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August 27, 2010 > Double Hip Replacement Patient Now Dances the Night Away

Double Hip Replacement Patient Now Dances the Night Away

Advanced Surgical Techniques and Rehab Lead to a Speedy Recovery

Marilynn Nelson was always an active, vibrant woman who exercised regularly and even took tango lessons with her husband. But in 2004 when she was 48-years-old, she began suffering excruciating pain in her left knee and her quality of life deteriorated dramatically.

"My quality of life was zero," Nelson recalls. "I couldn't stand in lines or walk more than a few steps. I even needed a wheelchair to get on and off the airplane when I traveled to my daughter's college graduation in Pennsylvania. Finally, I went in for exploratory knee surgery in April 2006, and they discovered that the problem was really in my hip, not my knee."

Seeking an Advanced Solution

Nelson was diagnosed with hip dysplasia. The ball in her left hip was protruding out of the socket by 50 percent, and a large cyst had developed. She was told she might need hip replacement surgery, so she began consulting orthopedic surgeons who specialize in the latest techniques used for joint replacement. One of those doctors was John Dearborn, M.D., Medical Director of the Center for Joint Replacement at Washington Hospital.

"When I met with Marilynn, it was clear that she would be helped by a hip replacement," Dearborn says. "At her young age, however, we needed to look to the latest techniques to allow her to return to a high level of activity with confidence that the new hip would last for several decades."

Despite the fact that she lives in Los Altos, Nelson decided to have Dearborn perform the surgery at Washington Hospital in Fremont. This is commonplace for Dearborn and the Center for Joint Replacement, as 80 percent of the 1,400 patients treated annually at the center are from outside the Tri-City area.

"Even I was asking myself why would I choose not to go to Stanford for the surgery because it was so close to home," she admits. "But I chose the Center for Joint Replacement because I felt completely comfortable with the physicians and staff."

One Down, One to Go

Nelson's surgery to replace her left hip was performed in July 2006, and she was surprised at how quickly she recovered.

"By the next day, I was able to walk to my physical therapy class," she notes. "I carefully resumed my regular exercise routines shortly thereafter. Within three months, I was able to travel to New York to visit my daughter, who had moved there, and I was walking seven to 10 miles a day while we were there."

Then Nelson's right hip began causing problems last year.

"I wanted to attend our son's 'parents weekend' at USC and to go to Argentina for tango dancing in November but I had to rely on pain medication to get me through," she recalls.

After her trip to Argentina, Nelson decided not to delay surgery as long as she had the first time around. She scheduled surgery with the Center for Joint Replacement to replace the right hip late last year, recovering over the week between Christmas and New Year's.

"Within seven days, I was out and about running errands," she boasts. "After six weeks, I was back to taking tango lessons and dancing at an advanced level. I've also gotten back on my bicycle, and now I can do 50 miles. I'm feeling 100 percent again after just three months. It's wonderful to get back to my life!"

Preparing for a Quick Recovery

"Marilynn had a speedy recovery, as we have come to expect from minimally invasive hip surgery techniques," Dearborn notes. "She did everything we asked of her, was careful not to overdo it early, and she made a special effort to come to the operating room in excellent physical shape. Patients who work on muscle strength and some aerobic conditioning before surgery have an easier time, and Marilynn was no exception."

Another reason for Nelson's quick recovery was the encouragement and physical therapy provided by the staff at the Center for Joint Replacement.

"I was well cared-for in the hospital," she explains. "Also, the physical therapist gave me great exercises to regain my strength and range of motion. I still do some of those exercises. If you want to recover quickly, it's important to work with your physical therapist afterward. Every day, you heal."

You might even learn to dance the tango.

Learn More About Minimally Invasive Hip Surgery

If you or a family member is living with chronic hip pain, please join Dr. John Dearborn and Dr. Alexander Sah for a comprehensive seminar highlighting leading edge treatment options in hip replacement surgery. The seminar will be held on Tuesday, September 14 from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditoriums, located at 2500 Mowry Avenue in Fremont. Register online at

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