March 13, 2011 About six years ago, I slipped on some ice on our concrete steps of our old house. My feet went out from under me and I fell with all of my weight right on to the greater trochanter of the femur of my left hip. It jammed the joint so hard I had to lay there for awhile as tears rolled down my cheeks. That was the beginning of the end of an otherwise good hip.
If that wasn’t enough… I did the same thing again later on and managed to fall on that same hip in various ways about six more times. As time went on, my hip became very painful and I slowly lost most of the ranges of motion. That also caused the muscles to become weakened. I did a lot of sitting and slowly but surely stopped most activities. No walking, lawn mowing, snow shoveling, motorcycle riding, cowboy action shooting… pretty much everything I liked to do became too painful to do.
I had let my Blue Cross/Blue Shield insurance drop some years before figuring I could just buy another policy some day. Wrong! Nobody would insure me because of preexisting conditions. So, I kept putting it off and lived with the pain.
In June of 2010, I decided that I had to do something about the bad hip or I’d be dead within a couple of years at the rate I was going downhill. For $647.00 per month, I purchased insurance through North Dakota’s high risk pool known as CHAND (Comprehensive Health Association of ND). They repeated assured me that after the first six months that all preexisting conditions that are deemed medically necessary would be paid for.
So, the end of November of 2010 I made my appointment to see Dr. David Palmer of the St. Croix Orthopaedic Clinic in Stillwater, MN (about a 5 hour drive for me from Grand Forks, ND). He evaluated me and said that I was a very good candidate for the BHR (even though I weigh 390 pounds). Out of the more than 650 BHR’s he had done, only two failures and revisions to THR were needed. One was a heavy person such as myself and one was a woman with osteoporosis. We set the date for the surgery for January 3rd and I returned home excitedly anticipating the surgery.
Almost immediately, I received a letter from CHAND saying that they were not going to pay for such a surgery and their staff MD (whose job it is to deny claims) said it was because I am overweight. A letter from Dr. Palmer and an appeal didn’t do much. I had the ND State Insurance Commissioner contact them and all they did was refer it to yet another of CHAND’s staff MD’s for a second opinion and they said it would be another 45+ days before they would decided anything.
So, I contacted Senator Kent Conrad and he contacted CHAND on my behalf. It’s interesting that CHAND decided they would indeed pay for the surgery that very same day.
So, the surgery date was again scheduled for February 9th. We drove down to Stillwater on the 8th and I had my blood drawn again for the last of the pre-op work. We stayed overnight in a motel. My hip was aching so badly that I had to sit in a chair all night waiting for the sun to come up.
We reported to the Lakeview Hospital at 7:00 am as instructed and they prepped me for the surgery. They tried to do a spinal block but couldn’t get a good needle stick. So, they opted for a general anesthetic instead. The last I knew, they were telling me to take several deep breaths.
The surgery lasted about 90 minutes and the next thing I knew I was waking up in a private room in the hospital. I was very impressed with the staff and the cleanliness of the hospital. The worst thing was the crappy hospital food. (There must be an unwritten rule about that somewhere.)
They had me up and walking on the new hip that same day. I had to demonstrate that I could get in and out of bed, go to the bathroom, etc. several times and by noon on the 11th they released me. After a five hour drive we arrived home again that Friday evening.
Since then, I’ve improved daily. I only used pain meds for about a week, warfarin for two weeks and I am currently on the 325 mg aspirin for a month. Other than that… it’s wonderful!
I have just a hint of bone pain surrounding the BHR. Most of my pain involves my low back and getting used to walking upright again.
Just for the heck of it, I added up the bills I’ve received. Including the pre-op work and the surgery, it came to $44,588.80. My total out of pocket was $3000.00 + $6,470.00 for 10 months of CHAND.
I now feel like I have my life back again! Just as soon as this nasty icy winter weather is gone I intend on getting out of the house and doing some walking. Until then, I walk around in the house. PT wasn’t required but has been approved if I do need it.
The only thing I would recommend is to not let it wait as long as I did. I had one fluid filled cyst in the femoral head that was luckily just under the 1 cm maximum. I did my homework for a couple of years and SurfaceHippy was a great tool. I decided that the BHR was indeed the best way to go for a hip and I found an excellent surgeon who had done a lot of them.
Dr. Palmer made an approximately 9.25″ horizontal incision for my BHR, made a posterior approach and spread the piriformis, gamelli, and obturator muscles (external rotators) instead of cutting them as has been done in the past. I’m completely amazed at how little trauma the surgery did to me. Obviously, this method is far superior in that no muscles need to be reattached.
March 25, 2011 This morning, I discovered that I can walk backwards unaided. That’s something I haven’t done in a couple of years. I can also walk for short distances without a walker or a can. I waddle like a duck though.
But, I seem to be improving daily. Hopefully, all of the snow and ice will go away so I can get out more. It’s been a LONG winter.
I’d say about 99% of the pain is gone as of today. There’s only a tiny bit of a sensation in the surrounding bone. Otherwise, it’s just like a “normal” hip again. Some of the muscles are still weak from a couple of years of not being able to move much.
Bottom line: Don’t put it off as long as I did if at all possible.
May 14, 2011 I’ve been going into the PT torture chamber three times per week for about a month now.
Although the Birmingham fixed my hip, I hadn’t realized how weak some of my muscles had gotten. Mainly the flexors and abductors had gotten so weak they were almost non-existent. Not being able to move my arthritic hip very little to none in some directions made the muscles atrophy.
When I first started the PT I was put on a Nu-Step recumbent cross trainer stepper machine. The resistance can be set on a scale of 1-10. With it set to 2, I was able to do about 50 steps initially. After one week, with it set to 6, I could do 1000. Now, after about a month, I can readily do 20 minutes with it set to 7 and at a rate of 70-80 steps per minute. Plus, we are doing all sorts of things for the rest of the hour to build the muscles.
The bottom line is I am not using a walker (my wife put it in the basement a few weeks ago) and, I’m using my cane less and less. It won’t be too long until I can walk without any support for the first time in years. I can go for short distances now but due to the muscle weakness, I tend to have a “waddle” gate. I was demonstrating my new-found ability to my wife a couple of days ago and it caused my youngest beagle to start howling. He’d never seen me do that before and it apparently scared the heck out of him.
May 24, 2011 I had a really great first impression with Dr. Palmer and his nurse Karen. The more I got to know about Dr. Palmer the more I liked him. One thing that really impressed me is how he spends two weeks every year doing medical missionary work in Africa.
Outside of that, Dr. Palmer was pleased to answer any questions I had for him including his failure percentage and infection percentage. Both were infinitesimally small.
One thing that did surprise me because I had assumed the posterior approach involved severing the small external hip rotators was that Dr. Palmer doesn’t. The muscles are spread apart enough to gain access to the femoral head. That in itself literally gave me a “leg up” in the healing process.
If I hadn’t waited so long to have the surgery my muscles wouldn’t have atrophied as they did. But, the wonderful thing about the human body is that it can heal itself in such circumstances. It just takes time.
I just came home from grocery shopping with my wife. The first time since last year! Another sign that I’m returning to “normal” as time goes on.
November 7, 2011 I’ve been so busy doing things I haven’t done in years the past few months have just flown by.
Things like walking all over the grocery store doing my own shopping without an electric “gimp cart”… I’m doing it all under my own power.
I was able to compete in the 13th Annual Minnesota Bordertown Shootout. I haven’t been able to do so for the past few years. I used my electric scooter to take away a good portion of the stress of a two-day competition. But, I was able to compete and I took a 5th Place!
I’ve been out at the gun club range shooting a rifle I’ve owned for about four years but had been unable to go to the range. I have even been walking out to the 100 yard backstop to post and pick my own targets. I use my cane just in case I might need to catch my balance if I were to trip. But, I’ve been doing it just fine.
Bits and pieces of my life are coming back together and I’m looking forward to doing more of my hobbies next summer. I have an old BMW motorcycle I’d like to get back to riding. And, I used to have a lot of fun flying radio controlled airplanes. I want to do both of those next summer!
It’s amazing how having a hip fixed can literally change a person’s life.
I’m looking forward to another fishing trip to the Lake of the Woods with my son and grandson. There’s so much to look forward to now!
January 26, 2012 It will be a year next week since my BHR surgery. My walker and heavy duty cane have been stored away for so long I don’t even think of them anymore. I have a light weight cane in my van but I never grab for it and haven’t for months. I tend to walk carefully if I get on ice but other than that… I’d say I’m as “normal” as a person can get.
The next step in the tune-up process is to go to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN and have a cervical spinal surgery. Snowmobiles, motorcycles, car wrecks, whiplash twice and a nasty fall 8 years ago all added up. Both arms and hands go numb a lot. But, Dr. Krauss is listed as the No. 2 neurosurgeon in the USA currently and Mayo is “only” a 6 1/2 hour drive from here.
It’s so nice to have the BHR I can’t express how wonderful it is. I’m so glad that Pat has this website and that I did my homework. Otherwise, I would have just taken what was handed to me out of ignorance.