November 9, 2020

Professional Figure Skater Enjoys Freedom of Movement with New Hip

Nov. 9, 2020 | Billie O’Neel has been skating most of her life. Her first pair of roller skates were steel and they clamped onto her shoes. She wore them down to a nub. She spent a lot of time in the roller rink as a child, but when she discovered ice skating, she never looked back.

Today the professional figure skater of Little Rock is grace personified. She makes complicated movements on the ice look easy. Her passion for the sport and the art shows in her performance.

“I love music. I love dance and I love the freedom of movement. And skating gives all of that to you,” O’Neel said.

O'Neel performs in a show

O’Neel performs in a show.

O’Neel has skated competitively and professionally. She’s played in many shows and brought to life characters like Glenda from the Wizard of Oz and Queen Elsa of Arendelle.

In 2018, O’Neel started to notice pain after leaving the ice that would persist for a few hours. Eventually, it would linger for days and weeks. She hadn’t realized her body began adjusting to her pain until friends pointed out she was walking with a limp.

“Even walking up and downstairs, I had to adjust to the pain,” O’Neel said. “It got to a point to where I couldn’t adjust to it anymore.”

O’Neel called C. Lowry Barnes, M.D., orthopaedic surgeon and chair of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at UAMS. Barnes said there was arthritis in both of her hips. Hip replacement surgery would relive that pain, he said.

“I was apprehensive because I knew it was major surgery. And I knew there was a chance, however small, that I may not be able to skate again,” O’Neel said. “That was my main concern. To heck with walking. I wanted to be able to skate!”

Once she recovered from the surgery, O’Neel was not only pain free, she had increased freedom of movement. Now she is on the ice every week just for the joy of skating.

“I can actually skate better,” she said.

O’Neel is starting to notice signs on her right side that remind her of the pain she used to have on her left. She’s already called Barnes to schedule a second hip replacement for early next year.

“Dr. Barnes is wonderful. And I don’t say that just because I got a good result,” O’Neel said. “Throughout the whole process, I felt well taken care of from when I went in for my initial visit with x-rays to him talking to me through follow-up procedures. I’m going back to him because I’m fully confident he’ll take care of me again.”