Tag Archives: PAO life

Nothing is Sacred in the PAO Life

My diagnosis of bilateral hip dysplasia in 2013 at the age of 39 was a shock.  Almost 2 years later, I can say without a doubt, that it was certainly life changing.  Two periacetabular osteotomy (PAO) surgeries within 9 months has also been life altering.  Looking back, I never would have predicted I would have had 6 screws in my pelvis, live with my sister in California for a total of 2 months, spend 7 of the past 11 months on a walker and/or crutches, not drive for a total of 5 months, own not one, but TWO sets of surgery recovery equipment fit for a nursing home, and learn how to be a patient person.  I have grown in ways that is hard to explain, so I will just say I am not the same person I was when I got diagnosed; I am a better person for it.

The other day I was thinking about my first surgery recovery and what is different (do not equate “different” with “easier”) this go around, and this story came to mind. I  was horrified when it happened, but now I can look back and laugh.  Nothing is sacred in the PAO life:

I was 7 days post-op PAO #1 (April 2014) and I was staying at my sister’s house for awhile post-op before I flew home to Colorado. I had to pee BAD (like the kind that you wait forever in bed holding it until you absolutely have to get out of bed because, on a walker, it takes forever and a day to make it to the bathroom.) The non-master bathroom was my bathroom and I had my raised toilet seat.  The raised toilet seat fits over a regular commode but is 6 inches higher, making it so much easier to passively flex at the hip to sit.

It was at night and I walkered gingerly to the bathroom, and sat on my trustworthy raised toilet seat and I started peeing something fierce. Relief! Then I felt that my bare foot was wet, I was perplexed, thinking, “WTF? Is the toilet leaking?”  So I look down. Much to my dismay, I realize I was peeing on myself and all over the floor because the toilet lid was DOWN!!! Prior to my little bathroom excursion, my 7 year old nephew went to the bathroom, put the lid down and then he was trying to be helpful so he put the raised toilet seat over the closed lid. I screamed in horror and my sister rushed in and I had a total freaking meltdown; bawling my head off, saying I was sorry. Being a mother of a 3 yr old and 7 year old, she didn’t care, she was just mopping it up with anything handy saying “At least it isn’t explosive diarrhea!” I just could not let it go, I was melting down like a toddler, bawling saying “I’mmmmm sooooorrrrrrryyyyyy….I caaaaaaaan’t doooooo thiiiiiiiis! Its only been a weeeeeeek”.   At the time, I really thought I could not survive.  Of course, we laugh about it now and that did not happen again!


I’ve come a long way, baby….

August 19, 2014: I met with Dr. Stoll, the hip specialist who originally diagnosed me with hip dysplasia and recommendation for PAO surgery in March of 2013.  After viewing my x-rays, he had a big grin on his face and he proudly announced, “You are fully healed.  You are cleared for all activities.” What great news at 19 weeks post-op!  We discussed my first love, road biking; it turns out we have the same road bike, so we talked a lot about training, routes, etc.   I was so happy that I can have my active lifestyle back! I wanted to hug and kiss that man.  Instead, I gave him a warm handshake with both hands and simply said, “Thank you. I will see you next year after my second PAO.”

In the meantime, I have been fierce with all activities, though being smart in progressing in distance and intensity: much bike riding, hiking, swimming, lifting weights, plyometrics, pilates reformer, and walking to my heart’s content.  All pain free, though I did have to ice today after my bike ride, my hip flexor tendon (sartorious tendon) was pissed off.  But the good news all is fine this evening.  Icing, I think, should be a regular routine of any athlete.

My friend has a nest of sparrows at his house,  They are metaphorical for me (and cute!) so I took a picture:


Baby Swallows
Baby Swallows getting ready to fly for the first time.

I think of my surgery as a sort of rebirth: Like a baby swallow, I had (re-)learn how to walk, move, and “fly”: all with new anatomical alignment that allows me to be pain free.

“Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise”

-The Beatles, “Blackbird”


I was awake from 12:30-3:00 last night and I basically formulated this post in my head.  Before I begin, I have to say that I can’t believe its been 7 weeks since my last blog post!  I have been busy healing, rehabbing the hip, ditching the crutches for good, learning to walk again and working full-time.  I even took my road bike out of storage and in to the bike shop for a full tune up!  Life has been full on all fronts: physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

This past week, I feel like my emotional and spiritual self have been raked over the coals.  Physically, at 18 weeks post-op, my hip feels rock solid but I am getting over a nasty summer cold.  This coincides with turbulence of old wounds being opened (Robin Williams passing on has triggered the memories of my step father’s suicide and reminded me of the issues with my mother and her clinical depression and addiction to pain killers).  In the eye of the storm, however, is clarity.

While I have been forced to slow down for the past few days so that I can kick this cold, I have gained clarity on some things that have been bothering me for some time since my PAO surgery.  Mainly, this is the realization of who in my life has stepped up and showed up – physically and emotionally – and those who decided to check out.  It is painful to think some of the people who are nearest and dearest in my heart are just simply not capable.  I spend many a night awake thinking about if I was a better friend or daughter that I would be a priority in their lives.

Then, last night, I realized: why is this my fault?  I cannot rationalize other people’s behavior.  I can ruminate all night long, every night, but I will drive myself crazy.  Everyone has their personal demons that they are dealing with, and it has nothing to do with who I am as a person.  Everyone is on their own journey, for them to learn their life lessons either the hard way (repeating mistakes) or the easy way (reflecting on actions and consequences and the lessons behind them).    And that is where compassion comes in to play and, hence, the clarity.  While I cannot change the people I love, I can support them by sending them love and light, and letting go of the pain and hurt they have caused me.

I read this post this morning on Facebook and it was a dead ringer:

“Truth in word and deed is what is required of you. As well as resonating with your personal truth, it’s important now to also demand the same from others. Truth is freedom.”
“Belief and trust in a Higher Power is about having faith that the outcome will be what it should be, no matter what it is. It is timely for you to place your trust in the Divine, in your angels, and in the knowledge that there is a Divine plan.”

-Divine Flyte with Marika  via Facebook, 8/12/14

11-weeks Post Op

I have had several blogs brewing in my head for a week or so, and it may just come out into one post.  I thought about naming it “parallels” or “life begins at 40” – but settled for the time marker title. Weeks 1-9 post-op I was sailing strong and steady with my recovery, with little complications.  Last week, week 10, I hit a wall emotionally and physically.  I am still walking with 1 crutch.  I was cleared to go weight bearing at week 8 (my surgeon is very conservative to ensure full healing of the fractures) and I thought by 2 weeks of weight bearing I would be walking perfectly unassisted.  I have always placed high expectations on myself, and PAO surgery recovery is no exception.  I crumbled when my physical therapist told me, “not yet…you are not strong enough to walk unassisted.  Keep the 1 crutch…its just a strength issue from being non-weight bearing…it takes time…”  those words put me into a tailspin of sadness and defeat.  I was not meeting my self-imposed, unrealistic, expectations.  I was pissed at the world, looking at Facebook feeds of everyone’s summer adventures, while I was still mostly at home, alone, gimping around.  The meal train ended week 9 and so have the emails and phone calls of asking how I was doing.  Feeling alone, defeated, and depressed, I decided to try to go back to metalsmithing, which is not ideal being on 1 crutch.  I had to do SOMETHING!!!  It was not easy, but I learned something:

Metal-smithing and surgery recovery has its parallels. For both, each step must be fully completed successfully before proceeding to the next step.  In metal-smithing, if a piece of metal does not solder properly together, I would have to go back and reset everything and try again.  In PAO surgery recovery, if I take a step without the crutch and feel my hip fall to the side due to lack of hip stabilizer strength, I have to go back to the 1 crutch for awhile and then try again.  I cannot solder metal together without placing paste flux on the metal, nor can I walk properly without doing my strength exercises.  This analogy between my work and my recovery helped my get my head around the fact that it may be awhile before I start walking unassisted again.  Patience, steps, being deliberate, deep breathing when things go wrong…those are all components of successful metal-smithing and successful surgery recovery.

Prong pendant metalsmithing
Prong pendant about to be re-soldered.

As for the “life begins at 40” title, I turned 40 last December. I knew 2014 would be an epic year for me of deep proportions.  I knew I would have not one, but TWO major surgeries (PAO on both left and right hip) and everything that comes along with living the PAO life, and in the end: reinvention. I have had a lot of down-time with my surgery recovery.  Hours of laying in bed has forced me to think a lot about my life and where I want to go once I can get my life back.  One major decision I made, and it was not made lightly, was to officially retire from Personal Training.  I have been a Personal Trainer, running coach, and triathlon coach for 18 years. I have made lifelong friends and helped dozens of people.  It has shaped who I am and my values on health.  In recent years I discovered bringing my inner artist to the outer world, and have been working hard to build my reputation and livlihood as a jewelry artist.  It was time for me to move forward and put 100% of my energy into my jewelry business to ensure its success.  My last client has been training with another trainer in Boulder since my PAO surgery.  It has been going well, which made the transition that much easier.  I wanted to make sure she was in good hands! We met last night over margaritas, empanadas and chips and guacamole as I told her my plans.  She knew already: she is a very busy person and I do not request her time unless there is good reason.  She joked that I was firing her, and I said, “No, I am breaking up with you.”  While I was sad and it was not easy for me to do, retiring last night felt freeing.  After an intense, short thunderstorm, the air was cool and crisp.  Going 50 miles an hour, I rolled down the windows, popped the sunroof, blasted music, and I felt alive.  I almost forgot what it felt like: to feel really alive in the present moment.  For those minutes, I totally forgot about my PAO and hip saga. And it felt damn good.

Recovery Phase II: Chez Sudre

The one piece of advice that I have for other hippies facing PAO surgery is that it is critical to have a  good caretaker and support team, at least for the first two weeks following surgery.  I feel very fortunate that I am able to recover at my sister’s house in the Bay Area for several weeks before I fly home to Colorado.  She was able to arrange to work from home, which turned out to be necessary given that I needed assistance initially with not only getting in and out of bed, but also being able to safely sit on the raised toilet seat, shower, and provide meals. ( I still need help showering and with meals, but at least I can get in and out of bed and go to the bathroom by myself).  A lot of demands are placed on the caretaker, so to help ease the stress, even when I just feel like crying, I try to put on my brave face, be cheerful and polite, and always grateful.

I have to admit, I am spoiled here. You couldn’t ask for a better climate to recover: every day its been sunny and at least in the high 60’s or low 70’s.  I love the fresh air with a slight breeze gently flowing into my room. She has a ranch style home so its very easy to walker around. She has a beautiful back yard with a deck, pool and flower garden that I can enjoy on the days I feel energetic enough to go outside. My niece and nephew are adorable, so its nice to be able to see them every day. My brother in law is understanding and provides additional help when necessary. My sister is an incredible, strong soul who never complains about helping me.  My family has certainly raised the standard on care-taking and I am the lucky recipient. And I am forever grateful.

The other bonus about being in CA to recover these initial weeks is I get to see my other California “team members” who provide comic relief and moral support.  A special thank you must go out to my friend and PAO-buddy, Jessica, who visited me pretty much every day in the hospital and cooked dinner my family and me last week.  It is so nice to be able to talk (and vent) to another hippie because she understands PAO life from personal experience.

Tuesday I will be 2 weeks post-op.  I will be flying home 18 days post-op.  My goal for this week is to get my stamina and energy back so that I can make the 2.5 hour flight home with ease and make it up my 39 stairs by crutch walking!