June 12, 2018

Hip Replacement Opens Road to Fulfillment for Little Rock Woman

Running is more than a hobby for Mary Ann Hansen. It’s a reprieve. It’s liberation from a past life.

Most runners make a connection with the road early in life that remains for a lifetime. Not Hansen. Her bond formed after she was 50 and following a hip replacement.

She noticed her hip pain several years ago. There was discomfort when she stood up or rolled over in bed, and there were instances of sharp pain. Still, Hansen did not expect her situation to warrant immediate action.

An x-ray showed the cartilage in her left hip was gone. With each step, each slight movement, her hip joint grinded bone on bone. Her physician referred her to C. Lowry Barnes, M.D., chair of the UAMS College of Medicine’s Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, who performed Hansen’s hip replacement.

It surprised her that hours after she left the operating room, staff was in her room, getting her up and moving.

“I thought, you have got to be kidding me,” said Hansen. “They had me moving right away.”

Doctor examining patient’s leg

Hansen was surprised by the fact the orthopaedics staff had her moving right away after her hip replacement. It is part of a clinical pathway developed by the UAMS Department of Orthopaedic Surgery.

Same-day exercises are routine for orthopaedic surgery patients at UAMS. Quicker discharges, specialized surgeons and an experienced, designated hospital come together to form a standardized practice of care that UAMS research shows leads to better patient results and satisfaction.

Patients and families learn about procedures and recovery process during pre-surgery visits and classes. The staff is able to identify and lessen risk factors.

Patients are under the care of a specialized orthopaedic surgeon at UAMS. From hip and knee or foot and ankle, to sports medicine and trauma, all UAMS orthopaedic surgeons specialize in a particular service. It allows each surgeon to narrow his or her focus, stay up-to-date on best practices and provide a benefit to the patient.

UAMS’ hip and knee service includes four fellowship-trained surgeons, the most fellowship training in joint replacement in Arkansas.

The Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at UAMS includes a staff of nurses and health professionals dedicated to orthopaedic surgery patients. Most patients return home within 24 hours of the procedure and meet with a physical therapist before discharge.

“We have seen a lot of talk recently about robotic-arm technology in orthopaedic surgery, but we have identified a way to truly achieve better patient results and satisfaction without it,” said Barnes. “Mary Ann is back to doing more than before and there was no robotic-arm technology necessary for her operation.”

It was after Hansen’s hip replacement that she discovered running. In her mid-50s, Hansen was searching for an outlet from decades spent in the throes of an opioid addiction. She longed for a way to experience an exhilarating high without turning to prescription pills.

Her troubled journey began in 1996 when she was diagnosed with interstitial cystitis, also called painful bladder syndrome, a chronic pain disease of the bladder. It was like a constant stabbing in her pelvic area, said Hansen.

She was first prescribed hydrocodone to deal with the pain. From there, her prescriptions graduated to oxycodone, levorphanol, methadone and ultimately fentanyl patches.

When the pain pills were ineffective, she was prescribed benzodiazepine to help with the pain and sleep. That left her forgetful and unable to focus, so she was prescribed Adderall. When the Adderall affected her ability to sleep, she was prescribed sleeping pills.

“It was a steady diet of pills for many years,” said Hansen. “It was awful. I was just existing.”

Days out of a rehabilitation center, Hansen started running. First, it was one block at a time, running and walking.

“Before I knew it, I was running two blocks, then three, then four,” said Hansen. “I thought, ‘this is good, let’s do a marathon.’”

She ran a half-marathon in her first year of running. The next year, she completed the Little Rock Marathon. Now, she’s done five marathons, a dozen half-marathons and countless 5Ks and 10Ks.

This year, she’s participating in the Arkansas Grand Prix.

“It’s an endorphin high,” said Hansen. “Running has replaced the feeling I got from the opioids. It is wonderful.”

She has found another outlet through running: as a running coach at Hope Rises helping formerly incarcerated women who dealt with addictions re-enter society.

She designed her program as part of her graduate studies and she’s seen success. Two of her pupils have completed half marathons with her.

“I understand where they are coming from,” said Hansen. “To see the look on their faces when they finish is incredible. That’s why I do it.”

When she’s done with her master’s in Adult Education and Professional Practice, Hansen, a former music teacher, wants to go into Arkansas prisons and help women earn their GED.

Hansen can also be found enjoying another of her hobbies again — the local theater. She’s been in multiple productions at the Argenta Community Theater in North Little Rock and the Studio Theatre in downtown Little Rock.

“Before, when I got up, I felt this incredible weight like someone was holding me down. Now, I wake up and I am ready for the day,” said Hansen. “I’m making up for lost time, definitely.”

By  | June 11th, 2018 |