Cathy's story: A new hip for the grandkids’ sake

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

By: Femi Cole

hip replacement definition with glasses

Cathy Moreau will do anything for her four grandchildren, even if it means undergoing hip replacement surgery so she can hold them.

Five years ago, Cathy, then 52, was walking around her De Pere home coddling her newborn grandson when her right hip locked, freezing her in place. Not knowing whether Cathy would fall, her daughter lunged for the baby. Cathy didn’t collapse, but the brief crisis served as a turning point for Cathy.

“I have osteoarthritis and my mother had it, too,” she said, citing the culprit behind her hip malfunction. She knew it was time to address the problem.

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative form of arthritis occurring when cartilage slowly breaks down due to inflammation and injury to a joint. The result is pain, swelling and the joint-locking Cathy experienced.

“I immediately went upstairs and called the doctor. Three days later I was in surgery,” she said.

Cathy had traditional posterior hip surgery in which the surgeon cuts through muscles and tissue behind the hip to access the hip joint.

Cathy, a dispatcher with M2 Logistics in Green Bay, recovered at home for six weeks, walked with a cane for three months and followed “a lot of restrictions.”

“Don’t move your foot this way, don’t cross your legs,” she said. The procedure also left her with one leg longer than the other, thanks to post-surgical leg discrepancy, a phenomenon in which the leg through which the surgery is performed becomes slightly longer due to the size and positioning of the hip replacement implant.

“Eventually things went back to normal, but I limped.” She also sported a 6-inch scar from surgery.

Fast forward to five years later and three more grandchildren. Cathy, now 57, felt a familiar sensation, this time in her left hip.

“I knew it was starting to get bad, so I wanted to get it taken care of,” she said. “A secretary at work told me about this anterior approach to hip replacement surgery. I said, ‘No way, that newfangled stuff won’t work,’” Cathy said. She researched it anyway, knowing there are grandchildren to hold.

Cathy’s research convinced her the anterior approach was the way to go. She reached out to Dr. Michael Schnaubelt, an orthopedic surgeon with Orthopedics & Sports Medicine BayCare Clinic.

His warm and welcoming manner and professionalism convinced Cathy he was the surgeon for the job. “He was so easy to talk to, just a very normal guy.”

The frontal entry approach of anterior hip replacement enables an orthopedic surgeon to access the hip joint by separating rather than cutting and then reattaching muscles, Schnaubelt said.

“Traditional hip replacement procedures enter the body through an incision close to the buttocks or through the side of the hip often slicing through muscle,” he said. “Entering the hip through the front or anterior area results in less trauma to the soft tissues around the hip, fostering a speedier recovery.”

Cathy scheduled her anterior hip replacement surgery for June 27.

“Three hours after I was wheeled into my hospital room, I was up and walking with a walker,” she said. “The next day I walked up a flight of steps – eight to 10 steps. I walked back down to go back to my room, yeah!”

Four weeks later she was back in the office, with less scarring than from her first surgery. “I had maybe a 2- or 21/2-inch scar. There’s no comparison. I sure wish to (heck) they had this five years ago.”

Cathy’s speedy recovery is one of the benefits of anterior hip replacement, Schnaubelt said.

“It’s been extremely beneficial to patients like Cathy,” he said. “They are getting back to their daily activities in two to four weeks – less recovery time than required via traditional hip replacement procedures – and with fewer complications.”

There’s one benefit in particular Cathy says she’s thrilled about.

“After my first surgery, there was no jumping in leaf piles. That’s something we do in our family. It’s kind of our tradition. I know it sounds weird, but I asked Dr. Schnaubelt, ‘Can I jump in leaf piles with my new hip?’ He said, ‘Yeah, why not?’ I knew I made the right decision.”

Dr. Michael Schnaubelt sees patients at Aurora BayCare Orthopedic & Sports Medicine Center in Green Bay. He also sees patients in Shawano. To request an appointment, call 920-288-5555 or 877-884-8796 or do so online.

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BayCare Clinic,, is the largest physician-owned specialty-care clinic in northeastern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It is based in Green Bay, Wisconsin. BayCare Clinic offers expertise in more than 20 specialties, with more than 100 physicians serving in 16 area communities. BayCare Clinic is a joint partner in Aurora BayCare Medical Center, a 167-bed, full-service hospital. Follow BayCare Clinic on Facebook and Twitter.