So What Happened at the Doctor, Martha?

I had a beautiful 80 mile drive over Poncha Pass to Salida. I found the clinic — easy! Filled out the forms, used the restroom, waited for my turn while reading My Family and Other Animals — the basis for the PBS show, The Durrells in Corfu. I was called by the nurse, a really nice woman named Diana. My vitals were sketchy, as always (terror at the doctor’s office followed by “Oh, good, you’re on blood pressure meds.”) Slightly elevated temp. Doc comes in, a big guy my age, maybe a little older. He doesn’t make eye contact. Then he tells me, “We can’t open the disk with your X-rays. Something wrong with our computer system. We’re still working on it.” That problem didn’t get solved.

He examined me and discovered that my left leg is 1/2 inch shorter than my right. “I think that’s a big problem with your walking,” he said. “You can’t stride with that leg as you can with the right leg. Walk for me again.” It’s true. I HAVE to limp.

“That right there would make walking very tiring for you and cause pain. We can correct leg length discrepancy a little with hip surgery, but not 1/2 inch. That would make your hip stiff.”

Meanwhile they kept trying to open the file with my X-ray.

Since I’ve been through this before, I KNEW what should be happening. He SHOULD have been able to X-ray me THERE. He should talk to me about the procedure (he finally did) and about the posthesis, ideally showing me a model (he didn’t). I learned that procedure he does is not the one I really want. That was a piece of useful information I got from the visit.

SO…I got a book with all the precautions (which I already know) and a direct order to find and go to a dentist (I knew that would be necessary…).

I drove back over the pass — Poncha Pass is fun to drive, lots of curves, a decent incline — I felt happy when I dropped back down into my Holy Valley with the wide golden fields, the pale blue mountains, the enormous sky, the black angus cattle.

Here’s an aerial phot of the pass. In the upper left hand corner, facing, is the San Luis Valley. In the bottom left corner closest to you is Poncha Springs, about 5 miles from my destination today. It’s a really nice pass unless it’s snowing.


I will be shopping for doctors.

20 thoughts on “So What Happened at the Doctor, Martha?

  1. That’s an incredibly beautiful location in the mountains. Magnificent!

    I found my heart surgeon by going on the internet looking for “heart surgeons doing minimal invasive valve repair” and looking ONLY in hospitals with which I was willing to work (limited to just two). Then I interviewed HIM. They did the requisite tests, we agreed what would happen if he could do repair rather than replace (it was not repairable and there was a lot more than just one valve to deal with in the end — and what we do if it couldn’t be repaired. He warned me that he would not know if the repair was possible until he was in there, looking. I got an incredibly good doctor who did amazing surgery at the best hospital in Boston. There was no way I was willing to use the “doctor in the group” I had been sent to originally. He was exactly the wrong guy and I’d be dead by now if I had used him.

    I always tell everyone that no matter how inconvenient it is, you really have to pick the best doctor who can do the work you need done and you will regret it the rest of your life if you don’t. I have done it both ways. Along with the best doctor, I ALSO got the best hospital. It wasn’t convenient. But I’m alive.

    • I totally agree, Marilyn. Since NOTHING is convenient to me convenience isn’t a concern 😛 And there’s no group so no doctor in “group” to even consider rejecting. Yay! I had to go through that when I surgery on the other hip 11 years ago.

      When I had hip resurfacing on my right hip, I had to FIGHT for it. But I was only 55 an if I needed a revision down the road, I WANTED a whole femur for the next doc to work with. Few doctors in the US did hip resurfacing. I even had an appointment to go to Belgium AND plane tickets when the procedure became OK in the US and I was able to go to a doc in Northern California. I don’t regret that at all. Hip resurfacing never caught on, really, I think because of the hip replacement lobby and docs not wanting to learn a more difficult procedure. It doesn’t matter. Medicare doesn’t cover it.

      I have a good recommendation for a doctor in Colorado Springs which would be convenient for my friends and another for a doctor in Denver. I know what I want and I know I’m qualified for it.

      But I’m intrigued by the leg-length thing. I don’t have any hip pain any more. None. The doc asked me that pain scale question and I had to say, “Nothing, really. Once in a while I get a stabbing pain, but I can’t predict when that will happen or why.” This is so not life-or-death. I just don’t want it to get worse (if it will? I don’t even know and the guy couldn’t see my X-rays).

      For now I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing and make more calls. I don’t know what else to do except maybe get a built up left shoe… 😀

  2. Beautiful place, Martha. My left leg is 1 1/2 inches shorter than my right. Always has been, but a Chiropractor fixed that and there was no difference for years. It’s back because I didn’t have a Chiropractor to go to where I lived. Hopefully since last time you had surgery, it’s less invasive. You seem positive and that is half the battle I believe.

      • I’ve been fortunate, always had THE best. The Chiropractor for the BC Football team (toally by accident) but man he saved my daughter’s life. She was allergic to penicilan (too tired to care about spelling sorry) and they gave it to her and shut her immune system and kidneys down. if not for him, she would have died as the medical community didn’t know what to do. Saved my life too on many occasions. It can’t hurt. The new thing, latest with chiropractic is to adjust your neck, the rest of the spine follows. No more cracking particular verts into place. My daughter goes to a top notch chiro. here and within 2 weeks she was in amazing shape from not being able to lift her left leg and move her neck to full mobility. And she hasn’t seen a chiro. in 4 years. It couldn’t hurt. All I’m saying. They told me that the hip had mis aligned and once it was aligned again, my leg became the proper length. I can’t afford to go now as it’s 250.00 for the first visit and x rays. Not sure if that stuff is covered in the states. Next year I should have complete disability and then it will be and I will be going for sure.

  3. Oh my gosh, Poncha Pass is absolutely fantastic! I would definitely avoid the surgery as well. So many folks I know have avoided surgery with a great yoga teacher, or physio therapist and getting the right stretches in. I love chiro too

    • I would be very happy if what I’m doing now continues helping me as it has over these past four months. I’d be very happy NOT to do it at all. I never visited a Chiropractor, but now I’ll think about it.

    • I don’t know. I don’t know any more than I knew when I left here at 11:30 this morning except that one leg is shorter than the other. Since I’m not in pain and I’m not going to do this until June anyway, I have time to shop around and see if it keeps improving. It feels like I didn’t get an answer, but maybe I did. I’m going to let it percolate for a few days… 🙂

  4. Hi Martha, Sounds like a long and somewhat aggravating day. And you got some good information, even if if wasn’t what you wanted (not my surgeon, thanks). If you’re looking for other docs, C. Brian Blackwood up in Boulder is good. Did a great job on knees for a couple of friends, and did both hips on my now ex-sister in law (that’s a story for another day), before she was 50. He does an anterior approach, which generally heals faster and is fellowship trained in joint replacement. I don’t know him well, but met him pre and post op at the hospital and he actually looked at me when he talked, which is not a given with orthopedic surgeons. If I were needing a new hip, I would certainly consider him.

    Leg length–can be due to pelvis getting misaligned to accommodate the hip stiffness, etc, and a chiro and physical therapist can indeed help with that. If there is a big difference in the length of your bones (measuring greater trochanter of hip to inside of ankle bone, then adding a lift to your shoe may help. Often a lift of half the difference (1/4 inch for you) on the inside of your shoe will make a difference. Its a fairly easy and inexpensive experiment to run. But I would check on chiropractic and or PT if there is someone in your neighborhood.

    Good luck, and a week or 3 off makes sense to me!

    • Thank you for the advice and the surgeon suggestion! I love Boulder. I wouldn’t mind going up there. I want the anterior approach. Everything I’ve learned indicates that if I can have it, I should have it. With hip resurfacing there’s a 12 inch incision and a lot of muscles have to be cut to do the procedure. I remember my rehab from that and what I learned at that time about hip replacements using a very similar procedure 11 years ago. If I can avoid some of that, I want to. It was difficult, painful and very slow.

      Meanwhile, I’m looking at putting an orthotic in my left shoe when I take a hike. It could make a huge positive difference — who knows?

      • I was stunned at how fast my SIL was up and about after her surgeries–home in 2 days, and walking outside within a few weeks. Anterior approach makes a world of difference!

      • I was up and about that quickly after my hip resurfacing, but the limitations on range of motion are very strict with the posterior approach. The reality is that the only way to properly heal the hip joint is to use it. It’s miraculous after you’ve been in pain for a while to get up the day after your surgery and walk with the walker and feel no pain at all anymore. I cried tears of joy that morning. It was also my 55th birthday. 🙂

      • That’s a pretty fine birthday present! I have heard that the reduction in pain from pre to post joint replacement/repair is amazing. There’s the incisional pain, but its minimal compared to the previous arthritic joint pain.

  5. Physical therapy and/or chiropractic can be a huge help, and provide you with lasting results if done properly. All in all, that beautiful mountain pass makes the day worth the trip!

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