Anatomy lesson

I realized I wasn’t getting better any more after about two months. But things seemed OK. I wore heals a few times, even though I walked with my new super-short stride. Then, things started to get worse. Slowly things got harder, more uncomfortable, then consistently painful. At about four and a half months, when I was again in serious pain daily in both the front and the right side of my lower back, I decided the “it will just take time” plan wasn’t working. I did some research online and called my doctor’s office. She had said early on that she would refer me if it didn’t get better on its own. (It usually does.)

I got an appointment scheduled with the orthopedic clinic in town — six weeks out. So, that’s how I ended up having my first pelvic x-ray at six months after my injury. Laying on the x-ray table was incredibly painful. If you look closely, you can tell that I had my hands under my back for support. The worst part was I had to point my toes inward for the picture. It didn’t take long, but it was awful.

normal pelvis

This is a normal female pelvis

As my husband and I sat in the exam room waiting for the doctor I thought about the pictures of a normal pelvis that I had found online. When the nurse put my x-ray on the computer monitor I gasped and said something like “Oh, my gosh. No wonder I hurt!” It was obvious to me right away that the picture didn’t look like what I had been researching.

Picture of my x-ray displayed on monitor

This was my pelvis after six months. It was my first x-ray.

The doctor, it seems, had a similar reaction. He asked me a few questions, pushed on my hips, squeezing them together. And he tapped once on the front of my pubic bone (OMFG! DID YOU REALLY NEED TO DO THAT!?) He apologized for hurting me and turned again to the x-ray as he said: “it is pretty clear you have diastasis of the symphysis.” He measured it at 13 mm. Then he explained that he had never seen this as a result of pregnancy in all of his years and that he wasn’t a surgeon any more, but that he would take my x-ray to the practice meeting and get the advice of the others about who would best be qualified to help me.

So, we waited.

The following Wednesday, the day of the practice meeting, I got a call from the KU Medical Center’s orthopedics department. I hadn’t heard from the local clinic so it caught me off guard. But the woman on the phone said there was an appointment open the next afternoon. Did I want that one? YES! We had to go out of town the following Monday and the doctor only sees patience on Mondays and Thursdays. It was the next day, or another week without progress.

I called the local clinic and found out that I would need only to pick up my x-ray, not return for my scheduled appointment. And I learned that it was a unanimous decision of the practice to send me to Dr. John Sojka at KU Med. The local nurse told me he was extremely well respected. I immediately looked him up and found out pelvic reconstruction is a surgery he does regularly.

What a relief!

When we met with him on July 26 he told us two things I will never forget.

First – he has done “hundreds” of pelvic reconstruction surgeries in his nearly 10 years. “Six of those have been because of pregnancy.” Those all were done long before six months had passed. I heard that he’s done hundreds of these surgeries – usually for automobile accident or other external force trauma – and got down-right giddy. I started talking really fast and thinking over and over in my mind: THIS GUY CAN HELP ME!

He asked me to walk, pushed on my hips, and asked if he could have all of the residents come to meet me. “They’ve never seen anything like this,” he said. He showed them my x-ray from our local clinic, told them about how the little guy was born six months ago and asked me to walk to them from my chair. They all watched as I took maybe 10 super-short steps. As I walked he told them to watch my feet, my legs. Then he said: “What’s the first thing we do during a pelvic surgery? We bind their feet.” The way I adapted my stride actually made medical sense. It actually was forcing my hips to rotate forward, making the gap at my symphysis get smaller.

Second – “The pelvis is a ring. You can’t break a ring in just one place.” BINGO! That explains the pain in my lower back. He pushed on that spot – my SI joint – I thought I would cry. His best guess was that my secondary injury is there. I had more x-rays and scheduled a CT scan for the following Monday, just before we left town. He explained that he could put a screw in that SI joint and a plate across my symphysis, to secure the two bones in place. And I would get my stability back.

Dr. Sojka said a gap of 2 cm (20 mm) is what determines a need for surgery early on, because that’s likely too much to heal without. And, he said, because I did all the right things in the first days and weeks – wearing the binder and using the walker – that the healing my body could do was done.

If you are suffering, find a doctor who is comfortable with pelvic surgery. Get an experts opinion of your options. No one deserves to live with this debilitation.

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