Pauline’s Story

In 1997, I developed right hip pain in my last trimester of pregnancy. The pain disappeared and then returned in 1998, but I attributed it to carrying a baby on my hip. I slowly developed a chronic limp with occasional pain. I visited an M.D. about my chronic limp in 1999. She prescribed a vigorous exercise program, like jogging, to stimulate blood flow to a hole she saw in my cartilage. That was just what I wanted to hear; I simply needed more exercise. I happily committed myself to a vigorous step exercise program with weights. Within 6 months, I could barely walk. In 2000, an orthopedic surgeon diagnosed my hip problem as Avascular Necrosis. The blood supply to my femoral head had been damaged and my femoral head was showing signs of necrosis. He gave me no information, explanation or recommendation other than, “You’ve probably got 10 years before you need a hip replacement.“ By this time I was in chronic pain and could not walk without a limp. “HA!” I thought, “Aren’t you listening? How am I supposed to care for my children? How can I run a business?” He didn’t even suggest a follow-up appointment.

I began researching AVN and discovered the different intermediate cures like core decompression and fibula grafts. I made appointments with top orthopedic surgeons across the country. The diagnoses differed, but all agreed that after the course of the last several years, the destruction now included both the acetabulum and the femoral head. Only a hip replacement could deliver me from my pain and disability. Unfortunately, since traditional hip replacements last only 8-10 years, the advice I received was to live my life on crutches and endure excruciating pain until I was older.

I resigned myself until one day my 8-year old son asked me to walk down the block to see his skateboard trick. I set off without my cane and halfway there I broke down, collapsed on to the road, and cried. I just couldn’t take another step. I realized then just how incapacitated I had become. Determined not to live this way, I became committed to finding a solution to my health problems and began a long year of research on the Internet.

I discovered ceramic/ceramic hip replacements, used with young people in Europe for years, but which had not yet been approved by the FDA for use in the US. One study showed that even after 20 years in use, the ceramic bearing surfaces showed no perceivable wear. I began my search for a doctor who could provide this miracle – I was prepared to travel anywhere.

Imagine my utter surprise and delight to find that Dr. Todd Swanson, an orthopedic surgeon in Las Vegas, could provide this very specialized hip replacement in conjunction with his participation in an FDA trial. The further blessing is that Dr. Swanson is world renowned for his mini-incision hip replacement, which utilizes a small 3-4 inch incision, as opposed to the traditional 10-inch incision. I discussed my situation with Dr Swanson and was thoroughly impressed with his expertise in ceramics and the fact he had done over 1000 mini-incision hip replacements. When I left Dr Swanson’s office, I felt hope return to my life. I immediately scheduled surgery for June 18, 2001.

I was amazed that my recovery from surgery was so rapid and relatively painless. The first two days after surgery I was very groggy and nauseous. On the third day, I realized that I had been using the patient administered morphine according to other people’s suggestions rather than in response to real pain. I used very little morphine that day and felt immediate relief from the nausea and was much more alert. That was the last day I used morphine. I took Darvocet for pain on the fourth and fifth day post-op and never needed pain medication again. For the rest of my recovery I took only aspirin, Tylenol PM and an occasional TUMS. My main discomfort was tenderness in my right knee and for that I used a heating pad. The muscle soreness was also relieved by the exercises the PT gave me to be done while lying in bed.

Ten days post-op, the Physical Therapist visited and I walked ten blocks in the house with a walker without pain or a limp. Fourteen days post-op, the Physical Therapist advanced me to a cane. This was one of the happiest days of my life; I was able to walk without pain or a limp for the first time in years. At this time, I was walking twice daily for about 20-30 minutes each session. I also did the exercises the PT taught me 2-3 times a day. I had to concentrate on my gait to retrain myself not to limp. Three weeks post-op, I began walking outside with trekking poles. It was wonderful to get outside and the trekking poles helped me maintain an even gait. By four weeks post-op, I was walking outside with the trekking poles for 40 minutes to one hour twice daily. This was beyond my greatest expectations. It had been years since I had walked 40 minutes even once a day. I never expected that I would be able to walk for an hour, pain free only 4 weeks after surgery. I was leaving the world of counting every blasted painful step far behind me and I was thrilled! I was tickled to go to my six week appointment with no walker, no crutches, no pain and no limp. I was released from all restrictions at that appointment. I took my first outing to the mall and I walked for two hours – just waiting for the hip pain to accompany me – it never happened. I began swimming and exercising in the pool, which was wonderful for improving my range of motion. Even after riding the stationary bike for 30 minutes my hip had no complaints.

To look at me now, no would ever guess that two years ago I was a very sick woman who couldn’t walk one block without crutches or a cane. Since my hip replacement I have met many other young people with hip problems who have traveled from all over the US and the world to take advantage of Dr Swanson’s mini-incision and ceramic components. My mini-incision hip replacement with Dr Swanson was nothing less than a miracle. I am now able to work out, practice yoga, rock climb, dance, bike and chase my kids up the stairs. I am thrilled that the news is spreading that there are solutions for young people with hip disease and that minimally invasive surgery is available right here in Las Vegas.

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