After my leg locking up in the middle of a busy intersection during a warm up for a run back in March in California, I found myself on my sister’s couch crying. Actually I was sobbing. Most people would initially think I was over-reacting. I was thinking of that moment of intense pain, not being able to walk, and panic of what the results would be at a Doctor’s visit back home in Colorado. I am self-employed. Always have been, probably always will. I am an exercise physiologist by training, well-versed in the ways of all things active. I have my own health insurance with a $10,000 annual deductible. Hence the sobbing, the fear…”What if ____?” (insert panic-driven thought). I finally calmed down, managed to have a good rest of the visit with my family, though I was now walking with a severe limp.
“You have never walked right, you have always kinda limped or something. Like a hitch in your giddy-up. And the clicking and popping you have always had in your hips cannot be good,” Shawn explains. I know this, but I have been in denial all these years. I could never face the fact there was something wrong with me physically. But now, I needed to put my big girl pants on and make my first visit to a local Orthopedist, who specializes in hips.
As with any typical doctor’s appointment, I am nervous. I have never broken a bone in my life, never had surgery. The only time I can recall being in the hospital was when I was 9 years old with a severe flu virus. I explain to Doctor #1 about what happened, my symptoms, etc. He does some ROM (range of motion) tests and then takes a x-ray, a simple one of the anterior (front) view of my pelvis. After waiting 5-10 minutes, he strides back in the room, seeming proud. “I know what is wrong with you,” he states, very matter-of-fact.
“What?” I gulp anxiously.
“You have hip dysplasia,” he replies non-emotionally.
“Isn’t that a dog’s disease?” I challenge.
He actually broke a smile, kinda chuckled, and replied, “Don’t worry, we are not going to put you down.”
“Is there a fix?” I ask even more nervously.
“Yes, see how your femoral heads are sticking out of your hip sockets? There is this procedure called a Periacetabular Osteotomy (PAO), where we break your pelvis here, here and here, (he demos with his pencil 3 breaks completely around the hip socket) we re-shift the socket and screw you back together.”
Me: GULP. Tears welling up in my eyes, I am trying not to lose it. Before I could respond, he continues, “But I don’t do that surgery. I need to refer you, its very specialized. And I will order an MRI because you may have ligament damage too.”
“So what is the likelihood of me having surgery?” I ask. Denial is a powerful thing.
“Extremely likely, ” he says. “Oh, in the meantime, no running, cut back on the biking, no hiking, nothing that bothers your hip.”
I leave the doctors office, tears streaming down my face. I am thinking angrily “It hurts to walk, do I not do that too?” My life as I know it, super active, wanting to do a Half-Ironman before I turned 41, all my outdoor ambitions – gone.
I got home, with no motivation to work, plopped myself with my deformed hips on the couch, and pondered my future.