As any proud mother would say, the day my son was born was the happiest day of my life, it truly was. The day after my son was born, not the greatest day. The day after he was born I was told by the hospital doctor that Brody had hip dysplasia. This was incredibly concerning, especially since I had only heard of this condition in dogs. I was assured that it was “no big deal” and could be treated quite easily. Everyone was so lax about the situation, I put it out of my head, thinking it really was “no big deal.” I knew we needed to make an appointment to see an orthopedic doctor, but was told we needed to see a pediatrician first.
Our pediatrician appointment went well, she assured us hip dysplasia is very common and easily treated, nothing to worry about. She also told us that Brody’s case was very minor, she could barely feel a slight click, but sent him to get x-rays to be safe. She referred us to the only pediatric orthopedic practice in our area and informed us it might be a few weeks before he could be seen. I knew the next day that his case was not minor or worry-free when his pediatrician called me personally to tell me to call the orthopedic surgeon immediately and let the receptionist know we needed to be seen within the next week. Suddenly it felt like everyone with any knowledge had lied to me or missed something incredibly important. I decided to give everyone the benefit of the doubt and not worry. That was until we went to our first pediatric orthopedic appointment (what a mouthful, right?).
Looking back, the appointment went very well. We met an incredibly competent doctor who has seen thousands of hip dysplasia cases and we had a plan for correcting the issue. At the time, I was a wreck. I felt blindsided, I was angry, I was terrified. I held my two month old son and cried thinking about all of the possibilities. But I was also hopeful. We put the Pavlik harness on him that day and wore it for an entire week without taking it off. At the time, that seemed like a daunting task. Especially because three hours after strapping him into a full body contraption with strict orders not to take it off…he had one of those two month old baby poop explosions that no diaper in the world is capable of containing. That’s right, he pooped right through his onesie, in a parking lot, wearing the harness. It is comical now, I sent my husband in the store to borrow scissors and we cut that onesie right off his tiny little body. For another six days he wore a half onesie and a harness, good thing it was August in Texas-that was all he needed!
After the first week in the harness we took a break because it seemed that Brody had a pinched nerve. We then were reduced to only wearing the harness at night. This went on for a few more weeks. Until we went in for an ultrasound to look at the progress and determine the next step. We were devastated to find out the harness was not effective. Our doctor informed us that keeping him in the harness might do more harm than good, surgery was really our only option. Everything was a blur, I was blind sighted again- I had really thought his hips were making progress! The doctor wanted to schedule surgery right away but we really felt like we needed time. Brody was three months old at this point, and the doctor wanted to schedule surgery when he was four months old. We decided we needed a second opinion, not because we did not trust our doctor, but because we felt we owed it to ourselves and to Brody to make sure we were not rushing into surgery without covering all of our bases.
In the end we made the decision to go into a closed reduction surgery when Brody was six months old. Being a new parent this was the hardest decision I had ever made. Every single surgery was difficult for me. Especially the first one. It turned out a closed reduction was not possible for one of his hips. His right side was an open reduction and his left, closed. We stayed in the hospital overnight and held our baby. Needless to say, we did much worse than he did. He was a trooper through it all. I loathed the spica cast at first but Brody really didn’t have any issues with it.
He learned to crawl, which was more like an army crawl/scoot. He danced in his cast, we called it the turtle dance because his body went in and out of his “shell.” People signed his casts (he had three). We called him “baby in a bucket.” He opened his first Christmas presents in a bean bag chair. His last cast was “water proof” and he learned to like baths again. He always had a big smile on his face. He did everything other babies do, the cast did not inhibit him at all. I even got good at the cast! I felt so accomplished the first time we went to change his cast and the doctor told us his skin was the cleanest and best looking of any child in a spica cast he had ever seen! The trick? Menstrual pads. That’s right, pads, shoved into the cast to keep any moisture from leaking onto his skin.
When he got the cast off I cried so hard I think I scared him. He hugged me and gave me a kiss, I am not sure he understood they were happy tears. In keeping with our positive attitudes I had already planned Brody’s “big reveal,” a sail boat themed ‘cast off’ party to celebrate!
Looking back on everything I remember more of the good than the bad. When we were faced with the decision to apply a full body cast to a six month old it was daunting. I gained a lot of comfort from reading other parents stories and feedback about harnesses, casts, diapering, etc. I tried to stay as educated about the situation as possible thanks to the International Hip Dysplasia Institute this was possible-I knew the right questions to ask and could make informed decisions.
Brody is two years old now but we are not in the clear just yet, we go back to our orthopedic doctor on a regular basis to keep up with his hips. His progress is wonderful, but his hips are not exactly where they should be, we have high hopes this will correct itself with time, growth, and development. We are now facing the side effects of treatment-AVN, where the ball of the joint has lost circulation at some point. Our doctor assures us that Brody’s age makes it much more likely that this issue will correct itself, but only time will tell. This may be the end of our hip dysplasia journey, or we may have more road to travel.