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Double Hip Replacement Is Life-Changing for 6th Grade Teacher

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“You don’t want to live with limitations when you don’t have to, especially at an age where you have so…
April 27, 2023

“You don’t want to live with limitations when you don’t have to, especially at an age where you have so much vitality. It’s really life-changing if you’re willing to put in some work.”

Susan Paolini is a 52-year-old wife, mother and schoolteacher who also enjoys, in her words, “kitties, baking, graveling, photography, the outdoors, hiking and being spontaneous. Oh, and reading.” Says Susan, “I teach 6th grade and I started teaching math and reading and now I’m doing ancient civilizations and reading . . . just for something new.”

She has two adult children, a daughter, who was married last Fall, and is also a teacher in the same school district as Susan teaches, and a son, who is a real estate agent and just got engaged in January.

Unfortunately, Susan had also experienced considerable hip pain the past few years and thinks she may have been born with hip dysplasia, a condition more frequently observed in women that takes place when the acetabulum, the socket in the pelvis into which the femoral head fits, is too shallow to support the femoral head, the bell-shaped bone at the top of the femur.

Most people who experience hip dysplasia are born with it, but don’t typically live with symptoms until adulthood. If left untreated, hip dysplasia can result in osteoarthritis and the eventual need for a hip replacement. Says Susan, “It just took into my 40s for my cartilage and my arthritis to set in to realize when we x-rayed my hips, the ball and socket were never in the right place.”

When it’s hip to visit an orthopaedic surgeon

Susan turned to the hip specialists at UBMD and especially Dr. Brian McGrath, who practices at UBMD Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine, and whose clinical practice is focused on hip reconstruction.

Susan first met Dr. McGrath when she was experiencing quite a bit of pain in her hip. In her words, “in pain a lot more than I wanted to be.” She says that walking was especially difficult.

“I admired his confidence from the get-go,” asserts Susan. “He was particularly confident that he could do the surgery on both hips.” She recounts his exact words, “I’ll be done in two hours.” She insists, “I had no doubts about him going in.”

In fact, says Susan, Dr. McGrath came into the surgery waiting area just prior to the procedure. “He gave me a thumbs up and said, ‘we’re going to do this.’”

A great experience at UBMD Ortho

Susan credits Dr. McGrath and his surgical and physical therapy team for her successful experience.

She likes to describe her experience with UMBD Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine through the entire process, from the initial meeting to the physical therapy. She details how everyone was so organized. She notes how “the paperwork was always there. The medication was there.”

Dr. McGrath’s staff was extremely aware of everything,” she recounts. “When they noticed I was doing some PT, they recommended I should have ice packs and they made it happen. In fact, I felt that if I needed anything, I could always call their 24-hour hotline, where someone always picked up.”

Susan also describes how “they just knew what to do. I always felt safe, and the staff was so kind.” Even after her leaving the hospital, UBMD Orthopaedics’ staff did a consultation on her first day home, explaining how her shower was to be set up, how the toilet was to be prepared and making sure she could use the stairs.

Walking the neighborhood . . .Climbing the stairs

Not long after the surgery, Susan was walking around her neighborhood. She was able to go to all her son’s venues for his upcoming wedding. “That’s been a part of my recovery story . . . I’ve been able to go to my son’s wedding venues, so that’s a big deal.”

Susan gleefully describes that “I also did the stairs five days after surgery.” She also relates how she walks without the use of any apparatus, no cane, no walker. “The only time I use a cane or walker is if I’m walking where it’s unfamiliar that might be slippery.”

As for the pain post-surgery? “No, there was no real pain,” she asserts. “It’s actually been a piece of cake. I don’t especially like describing it with these words, but it’s true. I thought, ‘the bone was cut, muscles were stretched,’ but there was nothing beyond a bit of soreness.”

Fact is, better pain management is one of the major differences between procedures today and those of decades past. Then, replacements were deemed a last resort and necessitated lengthy hospital stays to manage pain, followed by prolonged time at a rehab facility. The length of time in the hospital has been cut from weeks to days to hours.

Had it not been for a complication with anemia, Susan most likely would have been discharged the same day.

It’s really life-changing if you’re willing to put in some work
Regarding the double-hip replacement, Susan recommends that you have a “really good mentality going in.”

She describes herself as being on the younger side for this type of surgery, but that anyone facing a similar situation shouldn’t be hesitant. “You don’t want to live with limitations when you don’t have to, especially at an age where you have some much vitality.” She adds, “It’s really life-changing if you’re willing to put in some work and you have a good mental attitude going in.”

When describing her post-procedure condition, Susan says somewhat explicitly, “The cuts are so symmetrical . . . they’re healing beautifully, they’re so clean. It’s a new take on life, I’m just filled with joy.”

We’d be remiss if we didn’t talk about her support system. For Susan, there were her family, her friends and work colleagues, but she was astounded by her 6th grade students. “All my students were sending me notes and letters, giving me gifts. One student dropped off a meal, two boys made me brownies. Like I said, I’ve been loved during this. Just blown away.”

As for having both hips done at the same time, Susan says she’s loving life and she’s so happy that she was able to do both of her hips at the same time because it was only one recovery and one series of physical therapy. “I feel like, for me, it’s been great. I don’t have any regrets.”