Arabella D A Young Life Transformed After Hip Replacement

"I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t had hip replacement surgery."

When Arabella Dudzinski of Matawan was 12, she fell while playing “manhunt” with her next-door neighbor. When her parents took her to Monmouth Medical Center (MMC), they discovered that the growth plate in her left hip was shattered.

Growth plates, which are found at the end of the long bones in children, are easily injured because they’re weaker than the surrounding ligaments, tendons, and bone. This growth plate injury in the hip was diagnosed as a slipped capital femoral epiphysis (SCFE). The disorder can occur after a fall or develop gradually over time.

When an SCFE occurs in a child, there’s a good chance that the blood supply to the hip is damaged. The body is unable to deliver important nutrients and growth factors to the hip, preventing it from healing.

Philip Therrien, MD, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon who now works at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, placed two pins in Arabella’s hip to stabilize it and prevent further injury.

“He told me and my parents that I would probably need hip replacement surgery by the time I was 30,” says Arabella.

Too Young for Chronic Pain

Arabella avoided high-impact activities and was excused from the gym until she was in ninth grade.

“All I could do was walk and ride my bike,” she recalls. “I gained weight because I couldn’t exercise much.”

Over time, the pain gradually began to affect Arabella’s daily activities. When she was 22, she struggled to drive to work.

“I realized my hip had become weaker,” she says. “My commute was around two hours a day, and it was difficult to sit in the car for that long.”

Her hip was giving out frequently, and she was unable to exercise.

“My daily activities had become very uncomfortable,” she recalls.

Bert Parcells, MD
Bert Parcells, MD

Arabella saw a few orthopedic surgeons. In August 2018, she was diagnosed with osteoarthritis, the loss of cartilage, and osteonecrosis, in which the hip fully collapses. Both problems resulted from the growth plate injury.

A family member recommended that she see Bert Parcells, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at MMC.

“I was blown away that Dr. Parcells wanted to talk with me about my quality of life,” she recalls. “Also, he addressed me as opposed to my parents. He has an amazing bedside manner.”

Coincidentally, Dr. Parcells had been trained many years prior as an orthopedic resident by Dr. Therrien, the surgeon who performed Arabella’s initial procedure.

Dr. Parcells recalls that Arabella’s hip was in bad shape.

“The pain was consuming all of her energy every day,” he says. “I said, ‘You’re young to get a hip replacement, but you’re too young to be dealing with chronic pain. The good news is, your body has a tremendous potential to heal. You’ll have the procedure, you’ll recover quickly, and you’ll return to a normal, pain-free life.’ We use ceramic materials, and they often last at least 30 years, if not longer.”

Dr. Parcells told Arabella he would perform the hip replacement using a direct anterior approach, which is a minimally invasive technique that involves operating through the front of the hip instead of the back. Dr. Parcells received fellowship training in this technique in Bern, Switzerland.

“The recovery is faster because you don’t need to cut any muscles,” he says. “For the first six weeks after surgery, there’s a decreased need for pain medication and a faster recovery with therapy as compared with traditional techniques.”

Advances in such surgical techniques combined with advances in anesthesia have allowed MMC to create a program in which some patients undergoing joint replacement procedures are able to go home the day of the surgery.

A Fresh Start

Arabella had the surgery on December 20, 2018. “She did very well despite how much damage her hip had sustained in the time since her childhood fall,” recalls Dr. Parcells. “Her hip had collapsed, and her left leg was shorter than the other (the muscles and ligaments had become stiff).”

After the surgery, Arabella noticed her hip pain was gone. She was discharged from the hospital soon after the surgery, and a visiting nurse came to her home for physical therapy.

“The biggest challenge was my frustration,” she says. “I thought I wasn’t advancing as fast as I wanted to.”

Since her legs were finally the same length, she had to learn how to walk again.

About three months later, Arabella asked Dr. Parcells if it was okay to take a long-awaited trip to Iceland with her boyfriend.

“I was starting to feel more confident and energetic,” she says.

Dr. Parcells gave her the all-clear. In Iceland, she and her boyfriend climbed mountains and walked along beaches and waterfalls.

“I did all of this without feeling any pain or soreness. It was the best feeling ever.”

Arabella got engaged on that trip, and she got married in August 2020. She can now play with her dog, drive to work without any pain, and participate in a soccer league.

“A lot of doors have opened up for me,” she says. “I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t had hip replacement surgery.”

For more information about joint replacement surgery at Monmouth Medical Center or to make an appointment with a joint replacement surgeon, call (888) 724-7123.