Hip Surgery and Hiking for a Living

It’s been more than half a year since I last wrote a blog post.  I can’t believe that.  I decided to stop blogging sometime last year because I wanted this blog to be about hiking, and not about injuries or recovering from surgery.  But, I think it’s time for an update and my first blog post of the year, and I promise there will be hiking involved!

First of all, in November of last year I did wind up going through with the crazy hip surgery that I mentioned in an earlier blog post (Periacetabular Osteotomy, or PAO for short).  I traveled to Boston for the surgery.  Then, one of the top surgeon’s in the field broke my pelvis into pieces, re-positioned it, and screwed it back together again.  Here’s a pretty x-ray:

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After surgery, I spent about 3 months on crutches and several more months going to PT trying to build back some muscle and flexibility and generally struggling with not being back to normal.  And I’m still not normal.  There’s not a day that goes by where I’m not reminded of that.  The sad news is, I’m going to have to go through this all over again with the other hip in the fall of this year.  The good news is, I’m back to hiking again in the meanwhile.

Even though I summed that experience up in just a few sentences, you can probably imagine that it was probably the hardest thing I have ever gone though.  Harder than any thru-hike, no doubt.  Not being able to walk, not being able to hike, not being able to see an end to being stuck in a recliner next to a pair of crutches was draining me of my optimism.  When doctors told me it would take 6 months to a year to be back to ‘normal’, I kept thinking “They mean for normal couch-potato-type people.  Of course, I’m special, I’m used to hiking 20-30 miles a day.  I’ll be back to normal in no time”.  Well, guess what?  I was wrong.  I have been humbled beyond belief.  For the first time in my life I got excited when I could lift my leg off the ground using my very own leg muscles (yes, my muscles were that messed up).  I would celebrate going up a flight of stairs, and I would push myself to get out on my crutches and experience nature.  All the while, I was gaining weight and tried my best not to care about it.

 

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Going for a “Crutch-hike” (don’t tell my surgeon)

I started going for small hikes, I graduated from two crutches to one, then to a cane, then to hiking poles.  I hiked 1.5 miles then 2 miles then 3 miles, then 4.5 miles then 10 miles.  Some if those hikes I  regretted it for up to a week afterwards when my muscles tendons and joints struggled to keep up with me.

In the meantime, I got a job offer from Jennifer Pharr Davis to help her not only as a hiking guide, but also to help manage and run her whole hike-guiding company, Blue Ridge Hiking Company.  I couldn’t say no.  Hiking for a living?  Yes, please!

So 2016 is off to a good start, even though there’s another surgery on the horizon, I’m going to do all the hiking I can this year.  Maybe I’ll even do more blogging/writing as well.  I really enjoyed working with the PCTA last year writing a “Southbound Adventure” for their Communicator Magazine, and also helping them to rewrite the information on their webpage on hiking the Pacific Crest Trail Southbound.  It looks like more and more people are headed from Canada to Mexico on the PCT, and I hope some of the information I was able to provide to folks online has been a help.

Here’s to more hiking, more writing and living life to the fullest in 2016!!

 

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9 thoughts on “Hip Surgery and Hiking for a Living

  1. I’m looking at a PAO myself. Yay! hip dysplasia. I can’t even imagine the recovery I will have to face but knowing that other hikers and outdoor enthusiasts like yourself can make it work gives me hope. Currently I can’t hike because of the pain. You are one tough girl and I’m looking to you and all the others with our same story for inspiration. I would love to get in contact if you get a chance. I’m hoping to eventually be back out canyoneering and hiking though it looks like it will be about 2.5 years before that’s a possibility since I need both sides done and would have to wait until the summer for my first operation.

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    • Hello Eric. I’m so sorry to hear you have hip dysplasia. There’s a great facebook group for folks who have had or are going to have PAO surgery, and there is also a great facebook group for folks who wish to return to athletics after PAO. I’d be happy to talk with you. It’s a long journey for sure… 2.5 years sounds almost right. Maybe you can get away with less if you have your surgeries closer together. I’m heading into my second surgery in about a month, and I’m thinking of starting a new blog to record going through that surgery and my recovery. I’d hate to turn a hiking blog into a surgery blog 😛 Feel free to find me on facebook, and I’d be happy to talk with you further!

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  2. Oh I know it’s hard. I broke my back in 1975 and the docs told me I’d never walk again let alone swim, hike or do any of the other things I love. Since then I’ve proven them wrong and hiked and horseback ridden over 30,000 miles. I have also helped others come back after major surgeries, it takes time, but keep on doing what you are doing. Recover, then 100 yards, 500 yards, 1/2 a mile, a mile and onward and upward, THAT’S how you do it. Hugs!

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      • It hurts when I walk more than a few hours, and it’s always going to be much weaker and prone to inversion than before the injury.

        I remain unsold on the idea that it’s worth the risk of inversion to wear ultralight hiking shoes or trail runners, so if and when I hike on the PCT, I’ll be one of the few wearing boots, by the sounds of it! 😀

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  3. So glad to hear from you! I think Chris (Panther) keeps tabs on y’all on Facebook but I’m out of the loop since I dived off the site last year. I’m glad you are recovering but oh man, another surgery? eek!

    I saw that Dirt Stew was leading hikes with BRHC but didn’t realize you were working there as well. Awesome!!! What a fun adventure to be doing that! Definitely jealous. 😉

    Happy hiking and please post more! I’d love to hear what’s going on and how you are transitioning from surgery to hikkinglife.

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  4. Best of luck with your recovery and upcoming surgery. I know how tough the road to recovery can be, having had a few injuries myself. It’s funny how the mental battle can be tougher than the physical. Stay strong!

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