Hip replacement patient refuses to slow down

Hip replacementAt the age of 61, Rosemary Schriefer struggled with pain in her hip and relied on a cane for even the shortest walks. But since mobility and independence have always been important to her, she decided to fight back.

Now 63, she works out on the elliptical machine at her local YMCA and takes Zumba classes.

In 2011, Schriefer developed a pain in her hip that refused to go away. She sought help from an orthopedist who ordered x-rays and recommended a regimen of pain medication. After several months with no improvement, Schriefer asked the doctor to re-evaluate her. He referred her to a rheumatologist instead. The rheumatologist ordered more x-rays and recommended that Schriefer see an orthopedic surgeon.

Despite being bounced from doctor to doctor with no relief in sight, Schriefer refused to settle for a life of pain. “I was very frustrated, and I wasn’t ready to give up my active lifestyle,” she says. “So I kept looking for a doctor who wouldn’t give up on me.”

In early 2012, Schriefer met John Clohisy, MD, a Washington University orthopedic surgeon at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. Dr. Clohisy, like the others before him, ordered x-rays of Schriefer’s painful hip.

The hip is a ball-and-socket joint. The “ball” is the head of the femur, or the thigh bone, and the “socket” is part of the pelvic bone. A healthy hip has cartilage inside the socket to cushion the movement of the ball when the leg is lifted or rotated. Dr. Clohisy spotted something that no one else had mentioned on Schriefer’s x-rays: her hip cartilage was completely gone.

“At that point it was clear that her severe osteoarthritis of the hip was going to be an ongoing problem,” Dr. Clohisy says. “Once you have advanced loss of cartilage in the joint, the healing potential of the joint is limited. Prosthetic replacement surgery is usually the best option.”

Dr. Clohisy presented Schriefer with options: she could continue physical therapy and medication and adjust her activity level accordingly, or she could have a total hip replacement surgery. He says Schriefer’s commitment to fitness indicated that she would be a good candidate for a successful hip replacement.

“Patients who are well-conditioned and exercise tend to recover quicker from surgery and obtain better outcomes,” Dr. Clohisy says. “In general, hip replacement surgery offers patients marked improvements relative to pain relief, increased activity and improved quality of life.”

In Schriefer’s eyes, the choice was simple: she wanted her life back. She scheduled the surgery for two days after her sixty-second birthday.

“I’m glad I persisted in finding a doctor who would listen to me and help me get to the root of the problem,” she says. “It finally felt like someone understood me.”

For seven months after the surgery, Schriefer worked with occupational therapists and physical therapists to regain her mobility and independence. She had to re-learn the most basic movements: getting in and out of bed, walking and climbing stairs. “Some days it was really tough,” she recalls. “But I didn’t come this far to give up on myself.”

In November 2012, Schriefer participated in a “Slow Run” 5k event. Completing the 5k boosted her confidence. “I told myself if I can do that, I can do anything,” she says.

Schriefer is now pain-free and says thanks to her regular workout routine, she’s feeling stronger now than she did before the hip pain began. She has also returned to her work with the St. Louis County Older Resident Program, driving local seniors to their appointments and swapping stories with those who have had or are considering hip replacements.

“It feels like a miracle,” she says. “I have my life back.”

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Category: Orthopedics, Patient Stories

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Barnes-Jewish Hospital at Washington University Medical Center is the largest hospital in Missouri and the largest private employer in the St. Louis region. An affiliated teaching hospital of Washington University School of Medicine, Barnes-Jewish Hospital has a 1,800 member medical staff with many who are recognized as "Best Doctors in America." They are supported by residents, interns and fellows, in addition to nurses, technicians and other health-care professionals.

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