Last Monday, August 28th was one of the biggest days in my life. Bigger than my wedding. Bigger than getting the green card (although I cried when I got the news). Bigger than getting a sweet deal from a prestigious publisher.
To read the updates on the surgery (Day 6), scroll down to the bottom of this article.
I’ve just had both of my hips replaced. At the same time. It was not my doctor’s recommendation, and I pushed for it because the next few months are going to be very eventful and I just won’t have the time to wait any longer. With the upcoming book tour, I didn’t want to be in any more pain.
If you know me well, you can safely assume that I’ve tried many things to avoid going under the knife. From prolotherapy, PRP, stem cell therapy to very intense and dedicated 1:1 rehab with a functional PT.
As much as the PT has corrected a lot of the over-compensations and taught me how to move in a new way, the hip pain persisted, and then it got even worse.
Why am I getting my hips replaced?
Because I’ve been in debilitating pain for the past three years that has allowed me to live my life at 30%.
In short: I was born with a congenital hip dysplasia. It looks like it runs on my dad’s side of the family. To make things worse, I was a breech baby and showed up with one leg and butt cheek out first. The doctor (arrogant, feared professor) decided, without my mother’s consent, to experiment and instead of performing an emergency C-section, decided to pursue “natural birth.”
When I was finally born, I wasn’t breathing, was all blue and my poor mother thought I was born dead. Both my hips were severely dislocated by then from all the pulling and manipulation that the doctor had to do to get me out.
Over the next 12 months, I was put in corrective braces and screamed 10 hours each day, from pain. I would fall asleep only from exhaustion. You can only imagine the helplessness of the young parents, terrified by their first-born. They were told by the nurse that “all newborns cry.” My mom now, after having had my sister and three grandchildren knows it wasn’t “normal crying.”
I’m a natural-born athlete – in the photos, age 5; I have the four-pack as if all I did were sit-ups. The worse sport you can pick with hip dysplasia, was my sport of choice – running.
I’ve had low back issues from age 15, but no practitioner inspected my hips in spite of hearing my health/family history and birth trauma.
Since I had no hip pain and every doctor declared me “healthy,” I kept running. Today, I now know that my hips caused those years of lower back pain.
I know so many of you will relate when I say: too many doctors don’t listen to us. I told every one of them about the birth trauma and family history of hip dysplasia. Nobody listened, nobody suggested to check out the hips.
They started looking when the pain finally moved from the lower back to the hips, about three years ago. The MRI, X-rays and physical examinations showed severe degradation. Subsequent visits to save my hips with stem cells, Prolotherapy and PRP, concluded each meeting with “it’s too late now.”
“Should have done it ten years ago.”
The hip replacement technology has progressed so far that most people I interviewed said the same thing: “I should have done it a long time ago.” Most have gone back to doing incredible things in their lives.
I look forward to being on my feet in the kitchen, creating new recipes and being pain-free.
I can’t wait to go back to Pilates or a yoga class and be able to sit in a lotus pose.
I want to hit the spectacular Colorado trails and not feel deep pain and tightness after 1 hour to walking.
I want to enjoy sex in ways that are not awkward and anticlimactic.
I don’t remember what it feels like to be pain-free.
I want to feel that freedom again.
Getting ready for the big day
Any operation is traumatic to the body. My body will be bombarded with high doses of drugs – from the anesthetic cocktail, antibiotics to some powerful painkillers, including narcotics.
It is therefore important to go into an operation in the best health possible. I have furthermore consulted my functional doctor and here is the list we put together. The idea is to go into the operation in the best health possible. I started this protocol about 8 weeks before the op.
I put this list together so that if you, or anyone close to you, is getting ready for a serious surgery, I hope this will help you. Please remember though that this is a protocol designed to support my body and my issues. You might need to have different needs. Further down in this article I discuss finding a doctor to guide you and help prepare.
Things I’ve done to prepare for the surgery:
Strengthen the immune system
- High doses of vitamin C – I’ve been doing it in the form of Ascorbic Acid 2-3 grams daily.
- Adrenal support – Schisandra tincture throughout the day and 1 teaspoon Ashwaganda powder (I buy it in the root form and freshly grind it) in a latte form before bed.
- Zinc – helps keep a robust immune system. I recommend our Zinc Complete.
- Heavy metal detox – can be very taxing on the immune system, and it is more important for people with the MTHFR mutation to become informed. I’ve committed to getting rid of the heavy metal toxicity that I have been battling for years with the Quick Silver protocol. It contains very high doses of liposomal glutathione and vitamin C. I’m finishing it up now and will say that it is not easy to follow and does take a lot of discipline. I need to complete a re-test to know if the toxicity has been resolved. You will need a functional doc would need to order this test and protocol.
- Medicinal mushrooms – natural immune boosters. I’ve been adding cordyceps mushrooms to my daily smoothies.
- Probiotics – I continued doing the spore-based Megasporebiotics because my body loves them.
- Restore – I didn’t think much of this product until I read the Amazon reviews. I’m planning to add it to my supplement offering because it is a fantastic product. You can read some impressive gut recovery stories here.
- Vitamin D3 – I continued taking it, between 4,000 units if I got some good sun exposure to 10,000 units when I am more indoors. I like this formulation because it also contains vitamins K1 and K2 which help with D utilization.
- I stopped drinking alcohol 8-weeks before the op. We all respond differently to alcohol – more than 6 glasses per week results in fatigue and poor sleep, so I just stopped. Summer presents so many drinking opportunities from dealing with a stressful day to celebrating the good stuff, that I decided not to deprive myself but learned to enjoy virgin cocktails or sparkling water with a dash of strawberry syrup or bitters.
- Sleep – in bed by 9:30 pm and up when I naturally wake up without an alarm clock, typically around 6 am.
- Stress and workload reduction – we will be launching a new big program in September (called Herbs for Balance), so my team and I worked our butts off through July to take it easy in August. This way I can go into the operating room relaxed and feeling tops, just like after a vacation.
Support the liver and the kidneys
- Good BM – if I don’t go daily, I immediately take magnesium citrate to get going in the morning, or up the flax seed from 2 to 4 tablespoons in the morning smoothie. A daily (or even twice) bowel movement is critical in keeping the toxic load down.
- Calcium D-glucarate – calcium in this form is huge help in liver detoxification, been taking 250mg twice daily. My friend, a former ER doctor, first told me how important calcium d-glucarate is in detoxing patients after an anesthetic cocktail.
- Liver Detox – I used Pure Encapsulation’s LVR that contained milk thistle, classic herbs for liver protection and detox.
- Renetone – I took this Ayurvedic formulation to detox the kidneys since they will be working hard after the operation.
- Glutathione – the master detoxifier, is so important for people with MTHFR mutations and who have been exposed to toxins, including mold. I was taking this liposomal version.
- Magnesium – I’ve been taking magnesium glycinate and experience deeper sleep when I do. Magnesium is also like a spark plug for the adrenals which support the immune system, so this is a great all-round mineral to add. Be sure the magnesium you are taking is not in the oxide form.
- Progesterone – even though my hormonal panels showed good levels of progesterone, I got a sample from my favorite supplement brand (Designs for Health), so I gave it a go. I’ve been applying this product. Within 4 days of using it (topically, at night), I started experiencing deeper sleep and a 30% to 40% hip pain reduction. A quick research showed that progesterone could be a powerful anti-inflammatory agent. I learn something every day!
- Fish oil – I used this fish oil which is rich in both EPA and DHA.
Bone and joint support
- Added this Collagen powder 1 scoop 1 to 2 times daily, in my smoothies or water.
- SMP Active – a concentrated form of fish oils that pre-clinical trials have shown anti-inflammatory support (so less pain for people like me) and a healthy boost to for the immune system.
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Preparation with Exercises
I’m lucky to live in Boulder, a town of fanatical athletes who also happen to suffer from frequent injuries; there is, therefore, a vast support network geared towards pre- and post-op recovery. My PT made it clear that the success of the post-op recovery will also depend on the consistency of the pre-op exercises. I have a complete set of them which I have been doing 3 times per week. They consist of three main things: strengthening, cardio (I can only do stair master, but it’s a great cardio workout) and stretching. The workout is very tailored to my needs (and the overcompensations I developed over the years), so there is not much value in sharing it here.
A year ago, when someone suggested re-birthing — I scoffed and thought it was too woo-woo, for my sensible nature.
Having spoken to many therapists and patients since, I have a newly gained respect for trauma, emotion, and their physical manifestations in the form of pain. Yoga teachers often refer to the pelvis as “the junk drawer of emotions.”
My friend, Dr. Izabella Wentz has convinced me to consider EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) which helps to reprocess the trauma, release it and attach no negative feelings to an event. I have been working with an incredible woman to address the trauma from birth and the aftermath. After several sessions, I can share with you that the way I respond to the memories of the birth trauma does not trigger any visceral reactions the way it did before.
There are other trauma-releasing modalities such as somatic experiencing or biofeedback to name a few– I recommend doing your research if trauma is an issue or trigger. Releasing it before surgery can help lower the overall stress load.
I have also gone to see a pelvic release expert. The pelvis (where the majority of my pain is) stores our creative energy. If you are familiar with Dr. Christiane Northrup’s work, she talks extensively about this topic – how releasing pelvic pain or past trauma (such as rape) can open up floodgates of creativity, openness, sexuality and vast potential. I had a great experience with it and got plenty of relief just from releasing some of the taut and tense muscles.
I wanted to know how am I programmed genetically to clearing anesthetics (especially since I’ve never had surgery) and responding to painkillers. I hardly ever use painkillers, but the few times I did, I responded well to acetaminophen such as Tylenol but not ibuprofen such as Advil. The genetic testing confirmed that I respond best to Tylenol. To my relief, I metabolize anesthetics well- one less worry.
Teri Cochrane provided the genetic testing – read about that here.
Most doctors do not mention it, but you can ask (and most insurance plans cover it) for allergy testing to the 36 various medical materials used during surgery. It’s a 5-day test, and it’s well worth doing – it’s important to know if you have an allergy to any of the materials they will be putting in your body. Mine all came back negative.
Not to mention the obvious..
I won’t go into much details on the obvious fact that I do keep a varied, fun, nutrient-dense and anti-inflammatory diet that is 100% whole foods, free of gluten, dairy, soy, corn and is very limited in sugar. Going off grains and nightshades (they show to be highly inflammatory for people with muscular and tendon issues) has not lessened the pain, so I’m back to eating them, in moderation. I’m not vegan or vegetarian (doesn’t work for my body) but 70 to 80% of my plate is plant-based.
If you decide to follow parts or the entire protocol, please consult your physician, or better still a functional practitioner.
Many of you have asked who my doctor is. She’s a fabulous, kind and talented MD who, unfortunately, does not take any more patients and her waitlist is 3 years. You can, however, find good practitioners near you on the IFM website https://ifm.org/find-a-practitioner/.
Things I do NOT recommend
Or, things that I would caution you of:
1). Facebook or any online groups. As much as they can be helpful, many people post there because they had a bad experience and needed answers, support, or a place to vent. Even though most people have great experiences and recovery, they typically don’t post unless asked or polled.
Reading so many negative posts can put anyone in a state of fear and doubt. It certainly happened to me – pictures of dislocated hips (with horrid pain stories), infections, chronic pain, slow healing, different leg lengths, etc. I don’t want to be in denial, but I also realized that I started to think about the surgery with fear.
I noticed later that many of these people don’t appear healthy – many of them do look overweight, possibly pre- or diabetic, struggling with high blood pressure and probably went into surgery with many medical issues, unaware that they needed to take better care of themselves. Not their fault; doctors don’t tell you what I’m laying out here.
Another point – not all surgeons are the same. I highly recommend doing a deep dive into your doctor’s history. I even looked up mine for court cases which you can do through a website like Spokeo, combed through patients reviews, and asked some tough questions (like about cases where the ops didn’t go as planned to see how he would respond) to help you pre-screen the right doc for you.
2). Watching videos of the type of surgery, you will undergo. I watched a few YouTube surgeries of anterior hip replacements (that’s the procedure I’m getting done) and had nightmares afterward. I do not recommend doing it unless you are a nurse or work in the operating room.
Post-surgery Update, Day 6, September 3rd
Following the surgery, I stayed at the hospital for two nights with two main complications: my blood pressure dropped to as low as 60/30 and I could barely function. Frequent protein-rich meals, coconut water (for its electrolytes), Himalayan sea salt and the drip helped. It’s not unusual to either run very high or very low BP post-surgery.
I also developed fever and started shivering from feeling extremely cold – 7 blankets barely made it and to my surprise, hospitals don’t offer hot water bottles..
Apart from that, my recovery is happening really fast. Each nurse who walked to my hospital room would remark “So, you are the one with the bilateral hip replacement, ha? You are recovering remarkably well.”
I don’t have anything to compare my recovery to (most people get one hip done at the time and this is the first surgery I’ve ever had) so I will let the videos tell you more.
On Day 02, with the hospital’s PT.
Today is Day 06 and I’m on a walk with a cane that I don’t really need.
Furthermore, here are a few things I would love to share with you:
- Emotional state and outlook. As much as I focus a lot on the physical, rational, left-brain stuff like supplements, food, research, your emotional state is equally important. Feeling confident, optimistic and balanced when going to surgery sets you up for a good experience. I did some EMDR on the surgery and went to the hospital that Monday filled with optimism and not fear.
- Learning to be still. It’s not easy to do nothing to let the body “do its thing.” Most of us are doers and we are on the go, including me. Laying in bed for 6 days has been hard but highly rewarding. I literally ask my body every hour: “What do you need? What can I do to support you?” and just listen to the replies. Most of the time, at this point, it is a simple: “I just need to rest.”
- Support system – receiving so many FB messages, texts, emails, flowers, chocolates and funny jokes about fake hips has been so so healing. Also, my ex-partner, Brad, has offered to change his travel plans and care for me. Even though we are no longer together, we remained best friends and he’s been my primary caregiver. Best nurse ever.
In case you are curious about the pain management options and nerve regeneration I’m currently doing, here is the list.
- I’m continuing with all the supplements I mentioned in the pre-op phase, to continue supporting the adrenals, the immune system, the liver, and the kidneys.
- I’ve added a combo of painkillers – opted out of narcotics for the obvious reasons and went with Tylenol. I started 750mg every 6 hours and now reduced it to just 500mg every 6 hours. Tylenol alone is not enough, so I’m also supplementing with medicinal marijuana (since it’s legal in Colorado) – topical balm and a 3:1 CBD: THC tincture. I hate getting stoned from pot (smoked it 3 times in my life and ended up feeling paranoid each time) so getting a consult with a medical MJ doc really helped to understand the options. A quick note: Getting off pain meds too quickly and suffering through pain can impede the healing process and is really hard on the adrenals.
- Numbness – I only have about 50% feeling especially around the incisions and around my hips. Even though the type of surgery I went with (called anterior) does not cut through any muscles or nerves, clearly, some of the nerves got compromised. Based on the recommendations of many health practitioners, here is a list of things I will be starting tomorrow and will report progress in a couple of weeks:
- Lion’s mane tincture – the more I learn about this mushroom, the more impressed I am. Apart from being a mega immune booster, it also helps with nerve regeneration. I got a tincture from Host Defense.
- My integrative doctor recommended an all-in-one supplement (key players in nerve regeneration are B12 and folate) called Thorne Neurochondria.
- Essential oils – I’ve just made an oil balm using 1 oz unrefined sesame oil as the carrier oil, and added 10 drops of each oil: frankincense, helichrysum, lavender and myrrh.
- Many practitioners recommended Hypericum 30, a homeopathic nerve remedy, dosage: 30C strength take 3 pellets 3x/day for a month. The Amazon reviews are very encouraging.
- One doc recommended cold laser therapy which shows great promise in tissue repair. I’m going to research more this week and update this post later.
I have no doubt that the biggest two reasons of my excellent recovery thus far are: thorough pre-op preparations 6 to 8 weeks before the surgery and the unwavering support system I happened to be blessed with.
Bottom line is: you want to go into surgery in the best health possible.
I hope you have found this post helpful; if for your own surgery preparation or someone’s who you deeply care about. Feel free to forward this page to others who would benefit from this post.
I hope you implement some of these recommendations to rock your recovery (and it does not have to be surgery).
Please remember that the content of this post should not be taken as medical advice and it is best to consult your functional medical practitioner to develop your own protocol.
P.S. If there is anything that you have done that has helped your surgery recovery, please feel free to share it here with me! xo