That’s me in the picture above fly-fishing the St Joe River in Idaho. As of the date this story is being written, June 2017, I am an active 51-year old male. I’ve played sports and exercised my entire life. As I entered my 40’s I attributed the stiffness in my back and legs to “just getting old” and thinking it was normal due to my intense exercise routine.
Fast forward to Sept 2016. I went on a fly-fishing trip that involved 3 days of hiking several miles into the back country with loaded back pack that I realized my pain and stiffness were abnormally high and my recovery abnormally long. I was stiff and sore for an entire week afterwards, barely able to move, bend over, etc. Eventually I recovered. And life resumed but at an altered, less-active pace.
In March 2017, the stiffness and pain progressed to the point where I decided to take a break from working out. I researched conditions like bursitis and told myself this was the problem. I completely stopped working out for a couple of weeks thinking that the rest would fix everything. My hips did not get better, in fact they got worse. The pain started affecting my sleep. Sharp pains whenever I turned, feeling the hip joint “grind” on every movement, then aching pain no matter what position I attained. Finally, I decided to make an appointment with an orthopedic doctor. The doctor examined my range of motion which he said was not normal for someone my age. X-rays were taken which revealed severe bi-lateral osteoarthritis. Doctor pretty much said THR was the solution. I was stunned. He offered cortisone shots which I originally agreed to but later decided against after researching my condition more. I wanted to move straight to THR and began learning more about the procedure, surgical approaches, activity restrictions, complications, recovery times, etc.
Shortly after my diagnosis, I took a business trip to Las Vegas for a conference. This is where I learned just how bad my hip arthritis had become. Traveling by air requires lots of walking, especially in larger airports. Las Vegas McCarran is no exception. Nonetheless, I was able to hobble around the airport with a low level of pain and Uber’d to my hotel. At the hotel, more walking to get checked into my room. Large lobbies and long hallways. Since I had several hours to kill before the first conference event I made the brilliantly stupid decision to go exploring. More walking. Lots of walking. After returning to my room I was starting to feel the pain and stiffness. That dull, aching pain that for me would only find relief if I sat down. So I sat down for awhile. Then it was time to get ready for the event. I showered and got dressed. Putting my socks on at this point was difficult which is to say nearly impossible. As a result I tweaked my lower back. Great. I have no doubt that months of altered walking mechanics changed the muscle function in areas like my back and thigh, compounding my flexibility challenges. Then I walked to the event. At this point I knew I was in trouble and began thinking of ways to break up the walk into manageable chunks a couple hundred yards at a time. The pain was intense, radiating into my upper butt and lower back. I was somehow able to do this and made it to the event (only a half mile walk total) where I ended up doing a lot of standing around, mingling with others. A few beers seemed to alleviate (mask) the hip pain but this was only temporary. After the event ended is when things got really bad. Walking back to my hotel I experienced cramping in my upper butt and lower back like never before. Sharp, shooting pains that rendered me immobile. The pain was so bad I had to stop and lean against walls or sit down if a chair was available. Thankfully, there are a lot of chairs in casinos. I could barely make it 50 feet before the pain forced me to sit down again. It seemed like forever before I made it back to my hotel room. I was in agony and literally wanted to cry. I would have gladly opted for hip surgery right then and there if it were possible. I somehow got my clothes off, ran a hot bath, struggled into the tub and sat there soaking for about an hour. This helped with the pain. A person that was at the conference with me took it upon himself to rent me a motorized scooter for the remainder of the trip. I was glad to use it after the pain I endured the first night but the realization that I was literally crippled by my arthritis was quite depressing.