Monica, 59, planted her paddle in the water. Reached out about two feet forward, then pushed the blade under the surface. She moved the paddle back through the water to her ankle, then out of the water.

She kept her arms straight and twisted her torso as she paddled, using her hips to keep her balanced. Monica pushed down on the paddle grip with her top hand and pulled the board past the paddle, alternating strokes on either side.

Stand up paddling (SUP) is an offshoot of surfing. SUP puts nearly every single muscle in your body to work, but one area that’s targeted the most while you’re out on the water is your core. Maintaining your balance requires constant engagement of your abdominal muscles and, along with the muscles in your upper body, they’ll contract from side to side.

As Monica glides across the water, she takes a moment to take everything in. A year ago, Monica was living with chronic joint pain and never imagined being out on the water without pain.

Image of joint replacement patient, Monica, paddle boarding

By nature, Monica is an adventurer, with a touch of daredevil —hiking, jumping off cliffs into the ocean, competing in triathlons and road bike racing in Baja California. As she got older, she noticed that her body might not share the same love for high-impact sports as she did.

Soon, Monica began to deal with an ache in her hips that kept her up at night. That ache shortly turned into daytime pain while at work and even limited her after work activities. As a physical therapist, Monica was very aware of her restricted movement and pain.

Monica could time the onset of the ache in her hips. She knew how many steps it would take to trigger a flare up. Her pain was limiting her life. She even had to let go of her love of dancing because the movement would leave her in pain for days.

Monica lived with joint pain for about four years, living day-to-day on pain medication, anti-inflammatories and cortisone injections. Her pain had taken over her life. Then a visit to her primary physician confirmed that she was suffering from joint disease and that she should start considering joint replacement surgery.

“I cried my eyes out,” says Monica. “I wanted my life back. Being able to move was my freedom and I felt like that was at risk. I thought I was too young for joint replacement surgery — boy, was I wrong.”

Monica met with Andrew Wassef, M.D., orthopedic surgeon, medical director, MemorialCare Joint Replacement Center, Long Beach Medical Center. Dr. Wassef not only debunked all of the myths related to joint replacement surgery that Monica has been holding onto but introduced her to Mako™ Technology.

Long Beach Medical Center offers Mako Robotic-Arm Assisted Surgery System, which is a robotic-arm assisted technology that enables surgeons to provide patients with a personalized surgical experience.

A 3-D model of your hip or knee is used to assist surgeons in performing the joint replacement surgery. With Mako, surgeons are able to precisely position implants and balance tissue, ultimately achieving a greater accuracy in planned leg length than manual hip replacements.

“With Mako, surgeons can tailor implant placements to a patient’s specific anatomy and joint motion,” says Dr. Wassef. “This unique ability to customize a surgery to each patient ultimately enhances motion for patients following their joint replacement surgery which means that they often can get back to most of the activities they love most.”

Monica underwent hip replacement surgery for her left hip in April 2017 and two months later, underwent surgery for her right hip.

“It was hard. I feel the most ‘like me’ when I’m moving,” says Monica. “I was nervous. I fought the possibility of needing joint replacement surgery every step of the way. Dr. Wassef helped me understand that it wouldn’t be the end of my active lifestyle, it would be a new beginning.”

Two months after her second surgery, with physical therapy and making sure to stay active, she was able to return to swimming, hiking and paddle boarding.

For more information on joint replacement surgery, please call the Joint Care Coordinator directly at (562) 933-4014.