Nicole’s Story

Hello, my name is Nicole and I am a “hippie” from Colorado. As a baby, my feet developed in different directions. I was diagnosed with clubbed feet, wore special metal shoes, and used a bar to keep my legs straight as I slept. Nothing further was investigated, and no X-rays were done, unfortunately, to know how my hips were developing. In my twenties, after working in retail and long hours being a wedding and portrait photographer, my hips would hurt badly. Sometimes different sides, sometimes both. Only rest would help it subside.

I went to the chiropractor thinking I was out of alignment since there wasn’t an injury. This would give me temporary relief, but I’d be back to hurting several days later. I finally went and saw a sports medicine doctor and, after seeing my pelvis X-rays, he referred me to a hip specialist. I was told my hip sockets were in the shape of a dish, when they needed to be a cup. Both of my labrums were shredded inside my joint, I had impingement, and very little rotation which, after time, caused the muscles to pull apart.

I was diagnosed with bilateral hip dysplasia. Labral reconstructions and periacetabular osteotomies (PAOs) were recommended. I started my journey of surgeries in January of 2020 at the age of 32. I was recovering during Covid, and it was difficult when appointments and physical therapy appontments were sometimes done virtually. I went back to work after six weeks, but when I was five months post-op, it was suddenly uncomfortable to sit at 90 degrees. Little did I know that, during my PAO, I picked up a bacterial infection in my hip joint.

Luckily it was extremely slow growing, but my body rejected the screws and pushed them three inches out of my pelvis. With the force it takes to screw these in, my surgeons were surprised this had happened.

I had to have the screws replaced and irrigated. This opened up my entire incision again and I underwent a long six weeks of antibiotics through a PICC line. I am extremely allergic to all adhesives, so it was really uncomfortable.

Four months later, I started the process for my left hip. Again, I underwent the labral reconstruction and PAO. My incision tissue died and developed necrosis almost immediately. It took a long time to heal. My spinal block given during surgery for recovery also failed. I was given a dose of fentanyl as an epidural, that didn’t help. At that point, I knew something was wrong. Luckily, my anesthesiologist was able to give me a catheter of slow dispensing medication straight to the spine to go home with.

After five surgeries, which were all were during the pandemic, I am finally able to walk normally. I now have no pain. I have gone back to working as a wedding photographer and am able to work better than I ever have. I am forever thankful for the donors that provided me new muscle and bone tissue used as grafts during my surgeries, for my team of doctors and surgeons, and for the support of my closest friends and family who helped me through this journey. I am grateful for the community of PAO warriors and groups like this one that spread awareness to hip dysplasia and connect patients together.

Advocate for your health if something doesn’t feel right. Everyone deserves to live life free of pain!