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Cathy's Story

A Former Ironman Athlete Regains Her Competitive Drive With Hip Replacements

 Cathy's story
Cathy, a corporate trainer from San Diego, has been an avid athlete her whole life. “I love to compete,” Cathy says. Her competitive spirit has led her to try all types of sports, from college basketball, to tennis and racquetball tournaments, to completing one of the most challenging sports competitions around—an Ironman Triathlon.

Unfortunately, the wear and tear on Cathy’s joints took their toll, and by her early 50s, Cathy had developed a pronounced limp due to pain in her right hip. Simple activities, such as climbing stairs or taking the neighbor’s dogs for a walk, became increasingly difficult. Even worse, Cathy was soon unable to do many of the sports she loved. “I love rollerblading, playing golf, and jogging, and all were out of the question,” Cathy says.

The pain in her diseased hip was also having an impact on Cathy’s social life. “I met my parents at Disneyworld to help them celebrate their anniversary, but by then, walking was so difficult that I couldn’t really participate in all the activities,” Cathy says.

Cathy says she was initially hesitant about considering a hip replacement, even after her doctor told her that x-rays indicated she had the right hip of a 70-year old. “I had never spent any time in the hospital, so I definitely had some fear about the process,” Cathy explains.

Cathy was able to overcome her fear, thanks to the trusting relationship she developed with her orthopaedic surgeon prior to surgery. “The more we talked about it, the more I realized that I could do this,” Cathy says.

Cathy underwent hip replacement surgery for her right hip in January 2002. Since she had delayed the surgery for some time, the muscles in Cathy’s right leg had weakened, and her doctor encouraged her to take the recovery process slowly. “I knew it wasn’t the same as training for an Ironman triathlon, so I didn’t push it. I took the recommended full 6 weeks off of work, and I did everything the physical therapist told me to do,” Cathy says. During her recovery period, Cathy’s friends pitched in to help her with preparing meals and chores around the house so that she could focus on her physical therapy and restoring her mobility.

While Cathy’s right hip surgery was a success, just a year later Cathy began developing the same kind of pain in her left hip. “I was really frustrated, but after the success of the first surgery, I was determined not to wait so long to replace my left hip,” Cathy says. “I wanted to get through it and get on with my life.”

Cathy’s second hip replacement surgery was completed in 2004. This time, with her doctor’s permission, Cathy was driving within 4 weeks. “I pushed myself a little harder this time, and my physical therapist supported this decision,” Cathy says. “I knew what to expect, so I was able to return to my daily activities more quickly.”

Today, Cathy is back to enjoying her favorite activities, including rollerblading, and some new ones, such as breaking a sweat on the elliptical machine at her gym. An avid ballroom dancer, Cathy says she was always able to dance even with the pain in her hips, but now dances even better than she did before her surgeries. “I have a membership to the San Diego Zoo, which has lots of hills,” Cathy says. “I can walk throughout the zoo now without having to take a break.”

More than anything, Cathy says she is grateful to be able to return to the normal activities of her life without pain. “After years of limping, I am so appreciative that there is this surgery and I was able to have it,” Cathy says.

The performance of a hip replacement depends on your age, weight, activity level and other factors. There are potential risks, and recovery takes time. People with conditions limiting rehabilitation should not have this surgery. Only an orthopaedic surgeon can tell if hip replacement is right for you.

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