Natalie

Natalie Sharratt’s Story

Life before my hip dysplasia diagnosis

After putting my first pair of dance shoes on at the age of 3, performing became a significant part of my life for nearly 17 years. My dance school (Diane Bradbury Theatre Dance School) was my second home and I was there nearly every day, after school and over the weekends. Dancing came naturally to me partly due to my joints being very flexible and hyper-mobile, especially my right hip and leg. I never experienced any pain or problems with my hip until I was having intense one to one dance lessons as preparation for my university auditions at the age of 18. My dance teachers noticed I was lifting my right hip as I was kicking, so I tried to do this keeping my hip down, and as a result started to get a twinge and pain inside my hip. In order to rest and recuperate and to save myself for my upcoming auditions taking place in the following month, I did not dance for 6 weeks. Over the next 8 months, I completed all my auditions as well as my final dance show with the dance school I had been with for 15 years and had no pain or problems. The day I found out I had been offered a place at Guildford School of Acting on the Actor Musicianship course I was full of emotions; I could not believe I had achieved this great honour and although I was nervous, I was excited to start my journey.

I began my course at the end of September 2017, danced for 2 weeks and have not danced since. Again, the dance teachers noticed my right hip was rising during my kicks. After a few adaptations and advice on how to correct my technique, I felt an awful tearing pain inside my hip, and this is when the initial horror all began…

The start of my investigative journey began by seeing an osteopath who was visiting the university. He was unsure of the problem and thought I would need to have a steroid injection in the near future to assist the pain. Hearing this drastic statement so soon after the pain began worried me significantly and so I wanted to get a second opinion. During an appointment with a GP, I managed to get a referral to the musculoskeletal clinic at the Surrey Hospital but there was a long waiting time for the appointment. My mum suggested finding a chiropractor in Guildford due to her positive experiences of them in the past. Upon seeing the chiropractor, he manipulated my back and hip without having any investigation or x-ray done. I trusted him and he claimed he could help me get back to dancing within a few months. Because I was worried about my hip, I allowed him to make the adjustments he suggested. These adjustments gave me no relief and afterwards, I was in much more pain than before. Unfortunately, the chiropractor informed me that I would not be able to get an MRI scan through the NHS. So he suggested paying for a private MRI scan clinic in London which he recommended, and he instantly referred me to them. My first MRI scan was of the front of my hip joint as that is where all my pain initially was. Due to the results coming back as clear, I had another MRI scan of my lumbar spine – the chiropractor believed the problem was originated there, but that the pain was being transferred to my hip. The results for this scan came back as partial scoliosis which was a big surprise to me as I had no problems with my back.

My appointment at the Hospital finally came through for the 15th December, on my last day of term at university before Christmas. I had x-rays completed as preparation for before this appointment and saw the specialist’s assistant. She believed that I had a labral tear in my right hip and needed an urgent arthroscopy (MRI scan with a purple dye added to enhance the image). She also said that she thought that I may need keyhole surgery in the future if the scan did detect a labral tear. In February 2018, I finally saw the specialist doctor who wasn’t sure if I had a labral tear and refused to do any surgery on me, being unsure of the problem and not wanting to affect my dancing career. I had a steroid injection in my hip joint to see if it helped my hip pain. Unfortunately, the injection made my pain worse for several weeks before the pain levels returned back to their original level. The doctor discharged me as he could not help me any further. For the next month, I had physiotherapy at the hospital, to help relax the muscles in my leg and round my hip as she believed this would help my hip pain. I started feeling lost and left behind because I wasn’t moving forward or finding a solution. I messaged my great aunty who was in contact with a soft tissue specialist and physio who used to treat Jessica Ennis and managed to get me an appointment with him during my Easter holidays at home. He treated my legs and back and believed that the muscles were just too tight around my hip and that he didn’t think there was a serious problem. He told me to do some exercises to release muscle tension and that I would be able to dance again very soon.

On my train journey back home for Easter, I researched dance injury specialists and physios. This new one was through the NHS and dance institution and she worked for the Olympic Hockey Team. Luckily, I was able to get my GP at home to refer me and I got an appointment at the end of the Easter holidays just before I went back to Guildford. This appointment was the day after I’d seen another physician, so I could use it to compare what they believed would be best for me. The initial appointment was brilliant, and I felt so relieved that I’d found someone who could help. She did a full investigation into all my medical history, looked at all the scans of my hips and back and a performed a physical examination. The new physician believed the problems were present in the left side of my back and in the angle of my right foot which was pushing my right hip out of place. I travelled to Birmingham by train from Guildford, every other Wednesday afternoon for a 45 minute session with her. She used a metal appliance to manipulate my back and foot rather than using her hands as this got deeper into the muscle tissue. She also used sports tape to pull my right foot outwards which helped to relieve some of my hip pain. Every appointment I came out feeling incredibly sore and the long journey did not help with recovery. The next day I always had to miss Uni because I couldn’t move with the pain in my back, hip and legs and was covered in deep black and blue bruises. After having 4/5 appointments with her, I was starting to lose any positivity mentally and physically because I knew deep down there was a problem with my hip, and I needed to see someone who could actually understand and listen to me.

Going in for my hip dysplasia operation

I found a hip group on Facebook and asked if anyone could recommend a hip specialist for me and every single person said the same name. Through this page I started talking to many others similar to my age going through various hip problems and they have been the biggest network of support imaginable. I privately messaged a few of them and we have become great friends, we can help and support each other in different ways as a result of our varying backgrounds. I also met up with a girl who was waiting for a hip replacement, we are now very close friends and help each other through everything. Eventually I got the GP at my University campus in Guildford to refer me to yet another physician and I got an appointment on the 27th July 2018. Somehow, I had managed to make it to the end of my first year at GSA having had to watch 5 dance lessons a week for the whole year, which took a toll on my mental health, and I struggled to do the other elements of the course due to my hip pain. The whole year was extremely difficult both mentally and physically because I couldn’t push myself, show my true ability or engage in the activities I love. I wasn’t sure what would happen for my second year because I wasn’t in a good place to be trying to do a full-on physical course.

My first appointment with the new physician was very tough and overwhelming but finally finding someone who understood my own feelings and wanted to help me in every way he could was a miracle. He did not diagnose me with anything on my first appointment as he wanted to do a steroid injection in my iliopsoas to see how my hip reacted. He told me very definitely that I would not be able to go back to Guildford School of Acting that September and I wouldn’t be dancing for a while. I knew that this was probably going to be said but the actual words being heard out loud from the most prestigious hip specialist in the country was extremely upsetting. The week before this appointment, my mum had been offered a teaching job abroad in an international school. The timing of this appointment was initially difficult as she only had 4 weeks before leaving for Turkey.

On the 2nd October 2018, I had my second steroid injection in London under general anaesthetic and had to wait another 8 weeks before seeing the physician again. Sadly, after the injection I had the same response of my hip pain getting progressively worse and then back to its original pain level. The physician had explained to me at my first appointment that if the steroid injection did not have a positive response that he may look into doing key-hole surgery to investigate deeper into the hip joint. On Friday 16th November, I went to London for my second appointment prepared to be told I would need key-hole surgery. Firstly, I saw a member of the physician’s team who did a physical examination, checked my scans and asked me about the last 8 weeks. He believed I would need key hole surgery but wanted to chat this through with the physician before finalising this. The physician then came into the room and undertook another physical examination, looked very closely at all my scans and x-rays and asked me several questions regarding the injection I had previously had. He knew straight away that there was a much bigger problem with my hip and that key-hole surgery would not be the solution. I was diagnosed with hip dysplasia and retroversion and possibly a labral tear too.

A PAO (Peri-Acetabular Osteotomy) was the only thing that was going to help me due to the extent of my hip condition. This came as a shock to me because I did not know my hip was in such a poor state, but it was also a huge relief that someone finally knew the cause of my pain and that my own instincts had been correct the entire time. The array of emotions did not appear until I left the hospital when everything suddenly hit me. I was absolutely relieved I had finally been diagnosed but very scared regarding the future and also having to wait 6-9 months for the surgery. Suddenly I did not know how to react or feel due to the intense emotions I was feeling inside at this time. Chatting this through with GSA, the head of my course was incredibly kind and supportive and told me that I could have another year away to recover and that my place was still available for me until September 2020.

The ‘hippies’ from the Facebook page I had joined invited me to the PAO group which has provided the utmost support through every physical and mental feeling, along with any questions I had. I waited many months to hear anything from the hospital and was gradually deteriorating with my hip pain and needed to have the surgery as soon as possible. In February, I was given a cancellation for the 25th April 2019 and it was a relief to finally have a set date so I could plan. During these few months, I attended my local gym with my boyfriend to help strengthen my arm muscles in preparation for using 2 crutches after my operation. On March 25th I attended the hospital for my pre-operative assessment running through all the information and having checks to make sure I was able to go forward with the surgery in a months time. On Friday 29th March I received a phone call from the secretary explaining that my surgery had been postponed to the 9th May due to an urgent matter. This knocked me back and made me quite upset because I had planned for the 25th April physically and emotionally, as well as my mum and sister being around as it landed in the Easter holidays. Luckily, this was only 2 weeks later than the original date, so I did not need to worry about dealing with the pain for many months after that. During April I had the most perfect 21st birthday with 3 very wonderful people. This was very special to me that I could celebrate this and forget some of the stresses of the upcoming surgery. Med-equip provided all the necessary equipment in my house to aid me after the surgery – 2 raised toilet seats with handles, a stair handrail, kitchen stool, bath board and bed handle. Furthermore, I bought a litter picker (which would be used as a knicker picker!), extra large tracksuit trousers, shorts, pants, T-shirts, ear plugs, dry shampoo and wet wipes all in preparation for my time in hospital and the following months. As my surgery drew closer, I was feeling extremely scared but also prepared and ready because my hip was causing me unbearable pain and needed help urgently. The support I received from my mum and sister even though there is much distance between us is remarkable. Friends and other family members have assisted me when I was in need of lifts to appointments and supermarkets, but the biggest support I would not have survived without came from my boyfriend who has provided support in every way imaginable and is a truly special person.

Along with all the rollercoaster of emotions I have experienced with the pain and thoughts of surgery, I have had to attend many appointments at the job centre and health assessment clinics in order to gain PIP (Personal Independence Payment) and Universal Credit. This has caused a tremendous amount of stress because I am unable to work with my hip condition and needed financial and mobility assistance. In addition, I have been on amitriptyline and pregabalin for the past year as well as needing to take paracetamol, codeine or naproxen, on days of increased pain. The last 20 months has been a debilitating experience. I cannot wait for my life to positively change after the surgery. I know that the first few months after surgery will be very difficult, but I will finally be recovering rather than deteriorating and I absolutely cannot wait to have my normal quality of life returned to me. I look forward to being able to do the simplest things pain free, which are taken for granted when you are fully fit and capable.

On the day of my surgery, I was nervous but also very determined and excited about finally getting the help I needed to start my recovery process. To start the day off in a positive way, I was first on the list.  This meant I was able to see the nurse, surgeon and anaesthetist straight away and didn’t have to sit waiting or allow my worries to arise. The panic set in when the anaesthetist started explaining about an epidural and that they advise you have this as well as the general anaesthetic. I wanted to do the right thing and stay brave and strong, so I agreed to this. After giving my mum the biggest hug, I said goodbye and they took me to the surgical ward. Unfortunately, I did then have to lie and wait on the operating bed whilst all the professionals had a chat about the surgery they were about to begin. At this time, I felt alone and scared and the best thing I could think of was to sing… so I sung quietly to myself to keep myself calm and in the right headspace. During the epidural, I had to sit on the edge of the bed and hug my knees to my chest so my spine was curved. The anaesthetist has to be extremely precise to find the bottom of the spine where the epidural is inserted. I suddenly felt a sharp pain in my leg, so he had to slightly adjust my position in order for the correct place to be found. My bum cheeks immediately felt warm and I lost feeling in my legs, so they quickly swung me round and placed my head below the angle of my feet. The general anaesthetic was instantly placed into the canular in my hand and I fell asleep.

When I awoke about 3.5 hours later in the recovery ward, I did not have any pain in my hip or legs due to the epidural, so I was very thankful this all went accordingly and that I had agreed to the additional anaesthetic. Due to the lack of beds in the upper wards I had to stay in the recovery ward for nearly 9 hours!! However, fortunately it became apparent that I needed to stay there longer anyway due to complications regarding my painkillers. As soon as the epidural started to wear off, I experienced a strong pain in my operated hip and the nurses put me on a morphine drip (this is the usual pain relief following a PAO). Unfortunately, I reacted badly to the morphine and suffered constant cramp in my whole body, as well as my hands tensing up into claw-like positions. The drip was changed to fentanyl which sadly also gave me the same reaction. The nurse on duty looking after me was incredibly kind, calling my mum and allowing her to visit me for short intervals due to being in the recovery ward for so long. I had a lovely surprise when my sister suddenly emerged from behind the curtain as she had travelled from university in Guildford to be with me and support me. At 10pm that evening, I was finally transported to a ward upstairs and placed into the hands of some extremely kind nurses and doctors. The first night after the operation, the nurses have to take your obs regularly as well as giving you lots of medication for the new pain. I didn’t sleep one wink the whole night, which was frustrating, but did mean the nurses didn’t have to keep waking me up. They also eventually found another painkiller that I didn’t react to called oxycodone which I took every 4 hours as a quick release and a slow release tablet each morning and night.

The following day, the new nurses arrived at 8am when they swap shifts and they were all very caring and supportive. They helped me complete my menu choices for lunchtime and tea and I chose an egg sandwich and tinned peaches, followed by a jacket potato with tuna and jelly. Due to being coeliac, there wasn’t much choice, but they could always provide something for me even if it had to be slightly varied from the original recipe. The visiting times at the hospital were brilliant and allowed visitors from about 10am – 8pm with an hour break for lunch at 1 – 2pm. My mum and sister visited me everyday and brought me a card to keep me going every morning. Furthermore, on the second day, they bought me the best present of a cuddly elephant who I called Elmer and he helped me in hospital through every single day and night. The first time I sat on the edge of the bed and stood up was the scariest but most uplifting moment of my life. It was the biggest hurdle I had conquered but having overcome it made each day that little bit easier. You begin using a frame and taking small steps, with the operated leg followed by the able leg. Walking for the first time after the operation was a huge triumph and I essentially was re-learning how to walk again. The physiotherapist was the most genuine, kind and extremely lovely lady who helped me achieve some incredible accomplishments and I would not have survived the week in hospital without her. She came every day to help me walk that little bit further and easier, as well as giving helpful tips and tricks to support me when sitting and lying in bed.

On the 5th day in hospital, I received an extremely wonderful surprise of my boyfriend turning up with gluten free carrot cake and a card. It meant so much that he was able to visit me. Luckily, the physio was able to come for a second time so he could see me walking with the frame. Just seeing his face and getting a hug was everything I needed at that moment. The physio explained that I could place up to 20kg of weight through my operated leg for the first 6 weeks. Initially, when I put my foot on the scales, I was only putting 8/9kg at the most through my operated leg and this felt like a huge amount. It was very interesting to see this so I knew the weight limitations and that I had something to aim towards. On the same day, I was also visited by my online hippy friend and we finally got to meet in person for the first time after chatting online for nearly 9 months!! It was truly wonderful to chat in person after we had spoken over message about her previous PAO and that she was going back to Belgium for her second one the following week.  Sadly, after my catheter was taken out this day, I went into retention over night and they had to re-catheterise me the following morning. Additionally, I got a UTI from the catheter leading to me being unwell for 2 days and taking antibiotics. This pushed me back a couple of days resulting in a longer hospital stay, but it was the best place to be as they thoroughly looked after me and made sure I recovered as soon as possible.

Day 8 was the biggest turn around which surprised me, my mum, the physio and the nurses. A miracle must have occurred on this day. The nurses removed my catheter for the second time and the physio swapped me to using crutches. Surprisingly, despite never using crutches before, I adapted to them immediately and found so much joy in walking to the end of the room just as my mum arrived around the corner. I was then able to do a little walk with my crutches every couple of hours that day, in order to start getting used to the feeling and begin strengthening my operated leg. Miraculously, I felt so confident and determined and therefore also conquered the stairs with the physio and an assistant which felt like an enormous achievement. Due to these successes, the physio was happy for me to go home and only needed to confirm this with doctors. After an extremely successful day, they all agreed that I could be discharged the following afternoon on my 9th and final day in hospital.  This was amazing news and made me feel proud of my triumphs.

Going home

My first week back at home was rather daunting initially but also felt much more comforting to be back in my own safe environment. Luckily, I had a sofa chair which could be raised at the feet which made sitting down much more comfortable and easier for my hip. At the beginning, the little tricks and mantras were difficult to remember but after a few days they already occurred more naturally. Placing the 2 crutches in front of me with the handle bars facing inwards to each other was very important when I wanted to sit down and stand up, as this made the crutches stable in order for me to do these manoeuvres safely. Going up and downstairs was definitely the hardest and most unnerving task, I always had someone behind me going up and in front of me going down. I had to hold one crutch on my op side and then the bar going along the stairs for my other hand, taking it carefully and slowly not putting too much weight through my op leg. Getting in and out of bed was also very difficult at first, this was much easier for the initial weeks when someone swung both my legs round together so they stayed in line. I started by sleeping on my back every night and then was able to sleep on my opposite side with a pillow between my knees and feet.

I definitely needed someone with me through the day and night for the first 4/5 weeks because every little basic thing that would usually be easy, became scary and a much bigger deal. I was given a few standing up exercises from the hospital in London that I did several times a day – leg and knee raises sideways and backwards which I gradually built up in height and frequency. I got my mum, sister and boyfriend to video these exercises every few days so I could see my progress because it was extremely difficult to notice this myself. These videos really helped me to stay determined and focused on the journey ahead. The surgery stockings definitely were irritating at first but then became hilarious and rather flattering apparently and became the talk of the time by lots of people. They were so tight, I had to get someone to put them on and off for me (my family and friends did not find this activity amusing!), but the easiest way was to place a small bag over my foot first so the stockings slid on more easily. I had to wear these for 6 weeks, with an hour off each day and I never felt so free when this was finally over! I was also very pleased when the 4 weeks worth of blood thinning injections had finished because I always had to look away when my family did these for me, and my bruised stomach was definitely thankful for the finish date.

Life as I now know it

I definitely had to lose my sense of dignity when I was in hospital but also at home for the first 4-6 weeks. I needed assistance having a shower and putting underwear on which you don’t think about someone having to do these things for you at the age of 21! I found a trick of putting my feet on a small bin first and then getting them over the side of the bath whilst sitting on the bath bench I had been given by Med-equip. Getting in was hard enough but getting out was definitely a challenge in itself. A good trick I am still using, is to do my teeth whilst sitting on the raised toilet seat with handles as I felt secure and comfortable so could at least do a few things without assistance. The most crucial apparatus that I bought before my op was the ‘knicker picker’ which eventually I could use to put my own pants and shorts on but also if I dropped anything; this is still very helpful to reach for things as I am unable to lean forwards. When I started having a few hours on my own some days, I attached this to my clothes so I could take it with me in case I dropped my crutches (this did happen sometimes 😉). For the first 6 weeks I rotated between sitting on the settee, doing my exercises, having a little walk in the garden and sleeping, with an occasional little trip out if I was feeling strong enough. Between 3.5-6 weeks I managed to adventure out into the real world for a cuppa which really built my confidence and was great to get some fresh air. I had to make sure I took pillows with me and knew if the seating was going to be comfortable. There was and still is lots of extra things to think about that you wouldn’t normally need to even consider.

The biggest and scariest occasion was 6 weeks post op when I took a fall in my bedroom due to feeling dizzy and slightly faint. I suddenly hit the floor backwards and my crutches fell out my hands and I felt confused and shaken. I was extremely lucky that my sister was in the house and ran into my room once she had heard the loud bang on the floor. The pain gradually increased in my hip, bum and back and I was very shaken and scared with the situation. My sister managed to lift me and get me onto my bed where I took strong painkillers. These helped quickly as we caught it in time but the biggest thing was how shook up the fall made me – and my sister! I was unable to weight bear in the same way and my hip and leg definitely felt different and not as it did before. I rested for a few hours but then the pain increased again and I was scared if I had caused a stress fracture in my operated hip. I needed to get some reassurance and assistance so I rung 111 who sent me an ambulance within an hour which was very efficient. Due to not being able to get downstairs myself after the fall, the paramedics carried me downstairs and took me to hospital as I needed to have an x-ray to be fully certain. After a long afternoon, we found out that nothing sinister had happened and there were no fractures, which was brilliant news and what I needed to hear. I was in much more pain for the next week and had to take codeine in addition to the paracetamol but I was very lucky I hadn’t done anything to affect my recovery.

The physical challenges and limitations were already hard on their own so when emotions started to compete too, some days were very difficult to handle. Staying positive all the time was next to impossible when I had a very down day, so I had to hold on to the small good moments and the fact I was slowly recovering and progressing even when I couldn’t see it myself. The support I received from my family, boyfriend and friends was extraordinary and I wouldn’t be able to carry on sometimes without them. I definitely started questioning myself some days but other days I kept a smile on my face and my exercises felt that tiny bit easier.

My 7 week check up in London was the biggest day I’d had since my operation, however my boyfriend was by my side and the appointment was very positive and optimistic which was everything I needed to hear. The surgeon was pleased with my progress and how my bones were healing and told me to gradually increase my weight bearing over the next 6 weeks with 2 crutches. After this, I will hopefully be able to change to 1 crutch as my strength increases and I feel more confident and ready. I am now excited about moving my progress forwards with hydrotherapy and physiotherapy now I have started these. This is a long journey but I am progressing everyday and on my way to my end goal of performing again in the future.

Physiotherapy and hydrotherapy have worked wonders for me since my operation. I have gradually increased my exercises and reps when I see my physio every 2 weeks and she is so happy with my progress so far. At home I do my exercises about 4 times a day with 10 reps on each exercise and remarkably we have a massage couch that I am able to use to do my exercises on, which is absolutely perfect! Last week at 11 weeks post op, I went on a static bike during my physio and even though this was very painful to begin with, it felt amazing to be moving again and see my own progress. Hydrotherapy has been the most beneficial treatment and such a worthwhile experience for the past 6 weeks. Every Friday morning I have had 20-30 minutes in the hydrotherapy pool at the hospital which has gradually increased my strength and movement. The feeling you have while you’re in the water is amazing and I feel much more free and able to move efficiently. At nearly 3 months post op, my hydrotherapy teacher told me that my range of movement was nearly equal in both legs in some exercises and I have never felt so proud of my progression!! I have borrowed an exercise bike so I am able to do a few minutes every few days to build up my range of movement. Next week at my physio session I am hopefully going down to 1 crutch which is scary but so exciting!! It will be such a massive achievement and my recovery will continue going up and up. I feel like I’m starting to move and walk more freely and cannot wait to be off crutches completely and then my recovery will take off fully!! At 11 weeks I have taken solace in playing my flute and the love and ability has instantly come back. Being able to start doing little things again is slowly bringing me back to life. I have to remember how strong I am and that us hippies can get through this.

At 12 weeks I finally walked for the first time without crutches which was a truly incredible and emotional and I will never take walking for granted again. I started walking round the house crutch free but took 1 crutch with me for a few weeks when I left the house. I started to feel more alive and human again now I was able to walk short distances which in turn helped me mentally too. A few weeks later I started to walk more crutch free which at first was actually very daunting, because even though I looked like I could easily walk, I was still a little shaky on my feet without my crutch companion and didn’t want to be bumped or knocked over. My confidence started to grow and over the following few months, the distance I walked increased and the pain became more tolerable and easier to manage. My follow up appointment on September 13th in London was the most positive appointment I have had relating to my hip, and I was overjoyed at how happy the surgeon was with my progress and x-rays. This was the boost I needed as I knew I was heading in the right direction and progressing towards the light at the end of the tunnel.

On September 24th I attended my first lower limb class at the hospital. It was nothing like I was expecting, there was much more involved and only 5 of us in the class all around a similar age. There were 10 stations each with 3 or 4 levels for you to increase slowly over the weeks depending on your injury and your physio’s guidance. The stations worked on balance and strength in your operated leg as well as a static bike as the warm up and stretches at the end. I was so proud of what I achieved as it was the most I had done in 2 years and I then couldn’t move for a few days as I needed lots of recovery time. As the weeks progressed, I could gradually do more on each station and move onto higher levels as well as the recovery time getting quicker each week. On November 12th (nearly 7 months post op), I did my first low impact activity gently jogging with light feet on one of the stations. The feeling was very strange and I did feel nervous but whilst I was doing this, there was very little pain and I was so amazed at how it felt. The pain did start increasing a few minutes later and was painful for the rest of the day but by the next day, I was already feeling recovered and able to do things again. This showed how far I have come and how my body is recovering quicker and taking to exercise and physical activity more every time. Furthermore, I have started doing small walks a few times a week and completed a 3 mile walk very recently with very little pain and it felt incredible to do this without any assistance. I am looking forward to increasing the distance of my walks and the levels at my class over the next few months. I also travelled a long distance to visit my mum for a week, I was nervous about all the travelling and long distances in the airport but with some airport assistance my journey was relatively smooth. During the week, I walked further than I had in over 2 years and me and my mum were both so proud of my progression throughout my journey.

I have been able to decrease my pregabalin a huge amount and only take paracetamol and diazepam occasionally if needed. At nearly 7 months post op, I cannot believe what I have achieved and even though it’s a long journey as recovery is usually a year, I have got to hold on to how far I have come since the 9th May. I still have up and down days physically and emotionally as this all relates to the recovery and how much and many things it affects. Without the PAO Facebook group I wouldn’t be where I am today as I have made friends for life who have been there and supported me through everything. Having people who can relate and understand every single feeling you have, makes each step that bit easier and that you’re not alone in this journey. My next appointment in London is January 10th when I’ll be over 8 months post op and I am looking forward to another positive experience.




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  1. Amy says:

    I am 21 from Australia and I too was a dancer (although only recreationally). I was a bit of a late bloomer flexibility wise and I dedicated three years to get my flexibility and technique to where it was, it wasn’t too long after this I got hip pain, clicking and frequent popping out. I was 17 and wasn’t allowed to dance for a couple of months, the pain died down but I never completely lost the problem. After a few months of seeing the physio I stopped. But two and a half years later the pain returned. After 18 months of investigation I ended up having a PAO. I was getting a labral tear repair up until 6 hours before my surgery but last minute scans revealed I had hip dysplasia and this surgery would no longer be effective. I had the surgeon sit down with my before his patient before me and explain what the surgery was. I definitely didn’t have the time to process this at all.

    I am now 7 weeks post PAO, and I can already feel the benefits of the surgery. In my surgery I lost a litre of blood, causing me to become very weak at the beginning of my recovery so I was slowed down by a couple days. I didn’t get out of bed till 5 days post-op due to the dizziness and I was only forced up as my catheder needed to be removed to due infection risk. I remember at the time all the nurses kept saying to me trust me this recovery will go quicker than you think, you’ll start improving quickly. In that moment I didn’t believe it what so ever but now I can really see it. I am still using the one crutch when I am out for support but I am walking around the house and barely even limping now. I am going back to work in 6 days time and I work in hospitality, so it will definitely be a challenge but I am up for it. I can balance easily on my leg with minimal pain. The amount of pain I have been in for the last three weeks is pretty on par with the pain I was living in on the daily and I cannot wait till I am fully recovered if this is how the pain is now. I definitely do not regret getting the PAO at all and my surgeons assessment in theatre showed that I was actually a lot worse than expected and if I left it much longer they wouldn’t have been able to perform a PAO to preserve my hip. I am still yet to figure out if my left hip is actually to be done as its not as damaged as my right hip although I still have a lot of pain. I have been told I won’t be able to dance again technical wise although I will be able to go back to dancing in general. It is disappointing that I will never be able to dance the same again although I hope you aren’t faced with that same result! Getting the PAO will be a good decision if you do the right things. I used a new technology that I am not sure If you will have access too but if you do definitely take advantage of it, it’s called a Game Ready and it uses cold and compressions to use. I vouch for this and I definitely can see the benefits throughout my recovery. Even my surgeon is “extremely impressed with my progress.” Good luck to you and I hope you have as much success out of your surgery as I did!

  2. Summer-Jade McDonnell says:

    Hi there I was wondering if you’d be happy to talk to me about signs and symptoms at all? I believe I have hip dysplasia and have had the signs and symptoms for over 2 years now but seeing different medical professionals they aren’t helping me!! I just wondered if maybe talking about your signs and symptoms and mine would assist me in a bit of closure to myself as to if I do think it is which would help my argument of getting X-rays and maybe an MRI. thanks look forward to hearing from you!! Summer-Jade x

  3. nataliesharratt44@btinternet.com says:

    Hi Summer-Jade, it’s lovely to hear from you. I don’t mind taking about my symptoms at all and hope I can help you in some way. You started with a sharp stabbing pain in my R groin which gradually spread over the front of my hip, doing into my bum and back and is now down my thigh and into my knee. It aches all the time but the stabbing pain is pretty constant and it frequently pops and clicks when I stand up or move in the wrong position. Have you been having similar symptoms? I’m so sorry you’ve not had anything helpful from a health professional, sounds very similar to what I experienced. Have you not managed to have any scans or x-rays? Where are you from if you don’t mind me asking? Hope I can help you. Lots of love, Natalie x

  4. nataliesharratt44@btinternet.com says:

    Hi Amy, it’s so amazing hear from you and hear your story!! I am so sorry to hear what you went through and that you’re now not able to dance technically. However to hear how positive your experience after your PAO and that you can actually still dance at all is incredible and really gives me hope. I can’t believe it took 18 months for you to find out about having surgery like me and you’re the same age and a dancer. I wish you were nearer so we could meet up…maybe we can one day in the future when we’re both fully recovered.

    I was also told I have a label tear and then after a long time they found out I have hip dysplasia and retroversion as well so I needed a PAO. Maybe you were lucky that you didn’t have the time to think it all through because the more time I have to think about things the worse it can sometimes make me feel!! E

    I’m sorry you had a tough first week after your operation and glad you finally got sorted and you’re now already starting to feel so much better. Do you think you’ll be fully pain free? Wow that’s amazing if you’re already going back to work especially being hospitality. Look after yourself and take it easy!! Have you been able to do hydrotherapy after your PAO? I’ve never heard of a Game Ready before but will definitely look it up and see if it’s available in the UK.

    That is amazing to hear that from your surgeon and that you’re improving so well and quickly. Thank you so much, would be great to be able to chat during and after my recovery too. Lots of love, Natalie x

  5. Lindsy says:

    I suspect I have congenital hip displeasing. Getting plain films this week. My parents were told when I was born something was off. This was “lost to follow up” I have no limp. I do have clicking and popping worse on left. I’ve always had “wide hips” I’m wondering, aesthetically, had anyone noticed changes with surgery?

  6. Venetia Giovanni says:

    Hi there Natalie,

    Could you share the name of the surgeon you found in London? I have DDH and have had many ops but would like to have another opinion as I have been told there is nothing more they can do other than a hip replacement.

  7. Misha says:

    Hi there guys!
    I recently have been diagnosed with hip dysplasia and some muscle problems around the edges-which causes them to pop in and out when I walk. I’ve always had it but it hasn’t become a problem until now, I’m only 21 and constantly sore. The only advice “specialists” have given me is to walk in water and strengthen the muscles; my legs and gluts are pretty strong already and I’m currently waiting too see other specialists. I was wondering if you guys had any tips (apart from medical procedures) to keep the pain at bay, even diet I don’t know hahaha. So happy I found this page, absolute gem! Hope to you hear from anyone soon!

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