Returning to Adventure

Brenda's Orthopedic Journey

Every morning, Brenda awoke to her pup Emmy, tail wagging, at the door for the day’s adventure. It didn’t happen. Emmy’s furry excitement was losing the battle to the pain Brenda was feeling in her hip. The distress in Emmy’s face represented Brenda’s thoughts of what she wouldn’t do that day, all the hikes they wouldn’t go on, all the adventures they wouldn’t take; the life Brenda wasn’t living.


Brenda did not accept that her body was breaking down. At 50, she felt “too young” for hip surgery. Though she accepts that, as time progressed, more and more of her mornings began this way. “The moment I step off the bed, I would make sure that I had rested a little bit before I got up; I just had to make sure that I watched my step,” she said. She was giving up her days to pain. Emmy waited patiently, a fading glimmer of hope in her eyes.

Pain was making the decisions now.

Brenda with dogHer life in Anacortes was flashing by her slow crawl, she drove Emmy to and from their abbreviated walks, avoided stairs and put bungees in her shoe laces. She was altering her life to avoid discomfort. Brenda attempted a variety of therapies and treatment options but shied away from the idea of surgery. “I really thought I didn’t want to change body parts and I just didn’t want anybody cutting me open and doing that,” she said. Unfortunately, the alternatives were barely managing her pain.

Brenda began to recognize that her hip pain was limiting what she could do with her husband David, her friends, and Emmy. “He misses being able to just go take a hike in the woods, a fast hike, because I can’t walk fast. Then he has to make sure that he’s watching the dog and me because I might fall off the trail,” she said.

It was the last straw when Brenda and her husband were at the beach when a friend, 20 years her senior, walked in wearing bike shorts. Almost in tears, she recalled saying to her husband, “Oh my gosh, don’t tell me she just biked here. I can’t even get on my bike out on the road.”

Though David had encouraged her to seek help, he recognized that this was a decision she needed to make on her own. “He wanted me to feel better,” she said. “It just took me that long a time to process it, I don’t think I was ready until I was ready.”

Brenda was finally ready for a real solution.

The Skagit Regional Health Orthopedics and Sports Medicine team took a deeper look into Brenda’s current quality of life, her longstanding history of pain, current treatment, and factored in the limitations she’d be facing for the next 10+ years negotiating the pain. If surgery was the answer, Brenda found the right team of support.

Orthopedic surgeon Michael Picco, DO, worked closely with Brenda to identify a solution to her hip pain. They determined she qualified for surgery. “When I spoke to Dr. Picco, he was very professional and encouraging and answered all of my questions and my friend’s questions,” she said. “I could always call back if I had a question or if I forgot, they [the staff] were really accommodating.”

Brenda hikingBrenda used every available resource to assure that she would be strong before, during, and after surgery; primed for recovery. Her care team encouraged her to participate in Skagit Regional Health’s joint replacement class. “They told you the day before, when your surgery was, what to do. You know, you’re prepared,” she said. Her pre-surgery time spent with the Orthopedics and Sports Medicine Team increased her positive energy and eliminated her anxieties leading up to the procedure.

The joint replacement surgery class provided Brenda and her husband additional opportunities to ask questions and create a plan to manage her recovery and care when she returned home. “When patients attend this class, I know they are getting all the additional information they need, they are prepared,” said Dr. Picco. Skagit Regional Health provides its patients with education and physical therapy services to aid in the recovery process. As a they seamlessly care for their patients every step of the way.

During what should have been a standard procedure, Dr. Picco and his team found a cyst and spent the extra time during the procedure to address the issue immediately. “You don’t even know what’s really going on in your body because they didn’t see it in the when they removed the bone they found it [the cyst],” noted Brenda. While hip replacements like Brenda’s are common, the cyst was not, recalled Dr. Picco, he was able to remove and repair it during her procedure, so she could continue to move forward in her recovery.

Brenda laughing with friendWith the help of Skagit Regional Health Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, her plans for a life of adventure are becoming a reality. “I really believe Dr. Picco helped me a lot,” she said. “Because of him, I think I can do more things sooner rather than waiting till I was 60.”

“My goal with every surgery is that you forget that you even had it done, it is very rewarding to be able to take someone who isn’t very mobile, has to use a cane, or unable to work because of their limitations and get them to place where they don’t need those aids anymore,” said Dr. Picco.

Brenda is more than thrilled with the possibilities ahead of her. Looking back, she noted “I don’t think I was ready until I was ready… I made choice. I just don’t want to tell my husband I took too long,” she said.

While the additional procedure extended Brenda’s anticipated recovery time, she said she is excited for the life that pain had been keeping her from. “I really want to just go hiking and biking, travel, all those things that I couldn’t do all this time,” she said. David is advocating for a trip to Hawaii and Emmy is sniffing out their next adventure beyond their cul-de-sac.