Valerie Ostrander has never gone about her life passively. The energetic 69-year-old has always cherished her hospital volunteer work, aquafit lessons at the community pool, and hours-long walks with her dog, Stella, across Toronto’s east end.
But in late 2021, Valerie could no longer get in her almost daily 20,000 steps. In fact, she could barely walk to the grocery store across the street from her home.
“I had such an intense sensation in my left hip that I felt like my own body was letting me down,” Valerie remembers. “It also started to wear me out mentally and I became fairly depressed.”
Valerie’s life took on this new pattern: moments of excruciating, intractable hip pain, followed by hours, days and then months of limited or no mobility. She became bed- and couch-ridden, dependent on a combination of pain-relief medication and the support of friends and family.
After consulting with Dr. Holly Knowles, her family doctor at St. Michael’s Hospital, Valerie saw arthroplasty surgeon Dr. Amit Atrey. He confirmed that she had hip osteoarthritis, a degenerative disease that wears down cartilage and inflames the ball-and-socket joint between the hip and thigh bones. Everyday activities like standing, squatting or walking can bring about chronic stiffness and severe pain.
“Dr. Atrey was not only incredibly knowledgeable about my condition and treatment, but also so sympathetic and gentle in his manner,” Valerie says. “I also appreciated how responsive his assistant was in communicating with me—sometimes within 30 minutes of my sending an email—and the regular interactions with the lovely nurses.”
Within four months of Valerie’s initial consultation with Dr. Atrey, he performed a hip arthroplasty procedure, replacing the ends of her damaged hip joints with advanced artificial implants. “And immediately following the surgery,” Valerie says, “the arthritic pain in my hip was gone.”
She then underwent physiotherapy at the hospital to stabilize her new hip. She got high marks from her physiotherapists, who said her “level of recovery was nine out of 10.”
“The care and compassion I experienced at the hospital, from surgery to rehab, has just been so extraordinary,” Valerie says.
Thankfully, Valerie no longer has to cope with the constraints of hip osteoarthritis. She’s back to getting in between 12,000 and 16,000 steps each day, with an eye on reaching 20,000 again in the near future.
Now, when she volunteers, swims with other hip replacement recipients and walks Stella, she has a moment’s flash of “gratefulness.” Her optimism springs from knowing that she’s an active, independent 60-something once more.
“I'm just so happy to have my life back,” Valerie says. “I’m completely pain-free.”
To learn more about St. Michael’s arthroplasty program and our fundraising campaign to support the pioneering work of our orthopedic surgeons, contact Ashley Downey, Associate Vice-President of Philanthropy, at 416 864 5000 or DowneyA@smh.ca.
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