Samantha’s Story

My hip dysplasia story begins years before I was diagnosed. I always knew something was off with my hips, but at the same time I thought it was “normal” because I didn’t experience pain. However, when I was a kid I noticed I couldn’t move my leg in certain ways. Examples of such are that I wasn’t able to cross my right leg over my left, couldn’t sit in a pretzel position, was never able to get into the splits or toe touches when I did dance, and couldn’t lift my right leg far up. These inabilities never limited me, but they were frustrating at times especially when I saw others able to move around more freely than myself. I would stretch a lot to become more flexible, but nothing seemed to work. It wasn’t until the end of high school and the start of college when the hip pain began. The pain started off subtle, like a deep stiffness in my joint but would go away for months at a time. I went to different doctors while in college but was written off because I wasn’t a college athlete and I was “too young” for hip pain. I gave up trying to figure out what was wrong with my hip for years. I was thinking “What if the doctors were right?”, “What if this was all in my head?” and “Maybe I am overthinking it”. The pain continued on and off for years, making it harder for me to enjoy the activities that I once did.

Fast forward to April 2018. I was training for a 5K and running was an activity I never liked to do because I always got a sharp and uncomfortable pain in my right side. Even with explaining to others that I didn’t like to run due to pain, I was pushed out of my comfort zone and told I just needed more practice running. One day after work I ran to a point where I felt something snap in my right hip. It was a pain I had never felt before; that was the day I tore my labrum, but I wouldn’t know it until the following year. The next morning, I couldn’t walk and was limping badly. The pain was getting worse. Enough was enough. I needed to look for more health care professionals that could help figure out what was wrong with me.

Shortly after injuring myself, I made an appointment with my doctor to get a referral to start physical therapy. I went to physical therapy 2-3 times a week for about 6 months with little change in my hip pain. After my insurance cut me off from physical therapy for the remainder of 2018, I made an appointment with a sports medicine doctor. The doctor took an x-ray of my hip, which showed hip dysplasia. But the doctor said my joints looked perfect and was perplexed why I was in pain. After the new year, 2019, I started going to physical therapy again after I was able to get more visits. I was starting to get some relief from dry needling but things still felt off.

After I was cut off again from physical therapy sessions around June, I decided it was time to get another opinion. I made an appointment with a different sports medicine doctor at Northwestern Hospital and didn’t get my hopes up for an answer. The first thing the doctor ordered was another x-ray; I was frustrated because last time I got one and was told nothing was wrong. I thought, “What was going to be different this time?”. Boy, was I wrong. The doctor came into the room to tell me that I have hip dysplasia and there was nothing she could do to help. The only solution was surgery. She also suggested I get an MRI to see if I had a labral tear and hip impingement based on my symptoms and to make an appointment with Dr. Stover, the orthopedic surgeon that specializes in hip preservation surgeries. 

About a week after the appointment with the sports medicine doctor, I had my MRI. The results came back a few days later showing a deep labral tear and hip impingement. At this point, I knew surgery was inevitable and started to mentally prepare myself to go under the knife. In September  2019, I met with Dr. Stover and he went over my x-rays and MRI results with me. He confirmed that I had dysplasia and explained the only way to correct it is with surgery. Even though I was preparing myself for this moment, my chest got tight and I was nervous as all hell, but I knew this needed to be done. I scheduled my surgery that day to be performed by Dr. Stover.  It felt great to finally have an answer to my pain, and a solution as well. I left the hospital nervous but excited about the journey ahead.

For the next 5 months, I meticulously prepared for surgery by doing research on the operation, joining a PAO Facebook group, scheduling my CT Scan, and purchasing all the items I would need for recovery. I have never had any sort of operation, so to go from nothing to major surgery in a short time freaked me out. Scheduling my surgery months in advance helped ease my nerves and plan for the road ahead. During the preparation months, I made a lot of fellow “hippie” friends through the PAO Facebook group and they helped put my mind at ease so much. I honestly do not think I would have been able to go through the surgery without everyone’s support. I also made a wonderful recovery friend that was having her PAO the same day as mine. Talking to her and knowing I was not alone helped more than I thought it would. Never in a million years did I think I would have found comfort in new friends all over the country.

About a week before my surgery, my surgeon called saying he reviewed my CT scan and suggested I have a femoral osteotomy as well. My femur was internally rotated 50 degrees when the maximum should be 10-15 degrees. This bone deformity was the answer to a lot of my limited movements of my leg (not being able to cross it, do the splits, and lift it high). Even though I was not prepared for this particular surgery, I gave the go ahead. Might as well get it all fixed at once.

From that point forward, the day of my operation, February 4, 2020, sprang up on me and surprisingly, I was not that scared. I remember everything that happened at the hospital up until the point they put the mask on my face that administered the anesthesia. What felt like 2 seconds was actually 10 hours, I woke up in the PACU feeling as good as I could be for having a PAO + FO. My wonderful partner was waiting for me the entire time during the operation and was in my hospital room as soon as I was released from the PACU around 10 at night. I stayed in the hospital for 3 days after my operation and had a wonderful medical team that made my stay as comfortable as it could have been. The Friday after my surgery, I was on my way home to begin recovery. 

The first two weeks at home, I had my parents fly from Georgia to Chicago to help out. My mom flew out for the first week and did a great job at taking care of me, cooking, and keeping the place as clean to allow me to move around easily. My dad flew out the following week and did some shopping, was cooking quick meals for me, and was distracting me from pain with silly conversations. I was nervous for my parents to leave because after they left, I would be on my own during the day since my partner would be at work. I still needed help moving and was using two crutches to get around. How would I get food and drinks? After some quick thinking and talking to my PAO friends, I bought a crutch pouch and a rolling cart to push back and forth between the kitchen. Shortly after I figured out ways to have some independence, the lockdown for COVID began and my partner and I were at home together. 

Recovery during COVID has been challenging.  My partner and I were forced to work from home and adapt to the “new normal”. At this point in my journey, June 2020, I am almost 4 months post op. I still walk with one crutch but I feel myself getting stronger everyday. I can do things now that I could not have imagined doing even one month after surgery. While I still have a long way to go before I am walking unassisted without a limp, I could not be happier to have had this operation. It has given me my life back, even though I am not fully recovered yet, I can just tell I will be able to go back to doing all the activities I want to do, and more.