When Your Baby Goes Under the Knife

No matter the age, our babies are always our babies. And when your child is wheeled away from you on a hospital gurney, there is no greater tug on the heart strings. I’ve watched my oldest daughter go under general anesthesia 7 times now (even though I tell her the oral surgery doesn’t really count, she’s quite adamant that in her mind, it counts!). She’s had major abdominal surgery as a 10 year old, her left hip pinned at 11, her right hip pinned at 12, oral surgery to pull out 7 teeth to make room for braces at 13, a tonsillectomy at 17 and now, at age 22, the left hip was operated on again to repair the misshapen ball which has given her osteo-arthritis at the ripe old age of 20.

The left hip has always been a serious concern. After suffering with pain in the groin/hip area for a period of a couple of weeks when she was 11, I took her to the doctor, where she was diagnosed with just a minor sprain due to gymnastics in school. This seemed like a reasonable explanation, and since I’m not the type of mom who freaks out about every little ache and pain, we took the doc’s advise and gave ibuprofen for a while. A week later the pain was not any better at all – in fact it was worse – so I phoned the doctor who decided to send her to physical therapy. He did not order x-rays.

I took her to a physical therapy session, where the therapist told us that her treatment sheet explained that my daughter was suffering from Achilles Tendonitis. This, I questioned. “Wait a minute,” I interrupted. “Isn’t the Achilles tendon in the heel?”

In fact, it is.

I then explained to the physical therapist what we were there fore, so she set about showing us different exercises and stretches that could be done to help with healing and alleviate the pain. After her session, we went home, not realizing what was to come.

The next morning, she woke up early and was quite literally dragging her leg behind  her. I scooped her up, put her in the car and drove her straight to the emergency room. Once there, they x-rayed her and discovered that she had a condition know as Slipped Capital Femoral Epiphysis, or SCFE (pronounced skiffy) for short.

This is a genetic condition that affects primarily adolescents, where the growth plate in the ball of the femur slips, causing the two halves of the ball to separate. The only fix for this is to pin the two halves together. In my daughter’s case, since this had gone undiagnosed for what ended up being several weeks, the slippage was very severe. Once this was discovered by the doctors in the ER, she was immediately immobilized to prevent further damage, and emergency surgery was scheduled for later that morning.

slipped capital femoral epiphysisAfter the surgery, her doctor informed us that had the slippage been any more severe, it would not have been able to be pinned and my 11 year old daughter would have required a hip replacement.

Fast forward 11 years. Since the ball is no longer round and doesn’t fit into the socket part of the joint properly, it has been rubbing against the socket, wearing away at the cartilage that is inbetween the ball and the socket and creating a pretty severe case of osteo-arthritis. Severe for a person in their early 20’s, in any case. Her range of motion is severely limited. She hasn’t been able to ride a horse since she was 11, she can’t walk for long periods of time, getting enough exercise to stay reasonably fit is challenging, even working can be cumbersome, as she is a massage therapist and has a hard time twisting and standing for extended periods. Through the years, her various doctors had recommended different procedures to repair some of the damage and prevent further damage, and more importantly prevent the need for a hip replacement as long as possible. Currently, a patient can only receive 2 hip replacements in their lifetime and it is estimated that they will last anywhere between 15 to 20 years. Given this information, getting a hip replacement in your 20’s or even 30’s could be a problem if you expected to live until you were 70 or 80.

The procedure my daughter had performed yesterday is called a surgical hip dislocation. In short, a piece of bone is temporarily removed in order to allow for the hip to be intentionally dislocated so that the surface of the ball can be reshaped and sanded down to eliminate the bone spurs that had accumulated. Reshaping the ball also allows for much improved range of motion, so she will be able to participate in a lot of different activities that she has missed out on over the years.

The prognosis is good, and she should regain the majority of her range of motion and be able to do the activities she’s missed out on. She mentioned to me recently that one of the first things she wants to do is ride a horse again, to which Rocky and I will be more than happy to oblige.