Christy’s Story

I remember the day the doctor told me I wouldn’t be allowed to run again. I stared blankly back at him. Being an athlete had always been part of my life. My identity. And although the hip pain had worsened dramatically over a period of only 6 months, I prolonged going to see an Orthopedic because I knew I was going to hear those words.

At birth, I was born with a condition called developmental dysplasia of the hip. My hip socket wasn’t aligned correctly. At only 2 years of age, I had surgery to help correct the condition. I was placed for 6 weeks in a double-legged cast. Growing up, my parents never focused on what I couldn’t do. I started gymnastics at a young age, then soccer, track, cheerleading, and my college dance team. Upon graduation of college, I ran my first half marathon. I was raised to believe my condition didn’t prevent me from completing any of my goals. I am grateful my parents instilled this faith in me at a young age.

However, as I progressed into my late 20’s, I could no longer ignore the pain that had worsened in a short amount of time. I was referred to Dr. S, one of the top Orthopedic surgeons in the country. It was then he said those words. “Stop running.” He recommended I get another surgery, called a Periacetabular Osteotomy (PAO). My hip X-ray showed the beginning stages of arthritis, and this surgery would preserve my own hip joint, and potentially prevent me from needing a total hip replacement down the road. February 2012, I went into the operating room. I spent five days in the hospital, and two and a half months on crutches. Four months off of work. For a year, three large screws were embedded into part of my hip.

Living in sunny San Diego, one of the most active and fit cities in the country, it seemed as if everyone around me was athletic and running. There were days I was depressed. I couldn’t imagine what a life without sports would look like. Thankfully, I found Yoga, which has now become my passion. I feel healthier than ever.

Today, I work as a Pediatric nurse on an Orthopedic floor. I assist in caring for young children that are placed in the same cast I was at a year old. I also care for teenagers that receive the same surgery I had as an adult. I am able to show parents of these children pictures of me as a child, in a spica cast, and help ease their worries that their children will be able to live a normal life. Since being a patient myself, I am now able to relate and connect to these children in a powerful way that I couldn’t before. My job has never been more satisfying and rewarding.

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  1. Heather says:

    Your story is amazing! I also suffer from hip dysplasia, and have had surgery to correct a torn labrum. I was told that after the surgery, I would never be able to run again. I proved him wrong! But I worry that some day, that’s going to be the truth.

    Thank you for sharing your story :)

  2. Lisa Pearson says:

    I too was born with this condition. I also had surgery when I was almost two years old. I grew up in Del Mar! Hello sister!

    I am now 50 years old, and have lived with the pain since my early 20’s. I have a job that requires me to stand and walk ALL DAY and this has taken a toll on my poor hip. The last time I saw an orthopedist, he examined my x-rays before seeing me and he was surprised I could even walk without a cane. All the years of gymnastics, cheer, and ballet helped strengthen the muscles and keep everything flexible and strong.

    Because I have a slight gate, sometimes people think I have an injury to my knee or ankle. I would like to have surgery, but I’m very scared. Thanks for posting your story. Maybe I’ll look into it now.

  3. Cathy says:

    Hi Christy, your story resonate as I too was born with bilateral hip dysplasia and had my first hip surgery before age 2. Dr. Santore performed my PAO nearly 17 years ago and I’m now due for a hip replacement. Keep living life! We may have physical limitations but we have intelligence, which can take us far!
    Best wishes, Cathy

  4. Carolyn Friesz says:

    I too was born with bilateral hip dysplasia; I was treated with casts and braces until I was 4. My parents tried to hold me back, but I was/am strong willed and wouldn’t let my disability hold me back. When I was in school I was on the Trampoline team, Tumbling, Track and was a cheerleader. After high school, I went on to become a hairstylist, got married and became a mother to 4 children (both of which I was warned not to do); I have no regrets. I was a runner for years until my early 30’s when things started causing me lots of pain; I had 2 failed (basically) PAO’s and spent a year in bed – I’ve had years of struggle since; I will never be able to run again, but I am hoping that after the first of 2 THR’s, the first one is scheduled for 9/23/13, I will be able to do things I’ve not been able to do for years! Thanks for your story!

  5. Brenda Mcmullen says:

    This reply is for Lisa Pearson. I to was born with congenital hip dysplasia but did not learn of it until age 53. after seeing several doctors I was referee to Dr. Richard Sanford, on Feb 2013 he did a PAO on my left hip. by then I was 55yrs old. I am now pain free swimming 3/4 mile everyday. my hardware will come out sept 26, 2013. there is hope. keep trying!!!


  6. Nicola says:

    Hi ya,

    I am 28 yrs old from the UK and was also born with hip dysplasia. I have had an x ray and have been informed that I now have osteo arthritis and I am waiting to see the consultant to discuss surgery. There have been talks of a resurfacing or a hip replacement.
    This has all come about as I went to have a smear test and it couldn’t be done properly due to my flexibility.

    It is my right hip that is effected.

    I have always been active.

    I was planning on tryng for a baby next year but now I am having some concerns.

    PLease help. x

  7. Justin Lawlor says:

    Thank you for sharing your story… I too have the same condition and spent 7 weeks in a body cast when I was ten… The most recent surgery I had at 28. It was a pelvic osteotomy of my left hip (the right was done when I was ten). I’m now 32 but still ssuffer

  8. Justin Lawlor says:

    Continued… Immensely from the pain. Stretching is painful, sleeping on my left side hurts and when I was married, it was painful after being intimate with my wife. I don’t know what to do as I hate taking pain killers but I don’t know of any other s sikution

  9. Justin Lawlor says:

    If you have any advice, it would be most appreciated. Email me at

    Thank you,


  10. Mark Lazarus says:

    So inspirational. Your courage, passion and personality for life are all things that i greatly admire. PAO’s are not only physically taxing, but their is a mental/emotional aspect that it seems you’ve conquered. Your perseverance is admirable and your smiling face on that mountain spikes volumes to your endurance. So proud of you

  11. Maggie Franco says:

    Thank you for sharing your story!!
    I am 32 years old and was diagnosed with hip dysplasia about a year ago, I guess I’ve had this since I was a child but it never bothered me..My pain began while I was pregnant with my second child, he is going to be 9, so yeah I’ve been in pain for about 9 years now. When I first went to see a doctor regarding this I was told it was my sciatic nerve so I kept going to the chiropractor.. why so many chiropractors/doctors missed my condition, I don’t know because now I see my x-rays and its so clear, I even have a cyst in my hip socket..I too have ran half marathons and my last one was just a month after being diagnosed, at that time my ortho said “I won’t tell you not to run your race as you have put in your training but you have to keep in mind this is your last race, you cannot run anymore”, those words were so hard to swallow. I ran my race, my timing was bad but I wasn’t aiming for good time, at that point my goal was to cross the finish line and I did, thanks to my husband who ended up running with me and kept me motivated because honestly if it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t of been able to finish, I was in excruciating pain, slowly but surely I finished.. I see people out jogging and I truly envy them..the pain has gotten worse even thought I no longer run but just walking brings on the awful pain…reading this gives me some hope, I am scheduled to see Dr. Santore the end of this month (April 2014)and after reading your story I am excited and have hope that he will be the doctor to finally be able to help me. God bless!

  12. Christy Dowd says:


    Email me ( or find me on Facebook…would LOVE to meet you while youre in San Diego and talk about the entire experience!


  13. Kelsey Hunter says:

    Thanks for sharing! I’m heading down to see Dr. Santore for my first appointment tomorrow and to hopefully schedule surgery. I had my first osteotomy at age 16, and surgery on both hips prior to that. I still have the screws in my left hip years later so I’m surprised to see that now they take the screws out! I’m definitely not looking forward to the healing process and I’m hoping I won’t be out of work for 4 months, ugh!

  14. Erica says:

    Thank you for your post. It’s inspiring. I have so many questions because I went in to the doctor last week thinking I had tendinitis and came out with a labrum tear, tendinitis and hip dysphasia. Pao surgery sounds like my only option. I have been told to stop running and doing yoga which are two things that I have truly enjoyed and done for almost 20 years.
    I’m terrified
    Would you mind if I emailed you privately to ask you some questions?

  15. Christy says:

    Of course! or find me on facebook (Christy Dowd who lives in san diego). Feel better!

  16. cathy says:

    Thanks Cristy for your story and positivity – I identified strongly with your post, particularly the first two sentences. I’m 37 and still reeling from the recent diagnosis of advanced hip osteoarthritis from dysplasia and need for THR… however what I’m really struggling with is the news I have to hang up my running shoes and find a new passion. I wanted to ask, are there any yoga poses you have to avoid? and any that you find particularly good for your hips? Other than not pushing yourself too far, I can’t seem to find much specific info for yoga/hip dysplasia/hip arthritis.

  17. Christy says:

    Hey Cathy! Yoga has been a savior for me, especially the more “fitness” like yoga classes that give me as equal of a physical workout as running did. It has been extremely hard to give up running, and two years after my PAO I still struggle with it. Not only is it running but soccer, tennis, etc that involves any small busts of running at all.

    Some awesome yoga hip openers are figure 4 pose, half pidgeon pose, tree pose, and crescent pose. I am unable to comfortably do floor frog or humble warrior at all, even after the PAO. I always make minor adjustments. Hope you stay optimistic on your journey to be pain free as well as live an active life. Let me know any other way I can help.


  18. cathy says:

    Thanks Christy! I’m struggling to distinguish which yoga poses hurt and which help, good to have somewhere to start :) best wishes to you, Cathy.

  19. Lois says:

    Who would you recommend for hip dysplasia in a 6 month old in the Encinitas area? Thank You

  20. Christy says:

    Call the Orthopedic department of Rady Childrens hospital at 858-966-6789

  21. Laurie says:

    After five years of pain and seeing every chiropractor, PT, voo doo doctors (just kidding) and a completely failed/botched hip arthroscopy for a torn labrum, I was finally diagnosed with hip dysplasia. I’m scheduled for THR 2/11/15. I’ve always been an active person until a year ago when the pain became too much. I’m devastated to think I can’t run anymore. I keep thinking maybe just little 5K’s would be ok?! Could you please tell me more about the “fitness type yoga” classes you referenced? What type/name should I look for? My perception of yoga is that it’s slow and boring. I want to work up a sweat and listen to loud rock music while I work out! Thanks so much – Laurie

  22. Christy says:

    Hi Laurie-

    It took me awhile to be okay with not running. However, I have found that heated Yoga Sculpt classes are equally as hard and motivating physically. I go to a studio called Corepower Yoga. They are a national corporation with lots of studios around the country so look them up! Their C2 and Sculpt classes are super hard…and they play rock music! The classes are anything but boring (sometimes I cant even finish one!) I am more fit, thinner, and feel like more of an athlete now than I did as a runner. Corepower also offers a free week for new students. Check it out! I also love Pilates Reformer classes, which are equallly as hard!

  23. Eric says:

    You mentioned that you have mentored teens that have had the same PAO surgery. My 15 year old daughter will have this surgery in January. She is a soccer player and hopes to return to the field once she is fully recovered. Your story was published a few years ago so I’m not sure if you are still mentoring teens having a PAO surgery. If so, what how do we get in touch with you?

  24. Megan Rhodes says:

    I had this same surgery by Dr. Santore in 2001 at the age of 16 and it was the best decision. My recovery was very similar. I also was very active and had to give up several sports. The quality of life after (and now in 2020) is incredible. Dr. Santore and team is amazing.

  25. Sam says:

    I grew up having hip pain until I went to Dr. Santore when I was 12, and he told me I had bilateral hip dysplasia. I had 2 PAO surgeries with Dr. Santore. My first was done in 2014 when I was 15, and the second in 2016 when I was 17. There is no contest between my quality of life now compared to what I grew up with. It’s a hard recovery, but all of it is worth it in the end.

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