Patient Stories

Kara’s Story

My name is Kara. I am 19 years old and was diagnosed with Hip Dysplasia when I was 17. I have always been a very active person. I played softball and basketball on school teams, and have danced since I was 4. During my high school years I was on the swim team and ran track.

During the Fall of my senior year of high school, I was sitting in AP Calculus class and leaned forward to pop my hips. Dancers pop their hips regularly because it enables them to have a wider range of flexibility. I always popped my hips and was fine, except this time I was completely stuck. If I leaned up to straighten back up, then I would be in excruciating pain. Well, I was the next person up to solve a problem on the whiteboard and when my teacher noticed I was stuck, she immediately went and got our first responder which happened to be my Allied Health Sciences II teacher. I had been in her class earlier that day and was completely normal, and now everything had changed. The longer I stayed there the looser my hip became and about an hour later (30 minutes after the bell had rang to dismiss school for the day) I was able to stand. If I put weight on that leg (my left one) it would completely crumble right out from under me, so they wheeled me in a computer chair to my car. I was able to drive because it was my left hip affected, not my right.

I was very determined to go to swim team practice that afternoon so I made myself walk laps around my house, and eventually I was able to walk with a small limp. My pain had almost completely subsided after swim practice and I was able to go about my normal routine. I was so confused about what just happened and why I was able to walk normally when hours earlier I was completely stuck. The pain was absent for the next month or so, and then came back. I went to my family doctor that I had been going to since I was a year old, and he referred me to my orthopedist who I had gone to for shoulder problems the year before. He diagnosed me with snapping hip syndrome and sent me to physical therapy. I was familiar with the PT process because I had gone for probably 8 months or so for my shoulder.

After a few months of therapy and no progress, he referred me to a surgeon about 30 minutes from my house who works at a local university hospital. I went to see him during the summer and had countless x-rays and an MRI-arthrogram which showed I had hip dysplasia and torn cartilage. He is known for hip arthroscopies, so he referred me to another surgeon who specializes in hip dysplasia.

I had my appointment with the doctor and he told me my options. I could have a PAO and hope the labral tear healed on its own, or I could have the hip arthroscopy to repair the labrum. The problem with the latter option is that with my joint so instable the labrum could easily tear again within a few months of the surgery. After praying about it and talking with my parents and sister who is a nurse, we decided it would be best to go ahead and have the PAO and hope the labrum would heal on its own. I was not sure what to do knowing that I was supposed to go to college in a couple months and knew that I could not have a major surgery and walk around a big campus. I also knew I could not wait until after college to have it because the longer I waited, the worse it would get. I decided to enroll at a local community college and take all online classes so I could do my work on my own time and rest when needed. We scheduled the surgery during the coming winter. Every day the wait got harder and harder being that it was mid-summer and my surgery wasn’t until well into the winter season.

When my surgery date came, we woke up at 5:00AM because we had to be at the hospital at 7:30 and surgery was supposed to start at 8:30. Things went as planned and after prayer with a friend who is a youth minister and my pastor, I was off to the operating room. I was in the OR for 8 hours and after I had recovered enough, I was taken up to my room. I was only supposed to be in the hospital for 3 days, but wound up staying for 9 days because of a post-operative ileus, which is basically when your bowels do not wake up from the anesthesia. My bowels were so backed up, I took one bite of spaghetti and threw it right back up because there was nowhere for it to go. It was disgusting! My surgeon restricted me from food and drink for 48 hours, and the only way I was able to stay hydrated was from IV fluids. Finally after 9 days I was allowed to go home! Recovery was not fun at all, and was pretty painful. One of the hardest things was not being allowed to bend more than 90 degrees. I couldn’t even put my own shoes on! PT was hard as well, but my therapist had a great sense of humor and I was able to get through each appointment more and more easily as time went by. Eventually, things were going smoothly and with much humor and prayer, my family and I survived the PAO process.

The following summer I was experiencing some more pain and my PT wasn’t quite sure what was happening. I had a cortisone shot because the first assumption was that I just had some extra inflammation that needed to calm down. After waiting for a bit to see if that worked, we realized that it was not going to do the trick. I noticed that I could feel the head of my screws just by touching my incision and I was grossed out. I went to see my orthopedic surgeon and he suggested that since my bone had healed he should go ahead and remove the screws, and that would hopefully help the pain. I went ahead and had surgery number two to remove the screws. Recovery from that was very easy and I was back on my feet in 2-3 weeks. Unfortunately, my pain did not go away completely. Later that summer I had more x-rays and an MRI and it showed nothing, but I knew there was something going on because my pain was terrible. I had an appointment with my orthopedic surgeon and general orthopedist together and they both agreed that I should proceed with a hip arthroscopy to explore what was going on and fix whatever was found. That Fall I had surgery 3. There were several things that my doctor found including a labral tear (even though it did not show up on the MRI), a bone cyst, a hole in my bone, synovitis, a bone spur that was poking through muscle, and impingement. Recovery for this surgery, despite the many things they found, was not near as bad as the PAO recovery. I was only on crutches for about five weeks after this surgery compared to well over two months after the PAO. There was obviously much pain involved, but still was not as bad as the PAO being that this surgery mostly dealt with tissue and things instead of the total reconstruction of my hip socket. I was able to go off to college that coming January because everything was looking good.

By late spring things were going very smoothly. My PT exercises were upgraded to jumping, running and other high-impact activities that I was restricted from for over two years. Unfortunately, by the time April came around a lot of my pain came back. My orthopedist thought it was tendonitis and bursitis, so he ordered intra-bursal cortisone shots, which are extremely painful shots that go straight into the joint capsule and bursa instead of just the muscle. After waiting a while again, it was obvious that they were not going to work and something else needed to be done. I had another MRI and a CT scan in later that summer because my orthopedist was not sure if the problem was dealing with bone or tissue. He ordered them stat because he knew I was leaving to go back to school for the Fall semester in two weeks. The CT scan showed a bone cyst and the MRI showed a spot that he thinks is either early osteoarthritis or where cartilage has rubbed down to bone.

He said if my pain was significant enough, then he could do another surgery to go in and take a look kind of like he did the past Fall. I decided that another surgery, though not an appealing option, would be best given the amount of pain I am in daily.

My journey with hip dysplasia is not over like I had hoped it would be by now, but the Lord continuously provides for me and is revealing Himself to me in ways that I never thought possible. During this process, He has constantly reminded me that He is sovereign and I am not. He knows what He is doing and this will work out for my good and His glory. For example, before all of this I had decided I wanted to be a physical therapist, and I do believe He is giving me every opportunity to experience how my patients are going to feel, so that I can have an extra amount of compassion for them. To all of you reading this who have hip dysplasia, please do not be discouraged! With Christ, we always have the victory!