I discovered Wendy while doing a Google search for dancers with hip replacements. On her website, Weiss Communications, she states that it was her multiple dance injuries culminating in a hip replacement surgery in 1996 that put her on a new career track. Here is her THR story as told to me 08/04 --NR.
"Everything I know in life, I learned in ballet class!" Thus Wendy explains how her life has unfolded.
Her early dance years were spent performing with Pittsburgh Ballet Theater. When she left Pittsburgh to come to NYC she danced in regional ballet companies in the Tri State area and started teaching ballet. While working with the Puerto Rican Traveling Theater she formed Illusion Productions, a young people's company dedicated to AIDS education. This description of the company is from her website:
After losing many friends to AIDS and then also recognizing the need for AIDS education targeted to youth, in 1991 Wendy founded Illusion Productions, a dance company of young people teaching young people about AIDS. From 1991 to 1997 this unique program, designed to reach at-risk youth, performed throughout New York City at high schools, community centers and after school programs. To our knowledge, it was the only dance company in the world that provided peer-to-peer AIDS education.
Wendy always had an extremely flexible body and was easily able to practice contortionist moves. But such manipulation took its toll and at age 25 she was diagnosed with arthritis of her lower back. She kept dancing by getting weekly osteopathic adjustments. She pushed her body hard and by the time she was in her 30's she complained to her osteopath that her whole body hurt including her hips. That being the case it was a very long time before the serious degeneration in her right hip was finally discovered. When she finally saw an orthopedist, x-rays revealed that she did indeed have osteoarthritis in that hip. The doctor told her to stop dancing and all other forms of movement and that she should wait until she was 65 and then have a hip replacement! This pronouncement horrified her and as she was already fairly antagonistic to Western medicine and doctors in general, she decided to ignore his advice. Wendy then sought alternative treatment for her arthritis. She consulted a nutritionist, had acupuncture, drank Chinese herbal teas, and had regular massage. She even traveled out of town to get an experimental magnetic therapy that involved lying under a machine that emitted magnetic waves to her hip. All to no avail since her hip was too deteriorated by this point.
Turning back to Western Medicine Wendy took a series of different NSAIDs from her GP but got only minimal relief. She had to stop dancing. To keep in shape she did weight training and rode a stationary bike at the gym with the seat set very high so her hips didn't need to flex too much.
It was in the summer of 1996 while on vacation in France that Wendy realized that the time had come to have her hip replaced. She couldn't walk anywhere to see the tourist attractions, having rather to arrange transportation for her every move. By the time her surgery date arrived she couldn't walk more than one block.
On December 9th 1996 she had a Right THR at the Hospital for Joint Diseases. She received an uncemented fully metal prosthesis. The surgeon was Steven Stuchin, MD, currently Director of Orthopaedic Surgery at New York University Hospital for Joint Diseases and Chief of the Arthritis Management Service. She had chosen him because she thought he had previous experience treating dancers and understood the special concerns of this population.
The surgery went smoothly. She had an uneventful 5 day stay in the hospital marred only by a finding of anemia post-operatively with some discussion of a blood transfusion. In the end she did not have the transfusion and was discharged to home with a prescription for iron instead.
The first six weeks at home Wendy was instructed to walk 15 minutes twice daily, which of course, having a dancer mentality, she quickly increased to 4x that amount. "Walk and sleep" is all that she recalls in that period. She had a home health aide who came daily for a few hours to help with the tasks of daily living. Her only physical therapy consisted of 2 visits by a PT who found that Wendy had already mastered the post-operative home exercises (heel pumps, etc.) and did not return. After six weeks, stair climbing was added to her walking routine and she went up and down her apartment stairwell in addition to her turns around the lobby. In retrospect Wendy is glad she had the surgery in the winter since she was disinclined to want to be out and about in the city.
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It was over the issue of post-operative physical therapy that Wendy and Dr. Stuchin clashed. His position was that she abandon the idea of pursuing movement rehabilitation and of dancing again. She, however, was determined to get back to what she loved. He relented and gave her a prescription for PT. Three months post-op she began to get treatment at West Side Dance Physical Therapy. Simultaneously she started back at the gym under the guidance of a physical trainer who had been a dancer. Slowly she began to get her strength and flexibility back.
Wendy ventured back into her first dance class one year after surgery. She started in Beginners Jazz and worked her way back. It was almost 2 years after surgery before she began to feel fully herself again. In the third year she ventured back into a ballet class.
"One of the best things in my life is that I can dance again", Wendy says today.
Currently she takes 4-6 dance classes a week. She studies with ballet with Diane Cartier who herself recently had a THR. Wendy's favorite class is Katiti King's jazz class at Dance Space Center in NYC's Tribeca area. The rest of her physical routine includes some weight training at the gym and walking on the treadmill. She gets a weekly massage.
And how is her technical proficiency 8 years post-op?
Wendy takes her time preparing carefully for each class -- warming up before the warm up, as she puts it! That means getting to the studio early and doing slow stretching, breathing and visualization exercises. In class she does work in fifth position, but she doesn't have the perfect turnout she had as a young dancer. Her operated leg doesn't have a lot of external rotation, especially in developpé. Her extensions are low. When she needs to use her operated leg to stand on, that foot is nearly parallel. Sometimes she is loath to take ballet class because she gets depressed that she can't do what she did before. When she is moving, however, she feels free and people don't realize she has a metal hip!
Wendy is thrilled when people come up to her and tell her what a wonderful dancer she is, because now she is dancing for the pure joy of it. She enjoys dancing more today than when she was dancing professionally since she is dancing for herself and not "for the critics".
Since her surgery Wendy no longer dances or teach dance for a living. She has parleyed her experiences as a dancer into a new career and founded her own company, Weiss Communications. Here, in her incarnation as "The Queen of Cold Calling", she trains and coaches sales, marketing and business development skills. She developed these skills herself in the lean years when her "day job" was as a telemarketer. Using the tools she honed over the years as a dance student to analyze, practice and perfect by tutelage and repetition, she has developed a successful and unique style that has attracted many students and corporate clients.
Finally, what advice does she have for dancers contemplating THR?
The most important thing is to have a surgeon who understands your post-operative goals, she feels. She and Dr. Stuchin were finally able to understand each other about this issue, but it was long after the surgery was over. And she feel you shouldn't wait too long to get the surgery done so you can get back to the joy of moving!
Wendy's Book: Cold Calling for Women: Opening Doors and Closing Sales
Published by D.F.D. Publications, the book offers down to earth, practical, specific information about the unique and special issues women face with cold calling and sales.
Wendys Business Website: Weiss Communications
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