Total hip arthroplasty has Paula singing again

Paula O’Brien back on stage in December 2018.
Paula O’Brien back on stage in December 2018. Credit: One Voice

Anterior approach reduces hospital stay and recovery time

For 46-year-old Paula O’Brien, being on stage wasn’t just a hobby, it had once been a career. Her first professional theatre role was at age 11, and her love of performing developed from there. But once she turned 40, degenerative hip disease limited her life considerably.

“Singing at church was about all I could handle because of the pain,” says Paula, of Bettendorf, Iowa.

A family history of hip issues was part of the problem, but an active lifestyle and dysplasia had severely worn down the joints.

A replacement of her left hip was done in 2014, but that experience had not gone well and left her with limitations and lingering pain.

“I got to the point where I was afraid to leave the house because I couldn't trust my hips,” Paula says. “I felt like at any moment something was going to go terribly wrong.”

‘In the best hands possible’

So when it was time for her right hip to be replaced in 2018, Paula chose UI Hospitals & Clinics and orthopedic surgeon Jesse Otero, MD, whose specialty training in hip replacement and personable approach to patient care made all the difference.

“He’s so knowledgeable, but he also interacts with you on a personal level,” Paula says. “He understands that you’re living in pain. I knew from my first meeting with him that I was in the best hands possible.”

For Paula’s hip surgery, Otero used the anterior approach, which involves an incision on the front of the hip instead of the more traditional approaches that use an incision on the side or the back of the hip.

“For total hip arthroplasty, the anterior approach can have several benefits, including shorter hospital stays and quicker time to full recovery,” Otero says. “And in Paula’s case, that was certainly true.”

On the move and feeling ‘young again’

Paula did not require any physical therapy after the surgery, and her return to a normal life was swift.

“I just did exercises at home,” she says. “About six weeks after the surgery, we took a trip to St. Louis, and I got in 15,000 steps in one day with no pain.”

At three months, even her left hip was feeling better.

“Dr. Otero was considering doing a revision on the left hip,” Paula says. “But once my right hip was fixed and I was no longer walking with a limp, I was suddenly experiencing much less pain in the left hip.”

By December, Paula was back on stage. She was also getting out more, keeping up with her kids (Kieran, 16, and Avery, 8), and even going out dancing with her husband.

“I got my life back and I feel young again,” Paula says, “I didn't think that was possible!”

Bettendorf, Iowa