Meet Jacqui Assadi

April 03, 2014

Jacqui is a 49-year-old woman who had hip repair surgery and hip reconstruction surgery. She was evaluated and operated on by Glenn J. Huber, M.D. and had both of her surgeries at Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center Torrance.

What are your athletic and active passions?
Jacqui: Well, number one is tennis, I've played tennis the last three years, and also very competitively in high school and college. And I love it. I think that's what I want to continue doing. I want to get certified as a professional teacher. So that's my goal for this year. Hopefully I'm going to get there now that I can move.

Other physical passions of mine include swimming and being able to run around with my kids, or going for a bike ride. Skiing is another passion of mine, I've done triathlons, and I even like bowling too!

What caused your hips to need repair and reconstruction?
My left hip was worse than my right. I know it's from the constant barrage of cumulative impact from the years that I've run, biked, doing more hard contact sports, playing tennis when I was young and then now. I really do play hard. The hard courts I play on make a difference in the impact, on the stress to the joints and the constant pounding. It's very jerky movement and a lot of starts and stops. If you don't have a very stable joint, a lot can go wrong with it. I know now I have spurs as well that are congenital and they can get worse as well. Bone meets bone so it can kind of creep up and start carving out the inside of your labrum. It's taking off the surface during the constant jarring from all the activities I do.

That sounds really painful.
Jacqui: It is. I would wake up with sharp pain in my hips, feel it throughout the day, and lose sleep, too. Some things would make it worse and when I rested the pain would go down to a dull ache, but it wasn't going away completely.

Was there a moment when you realized you couldn't keep trying to manage the pain on your own?
I'll tell you what the bottom line was. We went on a family trip two years ago, and one day we took a very beautiful hike to this waterfall. I'll never forget the walk—it was about a two-hour hike—and after a couple hours of hiking on uneven terrain I was in tears every time I had to jump down from a rock. I was so afraid I wouldn't make it back. It wasn't like in tennis where I could stop any time and rest and ice. So that was my breaking point.

Not long after, I saw one of my friends, who asked how I was feeling. I said I felt terrible! My friend asked if I'd had any physical therapy or anything. I said no, but I really think I need something because I don't know what to do anymore. I'm taking 1200 milligrams of ibuprofen a day just to manage my pain just to get out of bed in the morning. I'm cringing at the thought of going up or down stairs.

So I went to physical therapy, which didn't fix the problem but got my symptoms to a manageable level for a while. After about a year in therapy I knew I couldn't go any further. I couldn't lift up my children, put away groceries, or even make the beds. By that point even walking was hard. I would cringe at the thought of having to do anything really physical. I tried to do Pilates and swim as well, just to stay active, but it hurt. I knew that surgery was my only option because I wasn't getting any better.

So by this point it was an easy decision to have hip surgery?
I'm not a complainer and I've never been in a hospital, so for me to say I needed help was a big deal. And I don't think that's a good trait. I had a very hard time knowing it was time to stop. I probably could have had the surgeries a year earlier. Maybe putting it off that extra year was enough to make my left side even worse.

What did Dr. Huber suggest first?
For the most part I knew what was wrong because I used to be an occupational therapist, and my physical therapist agreed. Dr. Huber confirmed that and he also extended my diagnosis to include more damage than we had initially thought, which was a hip impingement. He said there were different types of hip impingement, and in order to find out what type I had, he had me get an MRI called an MRI arthrogram, where dye is injected into the hip joint. Dr. Huber developed this special protocol with one of the radiologists at Providence Little Company of Mary where cortisone is mixed in with dye so that if there's inflammation, it treats the pain, too.

Did the cortisone help with the pain?
It didn't work. I was hopeful and Dr. Huber was of course hopeful that it would put my symptoms at bay, but there is no guarantee that someone will respond to cortisone well. And I actually had three doses of cortisone because I went back again for another MRI for my hips as well. And that didn't work, either. We thought that maybe the first set of injections wasn't targeted quite correctly, but it wasn't the case. Cortisone just didn't help me. That was another confirmation that surgery was probably the road I was going to take.

How did you feel about having surgery?
I'd never in my life had surgery, so the idea was very daunting. But because of my experience as an occupational therapist I knew that surgery does help as long as you follow the protocols that your doctor prescribes. If you do that you should come out a lot better than you were before. Having seen lots of patients do what they were told, I knew I would do it, too. So I did a lot of strength training before both of my surgeries, saw a physical therapist twice a week, and I laid off my regular physical activities – tennis – as well. I changed a lot to prepare for the surgery.

How was your experience at Providence Little Company of Mary Torrance?
Everyone was amazing. The staff were so caring and made me feel very comfortable.

So you had the surgery on the first hip. What was it like just after?
Following surgery I was able to have a relative take care of my children for five weeks during the summer. The first two weeks were really just convalescing in bed, very little activity, no weight bearing on my hip. No going up and down the stairs. My house is two levels and I was restricted to the lower one during that time. I just took care of my own basic needs, although I did need help with all my showering and stuff like that for the first few days. That was very humbling. My husband is amazing.

Once I was out of bed, I had crutches and a hip brace. I couldn't drive for two weeks. Once I could drive it was time to start physical therapy. In therapy, they don't want you to stress your joint out at first so they really tell you to lay off and try not to do much. That was hard for me!

What was physical therapy like for you?
In the beginning it was pretty light. You start with range of motion exercises just to get the joint moving. I came out of surgery not feeling that much pain, which for me was incredible. There was recovery pain, but it wasn't like pain from a bad joint, and I wasn't ever worried because every day was getting better and better. When I was in physical therapy I wasn't in any pain, and to this day I don't have any pain.

Did you have this experience with both hip surgeries?
Yes. It was amazing, that the success was equal. Each hip had slightly different recoveries but the outcome was the same. When I got the green light to play tennis again, I was ecstatic. I went back playing tennis again just 10 weeks post-surgery. I was only allowed to hit balls that were on one side, and I wasn't allowed to move side-to-side. It went really well, and I felt some muscle weakness, not any joint issues. I've been gaining strength gradually, and now I'm able to play normally. I don't have to worry because after 12 weeks, the structure is fully healed.

You seem like someone who didn't want to change your passion for staying active.
That's true. I had my priorities. I wanted to be there for my family. I say tennis is my passion, but my children are my passion, of course. It's true, though, that I'm a better mom when I can do what I want physically for myself, so my passions go hand in hand.

What would you say to people who think they are too young to have this done?
For someone who feels they are too young to have anything like this done, I think they aren't considering the consequences. If they are having chronic, really severe daily pain, there is something that needs to be looked at. I knew I was damaging my body. If I had it to do over again, I would have acted on it earlier.

How do you feel today?
I feel today, really like I've been given a new chance to continue doing what I love to do, and a new found respect for making sure I take care of my body so it lasts me for the next decades. Right now I'm going full force.