Hip Hip Hooray!

For years I’ve had a pain in the ass. Literally. A dull, throbbing pain that started as an “angry hip” pain as defined by a personal trainer who struck a nerve while trying to stretch my left hip/leg about 10 years ago. Since then it has morphed and expanded to cause me to limp and have people ask if I was ok. Clearly I was not ok, but my efforts to mitigate the pain were not working. It’s not like I didn’t try everything: massage therapy, yoga, pilates, supplements, naturopathic treatments, FST stretching, osteopathy, chiropractic, laser treatment …. you name it I’ve tried it. All in an effort to overcome what the radiologist described as advanced arthritis nearing bone on bone in my left hip. I was staring a hip replacement in the face and was doing everything to avoid surgery. In my mind I was resigned to living with the pain.

I watched my dad undergo two knee and two hip replacements over several years. The procedure and recovery both painful and prolonged. He waited months, if not years, for the green light to get the operations and then the his recovery was horrible to watch. My dad has the highest pain tolerance of anyone I know and he was in excruciating pain. I recall taking him to an appointment with the orthopedic surgeon and saying the pain was a 10 out of 10. The poor guy, I thought. On one of our holiday trips his pain was so severe he chose to forego the excursions. I can’t imagine the pain. Actually, I can.

So here we are. Arthritis the culprit has invaded my body and I’m desperate to rid myself of inflammation. Once I started reading every shred of information (within my non medical brain scope; I draw the line at research journals and such!) I realize that inflammation can not be eradicated without ridding the source. Once your body is inflamed you have to start with removing the source of the inflammation. Inflammation is caused by many different things such as food and gut health. I’m convinced that my inflammation is centred in my left hip. No amount of fish oil, krill, glucosamine, CBD, or otherwise is going to be effective as possible due to the nature of my arthritic hip.

Once you throw in the towel and admit defeat, dealing with the pain becomes more tolerable in some ways. You just decide to deal with it. On the other hand, I’m entirely convinced that there’s a solution for me other than radical surgery. Every night when we go to bed, I take an NSAID and some cannibis. This allows me to have a comfortable sleep (which I can’t do without) but it takes a while (40 min or so) to kick in. During that time I putter on my phone and my “go to” websites are ortho related or real estate. A few weeks ago I stumbled on a website http://www.aromotion.com while doing a random search. I couldn’t stop reading. This was my potential solution!

I shared the information with Rudy who urged me to set up a consult. I did. We were booked to see the Doctor on February 1 2023. There are several offices, but Tampa was close for us; about an hour away. I completed the on line consult request form and the following day a representative from their office called. He answered several of our questions and sent us videos to watch then he scheduled us for a consult. Our appointment was scheduled for 3 p.m. and we arrived shortly before; the office is in a large building with very clean and modern facilities (so first impressions box was checked). Then I filled in the forms in addition to the on line forms we were supplied with. I provided the X-ray report from Canada that I had on hand (thanks to Medeo) and that gave the Doctor the basis for my personal information. He brings us into his examination room which is lined with joint posters and models. The three of us sit together and he picks up a hip joint model and starts to explain the radiology report I’ve given and showing how the enamel covering the joint has “cavities” and that’s exposing the nerve causing the pain. He explains that the enamel can be repaired by the body, but it’s harder for the body to do so as we age. We naturally produce less of the healing cells we need to make the repairs.

He offers a procedure (FDA approved) whereby the painful nerve is isolated and ablated; this kills the pain. Then stem cells derived from placenta and umbilical cords is injected into the joint to stimulate regeneration. In a few years the nerve grows back but the “cavity” is no longer there. Non surgical hip “replacement”. Based on my radiology report, my hip is nearly bone on bone so there’s a bit of space to work with the “cavities” are not entirely tooth decay. The Doctor explains that when a joint has deteriorated beyond the cavity stage and resembles cauliflower, there’s no alternative than replacement. I’m a good candidate for the procedure they offer. Rudy and I look at each other and are a bit stunned. Why didn’t we know about this sooner? Why isn’t this front page news? We leave the office in awe wondering if this is the magic bullet that has eluded us for years. On our drive home we debate the matter fully. In the end, we decide to contact my brother; the most reliable medical source I know. Plus, my brother doesn’t bullshit; just the facts.

I send my brother the website and explain that we had a consultation. His questions and comments were simple: sounds reasonable, how do they landmark the probes to isolate the nerve and where do the stem cells come from. Good questions. The nerves are found using X-ray assisted probes; they locate the pulse in your groin (where the main hip nerve is) and using X-ray and computer assistance they insert the probe. The patient is fully awake and is able to say when the nerve is touched. The cells come from a lab which procures them from hospitals where they are harvested from newborns. There is almost zero chance of rejection. Sounds good, he says, actually it sounds “pretty cool”. So based on his input and my desperation, we book the procedure. February 14 at 11 a.m. $4850 USD.

In between the consult and the procedure, I travel home to Canada to celebrate my dad’s 91st birthday. His actual birthday is Valentines Day, but after the fiasco at Christmas, I vowed to never try travelling at holidays. As an aside, I decided to fly from and to small regional airports; I don’t think I will ever use huge international airports again unless absolutely necessary. The Doctor advised against using any NSAIDs or other blood thinner type medications 3 days prior to the procedure. So since I was travelling and without any supplements, I decided to eliminate all for the 6 days prior. It was harder than I thought. I had no idea that the whack of supplements I was taking did anything, but after abstaining I realize that they have a definite place in my regiment. My parents keep their apartment at a solid 75F at all times and even with the fan on high and the bedroom window cracked open, sleep is elusive. I’m a total grouch when I don’t get my sleep and it’s really hard to deal with my mother’s endless repeat of questions and comments. You didn’t eat breakfast …. why are you leaving …. there’s a cold draft in here …. sometimes the broken record plays in English and other times it’s German. My dad has a new equally annoying fixation: You Tube. He believes absolutely everything he sees and hears on You Tube as though it’s the gospel. It’s easy to understand how the mass media is so devastating to elders who have relied on its veracity for their information. Everything is getting on my nerve and that’s painful. Short on patience and long on pain, I can’t wait to have alone time and quiet. So I follow my mom’s lead and hit the hay at 8 pm. In the old days, my dad would pester me for another game of cards, but these days I think mom’s non-stop, relentless rants and ravings leave him craving the nightly solitude with the TV. Too bad it’s You Tube.

When I return to Florida there’s continuous activity to keep my mind off pain and procedure jitters. But finally the 14th rolls around and we are travelling to Tampa. To say I’m nervous is a bit of an understatement; internally I’m terrified. I hate needles and just thinking about them makes me panic and want to run the other way. Or limp the other way as it were. I’m driving so I’m grateful for the road and the many crazy drivers to keep me on my toes and my mind in focus on the road. When we arrive at the clinic we are 30 min early (the Rudy effect) and wait in the lobby. Now my mind is really racing and I cover all of the negative what if scenarios. A young (very fit and lean) woman walks through the lobby and distracts us momentarily … I wonder if she’s a patient although I quickly strike that idea since she was walking totally normally. My reverie is broken when the administrator gives me a folder containing all of the do’s and don’ts following the procedure. Rudy is snapped to attention when they gently request payment. As we are engaged in the paperwork, a previous patient comes out (he’s with the fit young lady) he’s also very buff and it’s clear he’s the patient since he’s got the gait of someone who’s had pain. He’s just had the procedure and he is remarking how he was able to put his jeans on without pain. I’m feeling hopeful. And then we are asked to move to the waiting room area.

This is a really modern clean area with a high glossy white kitchen area including breakfast bar and it’s fully stocked with coffee/tea/water/snacks. Adjacent to that in the large open concept space is a seating area with a huge flat screen tv. There’s a lot of green (albeit fake) plants scattered throughout. The space is all brightly illuminated by the many windows allowing natural light to flow in. It’s a peaceful place. While Rudy grabs a coffee, another couple (mom and son) engage us in conversation; the dad is having his knee done. Before they finish their drinks, the dad comes out the procedure room and they leave. My mind is starting to grasp that this is not a walk to the gauntlet. Within minutes of him walking out, they call my name. It’s happening.

I’m escorted into a large treatment room. On one side there is a bed with a large white contraption on rollers beside it. There’s a bank of wall units neatly stocked with supplies. I’m taken to the desk with a computer on top where the Doctor shows me what they are going to do. He takes about 45 seconds to do this and then he asks me to lay as flat as possible on the bed and pull my pants down to my knees. His assistant covers me with a cloth. The big white contraption is the X-ray unit; this is rolled beside the bed until the round globe part (about the size of a pilates exercise ball) is hovering over my groin. At the end of the bed is the screen showing my hip. He shows me the space between the ball and bone in the joint and explains that he will insert two probes into the area where the nerve is. Once they find the nerve they will ablate the nerve ending and stop the pain. Then they will inject the stem cells into the joint. Sounds pretty simple.

With my eyes firmly shut and my hands clasped in front of my chest, I’m bracing for whatever happens. First there’s a local topical freezing and cleanser applied. The Doctor looks for my pulse around the groin area; once he finds it he marks the spots with something (I’m not looking). Then the first “bee sting” probe number one is inserted. Then another sting as the second probe goes in. The Doctor tells me I will feel some pressure as they try to isolate the nerve. All the while, the Doctor is asking what I feel, where is the sensation. If I say my leg he wants to know where and is particularly concerned that it’s not below the knee. After what seems like hours of them probing (in reality it’s minutes) they find the nerve. At this point I’m ready to jump out of my skin. The jolt of sudden pain is excruciating. The Doctor is pleased and he lets me know we are ready to go. Next is a freezing (a bit of pressure) and then he gets the heating probe in place. He dials up the heat and keeps asking how I’m feeling. At one point I feel like the cloth covering should be smoking and smouldering; the Doctor sort of chuckles and says the heat is strictly internal. He reduces the temperature to what I can tolerate for 90 seconds. The machine beeps and whirrs. Then he says that’s it. Heat probe comes out and stem cells go in. Some wiping and 2 bandaids. Done. 20 minutes or so.

The assistant brings me an ice pack and ice water. I sit up and slide off the table. My legs feel slightly wobbly, but I walk back out to the waiting room where Rudy is surprised to see me, it was quick. And we leave.

Back in the car with Rudy driving we head home. I try to articulate the procedure, but I’m still in a bit of shock. Physically I’m fine, but my brain seems fried. Rudy’s driving is excellent, he’s always cautious and careful, but he doesn’t keep an even pressure on the gas. The on and off motion is usually tolerable, but today I feel like I might be sick. They did tell me that nausea is a common possible side effect. I’m not sure, but the combination of the car motion, the empty stomach, the nerves. Who knows. We get home and we are both hungry and wiped out.

The next day I wake up ready for the usual morning dread of going pee and putting weight on my left leg. However, when I stand up I realize there is no pain. I walk tentatively to the washroom thinking it feels weird to not have pain be my first greeting in the morning. I go back to bed and lay there thinking it’s a fluke. But when I get up for real it’s apparent that the pain is gone. I have to lay low for a week. I think I can last 5 or 6 days. I’m icing the probe entry points as they are a little bruised. The nurse calls to follow up on how I’m feeling and tells me to remove the bandaids anytime but not to bathe or swim. My muscles are used to favouring my left side and they are reeling from the new situation. There’s a series of exercises that I will be doing (they resemble a yoga class) and I’m hopeful to get a normal gait back asap. Rudy is overly protective (which I love) and asks me repeatedly if I’m ok. I guess we are both a bit awed that something so huge was really a nothing.

I will post an update on the progress, but for now it’s Hip Hip Hooray!!

7 thoughts on “Hip Hip Hooray!

  1. Hi Suzanne. This is Joan Christine’s sister ( you know from Susan Capone’s exercise class ) I am waiting for a date for a hip surgery and Chris has sent me your blog. Wow sounds amazing, though scary for me). I will check the website out. Good luck with the exercises. Must be wonderful to feel no pain. Strange to hear the groin is where the nerves are for the hip. No wonder there is so much pain it that area !!! Thanks for sharing. Take care
    Jian Nolan


    1. Hi Joan!! Lovely to hear from you 😊
      It’s been two days since the procedure and I’m doing well. Didn’t skip a beat.
      I’m deathly afraid of hospitals and surgery … this seemed like a good option.
      Stay tuned.
      If you end up with surgery let me know how you make out. Aging does suck.
      Sending warm wishes from Florida…
      PS hope to see Susan and Nick in the near future


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