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After a year of debilitating back and pelvis pain, Sonia Givens knew she needed additional help. The nonsurgical approaches she had tried weren’t working. She was in and out of the emergency room, and she no longer had the strength or the pain tolerance to simply get out of bed.
Since nothing had worked to diminish her pain, Sonia and her doctor decided it was time for an MRI. When the results came back, Sonia received a diagnosis that devastated her—bilateral Avascular Necrosis (AVN), death of bone tissue due to a lack of blood supply in both of the femoral heads of her hips.
“The hardest thing about the diagnosis was trying to understand the origin of the disease,” says Sonia. “As I researched the disease I became more baffled and concerned. I started to imagine the worst- case scenario, which was that I would be walking, my femur would crack, and then I would fall and break my hip. When I retired from the military, I envisioned a relaxing and enjoyable life after working so hard for almost three decades. I never imagined I would be in this situation. I never thought I would be fighting a debilitating disease.”
Sonia’s doctor referred her to Dr. Asheesh Gupta, a board-certified, fellowship trained orthopedic surgeon with the Sentara OrthoJoint Center® at Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center (SNVMC), who specializes in minimally invasive hip preservation procedures. Dr. Gupta emphasizes alternative treatments before surgery, so he and Sonia sat down and discussed her options.
“It is important to discuss non-operative treatment first, including weight loss, diet changes, cessation of smoking, PT, cortisone injections, and oral pain medication. If these don’t work, then surgical intervention should be considered,” says Dr. Gupta. “I want to empower my patients to decide upon their course of treatment by having a conversation with them, laying out their options, and making sure they have enough time to decide and feel comfortable with the process.”
Sonia and Dr. Gupta decided to try alternative therapies, and while they provided some relief in her left hip, she still had intense pain in her right hip. Even though she had initially been against surgery, Sonia eventually decided she had to do whatever it took to get rid of the pain.
“I was in the military for 27 years and never even broke a bone,” says Sonia. “Now I was facing a debilitating disease, and I needed to do something to secure my future.”
“Even though I was scared and concerned about my condition, everyone that I came in contact with in Dr. Gupta’s office and at Sentara made me feel like my situation was very important to them,” she says. “I became open to surgery because of Dr. Gupta’s knowledge and experience. I was very fortunate to have found him.”
Since Sonia had AVN in both hips, eventually she would have to have the surgery on both sides. Because the right hip didn’t respond to non-surgical treatments, Sonia and Dr. Gupta decided to operate on that hip first by performing a minimally-invasive total hip replacement through a muscle-sparing anterior approach. The immediate results were a complete surprise to Sonia.
“I was amazed,” said Sonia. “The day after surgery, I was walking. I had some pain at the surgical site, but the intense pain I had felt for a year was gone. Dr. Gupta made sure that I had everything to manage my pain from the surgery so that I could start physical therapy right away. The wonderful thing about this experience is that I did not have to worry about anything. Between Dr. Gupta and the Sentara staff, everything was taken care of before my discharge.”
The team at Sentara completely coordinated Sonia’s physical rehabilitation process. Before Sonia left the hospital, Sentara staff ensured her therapy schedule was set. Sonia worked hard, and each day throughout her therapy she could see herself making progress and feel her leg muscles growing stronger.
Now, after her surgery, Sonia feels fantastic.
“I never thought that walking was a miracle until I lost the ability to walk on my own,” says Sonia. “Now I no longer dread walking. In fact, I look forward to it each and every day.”
Sonia is now walking two to three times a day and has returned to many of the activities she enjoyed before pain stopped her, including rejoining her church choir.
“I am no longer afraid of the future,” said Sonia. “I am realistic in knowing that one day my left hip will need to be replaced, too. The core decompression therapy I had on that hip has slowed down the disease, but it doesn’t make it go away. Going through this process with Dr. Gupta and Sentara I know what to expect. I know that God, Dr. Gupta, and Sentara will always be there for me. I am no longer afraid of what tomorrow brings.”
As Sonia looks back on the journey through her pain, she wants others to know what she didn’t know.
“Do not ignore pain and suffer in silence,” said Sonia. “Technology, modern medicine, and doctor expertise have advanced so much. Find an outstanding healthcare team like Sentara that can provide assistance in your diagnosis and treatment, from the beginning to the end of the entire process. You can have a life free of pain!”