Bimonthly, we will feature a story from a PAO Warrior. Want to submit your story? Please contact us. Want to read more stories about hip dysplasia, PAO surgery, and recovery? Click here to learn more about our anthology, Onward: Navigating through Hip Dysplasia, Periacetabular Osteotomy Surgery and Beyond, Volume 1.
Featured Story through February 2018
Jen Lesea-Ames, “Once Upon a Time”
Once upon a time, there was a girl who just wanted to be liked. In grade school, she was teased and always picked to be last for recess and P.E. games. In 8th grade, kids teased her and called her “UNCORD” for uncoordinated (it wasn’t her fault that she was 5’9″ at age 13). In her freshman year of high school, her basketball coach announced in front of the entire team that her “season was a disappointment to all.” She bottled her hurt and poured herself into academics, became a straight A student and got accepted into U.C. Davis. Her freshman year of college, she met a boy. He ran cross country. There was that damn sports thing again, she thought. She wanted this boy to like her, so she ran. The first time they ran together, he stopped and immediately criticized her. This was nothing new. Being stubborn as she is, she kept running, even in her Keds. She finally splurged on a pair of running shoes; a luxury very dear since she was putting herself through school and working three jobs. She ended up majoring in Exercise Science.
Through the years, she became kinda good at running (well, for her). In grad school, she did a couple half-marathons, and then progressed into triathlon, which is where she found her niche. For eight years, she was a serious recreational triathlete who pushed too often to place in her division, which was a big deal for races held in the triathlon mecca of the world.
Then hip pain…infrequent. She blew it off. No pain, no gain. The hip pain became like the neighbor who drops in unannounced and is always super annoying. She tried to dodge this neighbor, but he caught up with her.
She retired from racing triathlon on a high note in 2008, placing first in her division at a local race. It made sense: work was getting busier, and it was time to do other things…
Five years later, in 2013, she made a pact with her college roommate and long time friend to do a Half-Ironman by the time they turn 40. Five years off from racing was enough time to be excited about a big athletic goal again. She started training. It was that spring that she took the step that would forever change her life.
Hip dysplasia diagnosis, two PAO (periacetabular osteotomy) surgeries in 8.5 months, months of rehab, and relearning how to walk, she wondered if she could ever run again. Even if she could, should she? Is running even a good idea post-op with mild hip arthritis and having the pelvis sawed apart in six places and rearranged to a better configuration? What if the six 5-7 inch screws in her pelvis will cause pain while running? Disgusted with her weight gain due to chronic pain pre-op and inability to move, she knew she had to do something. Run/walking it was.
In late fall of 2015, a fellow PAO Warrior posted on the Facebook PAO group that she was organizing an eight-person team to do the Ragnar Trail Relay in Snowmass, Colorado, which is held the first weekend of June. Each runner would run the 4, 3.8 and 6.7-mile loops and about 2000 feet total elevation gain through the Rocky Mountains in the course of a maximum 36 hours, and 116 miles to be completed by the entire team. Mountain running, trail running, night running…seeing bears? Sleep?…. camping, friends, laughter, fun! An incredible challenge, she told her friend, “give me three months to train and I’ll let you know if I can do it.”
The rest is history. Team “All Screwed Up” completed the Ragnar Trail Relay June 9-10, 2016, just over 25 hours. Six of us had PAO surgeries, and our other two teammates had major surgeries. Aside from Colorado, our team members hailed from Reno, Boston and Cincinnati to come to one of the most beautiful places in the country to partake in his adventure. We ran on trail through the mountains, laughed, camped, ate, got very little sleep, and fortunately we did not see any bears. We talked about all things running and PAO recovery, which included the obligatory post-op stories of poop and swollen labia. I made life-long friends and we are bonded not only as Warriors, but Ragnarians. For me, this race was the big middle finger to everyone who in the past had teased and criticized my athletic abilities. I may not be fast, but I can endure. And I will continue to enjoy running for the rest of my days. Next year, I’ll be back, better than ever!