it was in my 20’s, but I chalk this up to the ageing process. Working on a raked stage in an outdoor theatre in the summer, I notice that after rehearsals, my hips would be a bit stiff—left more than right; the level of stiffness seems to correlate directly with the amount of time I spend standing on a surface tilted at 15 degrees.
Serendipity arranges that I seriously sprain my foot at dress rehearsal. I’m on crutches and ibuprofen for 2 weeks. My understudy steps in for me. Off the crutches and OTC painkillers, back at rehearsal to refresh my part, on the raked stage…my hip really hurts! Can’t lift my leg further than 8″ off the ground without serious effort and wincing. Doc tells me foot’s fine, but I got a serious case of OA in my hips, left being more severe.
I see a specialist—an ortho-surgeon recommend by my primary care provider. I learn about total hip replacement surgery (THR). I want it done ASAP. He wants me to wait. “You’re young,” he says.
“How long do I wait?”
“As long as you can—’til you can’t walk.”
(Is he kidding? No, sadly, he’s not.)
“What about managing the pain?”
“Take a couple of N-SAIDs—I take 3 Tylenol before I go hiking, and that does the trick.”
(My blood is beginning to boil. Hike?!? Is he out of his mind?! How nice for you bucko—while I’m having trouble just putting on my pants!)
I have noticed that since spraining my foot, when the NSAID wears off, I get these blinding headaches. I tell him. He is not sympathetic.
“I want to schedule surgery,” I say.
(Now his blood is beginning to boil. Clearly, we are not a good patient-doctor match.)
He is not happy, but grudgingly puts me on his surgery schedule.
I seek a second opinion. More sympathetic doctor, but same story. Wait, take NSAIDs for pain management. Disgusted and disheartened, I cancel surgery with first ortho doc. I decline the 2nd opinion doc’s recommendation for a checkup 9 months later…(Pay for the visit, another round of x-rays for what? To be told “see me in another 9 months”? No thanks!)
I begin vitamin/food regimen after visiting Mayo clinic site on arthritis. I don’t know if this truly helps, but it’s something to do besides wait. I’m in a kind of “remission”…pain low grade (2-3 on a scale of 1-10). I have a very high pain threshold and a weird kind of metabolism in response to all kinds of drugs; a regular dose of anything takes longer than average to kick in, or I need more of it. The amount of NSAID I need to take to truly make a difference in my hip discomfort is not good for the liver, and makes headaches more excruciating when it leaves my system. (Given a choice between shooting myself in the hip due to discomfort there, or shooting myself in the head after the NSAID wears off—the head “wins” every time—not so good for my health.) I tough it out.
I have another round of x-rays done. Pain is now more like 3-5 level. More waiting.
I go on a vacation with my family. Everyone notices my odd gait and altered personality. Hmmmm. A family member has some leftover Percoset (sp) from an old prescription. I take less than the prescribed amount, but I take it. It makes a HUGE difference. (Well, that and the mai tai’s—I’m on vacation, after all.) And no headaches! Hippy-Yay!
At my pop’s insistence, I see the ortho-surgeon in his home town. More x-rays. I’m bone on bone. Ohhhhhhhh…. this explains a lot. This doc is not in my insurance network, and he tells me he’s more a knee and shoulder man. I can find more experienced practitioners with hips closer to my home. (Bless Dr. Nakano, forthright and humble!) At least now I’m now armed with current x-rays.
Here’s where it gets interesting.
Due to a shift in my insurance policy and in-network changes, I see yet another specialist. My diagnosis not only includes DJD, but (hope I get this right) a large cam lesion—femoroacetabular impingement. In other words, I did not have bursitis in my 20’s. I was misdiagnosed! (So I’m told.) Soooo, the specialist recommends a BHR, and a local surgeon, highly skilled, in my insurance network. (Things are cooking now!)
I go in for a visit with the 4th ortho-surgon I’ve seen in as many years. He practices at a teaching hospital in Denver. I meet with (in this order) Frank-the-inestimable medical assistant, the resident, his shadowing intern, and finally the doc. When it becomes clear to me that I’m actually being taken seriously and I will be put on the surgery schedule (two months out), I try not to cry. I explain my NSAIDs phenomenon. I get a Percoset script, and on November 30th, under the skilled hands of Dr. Michael Dayton at the University of Colorado Hospital I will have a BHR .
September to November 2007…
I research BHR. I find the surface hippy forum. Double Hippy-Yay! I’m overwhelmed by what there is to know/learn from materials supplied by surgeon’s office. I consult SurfaceHippy.info. It didn’t really hit me until a couple of days ago that I will finally be relieved of pain and restored my mobility in less than a month (okay…longer–there’s still rehab–but you know what I mean!)
Thanks & Acknowledgements…
I want to thank Keith Brewster for founding and moderating the surfacehippy forum. This has been a godsend and a comfort. Likewise Pat Walter for SurfaceHippy.info. These two folks and their dedication to worldwide sharing of hip-stories and hip information have provided me with a light to see my way through a very lonely and confusing darkness. (Where there’s light, there’s hope!)
Hips to you—I’m truly grateful.
Regarding pain management, I only take 1-1/2 of generic Percoset when I need to…usually before bed to help me sleep. I rarely take more than 1-1/2 a day. Strangely, my pain jumped to level 7 yesterday, 11/2/07—a surprise. I don’t think my activity level has increased to merit this. I am wondering if it has to do with that an end is finally in sight, and so my “pain screening mechanism” has relaxed, thus I feel things I don’t usually feel.
More to the Story…
So for now I make plans for the impending day…
I will continue to post as (with many of us surface hippies) talking about it contributes to a sense of pro-active ownership of the experience and positive management of one’s sanity through the pain.
Health and wellness to all hippies, present & future, wherever you are,
Things I’ve learned so far…
That chronic pain takes its toll, in ways I wasn’t even aware.
That reseach is key. Knowing all I can about my condition, treatment options and talking to others about their experiences has armed me with knowledge, courage and hope.
To ask for help. But don’t expect it to come in the size and shape that I would have it–if I could do it myself. I can either be frustrated with the results of the help, or LET IT GO.
To be specific about my needs and cultivate graciousness. If those loaner crutches are too short or the proffered sock aid is missing a part, I can say, “thank you, for the offer, but I’m afraid I can’t use this item,” without being a pissant about the whole thing.
The process of major surgery is an opportunity to learn AND to educate. But like informing curious children about sex, I mustn’t relay more information than was asked for. It only freaks people out or turns them off.
Melinda Scott in Dr. Dayton Hippies