Cathy Dyson writes about King George County.
Determined runner hasn’t let hip problem slow her down
Here’s a sneak peek at a story that’s running on New Year’s Day in the Healthy Living section of The Free Lance–Star. The runner isn’t from King George County–she lives in Stafford–but she’s such an example to the rest of us about determination and perseverance, I figured people would enjoy reading the story as New Year’s Day nears.
On the one day of the year when people resolve to get more exercise—then come up with reasons why they can’t—here’s a story that might inspire the biggest couch-potatoes to get moving.
Robyn Uglow manages to run marathons, despite the pain she suffers from a congenital hip defect.
The 28-year-old Stafford County resident was born with a problem in her left hip: the ball on top of the thigh bone didn’t fit firmly into the hip socket.
As a child and teenager, Uglow stayed as active as her condition allowed. When she wasn’t recovering from surgery to correct the problem—or wearing a full-body cast or using crutches—she played basketball and softball, danced, and ran around with friends.
“It’s never kept me from doing what I wanted to do,” Uglow said.
In recent years, she caught the running bug from her father. She started with the Army 10-Miler in October 2010, and figured if she could do that, she could run a half-marathon.
When she finished a 13-mile race the next spring, she thought, why not a full marathon?
So, Uglow and her husband, Andrew, and father, Robert Louzek, went through what she called brutal training to be able to run the Marine Corps Marathon in October 2011.
The Uglows crossed the finish line together, after 4 hours and 50 minutes. Her father was about 20 minutes ahead of them.
“The hip didn’t give me any trouble until mile 22, and the last four miles were awful, but I figured everybody’s hips hurt at that point,” she said. “But don’t get me wrong. It was the best thing I’ve ever done in my life, and I’ve never felt a sense of satisfaction like that.”
Her father, who spent 30 years in the Navy and lives in Stafford with Robyn’s mother, Kathryne, has run four marathons.
He chokes up just thinking about what it took for his daughter to race.
“She just slugged it out,” he said. “I can’t be more proud of her.”
HARNESSES AND TRACTION
Uglow was 5 weeks old when she was diagnosed with what’s currently known as developmental dislocation or dysplasia of the hip. At the time, there was little known about the condition, her mother said.
Her orthopedic surgeon at Portsmouth Naval Hospital took little Robyn’s X–rays to a conference in 1984 to show others about her unusual case, her mom said.
Growing up, Uglow endured various measures to join the hip socket and ball.
When she was 5 weeks old, she wore a tight harness to apply pressure to the area. When that didn’t work, she was put in traction. She lay in a crib, with her legs dangling over the sides and weights attached to them. She couldn’t be picked up or held.
Her mother went to the hospital every day to bathe her, then went home to an empty house. Her husband was stationed on a carrier at sea.
But while Uglow was in traction, she got a bacterial infection potentially fatal to infants. Navy doctors contacted the ship carrying Robert Louzek and brought him home.
“It was scary,” his wife recalled.
‘SHE NEVER COMPLAINED’
After the traction, military doctors put her in a full-body cast—when she was 12 weeks old.
She had her first surgery at age 5. Part of the thigh bone below the socket was sawed off, then the socket was pulled down and reconnected with the ball.
She had the same procedure two years later, as well as surgeries to remove screws that held bones together. She had her last surgery at age 11, on a growth plate in the right leg so it wouldn’t be longer than the other.
“But she never complained about any of this stuff,” her mother said.
That hasn’t changed.
“She never says a whole lot until you ask her,” her mother said. “When she started all this running, I said, ‘What about your hip?’ and she said, ‘Yeah, it really hurts.’ ”
NOT ‘A SISSY’
Uglow hasn’t seen an orthopedic doctor since she completed all the surgeries and follow-ups as a teen-ager.
She hasn’t gotten any treatment since then because she said she hasn’t needed it.
Uglow has read that people with her condition sometimes need a hip replacement in their 30s. Her mother worries Uglow will wear out the joint faster by working it so hard, but Uglow believes her body would let her know if she were hurting it.
Even after a rigorous run, Uglow doesn’t take heavy-duty pain medicine, use a heating pad or apply any kind of ointment.
She takes an aspirin only when necessary.
“I guess I’m stubborn, but I don’t want to be anything but normal,” Uglow said. “I do the same thing my husband and my father do. I’m not gonna be a sissy.”
Uglow currently runs about six miles a day, five times a week. She’s trained enough to know her hip bothers her if she doesn’t give it a break.
She’ll bump up the training with her running partners later this month as they prepare for the Big Sur Marathon along the coastline of California in April.
The Uglows have friends in Monterey and will enjoy a vacation as well as a hearty run.
No doubt, they’ll eat and drink, too.
Uglow likes running because the exercise keeps her from gaining weight. She doesn’t diet, but she loves to bake and make home-cooked meals, complemented by some of the wine that fills a cabinet in their dining room.
“We like driving around the countryside and tasting wine,” she said. “If I’m not working, I’m running or cooking or drinking wine.”
She hopes to continue enjoying all of them.
“Running is something I really enjoy, and I want to be able to do it as long as I can,” she said, “until the day I die.”
ABOUT HER CONDITION
NAME: Developmental dislocation or dysplasia of the hip
WHAT IS IT? The ball on top of the thigh bone isn’t held firmly in the socket. In some children, it’s just loose, in others, it’s completely out of the socket. Sometimes, the looseness worsens as the child grows and becomes more active.
INCIDENCE: Occurs in 1.5 of every 1,000 births and eight times more often in boys than girls.
RISK FACTORS: Robyn Uglow had all of them: She was the firstborn, female, was born in the breech position with her bottom down, and has a family history of the disorder. Her great-uncle on her father’s side had a similar condition, but was never diagnosed, and he walked with a built-up shoe. Two of her mother’s cousins had daughters with hip dysplasia.
PROGNOSIS: In most cases, it can be corrected with a brace, but surgery is sometimes required. Left untreated, it can lead to arthritis and deterioration of the hip, which can be severely debilitating.
—National Institutes of Health; American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons