At the age of 61, Rosemary Schriefer struggled with pain in her hip and relied on a cane for even the shortest walks. But since mobility and independence have always been important to her, she decided to fight back.
Now 63, she works out on the elliptical machine at her local YMCA and takes Zumba classes.
In 2011, Schriefer developed a pain in her hip that refused to go away. She sought help from an orthopedist who ordered x-rays and recommended a regimen of pain medication. After several months with no improvement, Schriefer asked the doctor to re-evaluate her. He referred her to a rheumatologist instead. The rheumatologist ordered more x-rays and recommended that Schriefer see an orthopedic surgeon.
Despite being bounced from doctor to doctor with no relief in sight, Schriefer refused to settle for a life of pain. “I was very frustrated, and I wasn’t ready to give up my active lifestyle,” she says. “So I kept looking for a doctor who wouldn’t give up on me.”
In early 2012, Schriefer met John Clohisy, MD, a Washington University orthopedic surgeon at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. Dr. Clohisy, like the others before him, ordered x-rays of Schriefer’s painful hip.
The hip is a ball-and-socket joint. The “ball” is the head of the femur, or the thigh bone, and the “socket” is part of the pelvic bone. A healthy hip has cartilage inside the socket to cushion the movement of the ball when the leg is lifted or rotated. Dr. Clohisy spotted something that no one else had mentioned on Schriefer’s x-rays: her hip cartilage was completely gone.
“At that point it was clear that her severe osteoarthritis of the hip was going to be an ongoing problem,” Dr. Clohisy says. “Once you have advanced loss of cartilage in the joint, the healing potential of the joint is limited. Prosthetic replacement surgery is usually the best option.”
Dr. Clohisy presented Schriefer with options: she could continue physical therapy and medication and adjust her activity level accordingly, or she could have a total hip replacement surgery. He says Schriefer’s commitment to fitness indicated that she would be a good candidate for a successful hip replacement.
“Patients who are well-conditioned and exercise tend to recover quicker from surgery and obtain better outcomes,” Dr. Clohisy says. “In general, hip replacement surgery offers patients marked improvements relative to pain relief, increased activity and improved quality of life.”
In Schriefer’s eyes, the choice was simple: she wanted her life back. She scheduled the surgery for two days after her sixty-second birthday.
“I’m glad I persisted in finding a doctor who would listen to me and help me get to the root of the problem,” she says. “It finally felt like someone understood me.”
For seven months after the surgery, Schriefer worked with occupational therapists and physical therapists to regain her mobility and independence. She had to re-learn the most basic movements: getting in and out of bed, walking and climbing stairs. “Some days it was really tough,” she recalls. “But I didn’t come this far to give up on myself.”
In November 2012, Schriefer participated in a “Slow Run” 5k event. Completing the 5k boosted her confidence. “I told myself if I can do that, I can do anything,” she says.
Schriefer is now pain-free and says thanks to her regular workout routine, she’s feeling stronger now than she did before the hip pain began. She has also returned to her work with the St. Louis County Older Resident Program, driving local seniors to their appointments and swapping stories with those who have had or are considering hip replacements.
“It feels like a miracle,” she says. “I have my life back.”
Chris knows a thing or two about overcoming odds. Odds may be against any player making the major leagues, but Chris Mackey may now get the chance to live his dream of pitching for the St. Louis Cardinals.
In leading Springfield Catholic High to Missouri's State Championship Game in 2003, he finished second in his conference with a .541 batting average and an 11-1 record as the ace of the Fightin' Irish pitching staff — all on just one good hip.
In high school, Christopher could actually hear his hips pop with each pitch. He soon was diagnosed with hip dysplasia — a birth defect where the hip socket isn't deep enough for the hip to function correctly.
"Without surgery I was told I'd develop arthritis and need hip replacements at a young age," says Mackey. He was referred to Barnes-Jewish Hospital where Washington University orthopedic surgeon John Clohisy, MD, is director of the Young Adult Hip Service. The program focuses on the care of a growing number of young people diagnosed with hip problems earlier in life.
Dr. Clohisy and colleague Perry Schoenecker, MD, Washington University pediatric orthopedic specialist, operated on Mackey's left hip to perform a periacetabular osteotomy to reposition the hip sockets. Mackey's surgery went so well that after recovery he threw a no-hitter his first game back.
The periacetabular osteotomy, only performed at select centers around the country, is a unique procedure used to reposition the deformed hip socket. This type of surgery is very effective in relieving hip pain, improving hip function and saves the original bone and cartilage of the hip — very important for an active young adult body.
Now 21, Mackey is hesitant to think what would have happened without finding Dr. Clohisy. "Baseball is how people identify me," says Mackey, "and to think about that being taken away was devastating."
He says his hips still feel good three years after surgery. "I don't have any pain, my strength is good, and I can lift. I'm still very appreciative of the work of the hospital."
After surgery, Mackey was heavily recruited by many colleges before accepting a scholarship from Missouri State University in Springfield. He still pitches there and will soon be eligible for recruitment to the major leagues. He says last summer a recruiter paid a return visit to watch him pitch so he's hopeful to still make it to "The Show." And maybe we'll be watching Mackey take the Cardinals to another World Series win.
Today, thanks to her physical therapy and her team of surgeons at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, Jill Taake no longer experiences pain in her hip. In fact, the former gymnast, track star and cheerleader is able to remain active and do everything she wants.
On Nov. 13, 2004, Jill Taake did what she thought might not be possible just six months before: Thanks to hip surgery and physical therapy at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, Taake was able to walk pain free and without a limp down the aisle to marry her husband, Doug. Taake, who was 33 at the time, had been experiencing random hip pain for about two years when she read an article about hip surgery and young women. She immediately called for an appointment with the doctor quoted in the article, John Clohisy, MD, Washington University orthopedic surgeon, co-chief of adult reconstructive surgery and director of adolescent and young adult hip surgery at Barnes-Jewish Hospital.
"Dr. Clohisy looked at my X-rays and immediately diagnosed me with bilateral hip dysplasia, a condition that meant my hip sockets weren't in the right place," Taake remembers. "I was stunned by the diagnosis, but followed his recommendations and had the surgery on my left hip." Dr. Clohisy and Perry Schoenecker, MD, performed the operation.
When you think of people having hip surgery, you probably imagine older adults who suffer from arthritis pain and activity restriction. However, thanks to better diagnostic tools and more advanced surgical techniques, younger adults such as Taake are benefiting from hip surgery as well.
"We presently have a much better understanding of hip disease than we did just 10 years ago, so we're able to provide alternative treatments that can be very beneficial for younger patients," Dr. Clohisy says.
"Advancements over the last several years enable us to surgically relieve patients' pain, enhance physical activity, and delay the need for a total hip replacement for many years."
"My hip feels great," Taake says. "I'm so glad that I had the surgery when I did!"