Tag Archives: Stanford hospital

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.


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…


I think its human nature that we are quick to label circumstances as “good” or “bad.”  My earlier posts about being diagnosed with bilateral hip dysplasia at the age of 39 and navigating my way to treatment showed that it certainly rocked my world, and shook me to the depths of my core.  At that time, my diagnosis was BAD and the inevitable surgeries were BAD!  For the past two years, hip dysplasia and PAO surgeries forced me to ponder the “why?”, the “how?” and the “when?”  of all aspects of my life.

Two days ago I had my second  Physical Therapy appointment,  my first real workout since surgery (the first PT session was mainly an evaluation).  I came home and my right glute  was on fire (in a good way; look out “bun of steel!”).  Tired and bored, I decided it was a fine time for an afternoon nap.  I awoke suddenly to realize the sun was setting.  I was perplexed that I slept that long: two hours!  I managed to get myself out of the groggy slumber and once I did, my phone rang.  I glanced at the caller ID, and it showed “Stanford Ortho.”  I scrambled to reach the phone and I quickly answered with a cautious “Hello?”

“Hi Jen! This is Rachael at Dr. Bellino’s office,” Rachael greeted cheerfully.

“You are not calling to reschedule my post op appointment, are you?” I questioned. (This is kinda a joke between us as I am a long distance patient and once my travel plans are set, they are set in stone.)

With a laugh, she replied “Oh, no.  Dr. Bellino and I were talking about you today and we were wondering if you wouldn’t mind being a reference for a patient.” [Long story short, this poor woman got the news about hip dysplasia and PAO surgery and is terrified.]

“Of course.  I’d be happy to be talk to her.  Yes, the news about PAO surgery IS terrifying!”  I replied.

We chatted for a bit and when I hung up, I smiled.  I was touched that they thought of me to be a reference.

The next day, (yesterday) my PAO buddy that Jessica and I visited in the hospital, Jenni, had her follow-up with Dr. Bellino.  I messaged to ask how it went, and she responded that it went well. She then proceeded to share that she mentioned Jessica and me to Dr. Bellino, and mentioned that he responded  “how rare it is that a patient would extend herself in that way” [to visit a fellow PAO patient in the hospital].   I was blown away.  First of all, its my nature to go beyond the expected, especially if it means helping someone who is have a tough time.  I don’t think anything of it….then I started thinking more about PAO surgery and recovery (what I call the “PAO life”), and I had an epiphany:

I felt the threads in connectivity come alive.  The crazy journey of getting diagnosed in Colorado, researching adult hip dysplasia on the internet and found Kelly Ariagno’s website (a PT in SF who had her PAO with Dr. Diab) which led me to fly out and meet Kelly for a session, who encouraged me to consult with Dr. Diab and Dr. Bellino, which led to another trip out to CA to consult with said surgeons, to researching “Diab Bellino PAO” on the Internet and finding Jessica’s blog, which led us to becoming pen pals and fast friends, to her recommending the PAO Facebook support group, to the cancellation of surgery with Dr. Diab and reschedule with Dr. Bellino….well, I can go on and on, but I realize it was all for  a reason.  In addition to learning some life lessons that PAO surgery and recovery has taught me (patience, process),  I sit here in bed and feel so incredibly blessed to have a whole new circle of friends through the PAO Facebook support group, most of which I have never met.  We cheer each other on and share our experiences as needed.

Helping and empowering people to see the light in their darkest of times, that is my purpose.  Having my surgeon recognize that just reinforces my purpose.  I am such a better person after going through such a brutal elective surgery on both hips, it truly has transformed my body, mind and spirit.  In the end, the hip dysplasia diagnosis and PAO surgery recoveries have been GOOD, not bad!  Its probably been one of the best things to happen to me.  I have Dr. Bellino, the team at Stanford Hospital and Clinics, my Physical Therapist, my PT Aide, my support team at home and my fellow group of PAO warriors to thank for enabling me to have a purpose to Shine.  And as I type this, I realized my blog theme is “Shine On.”  Yes, Shine On…everything comes around full circle.



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

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

day 1 post op
Doing “the pose”

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

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

Discharged! Walker hug with my PAO roomie, Jolene

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

at the beach
Half Moon Bay, 1.5 weeks post op

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

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

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


Beauty in Chaos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luxury Stay at Stanford

I was fortunate enough to have my own private hospital room. My view from the window was a beautiful flower garden.  Days 1 and 2 were pretty smooth sailing in terms of pain management. I had my epidural in for those 2 days and my pain level never got above a level 3 (on a scale of 1 to 10).  Even being hooked up to 2 wound drains, IV, foley catheter and epidural, I managed to take 3 steps with the walker the day after surgery. Loved ones came and went, gifting me with flowers, candy and stuffed animals.  My appetite came back quickly and I was able to select from a room service menu that looked like a menu from a regular restaurant.  Turkey and gravy with cornbread dressing or basil Thai noodles and a side of baby back ribs?  Oh…decisions!

On day 3, the epidural came out and they began me on oral pain meds: oxycontin, oxycodone, prescription strength acetametaphin, gabapentin (nerve pain), DOK (stool softener), and zofran (anti-nausea).  While my pain level never went above a 3, my overall well-being started to decline. The nursing staff was still not pleased with my low blood pressure (it was an average of 80/48) and I was told I had a low red blood cell count, but not low enough to receive a blood transfusion. (I lost about 800ml blood during surgery). Dazed and confused, my nausea came back times 10. I couldn’t sit up, I could barely eat. They skipped PT and OT on day 3 because of the low blood pressure and my nausea. The nursing staff, all who were very caring and sensitive to my needs, gave me additional anti-nausea medicine, but it didn’t seem to work. I just tried to sleep as much as possible as that was the only way I felt o.k.

Day 4 the foley catheter came out and now I had to pee using the bedside commode. Did I mention how happy I was to have a private room? I was fortunate to be able to urinate easily and without pain, though I almost passed out every time I got up to pee. By the end of the day, I realized I had had enough with the nausea.  There had to be something they could do for me. I asked nurse Irene, an older RN who was no nonsense though it was apparent her patients’ comfort was her top priority. I talked to her about how I was feeling and she said I was maxed out on all the current anti-nausea meds (zofran and other IV bolus’). She agreed to call the Resident on call to see what can be done. I explained to Irene I had phenegran in the recovery room and it was effective.

Irene came back and said that at first the Resident said, “well, she will just have to get used to the nausea.” Not easily intimidated, Irene proposed my suggestion of oral phenegran, and finally the resident conceded.  I started to feel better, but was still not 100%. The thought of getting in a car for 30 minutes to my sister’s house seemed impossible. They let me stay another day.

Day 5: On the mend from the extreme nausea, I felt my appetite return and I was determined to regain some of my strength. The nurse told me my systolic blood pressure (the “top” number) had to get  above 90 in order for me to get discharged. I decided to distract myself by making my stuffed animal cat dance to Journey songs on the Mp3 player and it made me laugh.  That odd trick worked with raising my blood pressure. Perhaps laughter is the best medicine.  Once PT cleared me, my discharge was in process. When it was 4:00, I was feeling ready to move on to the next phase of my recovery, at Chez Sudre (my sister’s house).  It was time.

Overall, my hospital stay was quiet and comfortable. The Stanford nursing staff is second-to none. Dr. Bellino visited me every day except for once. My room was awesome with that garden view, and the food was actually not half-bad. In a way, I was sad to leave but I had to continue on the road to recovery.