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New Hips and a New Lease on Life

New Hips and a New Lease on Life

Nearly 10 years before having the first of two hip surgeries at El Camino Health's hospital in Los Gatos, Tomi noticed unfamiliar symptoms. She'd feel aches and pain while getting in and out of her Mini Cooper — a car that sits lower to the ground than most vehicles. On other occasions, she’d experience discomfort while riding her bicycle to work or going for walks.

At first, over-the counter pain medications resolved the pain.

"I would adapt and move on," recalls Tomi. "I was always active, riding my bike, going on walks and working out at the gym. I was convinced that herbal supplements and exercise would cure me."

Tomi's range of motion became increasingly restricted until she couldn't get on or off her bicycle. In the fall of 2022, Tomi mentioned it to her primary care provider on a video appointment during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It was a short visit, and she really couldn’t evaluate me," says Tomi, "but she didn't seem concerned."

Pain that Became Impossible to Ignore

Tomi continued to limit activities and use over-the-counter pain medications. By March 2023, she had trouble walking. She purchased a cane and requested a referral to an orthopedic surgeon.

"My pain was horrible," says Tomi. "It affected my knees and both hips."

Tomi wasn't sleeping well because pain woke her up at night. She'd get out of bed and walk around before trying to get back to sleep.

"I was taking the maximum recommended allowance of ibuprofen and Tylenol daily," says Tomi.

Eventually, Tomi couldn't drive, walk or stand for any length of time.

"My biggest disappointment was that I could no longer take my Yorkie out for her daily walks," says Tomi. "I started using a walker, and I couldn't carry anything heavy."

Daily wear and tear on her leg and hip bones left Tomi's left leg shorter than her right leg. She added orthotic-lift inserts to her shoes to even out the difference.

"Life was pretty miserable," recalls Tomi.

Finding Answers and Hope for Hip-Pain Relief

In July 2023, Tomi met with El Camino Health orthopedic surgeon and hip replacement specialist Raj Kullar, MD. Dr. Kullar evaluated her condition, answered her questions and recommended surgery for both hips.

Dr. Kullar told Tomi about the latest technology-guided, minimally invasive surgical approaches. Using advanced instruments and techniques, surgeons can operate precisely while minimizing wounds and easing recovery. Dr. Kullar would surgically remove worn-out joints and implant new artificial joints. He'd repair and replace the top of the thigh bone and the socket it fits into.

After talking with Dr. Kullar and reviewing related educational materials, Tomi decided to have the procedures. Hospital staff scheduled a total joint replacement surgery in August for Tomi’s right hip and a January operation for the left hip.

Preparing for Hip Surgery

Tomi had inflammatory arthritis — a common condition that causes painful redness and swelling around joints. Over time, inflammation plus normal wear and tear on joints breaks down healthy bones, muscles and tissues. As protective cartilage and tissues wear away, hip bones rub together, causing further deterioration.

To learn more about her surgeries, Tomi took an online class through Zoom video. El Camino Health orthopedic program manager Kathi Lee conducted the class.

"Kathi answered my questions, and everything happened as expected," says Tomi. "The staff at El Camino Health's hospital in Los Gatos were the best. They were friendly and made my stay very pleasant. The food was delicious, too!"

Tomi's overnight hospital stay included post-operative monitoring as she awoke from the anesthesia and throughout the night.

The next morning, a specialist guided Tomi through physical therapy, and her care team prepared her for extended recovery at home. They instructed her about safe bed mobility and positioning, using walkers, safety rails and assistive devices and preparing her home to avoid trip hazards. They reminded her to avoid lifting, bending, twisting and joint-stressing movements.

Hospital staff discharged Tomi the morning after surgery. Her second hip replacement surgery in January was also successful, and she again returned home after an overnight stay and physical therapy.
 "I was well cared for during both of my stays," says Tomi. "The staff were very caring and professional. It was pleasant to experience that level of care!"

Two Recoveries on the Road Back to an Active Lifestyle

Tomi's recovery experience was different for each hip. Her physical therapy for the right hip was limited by the pain and restricted movement of her left hip. The therapist was cautious and provided exercises that fit her limitations.

"After surgery on my left hip, my leg was numb at first but returned to normal the following morning," says Tomi. "I had a fair amount of pain, but the nurses were fantastic and very responsive to my calls."

By the end of three months, Tomi was feeling great and could walk more easily with no assisted devices.

"My left hip replacement has really restored my life," she exclaims. "My legs are now the same length, and I was able to walk without a cane a week after my surgery."

During additional therapy, physical therapists focused on strengthening Tomi's left gluteal muscles — a group of muscles that control upper thigh and hip movements. The therapist also worked on overall muscle strength and balance.

Now that she has completed her surgeries and therapies, Tomi is back to familiar routines and activities. She's walking daily, riding her exercise bike and taking online exercise classes. She's also back to walking her dog.

"I'm so grateful for the care provided by El Camino Health," says Tomi. "I have no pain in either hip, which is wonderful. I even enjoy yard work now — it feels good to get out. I’m so thankful to have my life restored. I honestly didn't think it would be this great!"