Galloping Ahead After Double Hip Replacement
Sacramento, Calif., June 25, 2009 - Suzanne Brady sits tall in the saddle holding the reins, her cowboy hat snug on her head, royal blue shirt tucked tightly into jeans and a pair of thick leather chaps covering both legs. Well-worn cowboy boots peek out from under the bottom of the chaps. Smiling, she squeezes her legs and nudges her boot heels into Ace, a 12-year old reining horse. Ace responds by stepping smartly into the riding ring. In moments the two will barrel full speed up, down and around the arena as they practice for upcoming riding competitions to be held in front of an appreciative audience and an array of judges.
Brady competes in reining, a western riding competition in which riders guide their horses through patterns of circles, spins and stops while galloping as fast as the horse can go. "It’s very demanding," said Brady. "It takes a lot of strength in your legs."
She is still regaining leg strength after a decade-long struggle with arthritis and from recently having both hips replaced. Brady had the right hip replaced in December 2008 and the left hip replaced February 2009. Before the hip replacements she had almost given up riding completely because her arthritic hips restricted her from sitting in a western saddle.
Brady’s hip problems began 10 years ago, when at the age of 38, the avid athlete found herself in too much pain to continue her favorite sport of running. She learned she was a candidate for hip replacement but since she was so young, she opted to wait a little longer. She switched from running to bicycle riding and horseback riding, continuing to take acetaminophen to ease the nagging uncomfortable hip pain. She soon became an accomplished equestrian and competed around the region.
But as the years went by the pain increased and Brady found herself able to do less and less. She missed out on camping trips and other vacations due to her inability to stand for long periods of time or to walk very far. Just going to the grocery store was an ordeal. During each trip to the store Brady sat in the car to psych herself up to walk from the car to the store. Once inside she’d lean on the grocery cart using it as a cane while perusing the aisles in the store. "My quality of life really went downhill," she said.
Bicycling and horseback riding were the only two activities that she could do outdoors, since neither required Brady to stand or walk. But even horseback riding was difficult. Since her legs were so weak Brady had to use her hands to provide extra strength by pushing on her legs when astride a horse. One day as Brady swung her leg over the saddle the physical pain prevented her from spreading her leg far enough to get on her horse. Gripping the saddle horn and clenching her teeth, she tried again. And again. Hot tears ran down her cheeks as she realized she couldn’t get in the saddle. Resting her head against Ace’s neck as she caught her breath, Brady realized her joyful riding days were at an end.
Devastated and desperate, Brady turned to a side saddle, which isn’t as stable as a western saddle. Undaunted, Brady continued to ride. Yet she realized that her world was crashing down due to her disabled hips. It was time to take action.
After meeting with Sutter orthopedic surgeon Thomas Blumenfeld, M.D., Brady decided to undergo hip replacement on both hips. Dr. Blumenfeld planned to replace the arthritic hips with two separate surgeries. During the planning for the surgeries, Dr. Blumenfeld took into consideration that Brady was an accomplished equestrian and planned both surgeries so that she’d be able to sit astride a horse.
"The surgery on the first hip went really well," said Brady. "I was amazed they had me up and walking right away—it was great."
Upon being released from Sutter General Hospital from the second hip replacement surgery, clinical staff had to warn Brady to hold herself back. "The relief was so great that I wanted to do everything. I wanted to get out there and start doing all the things I’d been missing."
She enthusiastically participated in the required physical therapy that hip replacement patients undergo. Just like Dr. Blumenfeld, the physical therapists who worked with Brady after each hip replacement wanted to ensure she’d be able to ride. They provided special exercises designed for riding a horse. They also asked her to bring her saddle to therapy to make sure she could get on and off without difficulty.
The surgery and physical therapy paid off. Today Brady rides her four horses—Princess, Ace, Kid and Rapper—about six to seven hours daily during weekdays. She trail rides and also practices reining in order to compete in the regional competitions.
"I can do everything now," she said. "It’s like a miracle."
Brady advises others considering hip replacement to "do it, do it, do it!" "My hip replacements have been a total gift," Brady said. "I have my life back and I’m happier than ever."
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