It was 2017 when I first began having issues. It started with my right calf, then my left knee and I remember joking - next will be my hip. Be careful what you say…
After teaching an Aqua class I put the speaker up in the closet and crunch! The moment is frozen in time for me. I cautiously eased out and began gently undulating my spine. “Not good,” I thought, but par for the course — a few days and that will be that.
But it wasn’t. I did everything I know and more and it still hurt. And what was worse — I couldn’t quite pinpoint what was injured. I felt varying amounts of discomfort in my back and my hip and my leg. Eventually I had a chiropractor release the twisted spine and relieve much of the pain but that relief only highlighted the true problem - my hip. I had an MRI done and the doctor emailed me a brief request that changed my life:
I would like for you to see a surgeon. We can manage non-operative issues, but I feel your hip requires operative attention.
I was heartbroken. Every emotion sped through me - I can’t have surgery. My entire life is predated on movement - everyone knows me as the athlete, the endless bundle of energy - the Energizer bunny. I can’t need surgery.
Plus I didn’t want surgery - who does?! I did everything I could do avoid it. I tried numerous alternative remedies and while some of them helped a lot - I never got to the point where I could freely move my body without pain or limitation.
I began asking around as to surgeons and the most emphatic answers came from friends who had hip surgery and said ‘Definitely go to HSS’. I procrastinated but one day while flipping through Facebook I saw a friend’s video of her gliding towards the camera and striking a pose with the caption ‘I just had surgery 2 weeks ago’. She didn’t look malformed so I called her and talked and she got me in touch with Brandon Davidson, who runs the dancer program there. Brandon really helped me talk through all my worries and concerns and was an ear for me when I started to second guess myself. He got me an appointment with Dr. Leali and I was off to the races.
I got my x-ray, met with Dr. Leali and was shocked that he wanted me to wait on surgery. Despite being leaders in the field, they aren’t going to throw you into a surgery until you are ready, physically and emotionally. It’s hard for everyone but for athletes or dancers who use their bodies for work, the outcome can affect their livelihood.
We planned another visit and I continued studying the mind body connection and how important ones brain is to physical healing. I also began a new nutrition plan, focusing on healthy foods, minimal sugars, dairy and processed foods. My hip is part of the whole, and I wanted to be as healthy as possible all over so I could support the surgery and recovery.
When we met again there was no question in my mind that I was ready. There is a certain amount of time that is required for anyone to “get totally on board” with cutting and replacing the ball and socket while pressing a titanium rod into your femur. I don’t care if the surgery animation on YouTube looks simple and straightforward — it is still quite daunting.
I was not living the quality of life I needed, there was constant pain and with COVID-19 I had the time to recover without the pressure of feeling I had to get back to teaching and acting jobs immediately. I talked to Dr. Leali about needing the surgery to be really good as I was planning to be very active. Other people had said ‘well, you have to expect a new normal’, Dr. Leali said, "I have just the person." He set up an appointment with Dr. Elizabeth Gausden.
The ball was rolling - she was perfect! She knew her stuff, had great energy, confidence and a way about her that put me at ease. We set the date. I was excited but also in a bit of a stupor that it was finally really happening. The HSS staff is so efficient - they got me on track for all the x-rays and procedures necessary. I attended the webinar on what to expect and had advocates calling to see if I had questions. I had passed the baton of control over to HSS and I could focus on me and being the healthiest version of myself that I could. I was part of a team, each doing their part, to make the surgery a success.
The day of the surgery went without a hitch - I felt like I was on an a first class assembly line - I was attended to by nurses and staff that took care of everything I needed and off I went to the OR. I barely had time to admire the room before I was in the recovery room. Brandon even stopped by to say hello - amazing!
I stayed overnight and had my first PT lesson on a walker and then graduated to a cane (no top hat) and was released. HSS made sure I had nurse and PT visits the very next day and Dr. Gausden continued to be accessible through the portal if I had questions - and I had a few!
What could have been one of the more traumatic experiences of my life became something I actually feel empowered by. It was a wonderful experience - challenging yes, but I learned to let go of my control and allow the surgeons and staff at HSS to ‘Do Their Thing’ so I could do mine.
It’s now 3 months later and most of the time I forget I have had the surgery - it is that good. The quality of my life is so much better and I feel the heaviness of the decision making process and the actual surgery and rehab to be something of the past. If it wasn’t for COVID-19, I’d be back teaching at the gym but I’m teaching on line effortlessly - my flexibility continues to improve along with my range of motion. Moving forward I don’t feel at all limited - in fact I look forward to seeing where I am going to go next.