Overcoming Arthritis and Chronic Hip Pain: Pat Winter's Story

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"I put it off for three years," says Pat Winter, executive assistant and human relations liaison at Children’s Hospital Colorado’s Foundation, speaking about her hip surgery brought on by arthritis. "I was in denial."

Due to her chronic hip pain, Winter refrained from exercise and gained weight. But when her doctor showed her the x-rays and explained what was causing the pain – Winter realized she did indeed need surgery.

In January 2012, Winter had her left hip replaced and spent months recovering. "It was more arduous than I had expected."

While on medical leave, Winter received an email with news about a gym that would soon open on the Anschutz Medical Campus, the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center (AHWC). Winter had never belonged to a gym, but something about this one caught her eye: it  sounded encouraging for people with "special needs."

“I thought, ‘this will be perfect,’” Winter says. "The people who work there were extremely supportive and encouraging. I had been so intimidated by the thought of everyone being in such good shape. What I found was there were people my age there, even some wearing oxygen attempting to get better by going to the gym."

Swimming to recovery

Winter immediately joined a water aerobics class that helped her exercise even with limited leg strength. Although she had been undergoing physical therapy, water aerobics seemed to speed her healing. With encouragement from her swim instructor Abby, Winter recovered faster than expected.

"I know people who have had hip surgery who walk with a cane and can barely move," Winters says. "I didn’t want to be like that. I don’t like the idea of getting old. I want to remain active."

Winter has moved on to other activities in the Wellness Center – like upper body and elliptical exercises – and she plans on staying on as a member. She has arthritis in her other hip, and the best way to prevent a future surgery is to exercise.

"As wonderful as the hip replacement has felt, I don’t want to do it again. It takes a chunk out of your life."

"My advice to employees is, 'Don’t put it off. Exercise…Just keep moving.'"

In spring 2012, just a few months after surgery, Winter completed the March of Dimes March for Babies with co-worker Katie Treadway. Winter was one of the top fundraisers at Children’s Colorado for the 2012 walk.

The Anschutz Health and Wellness Center, located on the Children’s Colorado main campus, has annual or month-to-month memberships available. Children's Hospital Colorado employees receive $30 off the normal monthly membership fee. In addition, members can earn a $25 per month wellness subsidy if they use the facility at least 10 times per month (based on valid card swipes).