Hi, my name is Amanda and I am 23-years-old. This is the story of my 4 1/2 year journey with hip dysplasia and how it changed my life.
I was an 18-year-old collegiate D2 cross-country runner on scholarship at GCSU, a small liberal arts school in Georgia. Nothing has ever been the same for me ever since Thanksgiving Day 2017 when I felt an extremely painful “pull” in my left glute medius with 2 miles to go in a 10k race. I’m not sure how, but I managed to finish the race, limping across the finish line and coming in as the First overall female and shattering my previous personal record by 12 minutes. I was limping quite bad, with sharp pain radiating into my left groin.
I took a couple weeks off running after that and my condition got progressively worse by the day. It started to affect my right hip as well and the pain intensified dramatically. It progressed to bone-on-bone inside my hip joint, sciatic-like pain shooting down both legs, and I felt like both hips were about to give out at any moment. I was a freshman in college at this time and walking to class and attending social events was something I dreaded. I saw two orthopedic doctors in Spring 2018 and after a physical exam and MRI with contrast, it was concluded that I had bilateral labral tears with femoral-acetabular impingement (abnormal extra bone in my hip joint) that they believed caused my cartilage to tear so badly. The damage was so bad that physical therapy did nothing. I underwent both hip surgeries Summer 2018, 8 weeks apart with 4 weeks of crutches on each. My surgeon performed an arthroscopic labral tear repair and shaved down my access bone to correct the underlying impingement issue. I was recovering very fast and doing better than I had hoped. There were a couple months in Fall 2018 when I was completely pain-free and able to run an 8 minute mile again comfortably. A couple months later, I started to get some foot and ankle pain, as well as some lower back pain (from gait abnormalities and compensation). I returned to my surgeon after 2 months to express my concerns, but he said my body just needed more time to adjust so I kept pushing through the next year.
I started nursing school in Fall 2019 and my hips started going downhill again, fast. I remember limping through all my clinical rotations and then resting in bed for a good few hours afterward due to how much pain I was in. My mental health suffered a great deal as well. This continued until covid took us out of school March 2020, which saved me since we finished the rest of our clinicals online. I wasn’t sure I would have made it overwise. I used that time to revisit my previous hip surgeon and get a full comprehensive work-up from multiple specialists including autoimmune testing, spinal MRIs, a punch biopsy, and nerve conduction studies. All were clear, except for the CT hip map, which showed severe under-coverage of my femoral head and right acetabular retroversion (my right hip is basically twisted backwards). At this point, I had bilateral burning pain and that familiar “catching” sensation in my right hip. It felt like it was going to fall out of my joint with every step I took. My surgeon diagnosed me with hypermobility syndrome/instability and acetabular under-coverage of my femoral heads. I underwent a right revision hip scope with capsular plication June 2020 to repair the destroyed labrum once more and “tightening up” my hip joint to give me stability. After it was repaired, my surgeon suggested I go see a PAO (periacetabular osteotomy) specialist and get fully evaluated for hip dysplasia. Luckily, it wasn’t deemed “bad enough” to need such a drastic operation, involving surgically cutting multiple bones in my pelvis to restore normal hip alignment.
I was partially weight-bearing on crutches for 6 weeks and returned to school for my Fall 2020 semester. I wasn’t perfectly pain-free, but it started getting better by the week and I was able to get through my clinicals that semester much more smoothly. I underwent the same surgery on my left hip in December 2020, 5 months later, thinking that it would go as smoothly as my right, but boy was I wrong. Instead of the normal 6 weeks on crutches, I spent 13 weeks. Putting any kind of weight on my left hip was excruciating. I finally got off crutches after a cortisone shot in my hip just in time for my Spring 2021 senior practicum. I was only able to finish 2 out of the 12 shifts that I needed to graduate, but I couldn’t do it. I could barely get out of bed. I spent the entire month of April 2021 basically bed-bound in my apartment. I decided to take a medical incomplete and finish my clinicals the following semester to heal and figure out what was going on. I have never been in more pain in my entire life. My entire back, down to my toes was aching and throbbing, with shooting pain down my body. Walking to the bathroom was near impossible and I remember having to crawl. I had to use my grandma’s old wheelchair around my apartment and my past boyfriend would help me shower, go grocery shopping for me, and cook for me. I have never hit a lower point in my life than those couple months of being terrified I would never be normal again.
My previous surgeon said what is going on with me is out of his realm now and suggested a hip replacement consult. This new Doctor ordered an MRI (1 1/2 years since my last one) and diagnosed me with severe osteoarthritis secondary to hip dysplasia. He said he had seen 80-year-olds with better hips than I did. He prescribed Celebrex (a fancy anti-inflammatory for arthritis) and 3 months of intensive physical therapy. I reconnected with an old physical therapist of mine in May 2021. He helped me gain a lot of my lost strength back and get me to a functioning level again in those 3 months. However, I was still in a tremendous amount of pain and my life was severely limited for a 22-year-old. This Doctor said he wasn’t comfortable operating on me because I was so young and referred me to another total joint orthopedic specialist who sees this exact thing in people my age and even younger.
I underwent my left total hip replacement October 2021. I spent 1 month on a walker and then 2 weeks on a cane. I was able to finish my senior practicum for my nursing degree in November 2021, with majority of it on a cane. 12-hour shifts with a cane on a med-surg floor was one of the hardest things I have ever done. Having a THR at such a young age means a longer recovery time since everything is tighter, and all my past surgeries caused lots of scar tissue build-up and tissue trauma.
Words cannot describe how proud I am of myself and how far I have come. Strong women turn pain into power and this journey has made me so much stronger and resilient and has given me a whole new positive outlook on life. I recently accepted my dream position as an ICU registered nurse and I couldn’t be more excited! The crazy things is, I would have needed this surgery in my late 30s, but because of how active I used to be, it wore my hips out so much faster. I am going to need my right hip replaced eventually, but my left hip is feeling very good and that’s a blessing in itself. To everyone out there- never stop advocating for your health and fight for the life you deserve!