PAO surgery – Call for support!

Dear All,
In a few days (December 5th, 8am European time to be exact, midnight in California ;c)) my first surgery to treat my hip dysplasia is coming up. The surgery that will be performed is called a Periacetabular Osteotomy aka a PAO.

Having hip dysplasia means the sockets of my hips are too shallow to properly cover the ball of my joint. This eventually results in early arthritis and pain 24/7. The pain has been debilitating in a way that not only I had to stop doing what I love on a regular basis, like hiking and doing sports, but also I can no longer sit or stand for more than 20 minutes, my range of motion is getting smaller, and over all the pain I’ve been living with the past 3 years is just exhausting for both my mind and my body.


Hip Dysplasia on both sides. The left one is worse though and is gonna be treated first.

I am fairly lucky there exists a surgery that aims at correcting the shallow socket and reconstructing a more normal hip without having to have a Total Hip Replacement but instead using my own pelvis bones to create it.

Without denying the hardship of a Total Hip Replacement this surgery is no comparison to a Hip Replacement. I’m only telling this because people keep thinking I get a “new” hip  but I am not! I won’t be walking after a week and I won’t be back after 6 weeks! This is a whole different story, with a recovery period of a whole fucking year. In no way will I be back to hiking after 3 months. If I’m lucky I’ll be able to take my first unassisted steps after 3 months. It will take me a lot longer to get back into the mountains (but I wíll get back!).

Anyway this is what will happen:

My surgeon will make an incision in my left hip/groin area, make his way to my bones and then will perform 4 osteotomies, which means he will cut/break the bones of my pelvis in 4  places so that the socket around the ball becomes loose and he can rotate it to the side and to the front. He’ll then fix the rotated socket with a screw and check whether it’s in the right position or not. If it’s in the right position he’ll fix it in that position with 3 to 5 huge screws that go all through my pelvis. If it’s not in the right position he’ll keep rotating it till he finds the right position to fix it. After the screws are in, he’ll close me up and that’s it. 


After the surgery I’ll spend the first day and night at the ICU and then if all goes well I’ll be moved to the ortho unit where I’ll stay for another 4 or 5 days. I’ll be having a nerve block and a morphine pump to control the pain for the first couple days.

After 2 or 3 days they’ll teach me how to sit up and go to the bathroom, however in the first 6 weeks I won’t be allowed real weight baring and apart from going to the bathroom and doing minor minor exercises (like trying to move my leg to the side) I will have to rest most of the day because of course those crazy fractures in my hip have to heal.

I hope that after 6 weeks I’ll have enough bone growth to start learning to walk with one crutch and after 12 weeks I hope to be able to walk unassisted. But for now I’ll try to expect nothing, and I’ll pray for patience (getting impatient while waiting in line to pay at the store seems so ridiculous now :cP)

Anyway, this is gonna be one of the toughest things I’ve ever done, so I would be really really really happy if people keep me in their thoughts and prayers during surgery. I can use every bit of good energy. I’ll be going into the OR at 8am and should be back by noon. For my American friends: Y’all be sleeping probably (it’ll be like midnight in California, 2am in Colorado and 3am at the East Coast), so I’d be just very grateful if you send me some love before you go to sleep or dream something nice about me :c) :c) :c) 

I have no idea what not walking for all these months will do to me, I’m afraid it’ll turn me into some sort of crazy bitch, but ya… I guess we’re gonna find out soon. One thing’s for sure though: I’m gonna be screwed!

Thank you all so so much for supporting me!

Much love


47 thoughts on “PAO surgery – Call for support!

  1. Although you will be facing some though times ahead, the power in which you write and share your thoughts about it show that you will find the power to recover from this annoying setback.
    My thoughts are with you Helen.
    If you happen to be near your hometown after surgery, let me know. I’ll come and pick you up and we’ll gone have a drink (or coffee) in town.
    Regards David.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. When waiting for the mountains in three months you can make some really great plans for your next painless hike.
    Furthermore you can introduce the staff for the outdoors. I did that once 🙂
    I will think of you!!!
    All the best,

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Although I do not know you, I know OF you thru Betsy and your blog. Thank you for telling us all your situation and your surgery date. I am putting your name on my altar so that when I see it I can send you a breeze, a prayer, a mountain trail, a blue sky…Many blessings.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I’ve marked my calendar and set my alarm. My neighbor is having heart surgery the same day so you’ll both be in my thoughts. Keep those visions of the Sierra in your mind. They’ll grant you the peace and relation needed for recovery. Hugs!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you Jan!!!! The image of the Sierra will be a big big big help. It’s my heartland and I can’t wait to come back next summer (I bought all the geographical maps I could get haha, to plan future hikes while I lay in bed). I’ll think of your neighbor too! Hugs back to you!!!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you!! Jep, frustration is very very likely. However I’m still flying to California in July and so even if I can’t hike much I’ll take in the landscape and drink the wild air and “write” stories in the desert sand or the mountain lakes (if I get up there haha).


  5. Hi Helen
    Am thinking of you, hoping and praying, now and even more on 5/12. But relax. All will be well. The fear is all in the thinking ahead of time. I do not know who said this, two quotes come to mind

    1) A clown may rise and climb the heights if he hath but a stair, but joy to him who dares to climb and hath no help but air
    2) Come to the edge, he said. We can’t, they said, we are afraid. Come to the edge, he said. They came, he pushed them, he flew.

    A close friend , a mad keen hiker, has just had operations on both her feet and is not allowed to walk for 3 months. That is the frustrating part, and then getting back her fitness. But time passes quickly. At the time you will be frustrated, but suddenly you WILL be out there, in the wilderness you love, walking as never before and free of pain. Never fear.
    Take care,
    Hugs and love

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I haven’t forgotten… Blessings, peace and complete healing to you.

    Think of how good you will feel hiking without pain when you visit our beautiful Sierra again!

    Post your progress.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for asking Chelsea! I’m doing ok but recovery is incredibly slow. I’m starting to learn to walk again and it’s not easy, ’cause my bones and muscles and tendons have been in a certain position for over 30 years and now everything is different. So it’s hard work and I still have a long long way to go, but I know that with patience and trust I will get there eventually ;c)


    • Dear Hannah, I’ll be thinking of you on July 18th. It’s such a hard time, but we will get through. I’m almost 7 months post op and still not doing too well (but hey I’m kinda ‘old’ so I guess it’s normal for my age). Still having quite some pain, and still feeling pretty disabled, but I’m trying to be patient and let my body heal at its own pace. In the end all is ok. With pain or without, life is still beautiful. Good luck for your surgery!!! (My next surgery is September 1st, getting the screws out ;c) Cat

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hi Cat, thanks so much I really appreciate it. Such a shame to hear you’re having further problems with your hip, I really hope you will be pain free some day soon, don’t give up! Yes I will be taking in mind that everyone recovers at their own pace, no need to rush anything your body is worth it. Fingers crossed for a positive surgery in September and for bone growth. Hannah x

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Cat
    How did this surgery go for you? I’m just embarking on researching for my 18 year old son who was just diagnosed with hip dysplasia. Surgeon thinking possibly best to do early before painful and symptomatic.
    Hard to feel like this big surgery is a good idea!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Sally,
      it’s really hard to say how my PAO went for me. As I was a quite a bit older (34) than your son when I had the surgery, it took me a really long time to recover. 1 year was not enough, and even now after more than 2 years, I am still struggling with certain things. I do not regret having the surgery, but I’m not super excited about it either. Some pains that I had before surgery have disappeared, and my left hip no longer locks up, but I now have different pains and those do impact my “normal” life. However! your son is much younger than I am, so his changes are better. Young people seem to recover faster from this surgery. Now this is just my opinion but I wouldn’t have surgery on a non-symptomatic hip, even if the xrays show hip dysplasia (of course it also depends on the severity of the dysplasia). My surgeon would refuse too, but I know there are surgeons out there who perform surgery before pain and symptoms occur. It really really is such a hard call, ’cause yeah it’s a huge and painful surgery… But like I said, your son is still young and his body might be able to deal with it much better… Whatever way you go, I wish him all the luck in the world… Being diagnosed with hip dysplasia sucks, but I bet with your support and support from family and friends, he’ll be just fine….
      Kind wishes, Cat


      • Oh thanks so much for reply! I was up late researching and reaching out to people who inspired me:). My son is avid skier, snowboarder, backpacker and your story hit for me. Your adventurous life is inspiring. Husband and I also planning on hiking the JMT:)
        He dislocated his femur in snowboard accident and this is what then gave us this surprise diagnosis. We were hitbroadside when surgeon suggested early intervention. Such a hard call as of course my son does not want to live with feeling tentative about his hips in all the adventuring we do.
        Yes it sucks!
        I know that this big surgery is probably not going to make his hips perfect. His 18 year old brain seems to think he will then be back to “normal”.
        Your symptoms and recovery look so challenging and I commend you for your amazing outlook and positivity.
        I’m sure we would be friends in passion for the outdoors.
        I also see that you expecting!! What a blessing. There is nothing better than sharing the outdoors with your kids.
        I am also grieving for our loss of time with him in the wilderness and want him to have the best outcome.
        I appreciate your candid report.
        Surgery in 30’s. When did you know you had dysplasia? How old? When did you become symptomatic?

        Thanks again for your time!!!!!
        Best to you!


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