I’m a Bay Area native and started swimming when I was about 2 years old. I was on my high school swim team, but not even close to being fast. I enjoyed swimming though and my event was the 100 yard backstroke. In fact, my backstroke was a lot faster than my 100 yard freestyle! I swam in college for exercise a bit doing about 4000 yards, but it wasn’t something that I stuck with on a regular basis.
Then on 18 October 2010, my life completely changed. I had a tingling in my right hip which I thought was odd. Within 12 hours, I couldn’t lift my right leg and I was in excruciating pain. By that afternoon I was mixing alcohol and leftover oxycodone (from when I had separated my left shoulder) and still feeling pain. A few doctors I saw didn’t know what was causing my pain, but they could see a lot of inflammation around the joint in the MRI. They noticed that I had hip dysplasia and none of them knew much about it. I also got the single most painful shot (of cortisone) in my life directly into my hip joint. I hope that room was soundproof! I described the symptoms to my cousin Denise who works for an orthopedic clinic in the East Bay. She relayed them to her work’s medical director, who suspected the dysplasia and said for me to see Dr. Michael Bellino (a hip/pelvis reconstruction specialist) at Stanford and he wouldn’t trust anyone else with my condition.
I met with Dr. Bellino who said that the dysplasia was definitely causing my pain. My option was to have a periacetabular osteotomy (PAO) to correct the angle of my hip joint, give the top of the femur bone adequate covering, and stop the arthritis that was already forming in my hip. The procedure was originally designed by Professor Reinhold Ganz with his assistant Dr. Jeffrey Mast. Dr. Mast was Dr. Bellino’s mentor. You can find out more about the procedure here.
Long story short, in March 2011, I had a broken bone for the first time ever and it was a major blood-rich support bone for the body. I lost about 30+ pounds and was so weak that I couldn’t make it from the bedroom to the living room. I was in a wheelchair and a walker for the better part of 3 months. I couldn’t bend or put weight on my right leg for 2 months. I was stuck sleeping on my back (which I hate). Every time I had to even go to the bathroom (thank goodness for a bedside commode), I thought of how badly did I need to go since it took a lot of effort and energy to get in and out of bed. After 2 months, I got to start physical therapy. My total time for recovery was about 7 or 8 months total.
In December 2011, I was visiting cousins in Boston when I started having a familiar feeling in my left hip (yeah that one had dysplasia too). The inflammation/pain wasn’t as bad, but I was walking noticeably slower than usual. F*** dude, really? My then-boyfriend and I knew exactly what this meant and at least we’d gone through it once before already.
In March 2012, this time the left side of my pelvis was surgically broken and screwed back together. Everything afterwards went a lot smoother, and we had my friend Kris around to help me out during the day. I didn’t lose as much weight and had more energy than after the previous surgery, but it was still rather depressing for me to be almost 100% completely dependent on other people. I don’t miss the walker or the wheelchair. This time the recovery took about 4 months total.
What this have to do with swimming? Having spent almost 6 months of the last 20 months confined to a walker, wheelchair, or bed, I spent almost every day wishing that I could even get out of bed without any kind of assistance or difficulty. It made me think of how so many people take for granted the fact that they can physically move however they want whenever they want. People who can walk are damn lucky that they can walk as other people don’t have that option. I’m extremely fortunate that there was a surgeon who knew a procedure that could fix my hips so I wouldn’t be stuck on a never-ending cycle of anti-inflammatory drugs and oxycodone until total hip replacement would have been required. I get out of bed every day to go swimming or cycling or spinning or my other lifestyle hobbies because unlike some people, *I* have that option. That’s a fact that I never want to forget.