Tag Archives: PAO recovery

It Takes A Moment To Change Your Life Forever

I almost died today.

I just realized its been over eight months since my last blog post. I have been busy living my life. I am fortunate enough to live my life without thinking of my hips on a daily basis.  I have come to the place where I look at myself naked in the mirror, and I am more critical about my cellulite on my thighs  vs. my PAO scars.

I skied three weeks ago. I skied strong. Fast. I felt free.  The conditions were good.  Not a lot of people were on the slopes to interrupt my turns.  I was grateful.

Today, I had to go to a few galleries to deliver inventory for work.  I was eager to head to Boulder, back to my studio, to have lunch with my studio-mate, who offered to treat for lunch. It was nearing noon; I was getting hangry (hungry + angry = hangry)!  It was an exceptionally windy day. For anyone who lives on the Front Range of Colorado, we know wind. Seeing semis rolled onto their sides on Interstate 25 is not unusual.  As I cautiously drove on Highway 93, the road that connects Golden to Boulder, a 2-4 lane highway with no median, I was hyper-aware and kept both hands on the wheel at all times.  As I was driving up the final hill towards the main intersection of HWY 93 and HWY 72, a 20-foot box truck swerved into my lane and headed straight towards me.

Time slowed down. Its fascinating how the mind can manipulate time.

In what seemed like forever, my thoughts were:

“That truck is in my lane.”

“That truck is going to hit me.”

“This is it. I am going to die.”

“NOOOO!!!!! I do not want to die!”  And at the moment I hit the brakes, hit my horn, swerved to the right but not too much as to not overcorrect.

And I missed him.

He almost hit the two cars behind me, but I think he managed to get back into his lane without incident.

As I continued driving north towards Boulder, I started shaking. My lower lip quivered. The tears came with a vengeance. I started to realize what had just happened.  My world was rocked.  Near death experiences do that.

I remember there were times during PAO recovery that I didn’t want to live. I felt like there was no light at the end of the tunnel; I was so lonely, and felt so limited in everything that I was able to do. I had lost my identity as an athlete and my career as a personal fitness trainer.   I explored the deepest, darkest corners of my soul and psyche during my PAO journey, but somehow I persevered.  While the PAO surgery recovery was a roller coaster emotionally, mentally, and physically, things got better bit by bit.  My progress was not linear, but there was a turning point when there were hours I didn’t think about my hips, then weeks, then months…

My point is in writing this blog post, only a few weeks away from my 4 year left PAO anniversary, is that no matter how bad things get, no matter how dark your mind may become:  keep on keepin’ on. It gets better. I PROMISE!  I can now say that if you ever truly stare death in the face, you will want to live. And you will be happy to be alive.  I know I am.

Tomorrow I plan to go skiing. And I am sure it will be fabulous.

Dec. 16 2015: 1 Year Post RPAO

Last night marked my one-year anniversary of my right PAO surgery.  I’ve come a long way, baby!  This year has not been without its challenges,  most recently being the loss of my fur baby of 14 years, Evie (she crossed the Rainbow Bridge on 11/10/15).  Evie was with me for a large part of my recoveries, laying and purring right next to each operated hip. The void is immense, but I am eternally grateful  for her company while I was at my weakest, saddest, and loneliest.  I joke and say she was the love of my life, and in a way, she was.  Here is a picture of us when I was eight weeks post op from my first (left) PAO:

Evie and me, June 2014
Evie and me, June 2014

Despite my loss, I have so much to celebrate. I FINALLY feel normal. My “new normal” feels good, though I still have stiffness and soreness.  I ignore it as I know I am bad about stretching and its different than the 24/7 pain that I used to have.  I don’t have to think about proper gait when I walk. I can run. Last month, I started kickboxing (with heavy bags and speed bags, this is the real deal!) three times a week and I feel great. I am entertaining being on a relay team of fellow PAO Warriors for the 2016 Colorado Trail Ragnar in Snowmass in early June (I would run 3×5 miles).   I started The PAO Project, so those diagnosed with hip dysplasia, considering PAO surgery or recovering from surgery can find a source of information and inspiration.  This led to the recent publication of my anthology, “Onward! Navigating Hip Dysplasia, PAO Surgery, and Beyond.” I hope that this is the beginning of bigger and better things regarding increasing awareness of hip dysplasia, and I want to be instrumental in making that happen.

If you are interested in purchasing the anthology, here are the links:

United States:

CreateSpace: https://www.createspace.com/5928858

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Onward-Navigating-Dysplasia-Surgery-Project/dp/0692585206/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1450393928&sr=8-1&keywords=onward+navigating+hip+dysplasia

Worldwide: Order through my Etsy Shop: https://www.etsy.com/listing/260688343/onward-navigating-hip-dysplasia-pao?ref=shop_home_active_2

United Kingdom, Amazon UK:  http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_3_7?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=onward+navigating+hip+dysplasia&sprefix=onward+navigating+hip+dysplasia%2Caps%2C248

My final post op appointment is February 19, 2016.  I am sure things will change a lot by then for the better; I am planning on it!




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!

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!



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”

6-week Post-op Celebration…or Slump?

Tuesday was my 6-week post-op mark. While most people recovering from this surgery would simply get the appropriate X-rays done and get direct feedback from their surgeon with a blessing to progress to P.T. or increase weight bearing (or not), my experience wasn’t so smooth.  Its the nature of the beast since I flew 1500 miles to have my surgery. I could not afford nor do I have the energy to fly back to CA for a simple hour appointment. Hence I arranged to meet with the local Orthopedist who originally diagnosed me with hip dysplasia in March 2013.

I have everything in order, from getting all my medical records transferred to a simple X-ray order: AP Pelvis and False Profile.  I was forewarned  that the False Profile view is unusual and just to have the x-ray tech to “look it up in the book.”  Long story short, the X-ray tech refused to look it up, discredited me that there is no such thing as a False Profile view, (she’s wrong) and proceeded to take another X-ray view which she insisted was the right one, even though she had no idea about PAO’s.  In fact, another warning sign was that she asked me not only once, but TWICE “So, how did you break your pelvis?” GRRRR! I wanted to slap her.  On a positive note, Dr. Stoll did say he saw bone growth (but he is not sure if its on par since I am his first PAO post-op follow up).  He said he will defer to Dr. Bellino, which is fine; after all, he is the PAO expert I hired to fix me.

I was so frustrated and upset with the x-ray experience that I immediately messaged Stanford with views of my x-rays, hoping to get some feedback. Since my surgeon is out of town (holiday weekend), I have to wait until next week for feedback.  DAMMIT!  When I should be celebrating this landmark, I came home and was angry, frustrated and depressed. It led me to an argument that evening with Shawn, I even managed to throw my walker across my office.  Even Evie, my fur baby kitty, was out of sorts, walking around hissing.  I cried hard.  I cried because I am so goddamn sick and tired of being a cripple, incapable of so many things. I cried that my only connection to the outside world is Facebook, and sometimes I wonder if anyone even CARES about what I post? (I have had friends de-friend me since I started sharing more about hip dysplasia and my surgery).  While others on the PAO Facebook support group at the 6-week post op mark are cleared for “weight bearing as tolerated” and starting physical therapy, I feel like I am ready to move forward but am at a standstill at the perpetual red light.  Needless to say I was in a slump Tuesday and Wednesday. No matter how well I am healing, no matter how positive I am, the PAO life is a roller coaster and has its emotional ups and downs, and it still rocks my world.

Last night I needed a change from my routine; I took a hot bath with mineral salts.  I figured I could slide in the tub, off the ledge, by using my triceps (which are super buffed, by the way). I wanted to submerge myself and feel…different.  At that point, I wasn’t even sure I could get back out. I really didn’t care.  I just wanted to be in HOT water (I am cold all the time) and let the frustrations from the past 2 days seep out of me and into the water, and eventually have all that bad juju go down the drain.  Obviously, I got out of the bath tub just fine (or else I would not be blogging, ha!) and the goal was accomplished.  I allowed myself to release my anger and frustrations, and welcomed back my strength and determination. I asked my higher self for patience so that I am not obsessing over my progress. Last night I imagined Dr. Bellino telling me, “You are my rock star patient, you are healing perfectly as planned. All restrictions will be lifted in two weeks.”

While I sat in the hot bath tub last night, storms with 6 tornados touched down in Colorado, making national news.  In a way, the storms Tuesday and Wednesday correlated to my mood.  This morning is still, and I can see clear blue skies from my bedroom window.    Here’s to celebrating “some bone growth” – I’ll take what I can get.

4-Weeks Post Op

Last Thursday, 6:30 a.m.: I woke up stiff and sore from sleeping on my back, completely immobilized by 5 pillows.  I sleep with my legs up on an elevated leg pillow with 2 additional pillows and my head and upper back propped up on 2 more pillows, which helps to press my spine into the bed.  With my “good leg”, I kicked out the 3 pillows supporting my legs so that I can move. With the urgency to pee, I scooted myself to the edge of the bed, my shoulders cracking and creaking from bearing my body weight. I then aided my “dead” leg off to the edge of the bed. There I sat, staring at my walker.  For the first time since my surgery, I looked at my walker with hate and dread. “4.5 more weeks more of this shit?” I thought bitterly. I knew my mood wouldn’t last forever, but spending an average of 20 hours a day in bed without the freedom to move as I please is wearing on me.

Today, 6:30 a.m.: I woke up stiff and sore. I kicked the 3 leg pillows out from under me so I can move. I scoot myself to the edge of the bed, my shoulders creaking and cracking from bearing my body weight. I aided my “dead” leg off to the edge of the bed. I sat in front of my walker. Without a second thought, I stand and make it to the bathroom to pee.

Today is different.  Today is my 4-week post op anniversary.  I am at the half-way mark of moving with restrictions (only toe touch aka 30 lb. weight bearing, no active hip flexion). Each day I get stronger: I can sit a little longer, move a little more. My shoulders still creak and crack and my wrist and elbow are sore, but I ignore it. I already know this surgery was worth it because the crippling pain that I had before PAO surgery is gone.  And, I have learned a few things along the way:

  • Daily naps help pass the time and aid in healing.
  • Stairs aren’t as bad as you think. Practice pre-op paid off and always have a spotter the first few times going up and down the stairs. (Last night I made it down my 38 stairs for a Cinco de Mayo party.  Going up took a little longer…thanks to the two margaritas!)
  • A daily routine is critical; I just wrote mine out a few days ago. Even though its mostly comprised of activities of daily living, structure helps.
  • Balance Facebook and email time with reading books or writing.
  • Try to schedule a friend visit at least every other day. Human interaction is key to fighting depression. Isolation is the enemy, especially when one is house-bound.
  • Have a project.  My projects are blogging and my online gemology class.  I highly recommend an online course in a topic that is of interest, or a craft.
  • While I have a gazillion things to do with work, I realize my job for the initial 8-12 weeks following PAO surgery is to heal.  Work has to take the back burner temporarily.
  • Get out in the sun. I read that Vitamin D aids in fracture healing. I calculated my sun exposure time and I need and average of 6-10 minutes of sun a day to get my daily dose of vitamin D. In the late afternoon, I walker out to my west-facing deck. I sit quietly with no distractions.  I imagine the sun rays absorbing into my skin, processing the Vitamin D and going straight to my pelvis. I can notice a difference already in my mood and energy level.
  • Meal Train or similar websites are a God-send.  And so are the people that are willing to sign up and provide a meal.
  • Be polite to your caretakers.  And be specific with what you need help with and what you can do on your own (this may change daily).

So while my shoulders creak and crack, my leg continues to feel “dead”,  and I sleep immobilized with 5 pillows, I am excited to count down the days to where I can walk again unassisted, sleep on my side, and drive my car to wherever I please.  The countdown begins!

Speed Bump

In a car, have you ever hit a speed bump by surprise? It jostles you, you instantly slow down and wonder, “Where did that come from? Why didn’t I see it coming?”

I hit a mental and emotional speed bump yesterday. It was a big one. In between holidays, yesterday was my day to catch up on a few things by running a bunch of errands.  My thoughtful sister gave me some post-surgery clothes for Christmas: a long black skirt of soft cotton, pajama bottoms with a fun tribal print that are tempting to wear out to lunch, soft fuzzy socks, and yoga pants.  All worked except for the yoga pants: they were too tight and I hear tight clothes can irritate the incision area.   I add “Target: exchange” to my to do list.

I successfully exchange the yoga pants for a credit, and I happily walk to the workout/PJ section. I start looking at PJ sets, soft fleece! Yes! Darn only in medium. I need a large. Cotton knit or flannel? Long nightgown instead? All of a sudden I hit my speed bump.  I can’t bring myself to buy clothes for my PAO recovery. My eyes start to well up in tears. AGAIN.

“Stop crying Jen!” I say to myself. “With all the crying lately and your red swollen eyes people will think you are a stoner!”

And while I am trying not to lose it in the middle of Target, it hits me: I am absolutely terrified of this surgery. My pelvis will be sawed apart, reset and screwed back together. No wonder why when I tell people about my surgery, 95% of the time they look at me with that “I have gas” look:  you know the one, half smiling but grimacing but smiling politely while their eyes dart around like “get me out of here!”

I walk out of Target with a new hairbrush and cotton-balls, limping back to my car.

While I am normally very positive (or at least convince myself to be) accepting my fear about this surgery is the only way I can process it and move through it.  I am 10-weeks out, plenty of time to process and move through this emotional roller coaster.

Tomorrow is a New Year, and while it poses many challenges, I have no choice but to move forward, speed bumps and all.