The Hoffman Estates resident plays competitive tennis several times a week. She hits the slopes with her family every winter and spring on visits with her grown children in Colorado. And summer? Golf, of course.
But in 2012, pain got in her way. “At first, I couldn’t bend over to pick up a tennis ball,” she remembers. “One doctor said it was muscle strain and told me to rest. Another put me in physical therapy thinking it was a back issue.”
By fall, pain radiated down the entire right side of her leg and her knee hurt. “It felt like I was falling apart, but there I was, putting on capri leggings to hold on the heat patches I’d stuck up and down my leg so I could keep playing tennis. I was really in denial.”
Then Paula’s mom, Stella, 86, had a hip replacement at IBJI. Stella was thrilled with her care and more mobile than ever. Says Paula, “I certainly wasn’t thinking my situation was as bad as my Mom’s, but I did know I needed better care, so I gathered up my medical records and went to IBJI in Glenview.”
Paula, her husband and three kids, had visited the IBJI Glenview team several times before. The active and athletic family had sustained a few injuries, from shoulder dislocations to ACL/MCL tears. Despite the distance – they lived in Barrington – they felt the drive well worth it for the great care they got.
Says Paula, “My husband had played football at Northwestern in the 70’s. He had an injury years later and remembered that IBJI doctors had treated the NU team. That was our original connection.” In early 2013, Paula met with an IBJI pain specialist and an epidural injection diminished the radiating leg and back pain.
She remembers, “I was playing tennis, feeling better. The doctor prescribed physical therapy – but I didn’t go. I wasn’t a good patient.”
By March, the pain was now in her right groin area. The pain specialist referred her to his colleague, IBJI joint replacement specialist, Dr. Van Stamos, the same physician who had performed her mom’s successful hip replacement. Paula knew she was in good hands. Looking at X-rays, Dr. Stamos noted that the degenerative disease in Paula’s right hip had deteriorated rapidly since fall when she was seeing other doctors.
“Paula had developmental dysplasia in both hips which resulted in arthritis developing at a young age,”says Dr. Stamos. “The hip arthritis sometimes gets overlooked and misinterpreted as muscle strain in the groin. It can also be confused with lower back pain.” Dr. Stamos told Paula that although the right hip had degenerated more quickly than the left, the presence of degenerative joint disease or osteoarthritis in both hips meant both would ultimately need to be replaced.”
Says Paula, “It was such a relief to have a proper diagnosis! Dr. Stamos said when the pain level interfered with normal activities, we should discuss surgery.” In the meantime, injections controlled the pain and enabled Paula to enjoy a long-anticipated summer trip to see family in Greece. But by October, both hips were painful – and her right knee, too.
She remembers, “Around Christmas, I was practically crawling up the stairs it hurt so bad. I was initially planning to have the right hip replaced first – you could actually hear the bone on bone grinding on that side – but by then the left hip was hurting even more. I wanted to do them both at the same time, the pain was so bad,” said Paula, “but Dr. Stamos told me I should wait at least three months between each procedure.”
“Although some physicians will do both hips on the same day, it increases the risk overall, so I don’t recommend it. Three months between surgeries, gives patients a chance to recover.” In January 2014, Dr. Stamos performed a left hip replacement at Glenbrook Hospital. In April, he replaced the right hip.
“Both surgeries went great,” said Paula. “I was in the hospital three nights each, then a nurse and physical therapist visited me at home three times a week. I progressed quickly from a walker to a cane, to walking alone.”
After six weeks of outpatient physical therapy, Paula regained strength and confidence in her gait. By May, she felt terrific.
By late June, she was back on the golf course.“I was out there with the seven iron and a putter making chip shots and putts and by July, I was playing nine holes using the cart.” Today, Paula is back to her normal “highly active” self, with few accommodations. She’s playing more doubles than singles tennis for less impact on her joints, but she does walk the full golf course and may even ski this winter – on a trip to visit her first grandchild.”
“Dr. Stamos gave me my life back. He is so professional and gave great care to both me and my mom. Everyone at IBJI has been outstanding over the years. We are truly an IBJI family!” Says Dr. Stamos, “You can see chronic pain on a person’s face. The ability to offer care that provides such tremendous relief and restores someone to their active life is very gratifying.”