My Hip Resurfacing, Battle with Osteomyelitis and a Fused Hip by Edith Crowther
Childhood on a farm until 12 when I went down with Osteomyelitis.(Osteomyelitis is a bone infection often caused by bacteria called Staphylococcus aureus ) Then the following year I came down with Pyomyositis (abscess in the muscle tissue) Both Osteomyelitis and Pyomyositis seemed to take it in turns playing with both hips, wrists and back over the next 6 yrs. The Osteomyelitis finally settled on my left pelvis beside my hip joint and my OS fused the hip joint in an effort to stop the Osteomyelitis being a problem.
This worked but left me with no left hip. Having a fused hip means that one cannot sit in a chair normally, cars are difficult to get into and out of, small spaces such as aero plane seats are a nightmare etc. and the rest of the joints in the body take a pounding.At 18, I was just glad that the visits to hospital, long encounters with plaster castes etc stopped and I could get on with life. I got work in an office, then went to University and had a couple of overseas tours as well as travelling my own country.
Early 30’s I had a son and came back to my home roots to live as I was finding it harder to do my funny sitting all day in an office. Any doctor I ever saw said it was impossible for me to have anything done about my hip, as this would only stir up the Osteomyelitis . They would claim that it would be likely I would likely lose my leg and could lose my life.
I kept being physically active. Grew an acre of cymbidium orchids for flowers, planted up 3 acres of rainforest and looked after my son. After 40, the impact of having the fused hip started to play total havoc with the rest of the body and I was slowly being brought to a crippled state. Every so often I would hurt my back doing something and during those times I basically could barely walk, as I couldn’t hold my torso upright and move my right leg.
I was experiencing life getting narrower and narrower and less able to even care for myself. I was facing needing to live in aged care at the tender age of 52 when I decided that perhaps I needed to stop listening to general doctors and try saving myself. Though I had had internet for ages, I decided one afternoon March 2002 after another back incident, to finally go use Google to see what information was around about hip replacements. I stumbled onto the Totally hip list – Resurface list was only in infancy then.
At that time a lady called Elizabeth was running same. My life was suddenly and totally altered when she replied to my simple email asking if anyone had ever heard of anyone like me getting a hip replacement. She wrote and said yes, with reservations, and referred me to a couple of internet sites with information including a couple of US Drs names.
I figured that if some US surgeon had done it, an Aussie wouldn’t be far behind. Little knowing that these days it is around the other way. .i.e. we were into resurfacing long before US.
An article about people with hip replaced via a THR, with such a long space as mine, wasn’t very joyful. Low success, problems with dislocations, nonexistent muscles etc. made 30 yrs considered far too long, let alone the 35 I was looking at.
Not to be deterred, I started trying to find an Australian surgeon who would at least talk to me. I have a sister who is a GP and thought she was the best place to start. She had always said not possible and started the usual story which included, even if an OS was silly enough, I wouldn’t walk etc because my muscles would be long dead etc. I refused to accept this and said, just ask, I will worry about the rest, and thought she wouldn’t do anything.
I wrote to a couple of OS myself and phoned close by ones. Nothing bought me much joy. One soon finds out what an arrogant lot OS are. However my sister did actually act and asked her husband, who is an aenaesthest to keep an eye out. Lucky for me, within a couple of weeks a young OS came to their area from Sydney to do some temp work. My BIL asked him and he said there were only 2 surgeons in Australia about to do such a thing in his estimation. Both were Dr Walter but he preferred Dr Len as there wasn’t anything he couldn’t do with a hip joint.
My sister rang Dr Len and got a surprise when he was happy to speak to her. Apparently so many OS are even unhappy to communicate with mere GP, let alone us public. He knew exactly what she spoke about and offered to look at my case and requested that I send him an email.
This was like being given the winning ticket in lotto. Part of me could hardly believe it, and part of me was terrified it would go away. And so started my adventure to get a new hip.
Dr Len said he would really like to try giving me a resurface because of its numerous advantages for someone like me. i.e. hard to dislocate and minimal disturbance of the bone given the Osteomyelitis . He stated the risks that I may never walk again, may walk very poorly or even have the Osteomyelitis reoccur (though he thought that very unlikely given his experience over the course of his surgery life), but if I wanted to have a go he was happy to help me.
At that time he was the only surgeon who had ever had a success at putting a resurface device into a fused hip in the whole world, as I later ascertained i.e. Dr Bose hadn’t tried at that point. He had done 2 previously to mine and both were doing well.
I had to wait 3 months for my trip down the long corridor and strangely it was on my son’s birthday.
I was terrified something would happen to Dr Len while I waited. I used to ring up the surgery each week to see he was well, which they tolerated. But when one has waited for something for 35 yrs and only one person offers the out, it is hard to be calm.
Funny things happened like cutting below my ankle a few days before surgery which made me scared it would be cancelled. The visit from the anaesthiest the night before saw him telling me that, if I had had Osteomyelitis , then under no circumstances should I be having the operation the next day. I had to tell him to go fight with the OS, and just do what he was paid for i.e.the anaesthetic.
The operation was thought to take 6 hrs and so when I woke up in recovery after just 3 hrs I was instantly worried that something had gone wrong. Thankfully nothing had. Just Dr Len was getting faster and found the situation around my hip in a better condition than he thought it would be. Recovery was different to most, as the hip was still very stiff and the leg totally weak. It ached, jumped and carried on in general as the muscles hadn’t moved in 35 yrs and had been pulled around during surgery. Nothing we could do made much difference except some valium.
Dr Len had also removed the Greater Trancater Bone in order not to damage muscles any further and grafted it back on again. Meaning I couldn’t put weight on the leg either.
They were to put me into rehab hospital for 14 days after 7 days in hospital, but we parted company after about 10 days and I flew 1000 miles home. Rehab was pretty useless when one has muscles in my state, so we grew tired of each other.
Then I began the long rehab. First I had to try to get the leg to respond to any desires on my part to get it to move. It took weeks to just get it to follow me into a car onto a bed etc. At 8 weeks I was allowed to give the crutches away and take my first steps with a hip joint for 35 yrs. This was interesting and very very wobbly, given I had few muscles doing anything. Around 4 months I took to the pool. I had been advised to do this by a young sports psychologist. No one had any idea really of what I needed to do, as there isn’t a lot of info around about rehabilitating such a situation i.e. I have not found anyone else who has rehabilitated such a hip joint. So I just worked away with some advice from my son who was studying exercise science at Uni and the young lass who ran the pool, who had a degree in same. Some things I had to figure out myself by thinking about how strokes are rehab, and one gets the body to send messages again.
Lots of dog paddle up and down the pool. Lots of trying to get the leg to just push down in water. Lots of trying to get it to bend.
Very slowly it all started to respond and still gets a tiny bit better all the time.
Today in 2008 my ROM is not great. I suspect that the placement of the prosthesis limits just how much forward bend I will ever get – just shy of less than 90 deg. Mine is further down the Femoral head than any others’ resurfaces I have seen. But I regard this as a fair tradeoff for none at all. I also have extensive scar tissue from other adventures, that limits getting far.
The leg is weaker than the other one, but looks the same. I can do about all want to do and most importantly, sit fairly comfortably in a chair. My health has significantly improved. I am able to keep myself healthy and fit. And after all these years of Rehabilitation went off and got myself trained as a general PT, Aqua and Pilates Instructor.
I now run a small exercise studio specializing in Rehabilitation.