Alexa’s Story

Growing up, I was always an active kid, most of my childhood was spent as a competitive gymnast up until the age of 13. At the end of my eighth grade year, I decided to quit after being injured too many times. Soon after this I got introduced to high school dance, almost instantly I fell in love.

Flash forward to my senior year of high school, I began dancing again after taking about 5 months off due to COVID. In October of 2020, I was asked to choreograph a duet with a partner and film it for an online fundraiser that the arts program at my school was doing. During the filming session, I started to notice my hip was aching and especially after that it turned into more of a throbbing. As a dancer, pain was something that came with the territory, I didn’t think much of it and just iced and took Advil for a couple days. I started to notice that my hip would pop just about anytime I turned my leg out. After about two weeks of this, my mom took me to get X-Rays just to make sure there was nothing wrong with the bone anatomy. After my pediatrician reviewed it, she confirmed there was nothing wrong. Despite this, the pain did not go away so I was referred to about 2 ½ month of physical therapy. During this time, I continued dancing many hours each week.

When we realized my physical therapy wasn’t working, I was referred to an orthopedic surgeon and to  get an MRI with contrast to look for a labrum tear. Sure enough, I had a tear in my labrum, but it was small and incomplete. Neither my doctor or physical therapist thought this was the cause of my pain. I was told it was probably bursitis or tendonitis from dancing. In May of 2021, my orthopedic surgeon decided to refer me to a hip specialist after the pain continued and kind of ran out of treatment options.

In June of 2021, I went and saw this hip specialist for the first time, I mostly expected to get the same answer as I had everywhere else, which was honestly no answer. When the nurse took me back, she said we were going to do x-rays again, I was annoyed by this. When the doctor came in, he asked “How long have you known you’ve had hip dysplasia?” I jokingly responded with “about two seconds!” My surgeon is so amazing and immediately started from the beginning with what this was and what my treatment options were. My only problem was I was supposed to leave for my freshman year of college about two months later. So getting a major reconstructive hip surgery was just not going to work.

I waited a whole year to get my surgeries and on May 27, 2022 I got my labral repair, followed by my PAO on June 1, 2022. Going into the surgeries I knew that it was probably going to be one of the hardest things I would go through, but nothing could have prepared me for what the recovery really was. When I woke up from my first surgery, I thought everything was normal. However, it wasn’t until I tried to use the bathroom that night that I realized I physically could not urinate. I immediately went to the Emergency Room where I was diagnosed with Postoperative Urinary Retention and a catheter was inserted. They think this was caused by the nerve block that was given during surgery. The catheter was removed 48 hours later and I haven’t had any issues since then.

When I woke up from the second surgery, I had an epidural for three days, so pain wasn’t really an issue. However, the day after they took the epidural out, we realized I couldn’t flex my left foot at all and my toes were barely moving. The surgeon came in and assured us that the muscles hadn’t woken up yet but that they would and that the nerves were firing. This was diagnosed as drop foot and I had to relearn how to flex my foot and use my foot through a lot of physical therapy. At this point, I also noticed that my whole left foot felt like pins and needles and the whole outer half of my leg was numb. The nerve team came in and said that I had stretched nerves and the pain would go away anywhere from six weeks to six months later. Little did I know that this pain would be the worst part of my whole recovery. This is the pain that kept me up all hours of the night for seven weeks straight and made me regret getting the surgery. It has become a running joke in the family that my hip surgery hurt my foot more than my actual hip!

I also made the mistake of joining PAO groups on Facebook because I thought they would bring me comfort. In reality, they made me more anxious and caused me to try and self diagnose myself with complications I didn’t even have. At around five weeks I removed myself from all these groups and stopped googling every symptom I had. I also stopped saying “I can’t” and added “yet” to the end of every statement that had to do with my abilities. The biggest step that I took in my recovery was leaning on my faith. I gave my situation to God and fully entrusted Him with every step of my recovery, no matter how big or small.

At around seven weeks, I was cleared to weight bare and relearn how to walk.  This process took about five weeks. At around week 9, I was only on one crutch and then by week 12, I was mostly off crutches completely. Right now, I am at week 14 and I already feel like this surgery has changed my life so much. I still have hip pain but I can already tell the pain is so much different then my pre surgery pain.

I am back at college living a pretty normal life, I have a small limp still and it takes me longer to get places. I still struggle with nerve pain, but it’s so much more tolerable now and doesn’t hinder anything I do. I have about three more months of physical therapy left and my goal is to get back to dancing as soon as possible! With one more surgery to get the screws removed in about eight months, I can’t help but feel thankful for my amazing surgeon, physical therapist, and the life experience this situation has brought me. In those moments, I thought I would never get better but if you have already had a PAO or are thinking about having one, the relief I have already felt has far outweighed the negative parts.