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  • Writer's pictureThe Hammonton Gazette

A hip replacement at 34 – Nothing replaces being active with her kids

One of my patients recently shared with me that people are shocked when she tells them she needed, and got a hip replacement at the age of 34.

Melissa Mazepa, a runner for most of her life, told me that on an island vacation, she laced up her sneakers to take in the beauty of her surroundings. The more she ran, the more her left knee hurt and the more she had to stop.

Once home Melissa, an active mother of three - then a 15-year-old son and 8- and 6-year-old daughters - said she continued to experience pain.

She halted her running routine for about six months and eventually went to an AtlantiCare Urgent Care Center, where the team did an x-ray. As Melissa shares, “The urgent care team was shocked at how much arthritis was in my hip.” They told her to follow up with an orthopaedic surgeon, which is how I met her.

Melissa was born with hip dysplasia—a condition in which the socket of the hip doesn’t support the ball of the hip joint. Though she’d had two surgeries as an infant, the dysplasia led to osteoarthritis, which was causing her significant pain. Hip arthritis can cause knee pain. It’s called radiating pain. It can be debilitating.

As I do for most patients, including those I see in the office in Hammonton, I recommended Melissa start with conservative treatments, including medication and physical therapy. She did, but pain continued to impact her lifestyle and her wellbeing. She worked two jobs, including as a bartender. She said just walking into work was painful – and being on her feet for the whole shift was so excruciating that she ended up having to stop working.

Melissa said she was upset that she couldn’t walk—let alone run. But what was especially hard for her, was that she couldn’t be active with her family. She missed going to parks, enjoying her kids’ sporting events and walking—including in downtown Hammonton before family meals at Annata Wine Bar. That’s when she told me she was ready for surgery.

My team and I performed same-day, outpatient robotic-assisted surgery to replace Melissa’s left hip at the AtlantiCare Center for Orthopaedic Surgery in the AtlantiCare Health Park in Egg Harbor Township. Using a 3-D CT scan, I determined the specific hip replacement size and the precise position for her anatomy.

Melissa said she immediately felt relief. She explained that she hadn’t realized how much pain she’d been in before her surgery—until she was no longer suffering. Like so many mothers and those taking care of others, Melissa took her own pain for granted.

Melissa said she was running again two months after her surgery—and back to bartending after three months. As she continues her recover, Melissa recently shared the following with me.

“I talk with a lot of people, Dr. Orozco, especially when I’m bartending. They tell me they’ve been in pain for five, ten or more years. I share my story with them. I encourage them to learn about hip replacement surgery. I’m so glad I did. I’m grateful to AtlantiCare’s Urgent Care team, which was the first to diagnose that my issue was with my hip, not my knee. I appreciate how professionally you and AtlantiCare’s Center for Orthopaedic Surgery Team treated me and how comfortable you all made me feel. Because of my new hip, I feel and am living better.”

What really fulfills our lives as healthcare professionals, is the ability to make a change in somebody’s life. It is so good to see Melissa getting back to all that she loves and wants to do, especially being active with her family. Her children are now 17-, 10- and 8-years old—keeping her more on-the-go than ever!

As we mark Mother’s Day and Women’s Health Month, Melissa’s experience is especially valuable as it relates to encouraging loved ones to get care. Her story illustrates that regardless of age, you are not too young or too old to get better. If pain is affecting your quality of life, including your work/job, recreational activities – and especially how you enjoy life with family and other loved ones, get treatment. You should live and enjoy your life free from pain.

For more information, visit or call 1.888.569.1000.

Fabio Orozco, M.D. is the Medical Director, Orthopaedic Surgery, of Orozco Orthopaedics at AtlantiCare.


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