My hip problem began with a slip back in 1995 that caused me to bend over severely at my waist and touch my chest against the top of my right thigh. Interestingly, the extreme twisting of my leg at the hip didn’t hurt at all. Much later, I would find out that I had traumatized the joint and damaged “something” which set forth a slow degradation of the cartilage between the hip socket and ball of the femur.
After about six (6) months from the time of my slip, running and/or any exercise that involved impact or load bearing on my hips would cause soreness in the area of my right hip. Numerous doctor visits, x-rays and MRIs were not able to identify to source of the soreness and no cartilage loss was detectable. I was 39 years old!
Fortunately, the hip soreness did not prevent me from accepting oil & gas engineering assignments around the world for the next several years. In most locations I was able to run, hike and play tennis. I even hiked up some difficult mountains in Venezuela and experienced the same soreness during the activity and afterwards. When back in Houston, I continued my usual routine of weight training, competitive tennis and running.
In 2004 I made an appointment to see a sports medicine doctor. The soreness after exercise was now more intense along with some pain. I was also losing the flexibility in my right hip and had some difficulty bending over to put on my socks. The doctor took an x-ray, which now showed degradation of the cartilage in my right hip socket. His advice was to stop all impact-related exercise in order to make the joint to last as long as possible. He commented “you’re too young for a hip replacement”! From this point forward, no more running and no more tennis! I was 48 years old.
Just prior to starting a new assignment in January of 2005, I decided to seek the advice of an orthopaedic surgeon who came highly recommend as being very experienced. Rightly or wrongly, my rational was to talk with a medical professional who specialized in corrective surgery, just to educate myself on the options that might be available. And what better place than Houston, TX, where the downtown medical center is a city in itself! I knew another x-ray would be taken, and this one told the story. By now, I had very little space between the hip socket and femur ball. As a comparison, an x-ray of my left hip showed no cartilage degradation at all.
Unfortunately the surgeon was a “jerk”. His “bedside” manner was awful, and displayed annoyance that I wasn’t ready to sign up for a hip replacement! He even said, “Look, you’ve got bad genes in your right hip. Have the hip replaced and get on with your life”! And, when I persisted with questions about the procedure he said, “You engineers are my worst patients! You guys always want to know the details of the procedure”!!
To say the least, that was the last time I wanted to talk with that guy. However, I knew my hip would never be the same again. All I could think about was the possibility of no more physical activity, international work and adventure. Emotionally, this wasn’t a very good time for me.
As fate would have it, I watched a segment on “60 Minutes” in early 2005 that highlighted how many Americans without health insurance would travel to Thailand and India for medical procedures. An Indian doctor being interviewed explained a “hip resurfacing” procedure that they were using. It preserved bone because only the cartilage was worn off! The doctor also explained that the procedure had been developed in the United Kingdom and had been in use for at least ten (10) years. As an engineer, this “hip resurfacing” procedure made a lot of sense me. Why cut off bone that’s good, when only a thin layer of cartilage is worn? At that time, the procedure had not been approved in the United States, but I now had information on an option that I thought held promise for me.
By the time I turned 52 years old in mid 2008, significant pain and stiffness in my right hip area accompanied any sort of load-bearing exercise. Walking any distance at all caused sharp, stinging pain in my right hip. Even my gait had changed, since the normal hip rotation while walking caused sharp pain. I began to wonder if my other joints (left hip and knees) might start to become affected with the unnatural way I was walking.
By now, hip resurfacing had been approved in the U.S., so I began a dedicated search to locate a surgeon. I was amazed at how many guys had been total hip replacement patients, several of them being friends of mine. And, most of them had been operated on with the posterior approach. Finally, a fellow engineer recommended that I talk with Dr. Stefan Kreuzer, who had not only repaired a poorly executed procedure on one (1) hip, but also replaced his other hip with an anterior approach. My engineering colleague was very pleased with his new hips and the anterior approach that was used, which significantly reduced his recovery time. He also was highly complimentary of Dr. Kreuzer’s bedside manner and professionalism.
Dr. Kreuzer was also a network provider with my insurance provider, Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Texas, which was an additional plus. So on October 9, 2008, I had my first appointment with Dr. Kreuzer. X-rays told the story. Refreshingly though, Dr. Kreuzer commented that I appeared to be a good hip resurfacing candidate. He showed me examples of the implant, discussed the surgery and lifestyle after hip resurfacing. It all sounded exciting, especially the idea of returning to an active life style without pain!
Dr. Kreuzer also required a CAT scan of my right hip/top of femur to make sure bone quality had not degraded. From what I came to learn, lack of load-bearing activity allows the bone to weaken, and this condition could cause the bone to break just below where the femur ball is resurfaced. Fortunately, my bone looked good! I also asked about type of implant and Dr. Kreuzer commented that he would use a metal-on-metal Cormet device, only because it was available in a wider range of sizes, thus he could more closely match one to my natural hip.
I didn’t waste much time between my first appointment in October and having surgery on December 17, 2008. Having been involved in a new oil and gas project over the last two (2) years, I knew that the last half of December and early January are slow times at work, so what better time to “get a new leg”!
Wednesday December 17, 2008 – Day of Surgery
I arrived at the surgery center about 8:30 A.M. After taking care of all the necessary paperwork, Dr. Kreuzer came by to talk with me and to make sure I was ready to go. We also confirmed what hip was to be resurfaced. I liked attention to those details!
By 11:30 A.M. I was wheeled upstairs to prepare for surgery. Another x-ray was taken, and I was given an injection of “something” to make me drowsy. That’s the last thing I was able to remember prior to surgery. I remember asking a nurse when would I be wheeled into the operating room and she commented, “Your surgery is over”!
By 3:30 P.M. I was back in my room and wide awake. I was a little tired, but alert! By 5:30 P.M., a physical therapist came by to help me out of bed and start me walking a bit with my new walker! Believe me I was careful, and the physical therapist held on close to me. The good news was that I didn’t have any pain.
Dr. Kreuzer’s surgical assistant also came by to see how I was doing. He asked me to wiggle the toes on my right leg and move my leg around a bit. Everything was working fine!
Thursday, December 18, 2008 – Day after Surgery
The physical therapist came by about 8:00 A.M. and 5:30 P.M. to help me walk and perform some exercises. Throughout the day I talked with friends on the telephone and others that came by to see me. I had trouble sleeping part of the night, so I’d just walk up and down the hallway with my walker. My new leg was feeling great!
Friday, December 19, 2008 – Second day after surgery
Dr. Kreuzer came by to check on me about 10:00 A.M. Everything looked good so he released me that morning. By noon I was back home!
The week following surgery, I was able to work from home, thanks to the internet and a supportive boss. It was great just getting rested up, knowing that I could return to work when I was able.
Dr. Kreuzer also told me it was OK to shower, and let the water run off the incision area. I also changed my incision dressing daily.
Monday, December 29, 2008 – Returned to work
Fortunately, a colleague from work offered to drive me to and from work for the first two (2) weeks. This worked out very well since things were still a bit slow. But I used my walker everywhere I went!
December 31, 2008 – Two (2) Week Check-up after Surgery
At this time, I was not driving and still using my walker. Prior to surgery, Dr. Kreuzer instructed me not to drive for at least a few weeks after surgery, so I followed his advice. I remember reading stories of patients walking out of the hospital one (1) day or so after having resurfacing surgery, but I really didn’t want to try any of that until the doctor had cleared me. I wanted to make sure and not overdo it, so I could heal properly.
Upon arrival for my 2-week check-up, an x-ray of my right hip area was taken. The incision area was also checked for healing progress and any infection. It all looked good. I was asked why I was still using the walker. My response was that I just wanted to make sure I was cautious with my recovery. I was told “Use the walker one (1) more week if you like, and then get rid of it”. The best thing you can do now is to walk”.
After returning home from this appointment I started walking around my house without the aid of the walker. There was no pain at all! I also started driving to work on the back streets in order to avoid the freeways, and any risk of an accident.
Three (3) Weeks after Surgery
I walked around my neighbourhood without the walker for about thirty (30) minutes. Everything felt great! No pain! The next day I walked three (3) miles along the Memorial Park jogging track. Again, everything felt great! No pain.
Four (4) Weeks after Surgery
I waited until the following weekend before taking another three (3) mile walk. This time I decided to walk around the Herman Park track. No pain! By then, I knew I had definitely made the right decision about surgery!
January 30, 2009 – Six (6) Week check-up after Surgery
Another x-ray was taken, and it looked good. I was cleared to return to the gym. When I asked what exercises I should NOT do, the only one mentioned was to not do squats with heavy weight. Great news! I didn’t do them before surgery anyway!
March 8, 2009 – Travel to Trinidad for business
No problem at all with the trip. Flying time was about five (5) hours. The only new twist to travelling now is that I set off the metal detectors when going through security checks. It’s no problem except that they frisk me before allowing me to enter the terminal. I get frisked anyway when travelling overseas because the metal detectors in most third world countries don’t work! So not too much had changed.
June 18, 2009 – Six (6) month check-up after Surgery
My x-ray looked good. An appointment was made for me to return for my one (1) year post surgery visit. So far, it’s like my life is back to normal. Since being cleared to return to the gym, I usually work out at least five (5) times a week. I now walk up and down many flights of stairs at work instead of taking the elevator. I haven’t experienced any pain at all.
Feeling has returned to the area around the incision and my flexibility is almost back to what it was before the onset of osteoarthritis in the joint.
I now walk three (3) miles around the track at Memorial Park every weekend (weather permitting) and can ride a bicycle just about as far as I want to. Prior to surgery, it had been years since I was able to walk that far without pain.
I don’t think too much daily about my hip surgery from six (6) months ago.
9-Months after Surgery
The first two (2) photos below were taken by my father on September 5, 2009 at our farm in Louisiana. Dad also took the third photo on September 19, 2008. We’re still cutting up trees that were blown down there during Hurricane Gustav on September 2, 2008. This size of tree is representative of what I’ve been cutting up for the last five (5) months!
Throughout the past nine (9) months, I’ve talked with many folks about my hip injury and subsequent hip resurfacing experience. I would certainly recommend that anyone with cartilage degradation in the hip joint meet with Dr. Kreuzer. I understand he does a good job on knees too! My hip resurfacing procedure has given me a new life, and allows me walk, exercise, bike and perform manual labor just like I did before the stiffness and pain.
My incision measures five (5) inches and was joined with glue post surgery. Most of the feeling has returned to the incision site, and the scar is really not that noticeable. Who cares about a scar anyway?