By Laura Zolis
A couple of months before Christmas last year, I started to experience pain in my hips. It was occurring more frequently and it would tend to happen after doing any form of physical activity. In the beginning, I thought I might have been overworking my body too hard. Maybe I was shaking my hips too hard on the d-floor or running around too much during the long shifts at my retail job. All I knew was that every time I did some exercise or went to work, I wouldn’t be able to move afterwards. Sometimes the pain would become so severe that I would remain in bed all day. I didn’t ever think that as a healthy 19 year-old girl, I would need major surgery anytime soon.
I was diagnosed with bilateral hip dysplasia in late January this year, a couple of months after I went to the doctors about my hip problem. After various unsuccessful ultrasounds that displayed nothing, I undertook an MRI that presented me with the root of my sudden pain. Hip dysplasia is a developmental deformation or misalignment of the hip joint that is more common in females than in males. I had never heard of it before, but apparently it is a condition that is checked in babies because it arises during the birth stage. Unfortunately, until only recently they wouldn’t screen babies for this deformation otherwise it could have been rectified immediately if it had been discovered when I was born. One moment my family and I had never heard of this ‘hip dysplasia’ and the next moment our lives were surrounded by it.
Fortunately-and this is the extremely positive part- it can be fixed through a peri-acetabular osteotomy (PAO) surgery, leading to a full recovery. We were told that there was only one surgeon in the whole of Australia who could successfully conduct the surgery and who is a well-respected expert in the area. We were grateful that he resides in Melbourne, where we also live. After an informative and reassuring appointment with the surgeon, we determined that I would need a PAO on both hips which would be conducted on two separate occasion, and in the meantime needed to ensure that no further damage would occur to my bones and ligaments. I organised the surgery to be performed after my exams in July at the Avenue hospital, being six months after I was diagnosed with the condition.
Suddenly my life became all about doctor’s appointments, endless medical imaging and the reduction of all forms of exercise and outings. As an energetic and zealous 19 year old, this has been the most challenging part for me. It meant a lot of time away from university and social gatherings, and a lot of time lying in bed watching Netflix. This doesn’t seem so bad from an outside perspective, but for someone who used to always fill their time with friends, work, uni and other passions, it was a swift and significant change. I kept missing out on days at uni and struggled to keep up with my classes. Living in relentless pain did not help the situation in the slightest, and once I acknowledged how bad the situation became, I met with the surgeon and we negotiated a much closer date for surgery.
I had my first surgery on the 21st May. By this point I had been walking on crutches for the past two months and attending uni and work had become impossible. I was not in the slightest bit concerned about the actual surgery as I had complete faith in my surgeon’s knowledge and experience. Furthermore, I was just grateful that it could be fixed, as there is nothing more important than knowing that eventually I could resume my normal life.
The surgeon operated on the hip that had been causing me the most grief and explained to me that once it recovered, my other hip would be relieved of some pain. I remained at the hospital for a week and was lucky to be visited by friends and family everyday and had some lovely nurses taking care of me. However I was surprised by the pain I was in and my complete lack of mobility, which was worse than I imagined. I had to keep reminding myself that I had just been through major surgery, and recovery was going to be slow but I was guaranteed to get better. I was just impatient to improve immediately so I could go out and do the things I haven’t been able to do for months, but of course it was going to take time.
Four weeks down the track, I am seeing slight improvements on a daily basis. I have just become strong enough to leave the house to see friends, but I will continue on crutches for at least the next few weeks. I’m still on strong pain medication and limited in my mobility, however the worst of it is over! Now the next step is doing my physiotherapy each day (which takes an unprecedented amount of motivation) to become strong enough to walk without crutches. The following step in the long term will be the second surgery, which will be in about six months. Naturally I’m not quite prepared to start thinking about it now!