For 10 years, I struggled with the aftermath of a corticosteroid-induced AVN episode in my left hip, leaving me with bone-on-bone severe pain and large cycsts within the femoral head. I'd been an active triathlete since 1985, and had completed the Canada Ironman 6 months before a cortisone injection for poison oak led to early AVN and the total loss of cartilage in my left hip. (My right hip has remained completely healthy). Triathlon, running, XC skiing, backpacking - are all essential for my psychology and happiness, and a standard "total hip" was too depressing to think about. I dropped my research in astronomy and spent hundreds of hours learning everything at the University of California San Francisco Medical Libary about bone, cartilage, hips, hip surgery, and AVN. Through SurfaceHippy on yahoo groups, I discovered Dr. Gross and decided his improved design of a femoral cap was my best option for returning to an active life. His design promised a much stronger bond between metal cap and bone than competing designs, and the porous ingrowth surface would provide a strong bond with my bone. This interface could even be expected to heal (with care) from minor traumas which would instead lead to ultimate failure in a cemented cap. While waiting for the availability was longer than I'd planned, I'm very happy with the results. In my office visits and correspondence, Dr. Gross was clear, detailed, informative, non-condescending, and gave me options on how to deal with my severe osteoporosis. He was clearly excited and enthusiastic when discussing hip prostheses and design criteria. This was very telling for me. I did not want a 9-to-5 doc who would assembly-line a hip for me with old technology. While my bone quality was not strong, he felt (and I agreed) that the evidence suggested my osteoporosis was inactivity-induced, and that my bone quality would markedly improve once I could resume activity. He advised 2g/day of calcium with appropriate vitamin D. I'm extremely grateful that he allowed me to be one of the first of the uncemented Biomet ReCap patients - in June 2007. This too was important for me - I wanted a doctor who would respect my understandings, my choices, and give me an honest appraisal of the risk/reward for my options rather than lead me into a choice which might be proven in the short term, but not provide the hoped-for longevity. I was clear that I understood the uncertainties and believed this design was the best for me, and he honored my wishes.
I followed instructions post-surgery - crutches for 4 weeks, then slowly increasing activity. He said I should be able to run in a year. I in fact did some short beach runs on soft sand beginning 7 months after surgery. 14 months after surgery, I did my first triathlon (a short one, with most of the 4 mile run being on the beach. That's me, in the red cycling jersey at the finish line at right). I definitely feel the effects of being 10 hardly-able-to-walk years older. My muscles, tendons, and bones were badly out of shape as I'd literally only been able to limp weakly for 10 years. But my progress is excellent and I absolutely LOVE being able to run again the redwood trails in the mountains near my Santa Cruz home. You can see the improving times on my favorite 7 mile trail run at left. 18 months post surgery, I did my first significant pavement run - a 10K race. The pavement is rock hard! But no injuries (but my feet hurt!), and despite the challenges of getting myself back into shape, my left hip has shown no symptom of bone pain. Only pain due to re-hab of the rotators and other muscles affected during surgery. Most of that is now in the past, and I look forward to running, enjoy 50 mile cycling rides, kayaking, hiking... all without any hip-related pain! That's me above, running on the beach in January '09. As I write this, I'm feeling pleasantly tired from running my first post-surgery half-marathon, just 3 weeks after the 10K race. Not a trace of pain from my hip (my feet, but not my hip!).
My enthusiastic thanks to Dr. Gross and his excellent and professional staff in making my trip to South Carolina and surgery such a wonderful life-changer for me!
A detailed progess report on my surgery and recovery is here.