Touching Lives - July 2008

Hip, hip hooray

Even today Matthew doesn’t come close to fitting the typical profile for a hip replacement patient. At 38 he is still almost half the national average age for those undergoing the procedure. But while most recipients of new hip joints are in their mid sixties or older, Matthew had undergone two major hip operations by the age of 25.

Throughout his late teens Matthew, from Bedfordshire, had the niggling feeling that something was wrong. He constantly felt tired and had a nagging pain in his right hip, but he put it down to playing a lot of sport. He never imagined the two symptoms might be connected.

While at university, feeling he could no longer blame his extreme lethargy on typical student exploits, he began a series of visits to his local doctor surgery. “One doctor asked if there was anything else wrong. ‘No’, I replied ‘nothing. Just a pain in my hip.’ I was used to a bit of pain — you always ache after a game of rugby — plus I was only 21, so I really didn’t think it could be anything serious.”

The doctor, however, had other ideas and began a series of tests. These led to the shocking discovery that the ball of his right hip was so severely worn it would need replacing. “I was told that your body deals with inflammation in a similar way to infection and this, along with the pain itself, is what wears you out.”

In spring 1993, Matthew had his first hip replacement operation, aged just 23. “The relief from the pain was instantaneous — simply amazing!” he recalls. “It is only when a constant, wearing pain like that is gone that you realise how much you have actually been suffering.”

Doctors classed Matthew’s condition as arthritic but never established exactly what had caused the joint to wear out. Whatever the reason, a couple of years later the left hip went the same way, so that too was replaced.

Over the last three years Matthew has had a couple of “tweaks” to the joints: a new lining put in the original hip prosthesis — which is still going strong after 15 years — and a new socket on the left side. Thankfully, there have been no signs of the arthritic condition in any of his other joints.

In total Matthew has had five operations on his hips in the last 15 years. “I’ve had more work on my hips than most people have in a lifetime, but I still consider myself very lucky,” he says. “I’m now 38 and feel better than I did when I was 21! How many people can say that?”

In fact, Matthew feels so good he is taking part in our London to Paris bike ride this month. Matthew will join 400 cyclists to cover 300 miles over four days — pretty amazing when you think that without surgery he may not even have been able to walk, let alone cycle.

Matthew says, “I am incredibly aware of the benefits I’ve received as a consequence of work supported by Action Medical Research. If I can raise some money — and manage to do it by pedalling to Paris with my two metal hips — that has to be a good thing.”

Sponsor Matthew