Tag Archives: PAO surgery

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.

What A Difference Three Years Make…

If you are on Facebook, then you are familiar that this lovely social media platform likes to remind you of anniversaries of your past posts (i.e. 1 year ago…).  This can be a good thing or a bad thing.  For example, I cried last week when I saw a post with a picture of my beloved fur baby Evie (who crossed the Rainbow Bridge) from last year.  Two days ago I was reminded of a post I wrote on October 22, 2013; it read:

“So very thankful to be going to CA today to FINALLY see these two surgeons at UCSF and Stanford about my hip surgery ordeal. I am READY to put a plan in place once and for all!…” 

“Hip surgery ordeal,” HAHA!  Ain’t that the truth!  I had no idea what PAO surgery and recovery entailed.  I had completely forgot I wrote that post!  At that time, I couldn’t walk more than 12 steps without limping. I had gained weight from inactivity. My identity as a Personal Trainer and athlete was lost.  I was trying to find my way in a new career.  I was in pain 24/7 and I was depressed.

Well, fast forward to today (and if you want the whole story, read all my blog posts): my butt muscles are still sore from helping paint my new metal-smithing studio but the hip pain – oh that hip pain that rocked my world – is gone. Yesterday I went for a run on a perfect fall day, and guess what? No hip pain.  My plan worked.  I am so incredibly grateful: I wake up every morning and have gratitude I am without chronic pain.

The pain doesn’t define me anymore.  What defines me are the lessons and the strength that I have learned in the past three years.  I found a new passion: increasing awareness of hip dysplasia; I now have The PAO Project linked to the International Hip Dysplasia Institute.  I try to help out local PAO Warriors in any way I can (last week I was getting raised toilet seat handles from a senior center and dropping them off to a PAO Warrior at Boulder Foothills Hospital) and provide support on the PAO Facebook group, because I know how rough the early weeks are in recovery.  This journey has not only made me more grateful, but it has also made me more emphathetic.

Ironically, I fly out to CA on Wednesday because my sister is having labral repair arthroscopic surgery with my surgeon, Dr. Bellino at Stanford on Friday.  She does not have dysplasia; labral tears can happen in normal hips (imagine that!), and in her case it was most likely speed training with running.  I will return the favor of her being my caretaker and will be hers in the early days of recovery.  I feel well equipped emotionally and I am happy that I am able to be there for her.

Its all good.  What a difference three years make….

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!

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!

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.

Ready, Set….Wait?

I am 14.5 weeks post op RPAO.  So far, my recovery had been about 3 weeks ahead of schedule from my LPAO on April 8, 2014.  That said, logic would say 3 weeks ahead of schedule. So what do I decide to do?  Go for a walk! Hell, even try to run!  The weather was damn near perfect today, high 60’s/low 70’s. I decided to carve a little bit of time from my buried pile of work to go outside, get some Vitamin D and exercise.

I felt good for the first 10 minutes into my walk, so I wanted to push it, just a little…”What harm would a 60 second trot (or plod, if you are a runner in Boulder) do?”   First bit felt ok!  Well, OK then!  I walked for 3 minutes and tried my second 60 second trot.  This one hurt a bit more, but my athlete’s mind reassured me, “Just run through the pain, you’re just stiff from not doing anything in the past 8 months.”   So I walk and stretch for the next 3 minutes.  By the 3rd round, I was in pain.  I stopped 30 seconds short.   Heartbroken, and a little worried, I had to make it back the 1 mile (2 miles total) to my car.

Immediately icing, I got up from the couch and I could barely move! Excruciating pain! “What the…?” I thought. Great. I really did a number on myself.  How pathetic. 2 mile walk and only 150 seconds of running.  There are people healed from this stupid surgery at this point!  Obviously I am NOT fully healed and PAIN was screaming at me, telling me I am NOT 100%.

I am generally very hard on myself.  I was upset the rest of the afternoon, picking apart my poor choices.  Then I got pissed.  I have been in survival mode for so long, years in fact, that I am finally done with just surviving. I want to THRIVE, not survive!  I want some normalcy, like, being able to get on and off the floor EASILY.  Like have a decent earning wage to where I don’t have to stress about paying my bills.  Like having a normal day off to chill and do fun stuff (hike, bike) rather than being in bed icing, looking at Facebook at all the good times that my friends are having.    I want to grab life by the balls and feel well enough to experience life’s adventures, big and small.  Is that too much to ask?

While my mind says yes, my body says no.  I guess I will have to wait. And definitely cut back on Facebook.