Helen, 60, was always active as an elementary school teacher. She noticed that there was a “deep pain” in her right hip and over the counter pain medication didn’t help. When she had an X-ray, the doctor told her that synovial fluid had been depleted from her hip joint, which was causing her bone on bone pain. But at that point, they said she was too young for a hip replacement. Helen modified her activities but at one point she felt like her pain made her seem as if she “was 98 as opposed to 48.” Helen needed to find a specialist who could see she really needed a replacement and couldn’t wait. She found one who, after a series of tests, told her there was no question: she needed a hip replacement.
HELEN: My name is Helen I'm sixty years old and I've had a total hip replacement my life was kind of active very active doing a number of things like teaching school and being with the elementary school children you have to be active and keep up with them and then I did acting and have to keep up with that you know when they tell you to walk after walking today he said if the set and a lot of times when I had to do all of these I was in pain.
HELEN: I just noticed in my right hip there was a-a deep hurt and some time as I was walking I would almost fall, you know lose balance on it. I noticed that when I would try to cross my legs there was pain. I noticed when I would start bending down from my waist on the right hand side there was pain. When I was sleeping, turning over there was pain on the right side and so I began to notice that and take pain medication just over the counter it wasn't doing any good so then I went to a doctor to have this checked out. I was given the X-ray and there was less synovial fluid that had depleted from the joints and it was causing my joints to rub together but at that point they said I was too young for a hip replacement.
HELEN: I chose to do water aerobics to carry me over because the buoyancy of the water helped the impact, it helped to move my body, you know my legs. By doing those types of routines in the swimming pool I was preparing myself to get stronger and I also was working on the pain that I was enduring. I felt as though I needed the exercise because I like physical exercise and the aerobics that I was doing the pouncing hard on the floor was even making more pain so I had to find a physical activity that I could do that would cause me less pain doing it.
HELEN: When the light came on, Helen it's time when I was working on a show and it was with a singing group and it demanded choreography and we had the choreographer there and I couldn't do the movements they had to alternate the movements for me because I could not just even bear the pain and that was the aha moment you have to go and get this done. I went back again to the same doctor had X-rays done again and it was getting more complicated, it is getting worse. It affected my back, it affected how I sat for long periods of time I could not sit in one place I had to move periodically, I’d have to switch you know over and get the pressure off of my right hip. So yes it interfered with a lot of my physical activity. I was in pain, I was the one bending over stooping over looking like I was 98 as opposed to 48 so I knew I needed a hip replacement.
HELEN: I was told that I needed a hip replacement and that I wasn't getting the hip replacement I had to search until I found someone that would see already that I needed the hip replacement and then get it done. So I decided to change my mind and go to a s-another specialist and they did a series of tests and there was no question about it I needed a hip replacement so then the age wasn't the issue. I do remember when it was set for me to have the hip replacement surgery I was going to London at the time to receive an award on a movie that won many awards. The movie was called Reunion and during the time in London I was walking crooked my back was bent all over, it was hurting so bad that I stopped one day into a healing shop with a lot of herbs and some of the medicines. They gave me the oils that I would put on, they gave me these little pills it was hurting that bad but I needed to carry out that mission of being there for the award show, seeing the opening of that movie and I wanted to be there and I greatly enjoyed it even though I was hurting. ‘Cause the majority of the time in London you were walking. You know unless you were on the train you were walking. So I had a lot of hurting but I carried on because of the excitement. I knew that I was going to London so I had made the schedule and the work up around that time so that when I come back from London then we would go into the surgery of having the right hip replacement.
HELEN: After the surgery I woke up and it was a requirement as soon as you wake up that you get up and you start walking. And so that's what I did I was in pain yes, it was an outpatient surgery I didn't stay into the hospital overnight. They had scheduled where I would walk the halls accompanied by the nurse or the physical therapist every so many minutes. I assume they wanted to see if I was capable to go home on my own and handle the hip surgery which was a success I was able to do that.
HELEN: They did give you a list to prepare things like you have you’re uh, necessities close to the bed and you have your water close to the bed or if if you have a bell which no one was there for me to ring the bell but you know these uh, necessities close to your bed. So I did, it was the Betsy Ross bed special made. You would have to climb up on steps to get to my bed so the person that did bring me home did help me up the steps, did help me to get up onto the bed. And so I laid there uh, there was the orders to have my legs propped with pillows so I propped the legs. When it was necessary for me to go to the restroom I’d get up on those crutches and I would go. I would say that moment for being, being at home was a lonely moment. I had to stay in one place when I was laying there in the bed I couldn't move because it would hurt but, but they insisted that you know I come home the next day began to walk and so that's what I did.
HELEN: What I did to uh, make it more pleasurable I decorated my pain they would call me Fly Girl. I would hear positive things instead of being looked at as like you know an invalid on crutches I was getting compliments on my crutches. And then I graduated from the crutches to the cane and once again I decorated that came and I had a lot of compliments and so that was a healing right there. The only bad moment was that very lonely moment and I got to the house got to the bed and realize that I was by myself. That was a lonely moment because the person that had dropped me off and had picked me up had a previous engagement and it was a work engagement. I did not think that they were not going to leave so I thought I was going to have someone there at least for the 24 hour period. So I bared it, made it through and it was okay.
HELEN: So I was eating a lot of frozen food dinners I would eat the fresh vegetables by myself, you know red bell peppers, the yellow bell peppers foods like that or if I would ask your friend to go and purchase a fresh salad and bring it home for me. So that's basically how I would eat being alone I would eat a lot of frozen dinners. I felt like I was making progress I had switched to the cane, the decorated cane and I would go down the steps you know one time at a time I would walk up and down the block. I feel like I progressed quickly I don't have anyone or anybody or any time line to compare my progression to but within myself I felt I progressed quickly I didn't try to rush it though and I think it was after the two weeks after I got the permission from the doctor that I may drive but I carried that cane around a lot for show.
HELEN: My hip was feeling fine after you know the couple of weeks of the healing I’d have return visits two times a week they would watch me walk, they would ask me about my pain feeling. I progressed quite well I made the right decision I didn't have that aching and I wasn’t bending over anymore of course it had to heal I gave it it’s time to heal. After a years’ time I didn't feel pain I wasn't consciously aware that I had had hip surgery and I went about doing my activities as usual. I was back to singing, dancing, teaching, climbing the steps easy I just kind of like did not want to lose that cane ‘cause it was so flashy and I got so many looks and so many compliments but I put the cane you know aside.
HELEN: Four years after my surgery I began to hear little creaking noises I didn't know what that was but you know I was going to carry on as usual then I did receive a call that to come in to uh, have a check-up of that right hip replacement. And what the founding's of that was that whatever was uh, holding it together had become loose. Balls and chains and things that we used were coming a loose and I had to have the revision of the surgery and they replaced it with plastic type of balls and chains on the hip. I felt like I really don't want to go through this but I'm going to go through this because I'm not going to be walking and making creaking noises all along. The revision surgery for me was easier because I’d gone through the first surgery so I knew everything to expect. I knew what to do, what I had to do had to get up and walk all the only difference for the revision surgery I stayed overnight in the hospital but that was the only main difference other than that the procedures are my routines that were required of me to do, they basically remain the same. I gave it another year just like I did with the first one the only thing that I regretted is that I would have to have a new incision okay that was a bummer I didn't want that but that's what I had to do.
HELEN: Now it's my left knee that’s hurting. So, I don't know I'm not even looking into that right now. My left knee hurts now I don't know if that has anything to do with the hip, I haven't gone in to have the check up on that. You know if the pains increase then I'll go through the procedure again. It wasn't bad it was good I know what to expect. The doctor has never said to me why my synovial fluid leaves my joints you know, at a young age. I did notice my mother at a younger age you know would always have hurting and take it I-I didn't take that into perspective it could be in genetics if it is I’m gonna deal with it. [LAUGH] I'm dealing with it.