“I plan to dance forever.”
Stop working? Stop exercising? Stop performing? With a hip joint that was damaged irreversibly, that’s what one professional dance instructor expected to hear from her physician. She was thrilled, however, when the orthopaedic surgeons at Geisinger Medical Center’s Hip and Knee Center offered her a unique option, one that keeps her on stage, in front of her dance class and in business.
After performing professionally and on the local stage for decades, Jeanne B., 55, made dance her full-time profession over a dozen years ago. Her dance studio in Conyngham, PA, grew to include seven instructors and hundreds of students.
However, in her late 40’s and early 50s, severe pain in her hip threatened to push her off the stage and possibly out of work. A dancer for over four decades, Jeanne struggled with the real possibility of losing this important part of her life.
“I’ve been dancing since I was a young child,” she says. “But by the time I was 50, my hip bothered me so much I could no longer do the high kicks, or even low ones. Eventually I could not bend beyond 90 degrees.”
At her worst, Jeanne lived with a chronic, nagging ache from her hip down to her foot.
“That constant pain was exhausting,” she says.
Student leads the teacher
With chronic pain and increasing lack of mobility, Jeanne started having trouble teaching her ballet, tap, jazz and modern classes. She visited many medical specialists who offered to give her injections but could not diagnose the problem.
An answer came through one of her students who had sought treatment for a pulled muscle.
“The average physician usually tells my students just to stop dancing if they have physical problems,” Jeanne says. “When my dancer came to me with her doctor’s report, I braced myself to hear her say she’d be out for the rest of the year.”
However, the Geisinger specialists that treated this student told her to continue dancing, but within certain guidelines.
“That’s when I knew that I might find some help at Geisinger,” Jeanne says with a broad smile. “Sign me up! I want to see those doctors."
After performing professionally and on the local stage for decades, Jeanne B., 55, made dance her full-time profession over a dozen years ago. An irreversibly damaged hip joint threatened her career until orthopaedic surgeons at Geisinger Medical Center's Hip and Knee Center offered her a unique option, one that keeps her on stage, in front of her dance class and in business.
Hip & Knee Surgery at Geisinger
Dr. Thomas Bowen describes the benefits of choosing the Geisinger Hip and Knee Center.
The answers Jeanne was looking for
During her first visit with specialists at Geisinger's Hip and Knee Center, she learned that a new hip joint was her best option.
“It took all these years and all those tests before someone finally recognized that my hip was really bad,” she says. “I had an unusual type of arthritis, but they diagnosed my problem immediately, after just one X-ray.”
In her early 50s and very active, Jeanne was concerned about having a hip replacement at such an early age. Patients often delay this procedure until the age of 60 to 80, when activity level—and wear on the new joint—is usually less.
“Many artificial joints have limitations,” she says. “As a dancer, I need to move. I had specific requirements for this new hip.”
Jeanne told the specialists at the Hip and Knee Center that she needed to rotate her hip out to 45 degrees (to ballet’s “first position”), to bend in half to touch her toes, and to kick high. Based on these needs, her physician chose a hip to meet the demand of her work and her art.
“They listened to me,” she says with delight. “My surgeon actually chose a hip for me based on my needs.”
“By the time I found Geisinger’s physicians, I was struggling with pain and decreasing mobility,” Jeanne says. “My hip wouldn’t wait.” She scheduled her total hip replacement for August 2007.
Her next step was attending the Hip and Knee Center’s Total Joint Class. At the class, the risks and benefits of surgery were discussed, as well as how Blood Conservation techniques may reduce the need for transfusion after surgery. Jeanne also learned a great deal about her hip and the arthritis that was causing her pain.
“As a dancer and athlete, you think you know your body,” Jeanne says. “But I learned things in that class that I’d never known before.”
The intensive daylong class helped her to understand ways that she could actively improve her outcome, including proper nutrition and exercises to prepare her for surgery, as well as what to expect during and after surgery.
“I’ve talked to many, many patients who have had hip replacement surgery at other hospitals, and no one has told me that they received any information as thorough as this,” she says. “I came home with an entire notebook of information.”
Dance as therapy
In the weeks following surgery, Geisinger’s physical therapists visited her at home to help with rehabilitation. They guided her through exercises that, ironically, were actually ballet moves, she reports with a chuckle. Her husband and dozens of family and friends stayed with her at all times to help her during this recovery period.
Jeanne admits to being quite cautious in testing the flexibility of her new hip. And she understands that full recovery after hip replacement can take up to two years. But with her surgeon’s charge to “get back to class,” she’s returned to her high-energy lifestyle, but at a slightly slower pace than that of years ago.
“I remember the first day I was able to leap again in class,” she recalls with pleasure. “I thought, ‘Oh, my, I can do this!’ All the kids applauded.”
Jeanne returned to her first performance only nine months after surgery. And she’s back in the studio teaching up to six hours a day.
“I was fortunate to have Geisinger and all the staff at the Hip and Knee Center who were willing to get me back into those dancing shoes,” she says. “Now, I plan to dance forever.”