I am proud of my body as I am active and pain-free again
Claudia Weber (53) loves outdoor sports and a few years ago started up her own small company for workwear. In 2009 she was diagnosed with hip dysplasia. She didn’t decide to have a hip replacement until 8 years later – when the pain became unbearable and was impacting her life too much. Today she “can’t even remember” that she “used to have such pain”. She is physically active and pain-free and can even go skiing. Ms Weber would like to help others to see the operation as positively as she did. That is why she is participating in the “Körperstolz” campaign.
What do you enjoy doing, Ms Weber?
I love going to the mountains and hiking or spending time at Lake Starnberg, enjoying life and being able to do everything with my family without having to say “that’s too much for me physically”. Skiing is my big passion, but I also love hiking, mountain biking, Nordic walking, golf, swimming… I started playing the piano two years ago and it’s become one of my passions as well.
How did it come about that you needed an artificial hip?
I discovered the problem with my hip by chance. In 2000 I injured my knee when skiing and in 2009 the pain first occurred in my left hip during a further knee arthroscopy. Examinations revealed that I had dysplasia – a congenital defective position of the hip – and that sooner or later I would need an artificial hip joint. Depending on how much strain is placed on it, my hip should last another 1 to 15 years.
What was it like until you made the decision to have the operation?
At first I bore the pain and tried a lot of things. In 2015 I was given a course of injections with hyaluronic acid but it didn’t really bring any relief. At that time I was already finding it difficult to climb stairs and put on socks and shoes. I really wasn’t able to do any sport. By the beginning of 2016 I was only able to sleep with the help of sleeping pills. My quality of life was so massively restricted and my family continually had to take a back seat because I couldn’t move very much. Regarding an operation, of course you’re torn back and forth. But when you are full of pain the whole day and you can’t sleep at night any more, at some time you reach the point when you say to yourself “OK, I’m going to do it now, I really can’t go on like this”. Finally I decided to have the operation and chose a time that was good for me and my family, June 2017.
So you had the operation in the summer of 2017. What was it like afterwards with rehabilitation and physiotherapy?
I was discharged from hospital a week after the operation and then spent three weeks at the Tegernsee in a medical rehabilitation centre. You can put pressure on the new artificial joint right from the start. You do various exercises to build up the muscles again. Of course you have to be careful and patient during this phase. But you also notice that you can do a little more every day without pain. After two weeks of rehabilitation I was able to walk quite well without crutches and above all: I was pain-free! I was so happy! And after three weeks I “walked” home without crutches. Amazing! That was followed by physiotherapy with a local physiotherapist. I had a total of six months’ treatment.
What motivated you during the rehabilitation phase?
Oh, I was really motivated. I’m naturally a very positive person and I was really pleased that I could now do something for me and my body. A positive approach is tremendously important, it helps you along.
You had a short stem implant, which was also because of your age. How often does an artificial hip have to be replaced?
Since an artificial hip normally lasts 15 to 20 years, it has to be replaced in younger patients. That is taken into consideration for the first replacement: Less bone has to be removed for a short-stem prosthesis, leaving more bone in place to anchor the following replacement.
How did your hip condition affect your everyday life and what can you do, now that you have an artificial hip?
Climb stairs, sit or tie my shoes – I couldn’t do any of that without being in pain. When I wanted to get in the car, I had to grab my thigh with both hands and “lift” it into the car. As I mentioned before, my family always had to consider me. We couldn’t do this or that wasn’t possible any longer… Fortunately all that is past since the operation – and now I can’t imagine how I bore the pain and the inactivity before. I can do everything now. I was operated on at the end of June 2017 and less than six months later I could ski again – I am active again without pain!
Are there any types of sport you shouldn’t do with an artificial hip?
What isn’t good for me is spinning, when you’re peddling fast with low resistance. I noticed that my hip got really warm a few times. Studies with racing cyclists have actually shown that the artificial joint can heat up. In such cases they say it’s best not to do it otherwise the joint could become deformed. It’s the same with impact movements which is why you should avoid jogging or tennis. I will take up skating again this winter, there you’re a bit afraid of falling on hard ice. Fortunately I can now do so many great types of sport again: Skiing, mountain-biking, hiking, swimming, golf, Nordic walking… The fact that there are some types of sport I can’t do, doesn’t bother me.
Do you have to watch out for anything else in your daily life?
There are movements you should avoid. You shouldn’t cross your legs when sitting, that is, not the leg where the artificial hip has been implanted. It’s better to kneel instead of squatting. These are basically patterns of behaviour that you consciously have to learn or unlearn in the weeks after the operation. But it soon becomes automatic.
Looking at it overall: How would you describe your quality of life?
I can do that very briefly. I feel great, I’m so happy I could hug the whole world! It’s like I never had any problems. I can just wipe out all those years of pain from my life. Whether working or during leisure time – before the operation I felt the smallest movement. I am pain-free since the operation and I don’t notice the artificial hip at all.
Why are you participating in the “Körperstolz” campaign?
I’d like to tell the whole world how great you feel if you have the opportunity to have a “spare part” fitted like I did. I’d like to allay other people’s fears so they can approach the operation with a positive attitude. I’d like them to be able to say “great, I’ll get a new hip and then I can move again!” instead of “oh dear, I need a new hip”.
What advice do you have for others in the same situation?
It’s always important that the patient makes the decision to have the operation because they are convinced they want it. A sceptical attitude is always bad for motivation and ultimately the results of rehabilitation and physiotherapy. You also have to have the right doctor, not one who pushes you to have surgery, but one who says “you decide when you want to do it. I will only push you when it’s really time, to avoid any long-term damage.” You have to listen to your body and know when the time has come. The most important thing for the operation to be a success is you have to be convinced that you are doing the right thing for your body!
How would you end the sentence: “I am proud of my body because…”
…it told me at the right time “now’s the time”. And I’m proud that my body can do everything again so well, just how I wanted!