A Mothers story of Hip Dysplasia

You may have noticed when your little one was born that your healthcare provider spent a lot of time checking their hips for clicks, pops and uneven crease lines. This is to check for Developmental Dysplasia of the Hips (DDH), most commonly known as Hip Dysplasia. DDH describes a range of congenital conditions in which the ball and socket of the hip joint don’t develop properly. Most DDH cases fix themselves in the first few weeks of life, but in some cases further treatments such as surgery, braces and casts may be needed.

I sat down with Elyse Dry to have a chat about her young son Jaxon, and share their experiences though our new nappies blog with DDH. Elyse didn’t know prior to Jaxon’s birth that he was going to have DDH, and it wasn’t something she was prepared for. Jaxon wasn’t her first born child and he wasn’t in a breech position during pregnancy or labour (both of which are common contributors to hip dysplasia). Elyse explains:

“At four months old [Jaxon] had an ultrasound and the results meant we were referred to Orthopaedics. During the first appointment with them he had an X-ray which came back with the diagnosis of DDH in his right hip. We were then booked in for a closed reduction operation and a spica cast the following week.”

A spica cast is designed to immobilise the hips and thighs so that bones, ligaments and muscles can heal properly. Elyse mentions that life with a spica cast is a lot harder on the parents than the child:

A closed reduction operation is only one type of treatment for DDH. Treatments vary depending on the child’s age and the severity of the dysplasia. In Jaxon’s case, a closed reduction operation was considered the most suitable. Jaxon was put under a general anaesthetic so the surgeons could manipulate his hip back into the socket, and fit a spica cast. During the surgery doctors injected dye into his hip to get a better look at what was going on, and to make sure the surgery would be as successful as possible. Two weeks following the surgery they had a follow up CT scan and X-ray to make sure everything was progressing nicely. Jaxon spent six weeks in his first cast, then they redid the whole process to apply his second cast.

A spica cast is designed to immobilise the hips and thighs so that bones, ligaments and muscles can heal properly. Elyse mentions that life with a spica cast is a lot harder on the parents than the child:

“The first week is hard on everyone, and I found it hard adjusting to spica life and not being able to hold and cuddle him properly. After that first week though, he learnt that he could still roll and commando crawl which has made life a lot easier. I am a single mum so it was harder on my oldest son, as Jaxon needed more attention and time. But kids are truly amazing and very adaptable. ”

Not only has the family had to adjust to the spica cast itself, they have also had to learn how to adapt their everyday lifestyle. Car seats and prams were a steep learning curve for the family, as Jaxon couldn’t fit into his carseat or his pram with his cast. Thanks to a local baby store, Elyse was able to loan a car seat he can fit in, and she has borrowed a bigger pram from a friend.

“Car seats and prams all depend on how the cast is set. They also need extra padding added to make sure they are comfy and his cast isn’t digging in anywhere. His clothes went up a size but I have found his cast keeps him really warm so I only really need to worry about tops! A spica table is a life saver for eating and play. Bean bags are also great and lots of pillows for support.”

Even things we take for granted such as sleeping and changing nappies have all changed for Elyse. The first night Jaxon was home Elyse learnt the hard way that you have to have the mattress on an incline to ensure the cast stays dry and clean! Because Jaxon had to wear nappies on the inside of his first cast, Elyse discovered Kiddicare Nappies and she instantly loved how breathable the nappies were.

“Nappies have definitely been trial and error. The two casts he has been in have been very different – the first had a lot of room inside and the second is very tight with little room. Inside the cast things get quite hot and sweaty! I love how the Kiddicare Nappies feel on the skin, other nappies can feel plasticy. We also love the great price and quality.”

I asked Elyse what Jaxon’s future will be like. She is positive and upbeat, and says that because his treatment is doing what it should be doing, his future is looking great.

“To be honest I didn’t know anything about DDH until he was diagnosed. It was a lot to take in at the appointment so I took to Google and did lots of reading. I joined Facebook groups to help get a better understanding of it all. I found it really hard to get my head around everything, but at the end of the day I’m doing the best for my son”

The next big thing for Jaxon is cast off day. Doctors will remove Jaxon’s spica cast whilst he is awake, and he will be fitted with a rhino brace which will make day to day life a little easier for the family. Elyse says that Jaxon has done really well throughout all of his treatment.

“He is such a happy cruisy little guy which I think has made it a lot easier. His smile brightens up the room. It doesn’t feel like it at the beginning, but time really does fly by.”

You can learn more about DDH on the International Hip Dysplasia Institute website, www.hipdysplasia.org. There are also two awesome kiwi run Facebook groups Elyse highly recommends – Harness Heroes NZ and Spica Mums and Bubs NZ.