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Hip to Pain…

Posted on April 27, 2017 in Patient Stories

Teacher’s diary shows pain-free days were few

Andrea Anderson was hurting – she just didn’t know how much.

But when orthopedic surgeon Paul Yau, MD, urged her to track her hip pain after a cortisone shot, she installed a diary application on her smartphone and began making almost daily notes. “When I look back, I can see that I had no idea,” she said. “I wanted to believe that it wasn’t as bad as I thought. But there were months when I was in pain 25 days out of 30.”

Now, after receiving a total hip replacement last Oct. 21, the 46-year-old Harriman woman uses that same smartphone diary to praise Dr. Yau for ridding her of the pain.

“I LOVE this man! I love him, love him, love him!” she wrote of Dr. Yau, the day after a 45-minute surgery at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center.

Anderson’s glee was understandable. She had suffered for almost a decade after accidentally stepping into a drainage ditch. A trip to an internist and X-rays failed to show anything unusual. “It didn’t seem like it was a big deal,” said Anderson who underwent physical therapy and “felt fine.”

But it wasn’t “fine.” The hip would bother her off and on over the next several years, usually easing after physical therapy. When that no longer worked, Anderson, hardly able to walk without pain, sought help from an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in hips and discovered Dr. Yau on the Tennessee Orthopaedic Clinics website.

He first recommended cortisone injections to ease the pain and asked Anderson, a special education teacher at Harriman High School, to keep a log of how well the shots worked.

“Feb. 5, 2016 is when I got the shot,” she said as she scrolled through her phone diary. “After a couple of days, I wrote ‘This is great! I’m doing great! Not feeling it at all!’ But then five days later, I wrote, ‘My muscles are kind of tight…something’s going on.’”

Despite the pain, Anderson put off a return visit to Dr. Yau for another six months. She kept the diary going, however. And when a new school year ushered in even more excruciating hip pain, she returned to see Dr. Yau.

At her appointment that Sept. 15, she scrolled through her diary, hoping to find good days to tell Dr. Yau about. But the bad days far outweighed the good, and Anderson tearfully admitted she needed a total hip replacement.

“Her hip x-rays were completely normal. Then you get this MRI and 90 percent of her hip was either affected or had just died. You don’t really see MRIs like hers,” said Dr. Yau, who discovered necrosis, a disruption of blood flow to the bone, had caused 90 percent of the femoral head of her hip to die and crumble.

Even so, Dr. Yau was still able to take an anterior approach to her hip replacement, resulting in fewer restrictions on her recovery. She spent one day in Fort Sanders Regional before being discharged. “The staff at Fort Sanders Regional were awesome,” she said. “We had a very good group of people who came in to take care of me that night. That whole experience was wonderful.”

As for Dr. Yau, “I would invite him to a family dinner!’” she said recently. “He felt like family to me, that I was being cared for. He made me feel like I was his only patient that day!”