My Health Experience: New hips got me back on my feet
Getting my hips replaced in my 40s liberated me from painkillers and enabled me to take up running and get fit
Billy Brannigan near his home in Clondalkin, Dublin. Photograph: Alan Betson
Billy Brannigan with Jimmy Magee, before he began his training.
I was diagnosed with arthritis in both of my hips in the summer of 2009 at the age of 40. Since then I have had both hips replaced. My doctor said my arthritis could be genetic, as my dad had both his hips replaced at 65; or it could be from a bad football injury I picked up in my early 20s; or even a combination of both.
Before my diagnosis I was in constant pain. My left hip was the worst. The pain went right across my back, down my hip and my leg and I was very stiff. Bending down to put on my socks or tie my shoes was hard work but because it was an ongoing thing I just put up with it. I was taking painkillers and had good and bad days.
In the 12 months before I was diagnosed, the pain got much worse. I was taking painkillers every day to get through work and on bad days I would be worn out with it.
It came to a head when I tried to go horse-riding during a holiday in Mexico in 2009. Within less than a minute of sitting up on the horse, I had to get off. I was in absolute agony. I knew that when I returned home I had to do something about the pain.
My GP checked my movement and sent me for X-rays. In the meantime, he prescribed a course of medication to lubricate my joints, heavier painkillers and he sent me for physio.
Within five or 10 minutes of checking my movement, the physiotherapist said he thought I had arthritis and would need my left hip replaced.
Bolt out of the blue
Even though my dad had his hips replaced, it never dawned on me that I might be heading down the same route, because I was only 40. It was a bit of a bolt out of the blue. When the X-ray results came back they confirmed what the physiotherapist had suspected. I had severe arthritis in my left hip and I had it in my right hip as well.
I had my left hip replaced in February 2010 and within six to eight months, as I was recovering, my right hip started to go downhill rapidly. I had my second hip replacement in May 2011 at the age of 42.
After each operation I was on two crutches for two weeks and then down to one crutch. As time went by I developed more strength and it took about six months to recover from each surgery.
My doctor gave me exercises to do and told me to walk as much as I could, within reason. Since about two months after the second replacement, I have been off all painkillers.
When I was younger I played sport and was always fit and healthy but over the years I had become very unfit and overweight as a result of a lack of physical exercise. I used the excuse of my aches, pains and stiffness to avoid getting involved in any activities. In the 12 months prior to getting my first hip done I had put on a lot of weight and had gone up to almost 18 stone.
I had no energy: I was absolutely worn out from the pain. When I came home from work in the evening I would head straight for the sofa, which was not good for my joints or overall health.