In addition to educational and best practices articles, we’re excited to begin sharing personal surgery stories on the PeerWell blog. A major part of our mission is to connect patients with better information and a supportive community of peers. With that, we hope that introducing personal stories about hip or knee replacement surgery preparation and recovery will help you feel less alone in journey toward a healthier tomorrow.
“I’m 29 and I’ve Had 4 Hip Replacements”
*The name of the patient in this personal story has been changed for confidentiality.
It seems impossible to believe that at just 29 years old someone could have already undergone not one, not two, but four separate hip replacement surgeries. However, it’s a reality for some Americans. Mark explains, “When I was 17 years old, I had extreme pain down my entire right leg. Shortly after, I was diagnosed with a very rare bone cancer that originated in my hip. It infested the ball of my femur and spread downwards toward my knee”. In August 2005, Mark would have his first replacement, just before starting his senior year in high school.
“In the initial surgery, there was a small risk that they wouldn’t be able to save my leg due to how large the tumor was and its proximity to the sciatic nerve. Thankfully, it was a successful limb salvage operation.” During the replacement they put in the artificial components [stem, ball, liner, and socket], removed all of the cancer and I was onto recovery.” This close-call may not have given Mark an appreciation for his premature hip replacement, but it came pretty close: “I was very, very lucky. I am very lucky”.
In full remission, Mark was well on his way to putting the whole thing behind him when he suffered a major setback. In April 2006, 8 months after his life-saving replacement he broke hip precautions, bent too far forward, and dislocated his hip. In for emergency surgery, Mark’s bounceback was incredible: “In two days I was fully walking on both legs, with limited pain,” he revealed.
It would be a decade before Mark would go under the knife again, but once again, it would be urgent. In April 2016, Mark underwent an emergency hip replacement after a confirmed dislocation. Although the average lifespan of an artificial joint (especially one implanted today) is greater than 10 years, Mark knew it was the right time for a replacement. “I put a lot of miles on my hip. My hip took me through my reckless teens [laughs] and through most of my twenties. In that timeframe, I wasn’t exactly easy on it.” However, a realist, Mark acknowledges the stark truth of the matter: “Everyone wants to be optimistic and think that they may only need one revision in their lifetime. This isn’t realistic for everyone–especially younger patients. For me, I knew more than one revision would be inevitable.”
During this emergency replacement, Mark was fitted with an open cup design (also known as Modular Dual Mobility or MDM). The Modular Dual Mobility design is an alternative option for those with stability issues. In some cases, it can also increase mobility. It is a relatively new type of implant in the US, only being approved in 2009.
What Mark couldn’t predict was that just a few months after his emergency surgery, he would have to start back from the beginning. Two months into his recovery, in June of 2016, another dislocation occurred. Being an open design, the hip was able to be “popped back in” without surgery. However, Mark and his trusted care team decided that to avoid future problems, it’d be best to redo the replacement and go back to a traditional, locked-cup design. Mark explains, “It’s extremely rare to dislocate with the open cup design. Regardless, my UCLA surgeon and I decided to switch back to the previous locked cup. I have a history of being the poster child for medical rarities, so I just wanted to be confident.”
Although some things were left entirely out of his control, Mark decided that he was going to fully and completely dedicate himself to prepare for his fourth, scheduled hip replacement surgery. He wanted to regain his mobility and flexibility and get as close as possible to his former self. With that, “everything clicked” for Mark when he came across PeerWell preparing for his September 2016 replacement. “I was actually able to be discharged straight home on Day 3. I firmly believe that PreHab is what allowed for my great outcome. I followed PreHab for weeks before surgery and then I did ReHab religiously during my recovery.”
Today, more than 4 months has past since his last surgery and Mark is feeling great. When asked about pain, he responded, “Of course I still deal with some pain, but I strongly believe in practicing mindfulness as shared in the PeerWell app. I don’t personally mediate each day but I know that your mind is what delivers pain. If you’re able to think around that, you’re able to live without letting pain indulge itself. It’s possible to get to a mostly pain-free place, but it takes some work to get there.”
Are you younger and in need of a hip or knee replacement? Read “How Young is Too Young For Joint Replacement Surgery?“
9 Rapid Fire Questions with Mark
After a lifetime’s worth of orthopedic surgeries before the age of 30, we asked Mark what it’s really like to be in one’s 20’s, on his fourth replacement. We also asked him for advice, recovery tips, and just about anything else joint replacement-related we could think of. Here’s what he had to say.
1. What it’s like being so young, having endured multiple replacements?
M: It’s not been an easy road and I have had a lot to come to terms with. I make the most of it.
2. What advice do you give people preparing for a replacement?
M: Listen to your doctor and do your best to prepare yourself. Do exercises early; if you smoke, quit; learn calming techniques.
3. How exactly did PreHab help you in your recovery?
M: Mindfulness helped overcome my anxiety about pain and push it out of my mind. I was able to get off of narcotics very quickly and speed up my inpatient time.
4. You mentioned mindfulness being a major part of your recovery. Is this your favorite part of PeerWell’s program?
M: Absolutely! Even though I opted to stay in the hospital for 3 days, I was offered to be discharged THE NEXT DAY because of how well I was doing. I was off narcotics before I even left the recovery room and was out of bed on my new hip soon after.
5. What is one thing you learned through multiple replacements?
M. I’ve had different types of components, so my leg and hip feel different after every procedure. It takes time to understand what I can do to limit pain and discomfort with each unique hip.
6. What is something that caught you off-guard about hip replacement surgery?
M: How careful you need to be. The hip precautions your surgeon gives you are necessary to be followed. I’ve had three dislocations and those are quite frankly more painful than the surgery recovery themselves.
7. Describe your replacement in one word.
8. How has your hip replacement made your life better?
M: Mine is an unusual case. The first hip was part of a limb salvage- saving my leg after having a cancerous tumor taken out. Without a hip replacement, I would not have a leg.
9. Rate your entire joint replacement experience on a scale from 1-10 (1 being the worst thing ever and 10 being the best thing ever).
M: A solid 8.
Are you preparing for a hip or knee replacement? Let PeerWell’s mobile app guide you toward a better surgery and faster recovery. Join PeerWell now.