I was a first-time mum attending our routine 6 week check up with our paediatrician, totally unaware of what he was going to find. We already had a 6 week check with our GP so this was purely to discuss her potential reflux.
While I was there, he decided to preform the 6 week check as per my GP. He spreads her legs and moves them. ‘Oh, her hip right hip is a bit loose’ writes me a referral for an ultrasound and that was it.
At this stage I had never heard of hip dysplasia, so I was not overthinking the find just yet. I managed to get in for an ultrasound the next day and the sonographer was lovely and basically told me that her % was a lot lower than it should be so she will most likely be fitted with a harness/brace.
I waited anxiously for the call. We were sent for an urgent physio app where the Pavlik harness was fitted, and I was told that she will probably wear this for three months as it is just a very mild case. I needed to return to the physio every 2 weeks for a Pavlik harness tighten and sponge bath. Plus another u/s in 4 weeks.
I walked away from this appointment and basically cried. I couldn’t dress my baby in all these beautiful clothes that I had purchased, hold my baby properly or let alone work out how to feed her with the foreign harness over her body. I wanted the three months to be up.
Things were progressing nicely and we found our new normal. I found sleeping bags and clothes that worked and we got on with life. After 10 weeks in the Pavlik my paediatrician told me that her hips were perfect, and it could be removed. The physio was shocked that from where she was it had progressed so well. We both didn’t question the instructions and off I went. He did ask me to take Harper for another u/s in 2 weeks to confirm that all still looked great.
These two weeks were the best two weeks of my life. I gave my little girl so many cuddles. I even remember dressing her in tights and taking a picture and sending it to my mum saying ‘look at those legs’. It was so foreign for me to see her legs straight.
Two weeks was up and we went for our routine ultrasound the sonographer was very, very quiet and kept looking at the screen and my daughter. I knew something was not right. The next day we saw our paediatrician and he advised me that we urgently need to see an orthopaedic surgeon. His receptionist made an appointment for me and we were given a last minute appointment at 5pm that day.
I didn’t know the severity of it until I saw the orthopaedic surgeon. He reviewed all the ultrasounds and could not quite work out why Harper was taken out of her Pavlik harness two weeks ago. Yes, her % did improve throughout the ten weeks in a Pavlik but now her hip was basically dislocated. So we were in a much worse position to where we started. He put her back in the Pavlik and asked for weekly ultrasounds until we got back on track.
A few weeks passed and everything was looking good. Pavlik was still on 24/7. Harper was 4.5 months old and we were due to go to Hawaii for a friend’s wedding. Our surgeon told us to go have fun as Harpers hips were looking fine and to just keep her in the Pavlik 24/7 and we will do an adjustment as soon as we are back.
I wanted to go away and be relaxed. So I asked for an ultrasound the day before we left to confirm the progress. Our bags were packed. We were ready to leave. We had our ultrasound then saw our orthopaedic surgeon. His jaw dropped, he looked at me. I knew this look. He basically said to me ‘You cannot go away tomorrow, I am scheduling surgery ASAP’. He opened his diary, confirmed a date. Handed me a medical certificate so that I could cancel our flight and accomodation and basically that was it. He took the harness off her and said ‘enjoy these next 5 days with your baby as she will be having a closed reduction so whatever damage happens over the next few days I will fix’.
I was strong for my girl. I did not know what to think. I was by myself. Texted my husband as I left and then called him on my way home and basically cried. My husband thought I was joking. Walked in our front door and just looked at all the suitcases lined up and cried again. While my husband looked after the cancellation of our trip Dr Google was my best friend. I did not know anyone who had been through this before and I had lots of questions. Thanks to the amazing Hip Dysplasia Facebook community I connected with lots of lovely parents who had previously been in my situation and were able to give me guidance.
How does my daughter, sleep, eat, bath, play…… how do I hold her? How do I change her nappy? They sent me pictures and all the tips and tricks they learnt along the way.
It was through this FB group that I was loaned a spica table that saved our life! There was nothing on the market like it. All the spica tables floating around Australia, at this point, had been made by parents and passed around to other hippy parents so they were very loved and bulky.
Over the next 5 days I did my research to prepare us for the big day. I was so nervous. My first general anaesthetic was at 21. My daughters was going to be at 4.5months. All I kept reminding myself was that this is nothing in the scheme of things to what other people are currently going through.
Surgery day was hard for all. My daughter had to be nil by mouth and all she wanted was some milk. Given her age we were first up. My husband took her into the anaesthetic bay whilst I waited. The next hour seemed like forever. We then saw her surgeon and again… he gave me that look. He was not convinced that the surgery was successful as he said he never heard the ‘click’ sound when he put her hip back into place and the cast on. He said this will all be confirmed in the next two hours when we have an MRI. Once he reviews the MRI he will then confirm next steps. Thankfully the MRI confirmed that the hip was in the socket and we were good to go and start our spica journey. At 6 weeks we had to go back for a cast changeover and then wait another 6 weeks for the cast to come off. There were a few public holidays over Easter, so the second cast ended up staying on for 7 weeks and not 6. I was literally counting down the weeks, so this felt like a lifetime. BUT this was not as bad as I thought it was going to be. We found our groove and it was my new normal. Harper was a trooper always happy and smiling. The thought of trying to care for a baby not in a spica cast started to haunt me as the past 13 weeks I had a spica baby!
The cast removal was horrific. I wish they put earphones on my daughter as she screamed like crazy and then screamed every time she heard the hairdryer and vacuum cleaner. It was like she had PTSD from that noise. This went on for over a year.
Following the spica cast removal Harper went into a Rhino brace for 23 hours per day. I could finally bath my little girl and she loved the water! At 13 months it was 20 hours per day so lots of floor time when there was no brace and then at 16 months the brace was only on during sleep time – YAY! My little girl was almost free.
Throughout the process a real worry of mine was the fact that she would be developmentally delayed as she had been in some form of harness/cast/brace since she was 7 weeks of age. I was very wrong she hit all her milestone earlier than expected and was rolling, walking and crawling in her rhino brace. At 15 months she was walking and 17 months she was running!!! My second daughter only learnt to walk at 17 months, and she did not have hip dysplasia.
Once her brace came off, I was told that she would be monitored with X-Rays every 6 months until she is 4 years old to rule out the need for further surgery. Her hip socket was still slightly shallow so this is something that did concern our surgeon however, with all the walking, running and dancing we were hoping that it would deepen over time.
Just recently Harper was cleared of further surgery. It was such a relief as this was always in the back of my mind. Good luck to anyone about to embark on this journey. Please remember that your little one will not remember a thing and in turn it will make them stronger. The entire process is much harder on the parents/carers and you will get through it!