Teen Disabled by Arthritis Gets Hip Replacement at 20

Budding comedy writer from Florida faces grim autoimmune disease.

March 18, 2014— -- Abdul Moussadda was an active biker, working a summer job as a waiter and getting ready for his first semester of college, when he got hit with the flu. Two weeks later, at the age of 19, a sore throat and other horrible symptoms set in.

"My joints in my fingers, and neck and wrists and knees starting literally looking like watermelons or tennis balls," he told ABCNews.com. "Everything was swollen. I would get high fevers of 104, and every night I was sweating, soaking the bed."

Moussadda, who is from Cutler Bay, Fla., lost 15 pounds and doctors ran tests but they showed nothing. "They couldn't figure it out," he said. "One night my fever was so bad I went to the hospital."

When he was finally referred to a rheumatologist, Moussadda was diagnosed with an autoimmune form of arthritis – Still's disease, a disorder that is similar to a systemic-onset variation of juvenile arthritis, but it occurs in adults. The disease can go into remission, but may lead to chronic arthritis, according to the Arthritis Foundation. It most commonly affects the knee and wrist, but ankles, shoulders, elbows and finger joints may also be involved.

Two and a half years later, Moussadda was so disabled that he couldn't attend school or even leave his house.

But in August 2013, he decided to have hip replacement surgery and only in February of 2014, he had the second successful operation. So today, at 22, Moussadda said he is "feeling great."

"I am a little more active each day," he said. "With my hips, I really couldn't bike, but last week I started again, which I am very happy about. And I am doing yoga, nothing crazy, to help me keep limber. I am stretching and doing physical therapy and every day I am stronger."

Though Moussadda's not yet at 100 percent, he says 60 to 70 percent is "pretty good."

In the fall, Moussadda, who is a big fan of "30 Rock," "The Office" and "Arrested Development," is ready to start a bachelor's degree program in English to one day be a television comedy screenwriter.

But there is nothing funny about his ordeal.

"I was young and had a fair amount of activities, so it was hard," he said. "I lot of my friends wanted to go out and there were a lot of things I couldn't do. It was difficult to have that burden."

"Because of the arthritis, I couldn't be as physically active, so I stopped being in shape," said Moussadda, who gained weight on the steroids that were keeping his disease at bay. "It hurt my self-esteem and self-image. … It was the hardest year, I was so depressed."

Fed up with being immobile and in constant pain, he approached Dr. Steve Naide, an orthopedic surgeon at East Coast Orthopaedics about possible hip replacement surgery. At that point, Moussadda's hips were "bone on bone."

"It's a particularly bad disease for teenagers and those in their 20s and 30s -- they are in the prime of life," said Naide. "He had very little range of motion, twisting and moving, and couldn't bend to tie his shoes. It was really debilitating and sad. I watched him and could see the pain in his face."

In two separate surgeries Naide implanted ceramic on ceramic hips made by Stryker Corp. using its proprietary technology that helps the stem stick better in the femur.

Most surgeons do a posterior approach for a hip replacement, but Naide does an anterior hip replacement for a "quicker recovery."

According to a 2013 article in the New York Times on the growing popularity of the procedure, the incision is made at the front of the hip, instead of through the buttocks of side of the hip. The surgeon can reach the hip socket without cutting through a major muscle.

On the first day of his surgery, Moussadda was walking on crutches. Two weeks later, the crutches were gone.

Moussadda may get 25 to 30 years or more longevity on his hip replacements, according to Naide.

Today, Moussadda manages his arthritis with drugs that suppress the inflammation in his joints, and he is slowly becoming more active. But the hardest part was facing what will be a lifelong illness.

"Over a period of time, I slowly changed my mindset and realized how fortunate I am," he said. "I almost feel like people take for granted their bodies. The first year I was so depressed, but I learned I couldn't keep myself down that way. I might not be able to do everything, but I can do a lot. I won't ever run a triathlon, but I can still do plenty, and I am proud of it.

"As long as I am breathing, I won't give up."