Tag Archives: hip dysplasia

Did it Again…

Ok, where does the time go; my last post was 6 months ago?   I don’t think about my hips anymore.  Hip dysplasia no longer defines me. Pain is no longer a daily occurrence.  What remains is unwavering gratitude that I can walk without pain. Sleep without pain. Work without pain.  Run without pain. Bike without pain…you get the idea.  I am throwing 100% of my energy into becoming the best version of myself.  In April, I ran the Fruita Desert RATS half-trail marathon with my friend and running partner, Michelle, who also had a PAO in 2012.  Here is us at the top at mile 10:

Fruita Desert RATS
at the top of a 3 mile climb at mile 10, with Michelle G.

In June, I did it again: Team All Screwed Up finished the Ragnar Trail Relay in Snowmass, CO in just over 25 hours.  I ran 14.5 miles with over 3400 feet elevation gain.  Here are some pics:

Ragnar Snowmass 2017
Ragnar Snowmass 2017, Team All Screwed Up
Ragnar 2017
Beginning the red loop: 6.7 mi with some gnarly elevation gain.
Ragnar Snowmass 2017
Nearing the top of the red loop, mile 3.

So that is what has been going on: running, working, some travel. Hopefully moving off the Front Range soon, I need a change of scene.  Life is too short to sit around and wait for an ideal time to do stuff.  I am in the mode of “just do it.”  I’ll pop on in once in awhile to give an update, but in closing, I’ll just say its been a hell of a ride and I am glad to be on the other side of the hip dysplasia journey.  There is life after PAO surgery!

 

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Still Screwed…2 Year Post Op Right PAO

You are reading this title thinking, “Oh no, what happened?”  It’s not so bad.  My official two year anniversary of my right PAO is fast approaching: December 16.  I did, however, have my two year follow-up last month when I was in California helping my sister recover from arthroscopic surgery to repair her torn labrum.  We have the same surgeon, so it was nice to be able to talk with him about her surgery and recovery.  Anyway, I snuck in an appointment since I was in town.  Here is my X-ray from my appointment. As you will see, I have most excellent bone healing and nice joint space (read: no arthritis):

2 year post op xray

Another reason why I scheduled to see Dr. Bellino was to see if my right screws needed to come out.  I was having pain (aching in cold weather) and when I wore jeans.  After a few minutes of him trying to feel them (I guess he countersinks them pretty good), we concluded I need new jeans and I need to move to a warmer climate (haha) because he couldn’t feel them coming out.

Some PAO surgeons take out the screws around 6-9 months post op, other surgeons only take them out if they cause problems. Its a matter of philosophy, there are pros and cons to each school of thought.  My surgeon does the latter.  I trust his suggestion in leaving them in for now.  I am back spinning, running, hiking, and strength training like I did before this whole hip saga, when I was a lean, mean, triathlon racing machine.  And you know what?  That pain has not recurred with increased activity and in the recent cold weather, so who knows why I was having issues earlier this fall.   While it would be fun to make some badass jewelry from my hardware, I am happy to stay screwed for now.

Once Upon a Time…

Once upon a time, there was a girl who just wanted to be liked.  In grade school, she was teased and always picked to be last for recess and P.E. games.  In 8th grade, kids teased her and called her “UNCORD” for uncoordinated (it wasn’t her fault that she was 5’9″ at age 13).  In her freshman year of high school, her basketball coach announced in front of the entire team that her “season was a disappointment to all.”  She bottled her hurt and poured herself into academics, became a straight A student and got accepted into U.C. Davis.  Her freshman year of college, she met a boy.  He ran Cross Country.  There was that damn sports thing again, she thought.  She wanted this boy to like her, so she ran.  The first time they ran together, he stopped and immediately criticized her.  This was nothing new.  Being stubborn as she is, she kept running, even in her Keds.  She finally splurged on a pair of running shoes; a luxury very dear since she was putting herself through school and working three jobs.  She ended up majoring in Exercise Science.

Through the years, she became kinda good at running (well, for her).  In grad school, she did a couple half-marathons, then progressed into triathlon, which is where she found her niche.  For eight years she was a serious recreational triathlete who pushed to often place in her division, which was a big deal for races held in the triathlon mecca of the world.

Then hip pain…infrequent. She blew it off. No pain, no gain.  Then it became like the neighbor who drops in unannounced and is always super annoying.  She tried to dodge this neighbor, but he caught up with her.

She retired from racing triathlon on a high note in 2008, placing first in her division at a local race.  It made sense: work was getting busier, and it was time to do other things…

Five years later, in 2013, her college roommate and long time friend and her made a pact to do a Half-Ironman by the time they turn 40.  Five years off  from racing was enough time to be excited about a big athletic goal again.  She started training.  It was that spring that she took the step that would forever change her life….

Hip dysplasia diagnosis, two PAO (periacetabular osteotomy) surgeries in 8.5 months, months of rehab, and relearning how to walk, she wondered if she could ever run again.  Even if she could, should she?  Is running even a good idea post-op with mild hip arthritis and having the pelvis sawed apart in six places and rearranged to a better configuration?  What if the six 5-7 inch screws in her pelvis will cause pain while running?  Disgusted with her weight gain due to chronic pain pre-op and inability to move, she knew she had to do something. Run/walking it was.

In late fall of 2015, a fellow PAO Warrior posted on the Facebook PAO group that she was putting together an eight-person team to do the Ragnar Trail Relay in Snowmass, Colorado the first weekend of June.  Each runner would run the 4, 3.8 and 6.7-mile loops and about 2000 feet total elevation gain through the Rocky Mountains in the course of a maximum 36 hours, and 116 miles to be completed by the entire team.  Mountain running, trail running, night running…seeing bears?  sleep?…. camping, friends, laughter, fun!  An incredible challenge, she told her friend “give me three months to train and I’ll let you know if I can do it.”

***

The rest is history.  Team “All Screwed Up” completed the Ragnar Trail Relay this past weekend in just over 25 hours.  Six of us had PAO surgeries and our other two teammates had major surgeries. Aside from Colorado, our team members hailed from Reno, Boston and Cincinnati to come to one of the most beautiful places in the country to partake in his adventure.  We ran on trail through the mountains, laughed, camped, ate, got very little sleep, and fortunately we did not see any bears.  We talked about all things running and PAO recovery, which included the obligatory post-op stories of poop and swollen labia.  I made life-long friends and we are bonded not only as Warriors, but Ragnarians.    For me, this race was the big middle finger to everyone who in the past had teased and criticized my athletic abilities.  I may not be fast, but I can endure.  And I will continue to enjoy running for the rest of my days.  Next year, I’ll be back, better than ever!

Team Photo at Camp
Team Photo at Camp
Back of our Team Shirts
Back of our team shirts
Jen finishing the red loop
Jen Finishing the 6.7 mile run, “Red Loop”

To All The Naysayers….

In December, I saw a Facebook post from my fellow local PAO friend that she was forming a PAO team to do the 2016 Ragnar Trail Relay in Snowmass, Colorado; which is held over the first weekend in June.  Now, I have not ran steadily since I started having some pretty gnarly pain in my hip flexor area, which was in 2012.  I was forced to quit running on a regular basis as the pain was debilitating.   Since 2012,  I gained 34 pounds due to inability to exercise and I had my pelvis sawed apart in to 6 pieces (3 pieces for each surgery) and screwed back together, a surgery called a periacetabular osteotomy (PAO), all with the hopes that I could have a better aligned hip joint and be able to 1) not live in chronic pain and 2) be able to do the physical activities I love, one of them being running.  That is a big selling point of PAO surgery: it has no activity restrictions compared to a hip replacement.

So, when I saw this post about being part of a team with fellow PAO Warriors to complete three loops of 3.8, 4, and 6.7 miles on mostly single track trail in the Rocky Mountains over 36 hours, I was intrigued.  I posted on my personal Facebook page asking opinions of those who have run this race if it was doable for me with six months of training and most people said “yes!” but there were a few naysayers.  For those who know me know its the naysayers that are the most motivating  for me as I am very stubborn and determined to prove naysayers wrong.  Plus, I needed a goal.  At the time, I was one year post-RPAO and I was struggling with losing weight, and I was depressed since losing my fur baby of 14 years and losing a contract on a new home.  Something needed to change, I was in a funk!  I told the team captain, “give me three months to see if my hips can handle running.”  I started running, well – more like walk with some short jogging intervals – several times a week.  I was happy to complete a 20 minute walk/jog session!  My hips did fine.  My lungs burned, my muscles ached, but my hips – those newly aligned hips – were fine.

From December to March, I progressed my mileage carefully, gradually increasing the run time and decreasing the walk time.  What I was consistent in was doing my sessions: I ran 3 times a week: rain, shine, wind, snow.  I remember bundling up in 10 degree weather and putting on my YakTrax (devices that go on the bottom of running shoes that have metal spikes to provide better traction on snowpack/ice) to do a 30 min run.  By mid-March, I committed to our Ragnar team, which is aptly called “All Screwed Up.”

Fast forward to now:  yesterday I completed a 10 mile run in the wind, cold, and GI distress (note to fellow runners: do NOT eat Mexican food for dinner the night before a long run! Another piece of advice: know where your toilets are along your route!).  I had to tough talk myself through miles 5-9: “Jen, you are doing this because you CAN!”  “Jen, you would have no problem running this if it wasn’t for your stomach ache!” “Jen, this is a piece of cake compared to PAO surgery, remember how much pain you were in at the hospital?”  In under 2 hours and 15 minutes (which included about 40 minutes walking due to my poor nutritional choices) I got the 10 miles in and my hips were fine!  It was the first time since 2006 that I ran 10 miles, 15 miles in a 25 hour period, and 28 miles for the week.  And as far as my last weigh in, I have lost 14 pounds.

So, my advice is: do not let the naysayers keep you down.  Rise above negativity, work hard, and prove them wrong!

My next post will most likely be a race report of Ragnar: the ULTIMATE PAO WARRIOR GATHERING!!!  Its going to be a hell of a party!  Onward!

A New Chapter

Its days like today that I really miss my dad.  (He passed away in 2004 from a 3  week battle of liver & pancreatic cancer). Today as I headed west on Woodside Road towards Stanford Medical Center for my nine-month post op, I approach Alameda de las Pulgas Road. Suddenly I time-warped to another time, another life.  “Do you know what ‘Alameda de las Pulgas’ means?” my father asks my sister and me. How would we know? We were five and nine years old, respectively.  Before we could even squeak a noise from our tiny mouths, he answers his own question in a booming voice “THE LAND OF THE FLEAS! HAR HAR HAR HAR!”   Only those that knew my father will appreciate  this.

After waiting a while to see Dr. Bellino, he finally came into the exam room.  He told me I am “pretty much healed” and he is confident that the gaps near the ischium (aka “butt bone”) will heal by the next time I see him in the Spring.

11058727_10153533629912332_1412791869696100741_n

But this post-op visit was so much more than wondering what my x-ray would show in terms of bone growth.  I was anxious, like a kid on Christmas morning, to tell my surgeon about the ultimate PAO win: being physically capable to save someone’s life, which occurred two weeks ago.  And to tell him about my labor of love, thePAOproject.com. And last but not least, to give him the thank you present I made him, a photo book of all my “firsts” post PAO: first bike ride, first hike, first rafting, etc.  He read the whole thing and was truly touched. At the end of the appointment, I reached out to shake his hand and  he opened his arms to give me a hug, which meant a lot to me.

As I headed back towards Highway 280 (a much prettier drive than 101, so I take the scenic route), I saw a sign that said “Emerald Hills.”  My dad lived in Emerald Hills, an upscale neighborhood in Redwood City.  My heart ached to be able to share with him my successes.  I have been through SO MUCH in the past two years: the dust is finally settling and I am emerging from the ashes.  I am a better version of me.  Life after PAO: a new chapter begins.

The “Why?” Answered

Do you ever wonder “Why me?”  Whether that be with a loss of job, a breakup, or in my case, being diagnosed with bilateral hip dysplasia and the need for two PAO surgeries, its easy to ask that question.  Often we have to trust in not knowing the answer to the why and move forward the best we can.

Throughout my life when faced with adversity (and I have had my share), my mind has gone to the dark side, and I wondered what my purpose in life was or would anyone notice or care if I was no longer on this planet.  Certainly last year recovering from my two PAO surgeries I struggled to stay positive.  I am stubborn as hell and fiercely competitive, which I think were the catalysts for my healing.  However, I often felt lonely and depressed, laying in bed for an average of 20 hours a day with a broken pelvis, eagerly waiting for a visitor friend to bring me a meal, which was the highlight of my day.

And then, sometimes, the Universe can deliver an answer to why:

What if that answer is: “You are a better, stronger person now?”

Or, “You will never take walking, showering,  or doing anything pain free for granted again?”

Or, “You can help and inspire others with your story?”

Or, “You have fixed hips which enabled you to save a person’s life?”

Yes, yes, yes and yes.

Next Friday is my 9 month post op appointment (right PAO 12/16/15) with Dr. Bellino at Stanford, and I am eager to tell him the story (short version) of the ultimate gift: that thanks to him, I have fixed hips, which enabled me to run and maneuver and squat to assist in a medical emergency (name and gender withheld for privacy):

Evergreen is a small town nestled in the Rocky Mountains just west of Denver but at an elevation of 8000 feet. Last weekend was the Evergreen Fine Arts Festival, an art show  ranked as one of the top 50 art shows in the country.  Needless to say I was thrilled  to be upgraded from the wait list to being a vendor.

Sunday morning was crisp and clear, with a hint of fall in the air.  I saw 2 deer and an elk as I drove up the canyon from Morrison to Evergreen.  Once I parked my car in the artist lot, which was about 1/2 mile away from the venue, I took a deep breath of the cool air and looked at a fellow artist, who was getting on a bike to ride from the artist parking lot to the venue, which was 1/2 mile away.  I decided to walk and not take the shuttle; with a walk I could enjoy the morning and get a little exercise before “parking it” at my booth for the next 8 hours.  As I was walking up, I noticed the bike was on the ground and a person who was not the cyclist was on the phone. I immediately went into rescue mode (I have been trained in First Aid and CPR for over 20 years) and sprinted across the street (of course I looked for oncoming cars!).  The person was on the ground unconscious, and as I gathered what little info I could from the person who was on the phone with 911, I proceeded to scuttle down the ditch and assess the situation.  Once I determined there was a pulse, I determined the person was not visibly breathing (“look, listen, and feel”).  I opened the mouth with my hand by opening the jaw, keeping the person still and a big gasp of air occurred.  I kept the mouth open and with the help of two other Good Samaritans, whom I instructed to keep the person still until the paramedics arrived.

The story has a happy ending, this person is alive and doing OK.  I had a very heartfelt conversation with the person’s spouse, and the one time that I got choked up with tears on the phone was when I explained that if it wasn’t for me having fixed hips and being able to sprint and then go into a deep squat and hold that position for minutes, I may not have been as capable to help.  At that moment, I understood the “WHY”.   This is why: we are all connected.  There are no accidents.  I feel so blessed to have had an amazing surgeon and his staff, as well as my Physical Therapist, to empower me to be a new, better version of me; a pain-free version of me who can give back!   Before my PAO’s I couldn’t walk without intense pain, let alone even run or even think about scuttling on uneven ground. And forget about squatting.

So if you find yourself wondering “WHY ME?” know that the answer may be waiting for you…

Between the Wolf and the Dog

Last night I was driving my sister to the airport; she came to visit for a long weekend: a respite for her; for me, a chance to put my fixed hips to the test of physical limits as well as to show her a true Colorado adventure.  In three days, we went white water rafting in the biggest water flow Colorado has seen for some time, stand up paddle boarding, kayaking and a 12-mile bike ride on mountain bikes.  I am pleased my hips were fine, just a nary complaint from my muscles.

As I was driving her to DIA, the rain drizzled, then poured.  We encountered flooding roads, glare and the worst light conditions I have driven in for quite some time.  “The light is terrible, I can hardly see anything!”  I sighed in frustration.  The sun played peek-a-boo with the clouds and emerging storm, all the while the sun tried to retire behind the mountains.

My sister replied, “Entre le loup et le chien.  Between the Wolf and the Dog.  There is a saying in French that at the point at which the light changes at dusk where one cannot easily distinguish between what may be a wolf or a dog.”

I pondered that sentiment, thinking that perfectly explained what I was able, or not able to see.

This evening, I reflect back on what she said.  I feel like my life is in between the Wolf and the Dog.  I am letting go of a business that was my “baby” for many years, I am finding a new normal being pain free with the capability of pushing my body to new limits, I am starting a new project (thepaoproject.com), and I just found out today it is possible to venture into homeownership after suffering the reprocussions of a foreclosure in 2011.  In this state of transition, I find the PAO surgeries put me on this path of newfound discovery and into a new period of ease.  May I move past this period between the wolf and the dog and into clarity.

On My Way….

Time is a flyin’!  I am well on my way on this road to recovery.  Yesterday was my 5 week post-op anniversary.  In 2 weeks I start Physical Therapy, 3 weeks get cleared to weight bear as tolerated, and hopefully 4 weeks until I can drive again (fingers crossed on that one!)  but who’s counting? THIS GIRL is counting!  It motivates me to have time goals so I have something to look forward to.

Overall, I am doing well.  Mentally and emotionally, this go-around is easier for me.  Physically, however, I have had some pretty intense groin pain and I discovered that I was accidentally putting too much weight on my op leg, straining the pubic cut area.  Below is my X-ray taken at 3 weeks post op and you can see that gnarly gap in my pubic bone:

xray rpao
Bionic Woman! 3 Weeks Post Op, Stanford, CA

I am behaving now: being more mindful of truly practicing “toe touch” weight bearing.   Now that the groin pain is gone, my hip flexor on my “good” leg is ON FIRE!  So I guess I need to rest more.  I have learned when your body nags at you via physical pain, its trying to tell you something. I only have one go-around to rehab correctly so I am listening!

In the meantime, I am reading the latest book of the “Fever” series (total guilty pleasure), starting to work a bit at my desk, and look forward to my friends’ visits via my Meal Train.  Each day I get stronger, and I cannot wait to have this all behind me!

 

On the other side, again: 2.5 weeks post-op

Leading up to my second PAO surgery, everyone told me that this go around would be easier than PAO #1.  They were wrong and they were right…its never black and white.  Let me explain:

day 1 post op
Doing “the pose”

I had my RPAO on December 16.  It was 5 hours and deemed a success, as Dr. Bellino said I was “rock solid.” The MRI showed the possibility of labral ligament damage needing repair, but once he got in there, the labrum was intact and so he left it alone. Instead, he reshaped my femoral head (femoral osteochondroplasty) so that it had better tracking within the newly aligned hip socket.  The PAO corrected a center edge angle of 19 to about 37 (educated guess, I will get this confirmed at my post-op appointment on Monday).

The hospital stay was more difficult this time, as I had a pretty bad pain episode day 2 post-op (they did not have my dosages right on my non-narcotic pain meds and my body went into shock as I tried to sit in a chair for my P.T. session). Also, throughout my hospital stay,  I suffered from severe light headedness, and while I lost a fair amount of blood during surgery, I was not a candidate for a blood transfusion.  The silver lining, however, was my PAO buddy who had her surgery the same time as me, ended up being my roommate.  We laughed and groaned together, and cheered each other on when we needed it.  Dr. Bellino visited me almost every day and I sensed he truly cared about my well-being.

Discharged
Discharged! Walker hug with my PAO roomie, Jolene

Since I have been discharged, I have been recovering at my sister’s house in sunny California until I get cleared to fly home (this can vary per patient, but I decided to stay longer though the holidays and see my surgeon once he was back in the office).   My recovery so far at “home” has been easier this time. I feel more confident using the walker, as well as using the leg lift assist device to get my leg in and out of bed (I cannot actively raise my operated leg for 8 weeks).  I know how to better position myself in bed so that I am comfortable sitting and sleeping.  I know what the mental challenges surgery recovery entails, and I am better prepared with tools to keep myself from dying of boredom (or depression).  My laptop has been a life saver, and I spend most of my time working on my Etsy store,  Netflix streaming (Californication is currently my guilty pleasure), Facebook-ing (especially the PAO support group), and I also signed up for my next gemology class online.   Its been fun to have my 5 year old niece and 8 year old nephew at home over winter break; they are very eager to help their “Tatie Jen” (Tatie is French for “auntie”).  The ease and comfort of my recovery would not have been possible without my sister and brother in law.

at the beach
Half Moon Bay, 1.5 weeks post op

Another big difference is that I do feel like I have more stamina.  My friend Jessica took me to see the ocean at Half Moon Bay last Sunday.  What a treat! I was pretty sore after the outing, but it was so worth it!

Today is New Year’s Day and while 2014 was very challenging, I am happy to have these two major surgeries behind me. I am dedicated to spending the first part of 2015 fully recovering from my surgery.  I want to get my fitness level back, and also grow my jewelry business to its fullest potential.  I want to travel more, and be as active as possible. I want to see what my newly aligned hips are capable of!

2015 is my year to go with the flow and embrace opportunity.   Onward!

 

Beauty in Chaos

PAO Support Charms I made by hand.
PAO Support Charms I made by hand.

I am not even sure where to begin…time has literally flown by and here I am, in California, four days before my second PAO surgery.  Life has been chaotic to say the least, between work, year-end accounting on my businesses, holidays and preparing to be away from home for a month.    In fact, to add to the stress of leaving town and preparing for a  major surgery, I decide 48 hours before my flight to reschedule to leave a day early (on my birthday) to avoid flying into the storm that hit the Bay Area yesterday.

That said, just when I feel like I am losing my footing, I find ground to stand on.  The day after I flew into town (yesterday) my exhaustion finally caught up with me.  I watched the rain pour down, seeing water starting to rise against my sister’s house foundation and then recede.  In the midst of the storm, I start to feel a sense of peace: letting go of control, going with the flow, riding the storm.

Today was my pre-op appointment.  Reflecting on the day, I connect the dots and I realize the day I was dreading turned out to be fantastic.  I was happy to have unexpectedly meet a fellow hippie in the parking lot before my appointment.  We have the same surgeon, Dr. Bellino, and she was there for her 5 week post op appointment.  I hope I instilled a little spark that there is light at the end of recovery.  Pre-op with Lisa the P.A. went smooth.  Then another unexpected gift occurred: Dr. Bellino stopped by to where I was in the clinic and we chatted about 5 minutes, which I know is rare as his time is very limited.  It certainly lifted my spirits and I was pumped to finish my pre-op labs and meet my fellow PAO soul-sista, Jessica, at Stanford Hospital to visit another hippie who had her PAO with Dr. Bellino on Tuesday.

Jessica and I made sure we shined our light and spread our Unicorn Rainbow Pixie Dust to our fellow PAO warrior, who has had a tough go the past couple of days.  It made my day to see her smile and see hope in her face.  Yes, PAO surgery sucks, but its worth it and it gets better.  Her thank you note later this afternoon on the PAO FB group warmed my heart.

As I was leaving the hospital, I thought about how in the craziest of times, there is beauty in chaos.  Beautiful things happen, we just need to be open to see them.

I will leave you with a picture of what Jessica and I found snooping around Stanford Hospital; good to see the orthotics department has a sense of humor!

Santa hiding in the cast room at Stanford Hospital.
Santa hiding in the cast room at Stanford Hospital.