I Would Do It All Again - A Patient's Journey In Physical Therapy
I had been uncomfortable for about three years before I decided to have my hip replaced. At first I only experienced a stiffness after a long bike ride or run but later, it became an ache and then a sharp pain when simply walking up a flight of stairs. At that point, I couldn’t sleep through the night without feeling a constant burning deep in the joint and whether standing or sitting, I just couldn’t get comfortable. It was so strange to think that only a few years earlier, I was climbing Camel’s Hump twice a week but now found myself struggling to simply take a slow, one-mile walk on flat ground.
Although I never really got a definitive answer from my surgeon as to why one hip was perfectly fine while the other was worn down to bone on bone, I believe that my deteriorated hip was a result of eleven years of competitive figure skating. With my landing leg, and therefore left hip, routinely absorbing crushing falls up to sixty times per day and forces up to eight times my body weight when a jump was landed, there should have been no surprise that I would someday need a new hip.
The years leading up to my decision were challenging because I didn’t want to give up or give in and I thought I was too young to have the procedure. “What if it doesn’t last? What if I have to have it done a second time?” Years went by while the pain was increasing, but I continued to skate, run, ski and cycle while hoping that it wouldn’t get worse. But one day it did.
It was July, 2013 and I was in Ann Arbor with one of my daughters, walking across and around the enormous Michigan campus. My hip hurt like it always did, but something had changed. I was slower and it hurt just to simply put one foot in front of the other. I had developed a limp and it was one that was starting to trigger knee and back pain. I remember hating the pain but what I remember even more was being disappointed that I couldn’t walk the campus with my soon to be freshman daughter. I was going to leave my girl in Ann Arbor for four years and I couldn’t explore it with her. It was then that I knew that I needed a new hip. I was told that it would happen this way. I was told that I would finally be tired of hurting and would “Cry Uncle” and so the day I returned home from Michigan, I scheduled my surgery for that December. I will share here that I literally skipped into the hospital that winter morning because I couldn’t wait to get started. I was ready!
The procedure went well and I was home within a matter of days. I don’t remember a lot about the first post-operative week but I do recall needing to be very careful to keep track of my medications by writing everything down. Because I had to take blood thinners for a month after the surgery, I had to know exactly what I took and when I took it. I share this important detail because I thought I would be able to remember when and if I had taken my Warfarin but pain and the fatigue that accompanies healing is distracting. During the first week at home, I found myself counting my medications to determine whether or not I had taken any. I learned quickly to just write it down the minute it was in my mouth.
After a few weeks of home physical therapy and visits from home healthcare nurses, I was discharged to outpatient PT and that is when I discovered the gift that is PT360. My first meetings with Erin and Julie put me at ease and gave me the insight, confidence and direction that was necessary to recover safely.
I learned quickly that healing is hard work, both physically and mentally. Attending all appointments and doing my exercises exactly as prescribed was going to be the easy part for me. I knew from my life as a competitive skater that physical work is necessary to gain strength and stamina but I had little knowledge about how to recover from a total hip replacement. I was really tired all of the time and my incision was sore, itchy and oddly, numb. Regular PT visits to massage scar tissue, learn to move more normally again and to enjoy wonderfully healing sessions in the pool, not only made me stronger but it set me up for success long before my new hip had finished healing.
I’ve often heard people say that they don’t believe that Physical Therapy works but I believe that this opinion is often used as an excuse as to why those people don’t keep appointments or do their exercises at home. I get it, it’s hard work and it can hurt and it takes time but the knowledge and expertise held by the entire team at PT360 goes beyond science and exercise. Not only are they masters of physiology and healing, they understand that success involves commitment, care and the building of a relationship. Knowing when to push and when to slow down can be tricky but I never had to worry because my therapists did that for me. I trusted that I would never be alone in my recovery and that at every turn they would be there for me.
In the end, I had great success because I had a great surgeon who got me through part one but it is the team responsible for part two, my physical therapy team, who are responsible for who I am now. I now hike and cycle and roam the Michigan campus with my daughter who is STILL there as a medical student but most importantly, I don’t worry about what I can or can’t do. I just do what I want because I forget every day that I have a prosthetic hip.