Patient Stories

The Overseas Visit

I was born 50 years ago in South Africa. At the time of my birth my developmental dysplasia was never diagnosed. I was by all accounts a happy baby and toddler but my parents always wondered why I was almost 2 before I took my first steps. I always seemed a bit clumsy and fell a lot.

Fast forward when I was 6 my family and I went to visit my father’s side of the family in Austria. My Austrian Ouma noticed I seemed to be limping. It goes to show that sometimes things can be picked up by a person who does not see you everyday. On returning my parents immediately made an appointment with our family doctor. Of course the X-rays and tell tale “clicking” of the hips on examination sealed the deal on hip dysplasia. I was referred to a very good orthopedic surgeon in my home town. He said my issue was caught in the nick of time and without any intervention I would be crippled by my 13th birthday.

The long road of treatment began. I spent a few weeks in hospital initially in traction which is pure torture for an active child. This was followed by 2 major surgeries one of which was I believe some kind of femoral osteomy. I was placed in a spica cast afterwards. The picture in my story is me sitting on my dear dad’s lap with my dress covering the cast. I was in this cast for 18 months. Every few months I would need to be put under general anesthesia to replace my cast with a new one. It delayed my first year of school and I started a year later than I should have. As you can imagine there was no wheelchair that fit the dimensions of the spica cast making getting from place to place very trying. My dad was a draughtsman and designed a one of a kind chair to fit my cast and a friend of his helped construct it for me. I was finally mobile and my little school friends loved taking turns pushing me around. Even though I had the fanciest ride you can imagine I got tired being pushed around. I figured out how to walk with my spica cast and got around like a little crab even managing to climb up and down stairs. Finally in October of 1980 my cast came off. All our neighbors came to visit me the day at home after the cast was removed with great excitement. I finally had my first bubble bath in 18 months.

After this ordeal my hip dysplasia became a distant memory. I never spoke of it and pretended it never happened. I was an active child – running, swimming and riding my bike with not a day’s problem. Adulthood presented me with employment which was always on my feet and I never had any issues whatsoever. My only child was born via c section as this was what I remembered the doctor tell my parents many years ago if I had a baby. I’m forever thankful I never had all the subsequent problems many have with hip dysplasia as adults even those corrected as children.

Fast forward to 45 and no surprise my hip starts giving me a go. The groin pain, stiffness and pain upon rest. By this time I’m living in the USA and attributed this to my bones being affected by the cold weather. I made an appointment with the orthopedic doctor and lo and behold I was bone on bone and had other issues related to the hip dysplasia. I decided to get cortisone shots for as long as I could to delay the inevitable total hip replacement. There is no escaping this and April 3rd of this year I had my full hip replacement. Recovery is going well and I cannot believe I delayed this. My advice is if you need the THR don’t put off the inevitable and the cost involved of getting the shots.

I feel like a new chapter has begun. I’m aiming to walk the Camino in Spain in a couple of years and this is my goal after this replacement. It’s given me a purpose at 50 and I’m feeling like the best years are ahead not behind. It’s not been an easy road at times but hip dysplasia is treatable and I’m always telling people about it so they can be aware of this condition. We are our best advocates and don’t put of tomorrow what can be done today.