Hip surgery gives patient back her ski legs

March 23, 2017

Two years after Courtney May first underwent hip replacement surgery, the 45-year-old ardent skier was able to hit the slopes again. She was part of two separate clinical trials during her surgeries in 2014 and 2015.

Courtney May was an avid skier. When she was 36, arthritis invaded her hips. Walking became painful, so she hung up her skis.

By the time she was 44, May needed a hip replacement. She was referred to orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Paul Beaulé.

“Before my first hip surgery, in January 2014, Dr. Beaulé asked if I was willing to be part of a randomized control trial to see how the body reacts to a ceramic hip versus a traditional metal hip. I agreed to participate without hesitation,” said May. “I knew research was important. Previous clinical trials had resulted in treatment that helped me. My participation would help others.”

The results were amazing, and May was able to resume day-to-day activities with greater mobility, and much less pain.

She had a second hip replacement a year later. This time, Dr. Beaulé asked her to participate in a same-day discharge study to see how well people recover going home the day of the surgery, versus staying in the hospital a few days.

May’s decision to participate in this trial met with all kinds of opposition from family and friends who said, ‘This is crazy.’ ‘The hospital is rushing you out.’ ‘This is a complete failure of the medical system.’

“I would argue this is a great success for the medical system,” said May. “The actual surgical procedures were identical. I got a ceramic hip both times. I was sent home with an iPad that had a program that allowed a post-op nurse to monitor my vitals remotely. Dr. Beaulé, the anesthesiologist, and the post-op nurse all checked in to be sure things were going smoothly.”

After the first surgery, May’s recovery was aided by walkers, crutches and canes, and a personal care worker helped her bathe and dress. With the second surgery, May was admitted at 8:30 a.m. and left the hospital at 4:30 p.m. She was independent within days, and went straight to using a cane. Recovering at home was completely positive.

When May travelled to Jakarta in early 2016, she marvelled at how she managed the 24-hour flight, remembering how she’d dreaded sitting in a car for a short time. She is also skiing again.

“Any doubt I had about my ability to return to the slopes completely disappeared by my third run,” said May. “It was like I had never stopped skiing. I finished the day with a great appreciation of just how far I had come.”

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