“Before my surgery, the pain was always on, it interfered with everything.”

24 June 2020
Young man called Richard standing outside standing near trees.

Richard, 37, has osteoarthritis and was diagnosed with Perthes disease after experiencing symptoms which started when he was four.

“Something was not quite right about the way I walked – I had a bit of a waddle.”

I was diagnosed with Perthes Disease, a degenerative condition that affects blood flow to the femoral head, creating a lot of pain in the hip.

I spent lots of time in hospital, in a wheelchair or on calipers, or in a large plaster frame, designed to reduce my symptoms. It went away for a while but came back with a vengeance as a teenager when I hit a growth spurt.

I had an osteotomy which involved turning the bone around to a cleaner side to preserve the hip, with a view to having a replacement later in life.

It was a preventative measure because doctors can’t do a replacement on someone so young.

“When I was 25, I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis as a result of Perthes.”

I was told I wouldn’t have a joint replacement until at least 40. It was a flat no from the doctors. They said my only option was to just “put up with it”, using painkillers to manage the pain.

I found exercise helped the pain, so I started running and doing five-a-side football – although I wasn’t very good, so I stopped the football.

“In 2012, I started running properly and was training for Great North Run.”

By November 2018, the house of cards I’d built came tumbling down when I picked up a hip flexor injury during a 10k race, everything ground to a halt and I limped the last 5k.

The injury itself felt different to any pain I’d had before and from that point, nothing was the same.

I went to see a physio, who treated the hip flexor injury and he advised that I’d be a good candidate for a hip replacement. I’d coped for so long but I think it was definitely time to push for some kind of resolution.

In March 2019 I saw the surgeon, who agreed that I was a good candidate for a hip replacement and was put on the waiting list.

The doctor saw the benefit of me having the surgery because I’m young and would likely make a good recovery, which would lead to an active life.

“It’s been an amazing transformation. I was out of hospital 2 days later.”

Since then it’s been rehab, rehab, rehab with the physio and at the gym. I have a huge amount of respect for the NHS and for me to be back on my feet so soon after the surgery really is testament to the treatment I received.

The pain has almost completely gone. I just get a bit of soreness after exercise. Every part of my life was affected by pain before.

Before my surgery, the pain was always on, it interfered with everything.

I was given naproxen and ranitidine to help side effects of naproxen. I also had codeine and tramadol. These just masked the pain.

Imagine constantly having a sound playing inside your head – after a while you learn to live with it, but sometimes it just becomes too much.

“My family are very close, and I’ve always been open with them about it.”

With friends it was much the same. I’ve had the same circle of close friends all the way through this journey, so they have seen me at my worst - and they’ve always been there for me when it has been particularly tough.

More people are willing to talk about medical conditions now, and that encouraged me to be more vocal about mine.

I’m proud of how far I’ve come in such little time. I want to own it, now. I want to tell people about my arthritis instead of hide it.

I feel very lucky to have had my surgery just before the pandemic spread to the UK. Through the various support groups I’m a member of on social media, I’ve seen the effect of non-emergency surgery being cancelled and those people being placed in such an uncertain situation.

Their pain isn’t going to magically go away through this, they’re still suffering, and hopefully as hospital capacity begins to return to normal, those people can have their surgery scheduled in and soon they will be on the road to recovery.

“Exercise has really helped me through it.”

I have been able to get back into running. It’s great to have the mental health benefits of running back in my life.

I’m on furlough leave until the end of October due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I had got used to the down time being on sick leave following the surgery, but this is something different completely.

There’s so many of us in the same situation and it’s encouraging to see such an emphasis on the importance of staying fit and healthy.

With the extra spare time I’ve been able to really increase the exercise and I’m just using this whole experience as an opportunity to ace my rehabilitation.

My family always goes out on the bikes, and I can join them now. I can walk however much I like, which I couldn’t before.

I’m making no compromises now. It’s like someone’s flicked a switch and now I can do everything I’ve always wanted to do – the only person stopping me is me.

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