Hip Surgery

Shit y’all, I’m only two days out from this hip surgery and I am starting to panic! But not the kind of Panic! that you would find at the disco, rather the kind of panic that keeps you up all night because it gives you bad dreams. Damn it, I’d much rather be all Panic! At the Disco. Jerimiah had a good suggestion though. He suggested I write out all the stuff since writing things out helps me feel better. He’s right, of course, so I’ve decided to turn to the old blog to document my surgery and all the feelings (and pain levels) and what not, so that 1. It might help me feel more in control of things that I have zero control of and 2. Help others? I’m always trying to help others in my writing, so sure, this might have the capacity to do that too. So let me just get through the nitty-gritty first, then we can start down he rabbit hole of things in subsequent posts.

Diagnosis

So as y’all might recall I have an autoimmune disease called, Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS). It’s essentially arthritis of the spine and it has the potential to fuse joints and all that not-fun stuff. In order to control the progression of the disease I take weekly Humira injections, see my rheumatologist four times a year, do regular bloodwork, and get annual CT scans and MRIs. During a routine MRI back in December of 2021, the doctor noticed some problems with my hips that were not related to my AS. My AS has mainly attacked my SI Joints, which are the joints that connect your pelvis to your spine. On the MRI it was noted that I have “Bi-lateral Labrum Tears” among other issues. It was also noted that my right side was much worse that my left side.

All of this made a ton of sense to me, considering for the last ten years or so, I’ve had incredible, intermittent pain in my right hip area. I would sometimes be in such pain (mainly in the groin area) that I could not walk. This seemed to happen after intense workouts and when I was stretching or jogging or even walking too much, like when the fam and I would go to Disney and walk 15 miles in a day. There was basically nothing that helped alleviate the pain but rest.

I was referred to an Orthopedic Surgeon immediately and that’s when I met Dr. Whitfield. I should mention here that I live in the Atlanta-metro and because of that am blessed to have Emory right up the road from me. My doctors and hospitals are all within a 20-minute drive, with state-of-the-art campuses like 21 Ortho Lane, where I first met my Orthopedic team and where the Atlanta Hawks practice. No, they will not let you on the court to take a selfie. I asked.

Upon meeting Dr. Whitfield he showed me my scans and I was like, “Eww, is that my butt?” It is, it is your butt on an MRI scan and it’s not cute and he was all, “Can we focus?” Sure thing. Then he showed me where the biggest areas of concern were and it turns out it was with my right labrum which has been really “jacked up” (my term, not his) from years of overuse and also the way my hip bones are made. Seems I have bones that come to a point. Your hip bones should be rounded but mine are not which means for years they have been doing a number on my labrum.

Le sigh.

Your labrum, in case you don’t know what the heck a labrum is like I didn’t know what the heck a labrum was, is the ring of cartilage that goes around the socket that acts as a suction seal and as a stabilizer. One of the other not-so-fun symptoms of this problem is that my hip often “pops” or comes out of place and then goes back in which is usually unexpected and painful. You also have a labrum in your shoulder, maybe other places too, I dunno, I’m not a doctor. Here, look it:

There is the labrum and also you can see the bone that fits into all snug as a bug in a rug? See the rounded part there that looks kind of like a penis, if you see penises in things like I do? That fits up against your labrum, and yeah, it does sound like labia which is how I got there. Annnnnnyway, my bones and ligaments in this pic are all kinda jacked up and that labrum is really jacked up and that is why we are where we are. And that’s my official diagnosis: Jacked-up Hip.

Treatment Options

Since my left hip isn’t bothering me at all, even though it has the same probs, we are just ignoring that one for the time being, but it’s possible I’ll have to repeat this surgery on the left side one day. It’s also “likely” that I will need a full hip replacement on account of my jacked-up hip and my AS. So why not just get a new hip? That’s a valid question, thanks for asking. I too asked that question and Dr. Whitfield told me all about how if you put brand new tires on a young (new) car you will still need more new tires years later because the young (new) car will tear up the new tires and basically I’m a Ferrari.

I’m too young at forty for new hips and my hips aren’t “that jacked up.” But when I’m 60 we will be having a different conversation. No offense to less young Ferraris.

First we tried hip injections. This is where they inject the hip with steroids and hope for the best. My first injection immediately took the pain away and allowed me to go to AWP in Philly for a weekend of walking and exploring the city, then when I got home the pain was back. The injection lasted about four weeks.

The second injection allowed me to go to Disney and have a kick-ass time with the fam, very little pain, until the last day then BAM! The second injection lasted me about a week.

After the two “failed” injection attempts we moved on to surgery. To be fair there is another option, physical therapy. And I could have tried it but with my AS it makes PT tricky. What might help my hip, has the potential to hurt my SI Joints and likewise. Plus, there’s no way you can PT your bones to be more rounded.

Normal/Not Normal

So now here we are, two days from what they tell me is, Hip Arthroscopy to replace a jacked up labrum, along with shaving my bone to make it round, and something, something, something. This is a pretty common surgery with pretty good results. Dr. Whitfield is the resident expert in this surgery at the Emory Orthopedic and Spine Hospital where I will be having the it done. This hospital is actually in Tucker, GA the town I live in and it’s right off The Perimeter, making it uber convenient because it is an out-patient surgery.

Normally they’d just fix a torn labrum but mine is so jacked up it has to be replaced. Normally they replace it with your own tissue, but in my case there’s a risk of my body attacking its own tissue, on account of the autoimmune disease, so I’m getting a new labrum fashioned from a dead person. For sure, it’s cadaver tissue and this isn’t my first time getting cadaver tissue (they use it in dental implants of which I have one) and my body was cool with it, so awesome.

Thanks dead people for donating your bodies. I am also an organ donor, though I don’t know what they will possibly want from me? They probably can’t take a labrum out of my body that originally belonged to a different dead person? Right? Or maybe they can and deeply discount it? Like half off? Most of my joints are junk and my heart, well, check back in with me in about 20 more years. Also, if you want to be an organ donor you can do so here.

Also they will be shaving the bone and cleaning the area, as well as poking holes in it all to generate stem cell growth. I have no idea why, but I’m told it’s all normal. It’s approximately a four-hour surgery and in terms of this surgery I’m getting the Cadillac of deals. As in, this looks cool, but it isn’t. It’s just overpriced and will end up making your friends think you are pretentious. It hits all my out-of-pocket costs though, which means I’ll get all the rest of my medical shit for free* through April!

*Free is not free you see. It’s actually $5000, but $5000 is way better than $40,000 which is the MSRP on this bad boy.

Outcomes

Since my diagnosis I’ve talked to a ton of people who have either had a similar surgery or who know someone who has. This diagnosis is common in athletes of particular sports that require pivoting, like basketball, soccer, and even softball, of which I played all through my childhood. It’s also common with people who suffer from various autoimmune diseases like mine, which makes my outcomes a little more complicated.

With the right PT and a top-notch surgery Dr. Whitfield says I should be at about 90% within the next year. Meaning in a year or less I will be walking normally and (fingers crossed) without the pain and the popping that I have become accustomed to. I might even be able to stretch my right leg or move it in certain ways I was not previously able to! Wow!

My weight factors in, but only slightly. I’m a sturdy girl. Like if I were a dancer I could try out for Lizzo’s Big Gurrrrls, okay. 💁🏻‍♀️But he’s actually more concerned with my AS, than my weight having a significant impact on the outcome of surgery. It just makes it all tricky. Plus, I’ve had to go off my weekly injections for a total of six weeks (three before and three after) to limit my risk of infection. I’ve been okay so far, no flare-up of significant symptoms (someone knock on some wood for me) but I’m definitely reminded daily why I take the risk of injection every week.

My recovery starts immediately and looks like rest and crutches for the first four to six weeks. This is nuts to me, but I see why. It’s just that again, I hear all about people having complete hip replacements and being up and at ‘em the next day, so it’s frustrating to know I won’t be up or at ‘em for a bit. Plus, I have crutches already and I’ve been practicing on them and uh, no. Just no. My upper body strength is gone since I’ve been on rest for almost a year now, and oh yeah, my damn dogs are terrified of them.

Ahhhhhhhhhhhh! Sorry. Just needed to scream.

So there you have it. The first blog post of probably several pertaining to my hip surgery. I hope you’ve found this helpful, enlightening, or entertaining in the least.

I go in on Thursday morning and should be home by dinner. My friend Jennifer is actually bringing dinner to us Thursday night, so I won’t have to worry about that and we’ve prepped best we can for my recovery. I’m so incredibly thankful to my friends and Jackson and Jerimiah who will be helping me out the next couple months. I couldn’t imagine having to do all this alone.

Okay so you know the deal, y’all: Thanks for reading and stay safe and sane out there!

M.

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