Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Twelve Weeks

Pretty soon I'll be looking at monthly, vs. weekly updates. The three month RPAO anniversary is coming up soon!

Right now there isn't much new to report. Progress comes, but more slowly. I am working with my physical therapist twice per week to build up strength. She says I am doing phenomenally well. I feel like my leg strength is coming back nicely. Unless I am tired I barely limp any more. I can get up out of a chair using only my right leg (something I'll need to do with PAO#2). I can do 20 minutes on the elliptical (I could do more but she won't let me yet).

Flexibility is and will always be compromised, although I am doing what I can to work on it. Things that used to be easy on the ice like spirals, sit spins, lunges, and hydroblades are now out of my repertoire forever. Those were things we used in our free dance choreography. Nice high turned out extensions which I learned to fake in the past are probably not even fake-able any more. I am not sure I will have enough turnout to do choctaws or even mohawks, but that is something I'll explore when I am able to get out on the ice in about a month. I learned to cheat them before, so now I may be able to ultra-cheat them. Probably not enough to fool judges in a test.

I am going back to see Dr. Mayo October 20th to discuss timing for PAO#2. I would like to do it this year so that I don't have to pay the out-of-pocket co-pays and deductible again next year; that adds up to several thousands of dollars. I am also interested in getting PAO#2 over with as soon as possible so I can go on with my life.

Keri, the scheduler at Dr. Mayo's office, informed me there are two open surgery dates in 2009: November 18th and December 21st. The November date is only 19 weeks after the first PAO (and 7 weeks from today). Doctors usually won't do the second PAO until 6 months after the first, to allow the first side to heal enough to bear all the weight during the 8 weeks of recovery for the second. I am skeptical that Dr. Mayo will actually allow me to go forward on November 18th, but Keri has me penciled in.

Am I psychologically ready to go through this again so soon? That is the question. Having both PAOs behind me so quickly is certainly a bonus. Recovering during the end-of-year holidays doesn't really bother me; we were going to have thanksgiving at our house but that can easily be changed. Work is slower than normal in November and December and the weather is lousy, so staying in the house on the couch by the fireplace actually sounds OK by me.

The one thing that keeps bothering me is that I have had such an easy recovery with PAO#1. Will PAO#2 be as easy? Will I have complications with my left leg, which has always been somewhat weaker than my right leg and where the dysplasia is worse? Will my expecations be too high and will I be disappointed? Will my flexibility be even worse when both hips are done? I can only hope for the best.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Eleven Weeks

For all you Spinal Tap fans ... mine goes to Eleven, so of course it's louder!

(That makes no sense really so now back to our regularly scheduled program.)

I did 10 minutes on the Elliptical today (first time). No resistance. No incline. No pain!

Also today one of the hip dudes (the rare man with hip dysplasia) is having surgery with Dr. Mayo; I wish him the very best. I took the liberty of stealing a couple of very good pictures showing how PAO works from his blog and I am posting them here for your edification. A picture is worth a thousand words:

Saturday, September 19, 2009

I am not all better, but sometimes I act like I am ...

I am at 10.5 weeks and just traveled to a nearby state (2-hour plane trip) to referee a skating competition. I carried my own luggage, only used my cane to skip the long security line, and spent 14-hour+ days in a cold ice rink sitting, standing, walking, climbing stairs, carrying things, and (gulp) running. The latter happened when I had an issue during an event and had to get quickly from one side of the arena to the other, and I'll be damned if I was going to let something minor like a little hip surgery blow my event schedule out of the water. No sirree!

When I realized I had broken into a run I sort of toned it down into a race-walking type of thing. It didn't cause any pain although I was stiff at the end of the day but probably would have been anyway. I brought my cane each day and it sat in the corner while I ran the competition. I wore (low) heels the entire time, I might add. I didn't take any pharmaceuticals for pain.

On the last day when I was tired I did use the cane for the last hour, and at least one person said, "is that yours, what is wrong?" When I told them I'd had hip surgery in July I found that most people had not even noticed that I was limping. That did depend on what time of day they saw me of course. A couple of people had noticed and asked what was wrong - and they were people who didn't know me.

I still can't even bend over to touch my toes, and I still can't do very many leg lifts, but I can referee a competition. Hang in there all of you in the early days post PAO. It gets better!

Thursday, September 17, 2009


Because enquiring minds want to know: seven stainless steel screws, some the size of ball point pens, do not set off the airport security machine when they are inside of your pelvic bones. At least they did not do so today at Portland International. Yes, I was ready to bare it all and show them my scar if necessary!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Ten Weeks

At ten weeks I am no longer lurching, but I am still limping. On the limp severity scale of 1 - 10 I am somewhere between a 2 and a 5, depending on tiredness. I was able to walk 2 miles consecutively over the weekend, with about half of that on the beach. As expected, my hip flexors were sore two days later, but I felt good during.

I wore mid-heel shoes the other day with no ill effects.

I am functional for most common activities at work (sitting, standing, walking) and at home (cooking, cleaning, light gardening, errands, chores).

I really don't need the cane but it's tough to give it up. I am afraid of people bumping into me. With the cane I don't feel I need to explain why I take the elevator up and down one flight, walk slowly in the crosswalk, and don't run for the elevator. I work in a busy, fast-paced downtown office area and I have found that people are usually impatient. When I have a cane I am less likely to be pushed, jostled, or frowned upon, and sometimes people even hold doors for me. I didn't want anyone holding doors when I first got the cane but now that I am used to it, I realize that it's no fun to have the door slammed in my face.

Sometimes my left (unoperated) hip will catch and feel worse than my right. I will be having left PAO in December if all goes well.

Athletically I still have a long way to go. I can't bend my right knee very far. I can't touch my toes. I have almost no flexibility or strength in my right leg other than enough to walk and function at a basic level. I still occasionally use my hands to lift my right leg into the car or into bed. I know this is an area I need to work on, and my physical therapist is forcing me to go slowly so I don't overdo and risk a stress fracture, muscle trauma, or other injury.

Tomorrow I am going on a short plane trip for the first time post-surgery. I've been told that the 7 stainless steel screws in my pelvis will not set off the alarms. I'll let you know whether or not I have to drop trou and show my scar to the TSA agent!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

What I did for my end-of-summer vacation

I am at the coast today before the end of summer. Last time I was here was the weekend before my PAO. Now I'm closing in on 10 weeks post PAO. Last time I was nervous and scared, trying hard to have fun and forget the surgery coming up. This time I am cautiously trying to see how much I can do, exploring my new post-PAO world, and feeling pretty darn independent.

I walked for a total of a mile today (1/2 a mile on the beach and later 1/2 a mile on pavement), which isn't very much empirically but seems like a good distance for me at this point. I had my cane to avoid limping but didn't really feel I needed it. I went up a flight of stairs several times. I did all of my PT exercises which are still pretty simple and using only my body weight and gravity (worked glutes, hip abductors and hip flexors - 3 sets of 20 reps).

I did toe raises. I pushed myself up out of a chair using only my right leg 5 times. (Remember, I have to be able to use only my operated right leg to support my weight for 8 weeks, starting in December, if my second PAO occurs as planned.) We'll see how I feel tomorrow, but despite all of today's activity I don't have any pain this evening.

Pre-PAO if I walked a mile (or less), my back and hip would be stiff and ache. Today after I walked I did not have those old pains and complaints. Granted, I walked slowly. I did have muscle soreness afterward and a bit of ache that felt like it was coming from where my pelvic bone was cut, but I had no intra-articular pain and none of the agonizing pre-PAO stiffness.

I am still taking it easy and doing pretty basic exercises, but I am happy with my progress.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

9 Weeks

I have been so busy living life that I've almost forgotten about this blog. That is certainly the desired outcome!

I've had two PT sessions and I am swimming several times per week. I feel "normal" most of the time. I do limp; I have weakness and limited ROM in my right leg, dull achiness with activity, and occasional odd sensations, but I don't have pain. I am walking without any assistive devices except for the cane for moral support during medium to long distances. (It's best used to scare away dogs and small children who come too close for comfort.) I haven't tried walking a really long distance, like a mile, yet, but I will probably start walking more just to find out what I can do. I mostly walk a few blocks here and there downtown while at work. I do a lot of short walking trips throughout the day without problems.

After all the hoopla surrounding my skating last week I decided to do the intelligent thing and ask Dr. Mayo when I could get back on the ice. He said that I had to wait 4 months from my surgery date, which means November 8th is circled in red on my calendar. That will give me a few weeks to skate before PAO #2!

The issue is falling of course. My bones aren't fully healed and a fall could do some major damage right now. I have skated for many years and don't fall often, but it is certainly bound to happen at some point. Not that I'm a model patient, but I will comply with the 4-month rule because Dr. Mayo is the boss. Plus I really don't want to show up in the ER with a shattered pelvis and have him find out about it. I don't need that kind of humiliation, not to mention the pain and possible permanent disability.

So while I'm really glad I got on the ice last week, I'm hanging up the skates again for a while to concentrate on my physical therapy and rehabilitation per doctor's orders. See you at the gym!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Dance Camp: Goals

"Australian Waltz" at the HDC Today (It's interesting to note my lack of turnout on the right leg. You can actually see in this photo that my right femur is twisted inward, preventing my toe from turning out naturally. This is particularly obvious since Doug has great turnout. See how his right thigh naturally turns out at the hip, creating a much more pleasing leg line than mine):

"Tangle Romantica":

My goal was to skate on the social session at the High Dance Camp. Sincere thanks to Doug for making that a reality, and to Patti who has been so encouraging.

Thanks to Bob R. for the photos!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

8 Weeks and 1 Day: Ice Ice Baby

I was walking around the house in my skates last night because I had them rebuilt and I’m trying to soften them up. I realized that I was limping less while wearing the skates than I had been just walking around, and that my balance was fine. So it occurred to me that getting out on the ice might just be possible.

Even though I had planned to go to a public session in the middle of the day where nobody would know me so as to keep this little experiment under wraps, another ice dancer happened to be at the mall, so I had a witness. It turned out this was a good thing since he encouraged me (thanks Doug) and reminded me to be careful.

I spent the first lap or two holding on to the rail, then ventured out into the flow of traffic. I found that I had more pain in my abductors than anywhere else, although both legs were generally weak, right more than left. Bending my knees hurt, so I was pretty stiff. I did a lap of forward swizzles and a lap of forward slaloms before trying to do anything on one foot. I then did forward outside and inside edges on half circles. They were slow, stiff and barely recognizable as edges, but I think I had a silly grin on my face just the same.

Then the true test – I did the steps to the Dutch Waltz. Even in the tiny mall rink my pattern was miniscule. There was no way I could get any push with my right leg because my abductors hurt too much, and pushing onto my right leg was also difficult. I did a lot of toe pushing. I was on flats. My knees were stiff. My posture was terrible. Had music been playing I would have been off time. My pattern barely filled half the rink. I would have absolutely failed the easiest dance if I had been testing. But I did a full pattern and I was ecstatic.

8 weeks and one day ago I was in surgery having my most valuable skating muscles cut and reattached while my pelvis was sawed into pieces and screwed back together. Just a week ago I had not put any weight on my right leg for 7 weeks, and at that time I could not even balance on my right leg. Considering the timeline, what I did today was damn good. But as skating goes this shows me just how far I have to go in order to do even the easiest dances socially. Getting myself onto the ice does not indicate that I’m all healed and better, it just indicates that I’m a little bit crazy. And very, very determined.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

8 Weeks - Physical Therapy and Bye Bye Crutches

Well let's start with the most important part first, shall we? At my first physical therapy session (today) my therapist told me I did not need crutches at all. I've been using 2 for long trips and 1 for short, and nothing for really short/around the house. She said a cane was probably just fine and to let pain be my guide.

Woohoo! That's a recommendation I am happy to take to heart.

She measured a whole bunch of things, like strength and range of motion. I heard her say "normal" a couple of times. Normal! I've never been normal in my life, and now I'm becoming normal. Or normal'er.

That doesn't mean there isn't a lot to work on, and I have home exercises to do, but not overdo, as she was quick to warn me. I think these people are all on to me ... they realize that I will do as much as they will let me as soon as they will let me and that patience is not one of my virtues.

I am clearly limping but my gait isn't as bad as she would have expected. I walked up the stairs like a normal person (right foot up then left foot up) without crutches. She finally got a little scared and asked me to please hold the handrail, but I didn't feel I needed it. She said she would have expected my right thigh to be more atrophied (well hey, it was huge to begin with). My right calf is very atrophied.

We talked about flexibility, turnout or lack thereof, my ticklishness problem (caused perhaps by all the "guarding" my muscles automatically do, perhaps due to dysplasia), the limitations given by my surgeon, and how right now I am compensating all over the place just to be able to walk, which is normal. She does think I will see fast improvement and that this is going to be "fun."

Well, fun for HER.