Patient Stories

For 28-Year-Old Newlywed, A New Life Without Hip Pain

Following Successful Surgery, Patient Puts Hip Hardware to Good Use

A diamond may be forever, but titanium won Holly Saks’ heart.

Holly had experienced hip pain her whole life due to bi-lateral femoral anteversion, which went largely undetected until someone in her church choir referred her to Dr. Robert Buly, a hip specialist with the Center for Hip Preservation at Hospital for Special Surgery. He knew right away what was wrong with Holly and what steps were necessary to alleviate her pain.

“He kind of amazed me. At that point I had been to so many orthopedic surgeons that we used to joke I had more of them than boyfriends,” recalls Holly, a teacher. “I had two knee surgeries that failed to correct my constant pain.” In fact, for years Holly had been unable to sit cross-legged on the floor with her students because it hurt. “Within 20 minutes of seeing me, Dr. Buly knew what was wrong with my hips and how to fix it.”

Femoral anteversion is a condition in which the neck of the femur leans forward. Excessive anteversion overloads the anterior structures of the hip joint, including the labrum and capsule, and can cause pain and snapping.

In 2006, Dr. Buly performed a derotational femoral osteotomy which involved rotating bones and then inserting screws and rods. The femur was surgically reshaped and repositioned to restore a more normal anatomy. Once her thigh bones healed in the right positions, Dr. Buly removed the hardware from one hip in June of 2008 and the other in March of 2009.

"The goal of the osteotomy was to relieve Holly’s pain and allow her to regain normal functioning of her hip joints," Dr. Buly explains.  "It's important that any young person with persistent hip pain be properly diagnosed and treated. Left untreated, such a condition can lead to early arthritis and necessitate a total hip replacement."

Holly, who has pursued martial arts in her spare time for several years, had grown accustomed to performing moves with some amount of pain prior to the surgery.  After undergoing the procedure, her sparring has been pain free. At work, she can now sit cross-legged next to her students.

With the surgery well behind her, the only reminders of Holly’s ordeal were the screws and pins that corrected her defect.  With that in mind, as they shopped for rings for their upcoming wedding, she and her fiancé had a crazy thought – what if they made the rings from the very titanium that had been removed from her hips?

“When I first mentioned the idea of using my hardware for rings, the response was either ‘that’s so cool’ or ‘that’s so disgusting,’” says Holly. “But we thought it felt right. After all, I met my husband as I was starting the whole surgical process, and he was at all of the procedures, so it was a unique and representative idea for a ring.”

The wedding bands ultimately didn’t work out. Holly’s twin brother, Scott, an artist and designer as well as Holly’s martial arts sparring partner, had generously offered to create them.  But, when he tried to melt down the medical hardware, it turned to dust under his welding torch. Fortunately, Holly wasn’t left empty handed. Scott managed to make a set of earrings out of the hip hardware. They bear a unique marker of 180° in small type, making them a natural conversation starter.

To the untrained eye, it’s hard to tell what the earrings are made of. “I find that most people don’t know what they are, only my vet recognized them and that’s only because he uses similar hardware for orthopedic surgery in animals,” says Holly. “Most people tell me that they’re really beautiful, and someone even asked me if they were a piece from the Museum of Modern Art.”

But her brother Scott isn’t done yet. He has more pieces planned for the rest of Holly’s hardware, including a pendant.

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