Why Susan's happy to be a hippy chic

MARK NICHOLLS It was the first few steps of a traditional dance on Burns Night that signalled award-winning artist Susan Gunn was well on the road to recovery after suffering a condition that was slowly and painfully crippling her.

MARK NICHOLLS

It was the first few steps of a traditional dance on Burns Night that signalled award-winning artist Susan Gunn was well on the road to recovery after suffering a condition that was slowly and painfully crippling her.

Towards the end of last year the pain in her hips had become almost unbearable.

Yet it was the diagnosis and the solution that was to come as the greatest shock for the wife of one of the Norwich City's most famous footballers.


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At 41, she was told by doctors that she was in the advanced stages of osteo-arthritis and would need a double hip replacement.

“It was a huge shock to me,” said Susan. “But I was also in so much pain by that stage that I feared I had something that might have been life-threatening.”

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Susan underwent surgery at the Bupa Hospital, Norwich, on December 5 but is now well on the road to recovery. She has been able to resume her work, walk almost normally around the house, dance with her husband Bryan and later this summer Susan, now 42, hopes to resume playing golf.

The osteo-arthritis had been silently affecting Susan's hips for a number of years.

She thinks her condition may be traced back to her infancy in Lancashire when she was born with “clicky hips” - a congenital dislocation of the hips - and had them re-set. There is a suspicion they were not re-set quite correctly.

Unsuspecting it was such a condition as osteo-arthritis, she continued to work despite the discomfort, even training at the gym to try and exercise her way through the pain.

She explained: “But I had become quite restricted in my movement and I was in a lot of pain. I was restricted on how far I could walk my concentration was affected.

“When I was working, when I was painting, I became engrossed but when I had to break off and do the book-keeping or check my e-mails and make telephone calls and it was then that my concentration became interrupted because of the pain.”

“When I had an X-ray the surgeon said I need a double hip replacement and he was strongly of the opinion that I have them both done at once.

“Although initially having them both done may have been more troublesome, in the long run it meant my recuperation was speeded up with two good hips rather than one bad one.”

After the operation Susan spent 24 hours in a high-dependency unit being closely monitored and then went back onto a ward. Three days after the operation she stood up and walked a couple of steps to the window with a zimmer frame.

“The pain from the arthritis had disappeared instantly, but after that there was general discomfort from the wound though that was quite small by comparison,” she said.

“I did not actually realise until then how much pain I had been in but looking back I had been suffering for three to four years but in the last 12 months it had become drastically worse.”

After five days in hospital, Susan was walking with crutches and allowed home after she demonstrated she could walk up and down stairs with crutches.

Once home, Susan was warned to take life easy and not walk too much on the new hips because there was a risk of dislocation but by mid-January she had returned to her artwork.

She said: “I had a few early goals. I wanted to go to the football on Boxing Day, as I had spent most of December in the house, which I did.

“And on Burns Night, Brian was hosting an event at the football club and asked me if I would start the Gay Gordons with him. I did manage to do the first bit.”

A recent visited to see her doctor indicated that she was 75pc on the way to recovery and next sees her surgeon in two months' time but it can take up to six months to recover.

Her new hips will have a lifespan of 10-15 years and she added: “You have to weigh the fact of the alleviation from pain and quality of life against the fact that I will probably have to have it done again. But I would definitely recommend it.

“I was hugely apprehensive about the operation, it is a major operation, but I am now relieved it is behind me, I can look forward to getting better. It is a huge relief and for the first time in years I can physically think I am going to get better and not worse.”

FACTFILE

Osteo-arthritis is a disease which affects joints in the body where the surface of the joint is damaged and the surrounding bone grows thicker. Factors causing osteoarthritis include joint injury, obesity and age. Osteoarthritis can also be hereditary. It usually starts in the late 40s, 50s and 60s and can be more common and severe in women. Hip problems at birth or in childhood may later lead to osteoarthritis though in many people there is no obvious cause. It is a condition that affects knees, hips, fingers, toes, the lower back and the neck.

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