Kids get arthritis too. About one child in every 1,000 develops a type of juvenile arthritis. This means 300,000 children in the United States have been diagnosed with this autoimmune disease. Juvenile idiopathic arthritis, previously known as juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, is the most common form, accounting for nearly 50,000 of those children.
Juvenile idiopathic arthritis can range from short-term, to chronic, and in rare cases, a lifetime. Melissa Gardner was only 2 years old when she was diagnosed with juvenile idiopathic arthritis. The disease caused significant damage to the cartilage on her hips. The decline had been happening for over a decade, but it was when Melissa decided to have a child of her own that the pain began to become too much to handle.
Hip pain during pregnancy
“My hips had been declining for years, but I first noticed the sharp pain when I was pregnant with my first child in 2012. I would be forced to limp when I walked, but I thought it was just due to being off my arthritis medication while being pregnant,” said Melissa.
Melissa was not able to receive X-rays due to her pregnancy and moved forward with her assumption, unable to know the cause of her pain.
Six months after bringing a little boy into the world, Melissa discovered she was pregnant once more. After noticing even more pain in her hips, Melissa’s rheumatologist gave her a cortisone injection in hopes to ease the discomfort until her second son was born.
By the end of Melissa’s second pregnancy, the pain began to become unbearable. She finally went to get the X-ray she had been waiting to receive.
“I went to get a second round of cortisone injections done in both hips and I remember the radiologist looking at my X-rays and telling me he couldn’t believe I wasn’t crawling into his office because they were so bad,” said Melissa.
Melissa’s hip cartilage had completely deteriorated. She was walking bone on bone.
“This round of injections only lasted a couple of weeks, and at this point my doctor had told me I had no choice but to have my hips replaced. Talk about terrifying – I’m only 32! So, I decided to ponder the idea and discuss it with my family,” said Melissa.
Unable to live a normal life
In the meantime, Melissa struggled through the pain. As a stay at home mom with two young boys, she had to be just as ‘on the go’ as they were. Living in a two story home, it would take Melissa an hour just to walk down the stairs in the morning, which she had to do while carrying a baby.
By Christmas 2014, Melissa was completely unable to do normal tasks. She used a cane to walk, couldn’t bathe her children, play on the floor with them, couldn’t do household chores or stand more than ten minutes at a time – though it hurt just as bad to sit.
“I got to a point where I couldn’t even leave my house because everything hurt too badly. I remember towards the end, my kids and I stayed inside for nearly two weeks straight because it was too hard for me to get dressed and get all ready and out the door,” said Melissa.
Melissa stopped attending events and canceled prior commitments because it was too hard to leave the house. The stress that resulted from being in constant pain and unable to do normal activities took a toll on her marriage.
“There was a lot of stress on my marriage due to my moods because pain truly makes you into a different person; something you cannot understand unless you’ve been through it. It was honestly the lowest time of my life and the worst I have ever felt in my life. I shed a lot of tears out of pain during that time,” said Melissa.
Seeking a solution
Terrified of the idea of hip replacements at such a young age, Melissa found herself at OrthoIndy for a second opinion. Melissa was referred to Dr. David Fisher, an OrthoIndy physician who specializes in total joint, knee and hip, because of his experience with patients diagnosed with arthritis.
“I made the appointment and met with Dr. Fisher. The instant I met him, I just knew he was the one for me,” said Melissa.
Still apprehensive about replacing both of her hips, Dr. Fisher’s office put Melissa in contact with someone who had previously been in her situation. Melissa found a mentor and decided to move forward with surgery.
Originally scheduled for surgery in February, Melissa’s pain became paralyzing and Dr. Fisher fit Melissa into his schedule in January. On January 12, 2015 Dr. Fisher arrived early at OrthoIndy to perform Melissa’s bilateral total hip replacement surgery so she would no longer be in pain.
Life after hip replacement surgery
“Dr. Fisher is my hero. He gave me my life back. He gave my children their mom back. He gave my husband his wife back. He was so compassionate and genuinely cared about me. I expected just to be a number to him, but that was not the case at all. He came in early to do my procedure. I don’t know many doctors who would do that. I owe him so much,” said Melissa.
Melissa was pain free from the moment she awoke from surgery and took her first steps with her new hips just five hours later.
Now able to resume normal activities, Melissa goes on play dates, runs errands and participates in all the activities that a young mom of two toddlers should be doing. The outcome of the surgery has not only affected her wellbeing, but has had a positive affect on all of her relationships.
“I think it has affected my parents the most. It was extremely difficult on them watching me, their only child, quickly become handicap. My mom cried a lot. After all the surgeries were said and done, my dad told me it was ‘heart wrenching’ to watch his child walk around with a cane. They were also the saving grace to my family,” said Melissa. “My husband works long hours and my mom would come over every single night, for months, after work to take care of me and my children. My dad would help me as I needed with the kids during the day or if I was too sick to handle them. It has been a huge relief to them as I not only got my life back, but they got theirs back too.”
Dr. Fisher says Melissa has a bright road ahead of her, “Melissa had severe joint deterioration from juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, which left her unable to ambulate due to severe hip involvement. After undergoing bilateral total hip replacement, she has had improved walking ability and excellent pain relief. She should get many years of pain free hip function.”
A return to normal activity
After her recovery, Melissa did something she’s wanted to do all year; visit the Indianapolis Children’s Museum with her family. She’s also been able to go boating and swimming several times at her lake house. She was able to get up and down the boat ladder and even dive into the water.
Compelled to share her story after being mentored through her own struggle, Melissa wants to mentor others going through similar situations.
“My mission is to mentor other people through this process, because no one should have to live through that horrible pain. I’m living proof of what a life changing experience this surgery, and having the right doctor on your team, truly is!”
To schedule an appointment with Dr. Fisher please call 317.802.2828 or learn more about total hip replacement surgery at OrthoIndy.