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Back in the saddle for Jaz Paulett


The teenage daughter of the Paulett winemakers is believed to be Australia’s youngest hip replacement recipient, to relieve the pain caused by a rare degenerative hip ailment.

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If there was one wish parents Matt and Ali Paulett could have for their daughter, Jaz, it was for her “just to be a kid” and be able to do all the things she loved doing again.

Six weeks ago, that dream was put back on track to being realised as Jaz, 13, became what is thought to be Australia’s youngest hip replacement recipient.

The Clare Valley teenager had battled for the past two years with late-onset Perthes disease – a rare degenerative hip ailment – experiencing constant pain, relying on crutches or a wheelchair to get around, months in hospital and unable to participate in sport or everyday activities like taking the stairs.

Post-surgery, Jaz has her sights set on making up for lost time.

“I feel really good, and it’s so good not to have crutches and having everyone looking at me or asking why I’m still on crutches,” she said.

“There’s no pain and I’m really excited to be able to do trail rides on my horse, Angel, in another six weeks or when I feel confident enough, and ride a bike and hopefully play netball and tennis in the next six to 12 months.”

Perthes disease

The surgical team at Memorial Hospital before what is believed to be Australia’s Australia’s youngest hip replacement. Photo: supplied.

The surgery was undertaken at Adelaide’s Memorial Hospital, with a team of three Adelaide surgeons consulting with French surgeon Professor Franck Accadbled, who is undertaking a visiting professor fellowship at Flinders Medical Centre.

While the hip replacement was thought to be the first of its kind for such a young patient in Australia, Professor Accadbled has been undertaking this type of surgery on young people in his home country for the past 15 years, with great success.

He said patients could expect normal or near-normal function for 25-30 years after surgery before possibly requiring a “surgical revision”.

“This is a game-changer for the patients, they are so happy to go back on track, back to their normal life, back to school, off crutches, back to reasonable sports activities,” Prof Accadbled said.

Perthes disease is a rare condition, normally affecting children – mostly boys – aged between three and 13.

Affecting about one in 10,000 people, Perthes disease causes disruption to the blood supply to the top of the thigh bone, causing bone deterioration, and while some just recover from the disease, that was not the case for Jaz.

“Being a girl, and having late onset after the age of eight, is a risk factor for an even more severe form of the disease, and Jaz had a very severe form,” Prof Accadbled said.

“She had late onset when she was 11, and being female, this is the reason it went so bad for Jaz, and the joint was literally destroyed within two years.”

After extensive consultation and examinations in front of a panel of surgeons, Jaz was given the go-ahead for hip replacement surgery.

Prof Accadbled said the Adelaide surgeons had reported they were “very pleased” with the results.

“Dr Philip Brook gave me an update last week, and everything is going to plan, Jaz is doing very well and we’re very pleased with it,” he said.

Perthes disease

Jaz Paulett, thought to be Australia’s youngest recipient of a hip replacement, cannot wait to be back out on the netball court with her North Clare team mates. Photo by Gabrielle Hall.

Jaz and her parents, along with older brothers Wez and Cooper, could not be more thrilled with the progress to date either.

It has been an emotional journey.

“I think Jaz has led the way,” Matt said of her battle with Perthes disease.

“Ali and I pushed for Dr Brook and the other surgeons to do this surgery because it was just so painful, not only for Jaz, but for us as a family.

“We’ve been a little bit restricted in what we could do over the last couple of years and just seeing Jaz in constant pain has been hard, but we’re so strong together.

“Just to see her out the other side, and come out without any pain has been amazing. For the surgeons to take that leap of faith, we’re very grateful and pleased Prof Accadbled was here in Australia to support the surgery.

“It was a tough road, sitting through all the examinations with all those doctors and professors from around Australia and overseas, but it has been a massive learning curve for us and also all the doctors coming through to see how successful this surgery can be.”

Jaz’s family could not be prouder of the resilience their little girl has shown.

“Jazzy, being as tough as she is, has proved the point and set a precedent for young kids to have this kind of surgery if they need it, and release the pain and enable kids to be kids,” Matt said.

“Just to see Jaz be able to just ‘be a kid’ again is the best thing.”

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