When I was born, my parents were told I showed no signs of hip dysplasia (‘clicky hips’ as they were known back then). But seeing as my cousin had been diagnosed, my Mum asked them to check again. I’m so lucky she did, as they found I did have ‘clicky hips’. It was just a mild case so treatment consisted of me wearing double nappies. After a while of this the doctors told my parents that my hips were developing fine, and there was no longer any need to worry.
“I resigned myself to just having bad hips”
Fast forward to my teenage years. I had more and more aches and pains in my hips, but I guess we all just put them down to growing pains. As I got later into my teenage years the pain became worse. It felt like my hips were trying to pop out of their sockets quite often. I didn’t know how to articulate this, let alone that it was something serious. Sitting for long periods of time was uncomfortable, I found any type of sport or activity difficult, and I resigned myself to just ‘having bad hips’. Not really putting anymore thought into it, instead I focused on school. In my final year of school, I tore the labrum on my right side. I thought I should participate in school sports carnival at least once before leaving school, that was a mistake! Things seemed to go downhill from there. After months of injections and anti-inflammatories, I needed surgery to repair the tear.
“I've done everything I can"
A few weeks after the surgery I was in pain again. My original surgeon said he’d repaired the tear again and that was all he could do. I saw another, who said a similar thing. I found another surgeon who again operated to repair the tear. When this didn’t help with the entirety of the pain he told me he’d done all he could.
“You should be glad it’s not cancer”
This is one of the things I’ve learned that adult ‘Hippies’ share - a long line of doctors, specialists or surgeons who have told us that:
“the pain is all mental”,
“You’ll just have to live with it”,
“You should be glad it’s not cancer” and
“You’ll never be a ballet dancer”
“You isolate yourself”
Yep, I got all of these from doctors, specialists and surgeons over the course of the next few years. I was 21 at the time when I was told I’d never be a ballerina - I feel the train had already left that station long ago! You start to doubt yourself, “maybe it is all in my head?”. You don’t go out because it is too painful, and in doing this you isolate yourself.
Purely by fluke it was suggested I see yet another surgeon, the 7th I’d seen, but he diagnosed me. Within minutes of waking in he could see I had hip dysplasia. He saw me between surgeries, so I was literally lying on the hallway floor with him rotating my legs and calling other doctors to come and see! Finally I knew why my hips were always so sore, why I was tearing my labrum constantly. I had hope again.
“I climbed the Great Wall of China and the Sydney Harbour Bridge, things I never even dreamed of.”
In my early 20’s I had preservation surgery - subtrochanteric derotational femoral osteotomies on each of my legs, one at a time. This helped tremendously. Once fully healed I could do dance classes at the gym and, for the most part, go about my daily life reasonably unencumbered. Finally I was able to study at university. I would still struggle with pain for a few days after a big exertion, or when it rained and was cold, but for the most part I could live my life again.
“Then came pregnancy and BOOM there go the hips”
I know a lot of people have trouble with their hips when they’re pregnant. I’m not alone in this, but I really struggled. For a large part of the pregnancy I could barely walk, but I held onto the hope that once I had my son everything would settle again. It didn’t.
Once my son was born I kept soldiering on, just assuming everything had been done to help my hips, and that I would just have to deal with the pain. It became excruciating when my son was around 18 months old. I can’t remember why, but I searched for other hip dysplasia sufferers on Facebook to see if anyone else had trouble that continued after pregnancy. This is by far one of the best things I ever did. I found that there is a whole community out there of wonderful supportive people in the same boat who are going through the exact same things as I was. I was no longer alone in my suffering.
“I couldn’t go on any longer the way I was”
It was because of these groups and the encouragement of my wonderful husband and family that I realised I needed to get my hips seen to again. I couldn’t go on any longer the way I was. I was referred to a surgeon nearby who has a great understanding of hip dysplasia. After trying a round of cortisone injections that didn’t work, the decision was made that my hips were simply too bad to do nothing. Even though I am only 34, I was no longer able to do the things I wanted to and needed to do, or the things my son needed me to do.
First hip replacement – November 2018
I had my first total hip replacement in November of 2018. It was such a strange feeling after, I no longer felt pain in my hip joint. While healing I still had muscle aches and pains (the bad knee pain post THR is surprising!), the actual joint no longer hurt. When I was unsure of something or worried, I turned to my online support and there was always someone, somewhere in the world that would say, “yes, I had that too” or “here, try this”. I had incredibly understanding and supportive people around me in real life, but having people who had actually experienced the same things I was to turn to was invaluable.
I was especially worried about how my two-and-a-half-year-old would handle my recovery, but he was amazing. He’d check which hip was sore before giving me cuddles and even run around the house with his toy drill, walking up to us and ‘drilling’ our hips and saying, “all better!”. Kids adapt so well to things like this, I shouldn’t have worried.
Second Hip Replacement – April 2019
Now I’m having my second total hip replacement on April 1st, 2019, the start of Healthy Hips Week. This is the first time I will have healthy hips in my entire life and I cannot wait. I know the recovery is tricky and you must work very hard at the physio, I know that by the end of this I will be able to do so many more things with my family. I cannot wait to play soccer at the park, be able to keep up with my son and no longer have to say the words that upset me the most “Sorry, I can’t do that today, my hips are too sore”.
Yes, hip dysplasia isn’t life threatening. But it is life changing. For those going through it the best advice I can offer is find others going through the same thing and support each other. ‘Hippies’ need to stick together!
Story sent to Healthy Hips Australia 23 March 2019.
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I started Healthy Hips Australia 4 years ago after finding myself overwhelmed and uninformed by my own experience of having both my daughter's diagnosed with hip dysplasia. We are a volunteer run health promotion charity reliant on community support to keep this invaluable service available. X Sarah (Healthy Hips Founder)