Susan Schlegel woke up with hip pain in the morning and grabbed her Sacred Heart of Jesus book to begin her daily prayers.
She turned on the television and let it play in the background while she prayed. She went through her rosary and amid the Our Fathers and the recurrent Hail Marys, she noticed an ad for the Coordinated Health Network that mentions Dr. Leo Joseph Scarpino, who is now providing anterior hip replacement surgery in the Lehigh Valley, a procedure for which people used to travel to Philadelphia.
The 56-year-old Whitehall woman wrote the name of Dr. Scarpino on the inside flap of her Sacred Heart book and never looked at that page again. Not until meetings with three other surgeons months later failed to reap the desired results. “It was simply not a match,” she says.
The pain in her right hip intensified to the point that walking was a real test of will.
“My hip was killing me,” Schlegel says. “When I was walking I would just grab myself. I would laugh and tell my husband: ‘Women don’t do this, we don’t grab our groins.’ I was grabbing my groin because the pain was so intense.”
At this point her husband, Harry, decided to take matters into his own hands and search for a doctor on the Internet.
As he looked online, Susan went to the living room and prepared for her prayers. She came across the flap with Dr. Scarpino’s name at the same time that Harry announced that he had found her doctor. They met in the hallway. Both uttered the same name.
It was April, only a couple of months after Dr. Scarpino began performing anterior hip surgery in this area. The anterior approach allows the surgeon to spare cutting through muscles and tendons, reaching the hip joint from the front of the hip as opposed to the side or back. This position enables the physician to replace the hip without detaching the muscle from the pelvis or femur, significantly reducing the recovery time for patients.
It is not a new procedure, but it requires additional training and a special table to place the legs into the correct position. An X-ray machine allows the surgeon a live view of the hip, facilitating precision and determination of leg length. The surgery is performed in only a select number of hospitals around the state.
Sacred Heart Hospital in Allentown is currently Dr. Scarpino’s hospital of choice to perform the procedure in the Lehigh Valley. This fact weighed on Susan’s decision to go through with the operation.
“When he said to me I’m going to do you at Sacred Heart Hospital, it was just sealed,” Susan says.
Despite being a one-day procedure, as with any surgery, there is a risk of blot clots or infections. A dislocation after surgery is also a possibility. People who are morbidly obese cannot go through the procedure, according to Scarpino.
For Susan, the surgery has been a blessing. With proper care and physical training she made a fast recovery, as promised by her physician.
She took her first steps with the help of a walker by the second day after the procedure. By the fourth day, she was walking without a walker. She now enjoys a daily walk at Trexler Park, where she takes peanuts to feed the squirrels.
“I’m an orthopedics mess,” says Susan, who has undergone two knee replacements and other bone surgeries in the past, “but at least I can say it was the best [surgical] experience I’ve ever had.”
She could hardly believe Dr. Scarpino when he said she would be able to not only walk soon after the surgery, but that she would be “dancing in three weeks.”
She had other plans.
“In three weeks time I wasn’t dancing,” Susan says, “I was shopping in Reading!” — something she had yearned for in the past.
“I don’t have to hold myself — I walk with confidence.”
WHO NEEDS hip replacement?
Signs that can help you determine if you need hip replacement:
• An X-ray reveals significant wearing of your hip’s articulate cartilage, causing direct friction in the bones.
•You experience pain in the groin, buttock or upper thigh that keeps you awake at night or prevents you from doing daily activities.
•You find little or no relief after using anti-inflammatory or pain medications.
•You have trouble standing up from a seated position, walking or putting on shoes and socks.