Surgery: May 4, 2005
Surgeon: Dr. Henry Tischler
St. Vincents Hospital (NYC)
In 1998 I felt as though I was at the pinnacle of my career. I had danced with Murray Louis, Jose Limon, and I was with Donald Byrd the Group for the last seven years. The career was going as planned, and I was thrilled with my successes, until I started having a recurring pain in my hip area. For all of my years of dancing, I was one of those lucky dancers who never got injured. Maybe a sprained ankle here, or a broken toe there, but I kept on dancing through it all. But the hip thing began as a dull continual annoyance, and suddenly moved into the “Why isn’t my leg going up, and why does it hurt when I try?” Let me reiterate; I was dancing with Donald Byrd at the time. My leg had to go up!
I was approaching 40, and the distance of age between me and the next dancer in Donald’s company was making me feel, well, old, so I made a graceful exit to save both face, and body. I took a job on a touring company of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” starring Deborah Gibson and Patrick Cassidy. The show was mostly about the vocals. The dance in the show was what I considered “step touch.” I mean how hard could “step touch” be on my body. Except for the chorus boys (of which I was) had to jump off a three foot platform eight shows a week, for a year.
By the middle of the tour of “Joseph,” I was not jumping off the platform, I was easing my way down from the platform, hoping that the stage managers weren’t noticing. My hip had gotten so bad that my lower back felt as though it was in a deep fry from compensating. I spent most of my time finding chiropractors and physical therapists in each city to get me through my eight shows. The money was too good to quit before the end of the Equity contract. After all, I was a modern dancer for two decades prior.
My great career in dance ended at the end of that contract. I had to work, so I went the logical route toward teaching dance. First at Purchase College, then at Marymount Manhattan College. I loved teaching dance, and at one point, I was quite good at it. But the hip wasn’t getting better no matter what therapeutic methods I chose to help me . I had massages regularly until I went broke. I did have insurance, so I went to chiropractors, which I am convinced are all quacks. I went to the physical therapists who would accept my insurance (which kept changing with each job). Some were great - Jan Price and Maury Christie at East Physical Therapy, and Caroline Mazur at Fusion Physical Therapy.
Then there was the infamous doctor (who will remain nameless) at Harkness who made me wait an hour in a cold windowless office wearing only a dressing gown with my butt out. He strode pompously into the room with his assistant. He had his assistant manipulate my leg a few different directions while he watched from a distance. Then he said dryly, “Your career in dance is over. You have severe arthritis of your right hip.” The he turned on his heels and left the room. There was no mention of hip replacement or any other means of rehabilitation. It was that cut and dry. I had X-rays taken soon after to verify his claim, and it was true. That was the beginning of my darkest days, and deepest depression.
I fell so hard that I was asked to leave my job at Marymount Manhattan College, because the students thought that I was too mean of a teacher. Besides, I was so insecure about the way I looked when I attempted to demonstrate anything that I taught class from a seated position, and by then I had talked my doctor into giving me percocet to get through the day. I was mean, listless, unfocused, and completely miserable, and this is after having terrible pain in my hip. On top of all that, my relationship of three years was falling apart due to my pain and depression. I mean, who wants to have sex if you see stars every time you lift up your leg? I didn’t.
Now it was a matter of making hip replacement surgery a possibility. I was no longer teaching dance anywhere. I went back to school to finish an undergraduate degree that I never finished. Then I went on to get a graduate degree, hoping for anything to help my financial situation which was nonexistent. I was broke, and had no other skills. I had only been a dancer for my entire adult life. When the degrees were done, and I was literally dragging one leg behind me, I got a great job teaching Movement for Actors at Rutgers University. Unfortunately, the money sucks, but it has afforded me the ability to pay for insurance through Healthy New York. It’s the bare minimum insurance policy. I mean NO THRILLS, but it covered my hip replacement one hundred percent after a five hundred dollar deductible.
Finding a surgeon was no easy feat on a cheap HMO insurance policy. But I was determined, and relentless. Somehow, I stumbled upon the Saint Vincent Catholic Medical Centers referral service (800 227-3421). They were kind, understanding, and extremely helpful in my finding an orthopedic surgeon within my insurance network. I was pretty desperate when I met Dr. Henry Tischler. I was diagnosed, and re-diagnosed, and self diagnosed so many times that there was nothing new he could tell me. I liked him as a person. He’s no nonsense, right-to-the-point, yet sympathetic to my history of pain and depression. He said, when do you want it? I said, my last day of classes is on April 28th. That was it. My surgery was scheduled for Wednesday May 4th.
I decided on metal on metal for the big ball. I plan on returning to movement in some capacity, and would like to lessen the chance of dislocation. My stay in the hospital was from Wednesday to Saturday. I was in great shape going in, so the incision isn’t so big. There were no complications. The hospital stay was a hospital stay - awful. I just wanted out.
I’m home now. I’m still in pain, which I can’t wait to get over. It’s been years since I’ve been pain free. I hobble around the apartment on my own. When I go outside, I use crutches. I’m still popping pills, but I hope to stop them the minute the post-op pain leaves me (I hope it’s easy to stop popping pills - I’ve been on some kind of pain medication for at least two years). I begin physical therapy next week. Again, it was all about finding a physical therapist who would work on me with my Cigna HealthCare HMO. I found one, again through St. Vincents referral, and I’ll definitely let you know how things are going when I write again with a follow up.
Submitted May 11, 2005
My life post surgery has been constantly changing in the most wonderful ways. I'm back on the stage at 50 years old, dancing like I'm in my 30's, and loving it! I'm teaching actors movement, and dancers while rehearsing for various projects. I have just returned from a three day whirlwind trip to Sweden to perform a solo on a concert in Stockholm . Can we say, I'm playing catch up.
The attached photo is from the press to my concert in Sweden, December 13, 2008.
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Michael highly recommends this practitioner:
Maury Christie, LMT, GCFT
MaurLife Therapeutics, LLC
928 Broadway, Suite 704
New York, NY 10010