Connie Droste climbs a rickety flight of wooden steps toward the clubhouse of the Portland Country Club. Her 5-year-old son, Brandon, struggles to keep up. Watching her, you’d never guess she’d recently undergone a total hip-replacement surgery.

“It feels like my own,” the 47-year-old Portland resident said of her new right hip. “I don’t even notice a difference.”

But it wasn’t long ago that she thought she’d never again enjoy life without pain.

Spurred to action

The pain, Connie remembers, began in her back.

“I was golfing, and it just started hurting me more and more,” she said. That was in March 2006.

“My back actually hurt more than my hip,” she said. “I went to the chiropractor, and she suggested I go to a physical therapist. The physical therapist told me it was probably my ball and socket.”

Soon after, she started experiencing trouble walking.

“It was awful. I’m in a carpool, and I have to walk quite a ways, and the pain was unbearable.”

Connie confided in a friend — a golf buddy who, thanks to a total hip-replacement, lived pain-free.

“She recommended cortisone injections,” said Todd Droste, Connie’s husband. “She went a year or two getting shots before having surgery.”

“But the injection didn’t help me a bit,” Connie said.

To make matters worse, when she asked about the possibility of surgery, the doctor said she was too young.

“He told me I should wait, otherwise the part would wear out and I’d need another hip replaced.”

Second opinion

Undaunted, Connie met with her friend’s orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Brian McCardel.

“He told me my hip problem was hereditary. My socket was actually too small for the joint, so it was wearing out.”

In fact, Connie’s father had undergone two hip-replacement surgeries during his lifetime.

“My bone was rubbing on bone. It was so bad, I had bone spurs like that,” she approximates the thickness of her spurs by holding her forefinger and thumb about a half-inch apart.

Waiting game

But Connie had just recently been hired as an executive secretary for the Office of Financial and Insurance Services in Lansing, and she didn’t have health insurance.

“So, even after Dr. McCardel recommended surgery, I had to wait,” Connie said. “I was in excruciating pain, but I couldn’t do anything about it because I had to wait to get my year in with the state.”

The waiting, as the saying goes, was the hardest part. To get through it, Connie found relief in over-the-counter pain medication.

“I took a gazillion Advil for the pain,” she said.

Life-changing experience

Recurring pain can dramatically alter one’s life, and Connie’s was no exception.

“It hurt,” Connie recalled. “Getting up in the morning and trying to get dressed, or walking into work and being at work; being at my desk, just sitting — that hurt — or getting up to get a cup of coffee.”

But the ramifications of her condition didn’t stop there.

“I was losing muscle and gaining weight,” she said. “My knees started bothering me, then my back. We’re big bike riders, me and Todd, but I couldn’t ride my bike anymore.”

Connie’s hip problems also extended beyond herself — it impacted the entire family.

“It was really hard,” confessed Todd, who’d recently gone from fixing fastening tools for General Motors to fixing breakfast … and lunch and dinner … for his wife and son.

“I retired about the same time her hips started bothering her, so that worked out pretty good. She just couldn’t jump up anymore when Brandon needed something. And he wanted to be carried all the time, so Connie would carry him on her right side. We kind of thought it all started from that, and we had to break him of the habit.”

As is so often the case when loved ones are hurting, family members pull together. Even Brandon found ways to help.

“Mom, I made you toast,” he remembered.

Connie laughed and said, “One day he got up and made me toast. He put a ton of butter on it, but he made toast, and I ate it.”

From awful to awesome

Finally, in early February 2007 — almost a full year after the pain first began — Connie’s total hip-replacement surgery became a reality.

Recovery, she said, was a piece of cake. Immediately following surgery, she felt no pain.

“The way they did it,” she explained, “is that they put an epidural in my back. I didn’t have any pain for 48 hours after my surgery. On a scale of one to 10, with 10 representing unbearable pain, mine was zero. Nothing — no self-administered pain killers, no disorientation, no nausea. I simply went through physical therapy before I left the hospital. Two days after the surgery, I was discharged. It’s just wonderful now not having to be on anything for the pain.”

These days, you’ll find Connie back to work full time.

“Every day, I try to do stuff,” she said. “Walking at work, even during my break or at home. In Florida, we went bike riding and rode for about 7 miles.”

And of course, there’s golf, an activity the whole family enjoys.

“Every day, I notice a new range of ability. It’s awesome.”

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