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Hip Surgery Puts a Trailblazer Back on Track

Hip Surgery Puts a Trailblazer Back on Track

See how minimally invasive hip surgery at El Camino Health helped Linda get back to her exciting travel adventures and active lifestyle.

Backpacking hikes, steep climbs, peddling, swimming and getting around by plane, boat, streetcar or ferry are just part of Linda’s active, well-traveled path in life. She and her husband, David, write about and photograph their adventures for fans in California and around the world.

As travel correspondents and wayfarers, Linda and David explore the California coast and other destinations stateside and abroad. They’re published in newspapers, travel guides, books, blogs and social media. They appreciate pet-friendly places so their Siberian Husky, Gem, can tag along.

When Linda's hip started giving her trouble, it was an abrupt change of pace for the active couple. Linda experienced crippling hip pain while on an arduous European hiking trip in August 2023. In September, she consulted El Camino Health Los Gatos hospital arthritis and joint replacement surgeon Matthew Miller, MD.

Recalculating: Unexpected Detours

X-rays showed extensive wear and tear on Linda’s hip bone, with inflammation and damage to surrounding tissues. Dr. Miller diagnosed hip arthritis — a common, age-related degenerative condition. It gets worse over time as protective cartilage and tissues break down, damaging hip bones and joints. Dr. Miller recommended total hip arthroplasty to relieve the pain and restore function by replacing the damaged hip joint.

Dr. Miller explained the potential risks and benefits of minimally invasive hip surgery to implant a new prosthetic hip joint. Minimally invasive procedures allow doctors to operate with precision through the use of specialty instruments and surgical techniques. This minimizes injury to surrounding tissues and eases recovery.

"Dr. Miller's calm energy and patience quelled my anxiety," says Linda. "He explained the surgery and answered my questions." David listened attentively, too, and learned how to prepare for his caregiver role.

A recommended online pre-op class via Zoom provided further education about the surgery scheduled for October 2023. Nurse Kathi Lee, who manages the El Camino Health orthopedic program, conducted the class.

"It was nearly two hours of valuable information and instructions," Linda recalls. "At times, it was a tad overwhelming for us, but after a debriefing beach stroll with Gem, there was a definite 'We've got this!' feeling of confidence, caring and competence."

Linda's Road to Recovery

Before surgery, Linda received a spinal anesthetic, so she didn't feel anything during the procedure. After about an hour, recovery specialists monitored Linda’s vital signs as she awoke. Staff moved her to a hospital room for additional monitoring during her overnight stay.

The next morning, rehabilitation therapists worked with Linda on physical therapy and occupational therapy — assistance with routine daily activities. She learned about assistive devices, trip hazards, supportive seating, safe walking and stair training. They educated her about what not to do, including twisting, turning, bending or crossing her legs for a short period of time during her recovery.

Accustomed to running, hiking, biking or driving herself to get around, Linda instead safely made her way to the car for the drive home where she downshifted to a slower pace.

New Routines and a Test of Patience

Once home, Linda's first impression was that their Southwest-style home felt a little less comforting and familiar. Linda had removed cozy area rugs, furnishings and decorative items that were potential obstacles.

"I needed it to be a more walker, cane and commode chair-friendly environment for the next few weeks," says Linda.

Linda had framed their bed with body pillows and cushions to create a safe and comfortable place for when she was sleeping in bed at night. To reduce clotting risks, she wore battery-operated leg compression devices 20 hours a day for two weeks after surgery. She took prescribed pain meds plus vitamin and amino acid blends to support healing.

In addition to the new, obstacle-free décor, Linda adjusted to an equally unfamiliar reliance on David as care provider. Her desire to function independently occasionally clashed with his concern for her safe and successful recovery. He kept up with his routine personal and work obligations — including tending to his law clients’ needs. He also walked their dog, shopped, cooked and cleaned. He served as caregiver and cheerleader as Linda’s hip healed.

"I was frustrated by my limitations," Linda says, "but we never lost our sense of humor. We laughed over his unexpectedly exhausting life and my glee at his newfound appreciation for the challenges of home-front operations."

Physical therapist Blake Russell visited for twice-weekly sessions. "It was a welcome respite," says Linda. "David often took the opportunity to go for a run or a bike ride. I looked forward to my sessions with Blake. As a retired professional runner, she understood my struggle to accept the process as I worked towards returning to independence and physical activity."

On the Move Again

At Linda's three-week post-op appointment, Dr. Miller evaluated Linda's condition and hip stability and prescribed more intensive physical therapies. Linda and David appreciated the milestone. David had worried about Linda's well-being and admitted he'd been concerned about her successful recovery.

"Dr. Miller's glowing report gave us permission to exhale and relax," says Linda.

Over the next four weeks, strenuous outpatient physical therapy quickly strengthened Linda's leg muscle and balance strength.

"By the time I saw Dr. Miller for my seven-week post-op appointment and X-rays, I was back on track," recalls Linda. "I was swimming 70 laps an hour three times a week and walking several miles, including a couple of steep hikes."

"Dr. Miller is a skilled orthopedic surgeon," she adds. "People told me 'hip surgery is easy,' and it was, but the recovery was challenging for me. I never doubted my physical resilience, but I'm surprised at how recovery boot camp bolstered my mental and emotional endurance to face other inevitable challenges on the road of life."

Now that her hip pain is history, Linda looks forward to more adventurous journeys with family and friends. Many of them will include Gem, who is happy to have one of her favorite walking partners back on the trail.


Pictured: Linda and Gem four weeks post-op hiking in Carmel Valley.