Tag Archives: PAO

Upside Down

As I was about to take a friend out for a birthday lunch, my phone rang. “Nurse Dede UCSF” my caller ID read. “Oh this must be about the application for the handicap sticker,” I thought.

“Hi Dede,” I chatted happily into the phone.

“Hi, Jennifer. I wanted to let you know I got your paperwork but the reason why I am calling is because we are having contractual issues with your health insurance (Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield) and Dr. Diab is no longer in your network.”

My heart sank. My knees felt weak. I had to sit down. I wanted to vomit.

“We have a few options: #1 is we can find out how much out of pocket would be, or #2 you can go to a doctor in network.  Have you received any paperwork that you were denied?”

“No,” I responded weakly.

“I will cc you on an email to our health insurance specialist and we will find out how much out of pocket is as this will not be resolved any time soon.”

“OK, thanks.” I hang up, bury my hands, and bawl. I see my world, once again, turned upside down. I have survived many childhood traumas in my life, and somehow I survived. I thought the Universe was done kicking my ass.  Guess not.

Oddly enough, when I realized I was crying out my disappointment, I immediately shut down my emotions. Survival mode. Time to call Stanford. I call, explain my situation, plead my case, how much pain I am in, how I can barely walk (this is made worse with the 10-20 degree temps we have been having in Colorado). Yes, Dr. Bellino is in network (ok, 1st hurdle) but we will leave a message for Rachel his surgery scheduler (next hurdle).

I am a mess. I cannot wait. I am the most impatient person in the world, especially when it comes to my survival. This is a matter of my survival. I have lived with pain for almost 10 years, with severe pain in the past year, and it has been a rapid downward spiral for me physically and emotionally. I am no longer sleeping, the pain is so bad. I can barely walk. And here when I thought there was light at the end of the tunnel, that door got slammed in my face. All my plans: airfare, caretaker plans with my sister, fun plans with friends pre-PAO, the nonrefundable ticket that my aunt purchased to come help me in late March, cat sitter, my work schedule, basically, everything got turned upside down.  I, myself, am upside down. I cannot see straight.

About an hour later, I call Stanford again. I am a frantic pest. I think they realized I was not going to stop calling so magically I got on the phone with Rachel. I plead my case again, sounding desperate, the pain almost making me sound insane.  “The soonest I have is April 8,” she replies.  “I can put you on the wait-list if there is a cancellation.”

Its not my ideal date, but I eagerly signed up for April 8.  As I write this seven hours later from when Nurse Dede first called, I realize that when things are turned upside down it takes us a while to get right side up.  But we get right side up, it somehow always ends up that way. At one point I thought I was just going to completely break, but I didn’t.  I am thankful that I am able to see another Bay Area surgeon who does this very specialized surgery. Now its up to me to trust that things will work out, that my planning was not in vain, and that I can manage another 5 weeks with this crippling pain.



I have my routine in the mornings: I love waking up around 5:30 a.m., pad to the kitchen in my soft slippers, feed the cat, make a pot of coffee, drink an “Emergen-C” and hop on my email and Facebook.  I was scrolling through my Facebook feed this morning and I read a post from a friend of mine whose good friend, who appears to be around my age, was diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer that metastasized to the liver. This stuck a cord with me, as it is the same cancer that my dad was diagnosed with in 2004. Beyond the initial shock and sorrow , I thought about how my hip dysplasia and upcoming surgeries pale in comparison to her battle. Then my mind wandered….

And I thought, “No matter the nature of our health battles, be it cancer, hip dysplasia, or another disease, we are warriors.” To me, being a warrior is encompassing a certain mind-frame and the determination to fight and push back at the disease.  While we are prone to feelings of self-pity (we are human, after all), warriors allow the feelings to come, honor them, release them, and move on. Warriors prepare in every aspect of getting ready for battle, through scheduling doctors’ appointments, fighting with health insurance companies, asking questions, asking more questions, arranging a support group (rallying our troops), ordering necessary medical and/or health equipment, and handling logistics of all ends of the spectrum.

Warriors have a strong mind. We are determined to do anything and everything to improve our state of health. When its time for surgery, warriors step into the hospital courageous and positive. After all, the warrior and her troops (in this case, the surgical team) are prepared. Warriors are determined to do anything and everything to get back their health, from physical therapy to follow-up treatments. A warrior’s will is unwavering, so warriors have to dig deep within themselves to find strength.

When I find myself being upset about my condition, upcoming surgery and rehabilitation, I remind myself that I am a warrior. Its empowering. That reminder enables me to keep pressing on to be strong, positive and fearless.

Me as Wonder Woman, circa 1978.  My sister texted me this photo with the words "You are Wonder Woman. Don't ever forget that."
Me as Wonder Woman, circa 1978. Last month, my sister texted me this photo with the words “You are Wonder Woman. Don’t ever forget that.”


Anyone who knows me knows I am a highly organized person.  I attribute my organizational skills to my lists.  I have lists for everything: ranging from managing my 3 businesses to personal to-dos.  I am old-school with my lists, I have a yellow legal pad of paper and I write things down as they come to mind.  I take great pride in crossing off the completed task with a thick black sharpie marker.  Some people may think I am borderline OCD, I call it being on top of things. After all, for me, if I don’t write it down, its not going to happen. Being 7 weeks out from my left PAO surgery, I have a new set of lists.  I have the “to-do list before March 26” (that is my departure date) and the “ultimate PAO surgery trip packing list”. Below is my PAO packing list (does not include personal items for the week before surgery).  It is a bit unique as I am flying to California for my surgery. My recovery will be split between my sister’s house in California and my home in Colorado, and I am buying two sets of a few things to have in each place.  I have compiled my list from referencing my friend’s PAO  blog and from my hip dysplasia reference book. If you are soon having PAO surgery, I hope you find the below list useful!  (note: most of the items that I noted as “order” –  I am ordering from Amazon.com, they seem to have the best prices.  I provided links when available) Packing list for surgery and hospital stay:  (REVISED 5.22.14 to actual items I used)

  • Photo ID and insurance card
  • Toiletries: favorite facial cleansing wipes,  favorite lotion, lip balm, deodorant, brush
  • Hat (wear from hospital)
  • shirt and loose PJ pants – wear to/from hospital
  • slip on shoes – wear to/from hospital
  • mp3 player, headphones and charger
  • cell phone and charger
  • eye-mask and earplugs
  • throat lozenges (throat may be sore after breathing tube)
  • few personal trinkets: my favorite crystal and stuffed animal
  • crutches and walker
  • Bag to carry everything
  • A nice comfy, soft blanket

For Home Recovery: 

Water Warrior

After complaining to a friend about how pretty much every type of workout hurts my hips, said friend suggested, “Maybe you should try the Water Warrior class, its harder than you think, especially Richard’s class.”

I think I snorted when I replied, “Yeah, right.”  In my head, I was thinking, “Is this what its come to? Water aerobics? I used to do Master’s Swim class for crying out loud!”  I assumed a bunch of seniors just bounced around in the water gabbing away.

“I talked to Richard after class last week about you and your hip issues, you should really come next time,” my friend pressed on.

Not wanting to admit that I am the perfect candidate for water aerobics, I did everything I could for the past month to avoid it: I had metal-smithing class in Denver on Mondays, perfect! Damn, that ended December 16.  Holidays! Another perfect excuse.  Just when I thought I was out of excuses, going skiing (for me only the blue runs) was a possibility yesterday, until I discovered it was -27 at the resort with 30-40 mph winds. No, thank you.  Time to face the inevitable: Richard’s Water Warrior Workout.

I ran into friends in the locker room who were all geared up to go to spin class, and I longed to be walking up the stairs with them to pedal my heart and soul away. Instead, I walked to the pool, very self-conscious of my body in a swimsuit, trying not to slip on the wet tile.

After short introductions, before I knew it I was water jogging as fast as I could, doing 50+ crunches in the water (its hard!), and doing 10 sets of 20 second intervals of various high intensity exercises:

“OK! NOW! CLAM DIGGER! GO! DIG DIG DIG!” Richard barks. “IF YOU’RE TALKING YOU AREN’T WORKING HARD ENOUGH!” He certainly wasn’t directing that last statement to me, I was huffing and puffing away.

“Holy shit! This guy is a ramrod!” I think as I am clam digging, stepping alternating legs and alternating scooping my arms up as fast as I could. Good thing my body was under water, because it would have looked really funny otherwise.

I am starting to get winded by the 8th 20-second interval of the clam digger. “I LOVE THIS GUY!” He taught like a basketball coach yet checked on me occasionally to see how I was doing and if any modifications were needed (note: for those with hip dysplasia, no external rotation of the hips, limit abduction, no breast stroke kick).  We progress through water jogging with a water belt, all the different intervals,  flutter kick on the wall for 10×20 sec. as fast as one could, crunches, and then the styrofoam dumbbells for various traditional strength moves such as chest fly, rows, upright row, bicep curl and tricep kickbacks.

The hour ended, and I realized that was the hardest I exercised since I was diagnosed last March with hip dysplasia. I realize each person responds to different teaching styles but Richard’s strong coaching style combined with attentiveness on form and modifications was perfect for me. I will be back next Monday!

The Ultimate Goal

2010 Ride the Rockies, 543 miles, Red Mountain Pass, Ouray to Durango
2010 Ride the Rockies, 543 miles, Day 4: on the way up to Red Mountain Pass, Ouray to Durango, approx. 90 miles

Up until I was diagnosed with hip dysplasia and ligament damage, as well as facing two PAO surgeries, I thought the 2010 Ride The Rockies was the biggest goal I have ever accomplished.  For seven days, about 2500 riders of all levels rode 543.5 miles across the southern Rocky Mountains in Colorado. The first two days we had terrible weather: rain, sleet, snow, and pea-sized hail.  On day one, we had to take a sag wagon to get us off Colorado National Monument as one of my riding buddies started to go hypothermic. The second day we rode over Grand Mesa, a 60 mile climb with an elevation gain of 5000+ feet and a long descent of 30 miles, which was made in rain and sleet. I have never been so scared in my life, up until…Day 4: Ouray to Durango, a 90 mile ride over three mountain passes.

“I am calling to let you know I had a talk with God, and he said that after the shitty weather you have been having, he will grant you crystal clear blue skies and you will have an amazing ride in the most beautiful part of Colorado!” my friend Rick said in a voice mail to me.  Rick is a seasoned cyclist of all sorts: road, mountain and cyclo-cross.  I found his voice mail to be thoughtful, encouraging and it made me chuckle.  I was in a good mood.

We set off at 7 a.m.  There was about 90 miles to ride that day.  I must preface what I am about to share is that I have an extreme phobia of heights.  In fact, my palms are starting to sweat as I type!  The first part of the ride, Ouray to Red Mountain Pass, has no guard rails and about 1000-1500 foot drops.  Surely one false turn or a car forcing a bike to swerve off the road meant certain death.  Since it was early, I didn’t care; I rode towards the double yellow line, making cars behind me insane, my breath and heart rates were probably 40% higher because of the steep drop-offs. I was constantly using self-talk to get myself through each pedal stroke. I had to do this, quitting was not an option.  When I took breaks on a turn-out, I was shaking, lightheaded, simply terrified.

Well I made it.  I had to dig deep that day, deeper than I ever had to for those nine hours on the bike. I felt like I moved mountains within myself; I dissolved barriers.

Fast-forward three years:  I am 9 weeks out from my PAO. The ultimate goal is not Ride The Rockies, its getting in the best shape I possibly can for my left PAO on March 6.  I am eating a clean diet with no alcohol, sugar or processed foods. I recommitted myself to an exercise program that will not hurt my hips. I realize it takes 100% commitment in the depths of my mind, body and spirit to not sway from this plan.  There are no other options. Once I fully committed every cell in my body to this plan, I have not missed any of the indulgences (sweets, alcohol, pizza, for example) from last year.

The beginning of a new year is a time for reflection and goal setting, I think its natural.  If you want to set goals and succeed, you have to get to that space in your mind and heart of wanting it more than anything and being 100% committed. For me, getting to that point of 100% commitment was the hard part, and its part of the journey. Like my ride up to Red Mountain Pass: once I began, there is no looking back.

Finish Line, 2010 Ride the Rockies
Finish Line, 2010 Ride the Rockies

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.

38 Steps

View of the mountains
View from my my apartment, Rocky Mountains, Boulder County

One evening  I was hosting book club at my place. My friend, Joy, arrives,  wine in hand and a bright smile on her face that can lift the darkest of moods.  While I am acquainted and am friends with many people in this area (thanks to work), I have a handful of close friends. Joy is one of them, and I take her advice seriously.

“I counted your stairs. You have 38 steps to climb. You should consider moving before your surgery,” she advises.

With a big heavy sigh (I find myself doing that a lot lately), I reply, “I know. We need to talk about it.”

Our lease is up January 23, 2014. My surgery in CA is March 6.  Plenty of time to decide. Many conversations occur. Debates, borderline arguments.  The fact is, the rental market is very tight in Boulder County, and was made even tighter due to the Boulder Flood in September and having thousands of people be displaced from their homes.  I live in a suburb about 10 miles east of Boulder.  We moved here in 2011, the 3rd story apartment was brand new, nicest place I have ever lived. Surrounded by open space, my home office where I spend most of my time, has a southern exposure window (read: lots of natural sunlight) and the living room, a west view of the Rocky Mountains.  We have a good deal on rent, considering the location.  We even have a year-round lap pool and a very nice gym, the perfect place to rehab after surgery!

One evening during one of our regular debates about moving, Shawn rebutted, “What you need to do is borrow some crutches and practice the stairs. When I broke my [lower] leg, I climbed 3 flights for 12 weeks on crutches and I was fine…”

Big heavy sigh, “OK, I will try it.” I am beginning to sound like Eeyore from Winnie the Poo.

I pick up some crutches from Joy. Wooden crutches with screws to adjust the height. Little did I know these are a bit antiquated. Upon seeing them, Shawn exclaims, “Oh, these are heavy! Surely the aluminum ones will be lighter. And they have buttons to adjust the height!”  Great, something to look forward to: crutch technology. What has my life come to? I used to be interested about new carbon fiber frames in road bikes or the newest shaped skis that will let me carve in powder, now I am dreaming of the newest Mobileg Ultra crutches for sale on Amazon.

While the wooden crutches lean against the living room wall for a few weeks, we spend time looking at first floor apartments. The one we like is about $400 more a month. Location not as great, and not as sunny. I can’t procrastinate any longer, we need to decide as we had to give 60 days notice if we were not to renew the lease.  I reluctantly try the stairs.

“So you do it like this and then lift your leg up and then repeat. See? Its easy!” Shawn instructs enthusiastically, planting both crutch legs on the step, then gracefully lifting his strong leg. Now, he is very sure-footed. Me: not so much.

“I hear using the railing is easier,” I reply.

“I never did that.  Try it this way first,” he instructs.

I am very hesitant. I have never been on crutches. Grace is certainly not my middle name. In fact, I was teased as a kid, the bullies at school called me “Un-coord” for “Uncoordinated.”  I have also been told I am just “not aware of of my body in space”, hence the klutziness.  Maybe that is why I was so driven athletically, to prove to myself and others that I can be accomplished in physical sport.  It was like a big “F.U.” to the bullies. Anyway, I place the crutch legs on the first step, left leg slightly lifted to simulate the injury. I try to activate my gluteus muscle and hip flexor of my right hip to get my right leg up to the step. I can’t get it to move! WTF? “Move already, dammit, you piece of shit leg!” I am screaming silently at my “good” hip and leg.

“Move the right leg up the step,” I hear.

“I can’t,” I reply.

“What do you mean you can’t? Just do it!”

“I CAN’T!” my eyes well up with tears, my voice quivers.  I cheat a bit by putting the left toe down so that I can get the right leg up. “Let me try the rail.”

I try the rail and that goes better, I can lean a lot of my body weight on the rail.  Apparently my right hip is not that much better than my left hip.  I do about 3 steps. I am incredibly frustrated.  “I am done for now.” By this time, I am crying in the middle of the stairwell, all for my neighbors to hear.

“Ok, you just need to practice,” Shawn says as he follows me back up the stairs.

I bee-line to my office, sit in my chair, bury my hands in my face and sob. And sob. And sob. I haven’t cried like that for several months. “What’s wrong?” Shawn asks.

“Nothing. Everything,” I manage.  It wasn’t so much the stairs. It was realizing my physical limitations. I found myself grieving for my loss of my physical capability.  While this is not a disability that will not last forever, it will be about a solid 18-20 months (1 year on each side, 6 months in between)  before I am “normal” again. And that is if all goes well.

Despite all this, I have a lot going for me. I have a lovely jewelry artist business that allows me to work from home and nourish my creative spirit. I have discovered metal-smithing, the newest love in my life. I have a handful of personal training clients that I still train and it keeps me in touch with the fitness industry. I have another business that I am trying to exit successfully for myself and my investors, and I have a great support network of friends and family to help me see me through this ordeal. And other than what I call “stupid hip dysplasia” (insert Homer Simpson voice) I am otherwise very healthy.

In conclusion, we decided to renew our lease. Any extra money while recovering from surgery will be used for bills.  Me crutch-walking stairs is my newest physical conquest, my new athletic sport. I better get to my training session!

Be an advocate, for yourself

For many of us diagnosed with hip dysplasia, there are a myriad of emotions that flood our psyche upon diagnosis: shock, fear, anger, depression, hope, anxiety, self-pity…you name it, we have probably felt it.   Being diagnosed with hip dysplasia and hearing what Doctor #1 had to say (see my former post, “Hip Dysplasia, isn’t that a dog’s disease?”) put me into a tailspin as what my PAO buddy/pen-pal, Jessica, aka Juicer6000, calls the “Dark night of the soul.”  I was forced to give up my outdoor passions and inadvertently, I gave up on a part of myself, my soul. I gave up on my health, rationalizing that I can eat and drink whatever I want. I really wasn’t interested in anything this year, except metal-smithing.  I believe my metal-smithing kept a part of me alive to want to “fix” my diagnosis and move on with my life.  Hence the journey of interviewing 6 surgeons and 1 physical therapist. Below is a summary of assessments, diagnosis’ and my reactions:

Doctor #1:  Dr. Stoll, Louisville, CO: March 30, 2013: Dx: Bilateral hip dysplasia. MRI shows extensive degeneration of labrum ligament on left, much less “diseased” on right.  Mild arthritis in left hip.  Solution: bilateral PAO with labrum repair, refer to 2 other doctors.

My reaction: “Ugh. OK.”

Doctor #2: Dr. Genuario, Steadman-Hawkins, Denver CO, May 15, 2013: Dx. same as above. Solution: double hip replacement, you are too old to have PAO, cut off is age 30 (I was 39 at the time). And then he says “By the way, you will need 3-4 more double hip replacements because they will wear out.”

My reaction: WHAT?!?!??!?! I come to a screeching halt. I thought, “There is no FUCKING way I am going to have 3-4 double hip replacements!”  Instead of just accepting Doctor #2’s solution, I decide to dig deeper, I am highly anxious, my cortisol levels must have been through the roof. I call to schedule an appointment with the second referral , Dr. White.

Doctor #3: Dr. White, Western Orthopedics, Denver CO June 14, 2013: Dx: same as  Dr. #1.  Solution: Labrum repair via hip arthroscopy, 6 weeks later PAO. Repeat on other side 4-5 months later. Refer to talk with Dr. Hugate, the PAO surgeon in Denver to confirm.

My reaction: Are you saying I need FOUR surgeries? FOUR? I am self-employed. The time off from surgery is unpaid. I have a high deductible. I cannot afford to do this.  But I cannot afford not to do this. I call Dr. Hugate. I am now in the midst of dark night of the soul.

(Note: by this time, I have found a great website by Kelly Ariagno, a physical therapist who has adult hip dysplasia and had LPAO surgery. I printed her page of “Questions to ask your PAO surgeon”)

Doctor #4: Dr. Hugate, Colorado Limb Specialists, Denver, CO, July 5, 2013. Dx. Same. Solution: same as Dr. White.  Dr. Hugate confirms being 39 is not too old, though it would have been ‘better’ if I was in my 20’s (if only I had a time machine…) Dr. Hugate elaborates, “We ‘could’ do it at the same time, but I really don’t like to. The hip arthroscopy causes so much swelling that its hard for me to see and reposition the hip socket.”

My reaction: To the last sentence: I want you to feel comfortable and confident when you are screwing my pelvis back together, so do not do them at the same time. I like Dr. Hugate. He is compassionate, professional, and he leveled with me. Though something still did not feel right about four surgeries, at least it didn’t for me. (sub-note: I now know people that have had this process done by White/Hugate and have had great results.)

I was about to accept my fate but something is nagging at me. I email Kelly, the PT in SF. I explain my situation. I inquire about scheduling a session with her, I am desperately trying to find more info about PAO and hip dysplasia. At this point, money is not a factor. This is my pelvis, my health, my life!  If I cannot walk without pain, what is the point in living? I needed more information.  She replies, “Why can’t they repair the ligament at the same time as the PAO? They did that with me without the arthroscopy.”  A light bulb went off in my head. My sister lives in the south Bay Area, so I rationalized it was an excuse for a little vacation. I needed a vacation, this doctor stuff was kicking my ass. And I can meet with Kelly for a session.

Kelly Ariagno, Physical Therapist, San Francisco, Sept. 9, 2013:  Dx: same                        Solution: Refer to Dr. Diab at UCSF and Dr. Bellino at Stanford to get their opinions on 2 vs. 4 total surgeries. In the meantime, strengthen core and hip stabilizers to prepare for PAO surgery.

My reaction: Guess I am buying another ticket to CA for October. At least the weather is nice that time of year, and I get to see my family again! I am starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel.

Doctor #5: Dr. Diab, University of California, San Francisco, October 23, 2013: Dx. same. Solution: PAO with labrum repair at same time (w/o arthroscopy), second operation minimum 6 months later, depending on healing of first operated leg. When I ask him about the separate surgeries for labrum repair via hip arthroscopy and PAO (and even brought up hip replacements) he replied, “There is no reason for that. Look, if you talk to a hip arthroscopic doctor, he will tell you that you need hip arthroscopy. If you talk to a hip replacement doctor, he will tell you that you need hip replacement. I do it all, I teach it all.  I am telling you we can do it in one surgery per side.”

My reaction: I love this doctor. He was ON TIME (shocker, right?) Came out to the waiting room to greet me personally. He was extremely compassionate (probably his nature of being a pediatric orthopedic surgeon) and sensitive.  Yet straightforward and honest. Confident but not cocky, he did not talk down to me. When I told him about how my lifestyle has been halted, he looked me straight in the eyes and said , “I am sorry, that must be very hard for you.” Wow, thank you for acknowledging that!  Anyway, while I felt like I decided on Dr. Diab, I still had an appointment with Dr. Bellino at Stanford.

Doctor #6: Dr. Bellino, Stanford University, October 25, 2013. Dx: same                               Solution: exact same response as Dr. Diab. In fact, he answered all my questions almost exactly the same as Dr. Diab.

My Reaction: Shit. I love Dr. Bellino too. Compassionate, professional, confident not cocky, did not talk down to me…they have very similar bedside manner and answered my questions almost exactly the same way. Tough decision. Very tough. I agonize over deciding. I talk to former patients of each. I meditate on this, I write it out pros and cons, I talk to my family, I do it all.  If nothing else, I am thorough.  I decide on Dr. Diab as he can get me in sooner.

In conclusion, when deciding on a PAO surgeon, do your homework, talk to former patients, and most importantly, listen to yourself and your reactions. Do what best resonates with YOU.

(NOTE: My surgery ended up being with Dr. Bellino ….read on to learn why!)

Only in my Dreams

Jen Triathlon 2002
Me in a triathlon, 2002

Last week, I was enjoying some deep sleep (a rarity for me these days) and was having a wonderful dream: I was running. Running fast, perfect form, not for any real purpose or goal, and most importantly, I was pain free.  It was perfect bliss, some sort of existential state of mind and spirit.  It felt SO REAL! When I awoke, I was sad that I woke up but happy I had the experience.  “Well,” I thought, “If I cannot run in real life, I will run in my dreams.”

Last night, I had another active dream. Perhaps its because I watched the documentary “Dust to Glory,”  a film about the Baja 1000. For those who compete, this race is certainly a big undertaking! Its like the Ididarod of motorsports.  In my dream, I won 2nd place overall; I can’t remember if I was on a motor-cross bike or driving one of those high-end dune-buggies.  I prefer to recall I was riding free on a motorcycle, at 110-miles per hour, jumping and flying through the air, in a perfect state of physical balance and mental acuity.  I experienced all the emotions that come with winning (or placing 1st-3rd), something that has not happened since my last triathlon in 2008.

Somehow, I have moved past the stress/fear-based dreams (or should I say, night terrors) that I was having a month ago and now I am dreaming about wonderful physically active experiences. I wake up happy.  I’ll take happy, and I’ll take whatever physically-active experiences I can have, even if its only in my dreams.

Hip Dysplasia, Isn’t that a Dog’s Disease?

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.