I’ve gotten so much value out of Pat’s Surface Hippy site over the past 4 years, that I felt compelled to give some back now that I just had my left hip resurfaced a little less than 2 weeks ago by Dr. Gross. I’m not quite sure what to put in my story so if I am covering things that are not important and omitting things that are, please just let me know and I’m happy to provide any details.
I just turned 53 back in September of this year but my hip story starts almost 5 years ago. I’ve been very physically active since my young 20’s. Nothing crazy but consistent in moderate weight lifting, daily elliptical (about 30 mins daily at high intensity), daily walking of between 2-5 miles, and very obsessive tennis playing on hard courts as a competitive recreational player. The tennis routine involved hitting almost 600 serves a day, running all over the court battling a ball machine for over an hour most days, and having at least 3 to 4 knock down drag out singles matches each week which usually went about 3 hours. And I did that for over 25 years. I’m not sure if all the pounding on the hard courts caused it, or all the repetitive collapsing and exploding off the left leg for serve practice (when you are a righty, your left leg needs to collapse at the knee and hip and then explode off the ground up into the serve) or if there was just a genetic predisposition or if it was the confluence of all those factors. But all I know is that when I was about 48, I started having the hip problems (ironically no knee problems even now).
To speed up the story, as the condition got progressively worse over the past 5 years I continued to try to maintain my active lifestyle but had to tone down the tennis significantly. And during those 5 years I researched everything and tried almost everything to avoid or delay surgery (physical therapy, massage, every joint and herb supplement known to man, Hyaluronic Acid Injections (Supartz) into the hip, and finally stem cell (my own) therapy this past May of this year). Nothing worked and I hate to say it because I am a big believer in biological solutions working eventually, but not only did the stem cell injections not help (and I had it done at a very reputable research hospital) but I think it made it worse and accelerated the degeneration of my hip. During the earlier part of those 5 years I actually gave up tennis for 2 years. The Supartz was surprisingly successful. A series of 3 injections did get me back on the court a couple of years ago, but as forewarned, with each successive series of injections, there would be diminishing returns. For 3 years running, I did a series of 3 (3 weeks apart) in 2014 (success), 2015 (smaller success), and 2016 (no success). So I roughed it through 2017 and most of 2018 and as I did, my limp got worse, my tennis results and enjoyment dropped like a rock (my wife and I used to consistently dominate our leagues as division winners and now we were losing even playing at a lower level every match because I simply could not get to the ball and when I could, my hip would not let me load and explode into the stroke.
All during these past 5 years I was keeping abreast of everything going on in the hip resurfacing world. I had met with Dr. Gross and his wonderful staff (Nancy, Lee, Crystal, etc.) a few times during that period but was simply not ready to pull the trigger on the surgery yet. They were always supportive and helpful. Even when I bothered them to send my latest xrays to my stem cell hospital in prep for that treatment, they were extremely supportive and helpful. I always knew that when I exhausted options, I would go to Dr. Gross for the HR surgery.
So what made me finally do it? Well, 5 years ago it was about accepting the fact that my tennis would continue to decline but then it started to effect other parts of my life. I could no longer enjoy my daily walks with my wife (though that did not stop me – we still did at least 2 miles a day together) because I simply couldn’t keep up with her and every step I took hurt. Then the limp really got noticeable even in daily life. All kinds of people (known and unknown) were coming up to me alarmed saying “oh my gosh – are you all right? Why are you limping so bad?” Even my stem cell Dr. told me I was deluding myself if I thought it was ok to go on walking like this and that the pain was “really not so bad.” After the stem cell therapy failure, he implored me to get the HR surgery to restore my quality of life. He told me it would start to effect my other joints and back if I could not get this corrected. And I’m pretty stubborn so I persisted in my insistence that I was fine and I could live without tennis and walking right, etc. And then it reached a new level when I literally started falling down from the hip frequently giving out without warning. I didn’t even have to be walking. I could be standing up talking on the phone in my home office and just lean a little bit back and boom – the hip would collapse and down I would go on the floor (carpet thank God). This falling started happening almost daily. And although I kept walking and doing elliptical right up until my surgery 2 weeks ago, it had become almost impossible. I had to keep stopping on the walks and when we finally got through the snail-paced walk, I would collapse on the couch at home for at least an hour before the pain would go away enough to where I could get up and shower. The stairs became a nightmare too. Had to hold on to both rails and very gingerly walk up and down always supporting my weight with my hands just in case the hip gave out on the way up or down. My stem cell Dr. finally convinced me that I had exhausted every other possibility and it was really time to have the surgery. And a lot of kind folks on this site really helped me by patiently answering my tiresome questions over and over again.
So on to the surgery. Dr. Gross did what so far seems to be a great job on me in late October this year and almost 2 weeks post-op I am seeing (and feeling) the light at the end of the tunnel. At first, 4-5 years ago when I was telling my family about HR, they were very skeptical (of having any surgery) and did everything to dissuade me. And it didn’t take much because I certainly was hoping to avoid surgery. But this past year, all the same people who love me most felt strongly it was time to do it. They saw my limp get really bad and saw me fall a few times and it is quite disarming to watch someone just collapse and fall. I had taken it to the limit. As Dr. Gross verified back in July, I was “bone on bone.”
So it’s kind of early to declare victory not even 2 weeks post op, but I can tell you that everyone who has known me throughout says the same thing when they see me walk now (with and without cane) – “oh my gosh, you’re walking so much better now! I realize now how bad that limp was! Too bad you didn’t do this 2 years ago!” So I’ve still got a long way to go in recovery. My bone density is good so I am on the fast recovery track and I do see major improvements every day. I am supposed to use the cane around the house still for another week or so, but truth be told – I’m walking so well without it that I forget to grab it sometimes. There’s still pain when I walk too much and the first week was really rough to get through. I am very lucky to have a supportive wonderful wife who not only waited for me as we walked thru all those miles together, and patiently shared the court with me as we lost over and over again, but also took great care of me though these first 2 weeks at home.
The biggest caution I would call out to anyone about to have the surgery is this (this is the mistake I made in my recovery) – when you’re in the hospital for the first day, the staff makes sure they stay ahead of your pain with meds. When I got home the next afternoon after a 4 hour drive, the pain hit me like a ton of bricks. The anesthesia had worn off right when I got home and I was not paying attention to the specific pain med instructions. So the sudden onset of pain upon arriving home was quite alarming. My wife was trying to tell me I was not timing and dosing the multiple pain meds correctly but I kept on refusing to take it all and to take it on time. So I went through 2 very days at home where the pain was bad. Just getting up off the bed or couch in the morning to try to brush my teeth or shave was almost impossible. An then trying to make it through the 15 minutes of brushing/shaving was pretty unbearable. I felt faint and feverish. I would collapse on the couch right after in a full sweat. And sleeping was really hard. But as soon as I called Nancy, the head RN in Dr. Gross’ practice, she gave me very explicit instructions on how to do the pain meds correctly. And sure enough that was the trick. Within a few hours my pain was finally under control. And within a few days after that I was totally off pain meds and just using tylenol. And now for the past few days I don’t even need tylenol.
So my cautionary tale is this: Don’t get lulled into a false sense of being further along the initial recovery than you really are. There’s a dip about 2 days after surgery which needs close and consistent attention to pain med regimen. I also made the mistake of trying to work (from home) on the days right after the surgery. In hindsight, I would have taken that entire week off work. But the good news is that I am doing and feeling great now. I’m still taking it easy, but I get up every morning on time, shower and shave (sans all the pain and drama now), and I work all day, and I am finally sleeping through the night with no problem these past few days with no pain meds. One tough thing is that having to sleep on your back all the time without switching positions is hard. I just last night got to the point where i can sleep on my good side for about an hour at a time. My wife has been by my side the whole time and has helped me out a lot with pain meds and just talking me off the ledge in those first few days when I would wake up halfway through the night agitated and in discomfort.
Another thing – the phase 1 exercises are important! I did not do them at first and was waking up with cramping. As soon as I did them each day (they are really easy and not time consuming), the cramps stopped and I started sleeping straight thru the night.
So again – I’m no expert, but I feel like things are tracking well now and I’m getting back to my old self (sans the limp!). Don’t get me wrong, the hip still is stiff and soar after a little walking around, but every day it gets better. And like I said, I went from barely being able to walk with the walker in the first few days to walking well with the cane a few days later to where I am now which is having to remind myself to use the cane.
That’s about it for now, but I’ll try to keep everyone up to date as I progress. My aspirations are to be able to start enjoying daily walks with my wife outside at the 5 and 6 week mark, to be able to get back on the elliptical 3 months post op, and to be able to ease back into tennis at the 6 month mark. Also thinking about a family ski trip in April but not sure I’ll be ready yet.
Please let me know if there’s anything I can answer for anyone. My goal here is to give back. If there’s anyone going through any of the past stages I’ve been through, I’m happy to share my experiences if it is of any help.