New knees a joint venture

February 01, 1998|By MARLO BARNHART

by Yvette May / staff photographer

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New knees a joint venture

Marybelle Foster and Anna McSherry are the best of friends with four new knees between them.

"We first met in Washington County Hospital in April 1997 when we each had our first knee replacements," said McSherry, 72.

That chance meeting and shared experience blossomed into a friendship that has continued and on Jan. 20, they checked in together to have their other knees replaced.


"This time we were in the same room," McSherry said. The ladies went home on Jan. 23 and are now in therapy ... together.

Foster, 73, said her post-operative recovery has been a little easier with her right knee replacement.

"I knew what to expect this time around," Foster said.

McSherry said she is a little sorer this time but still she applauded the program for the start-to-finish approach. "It can't be beat," McSherry said.

Before the surgery is done, candidates for total knee or hip replacements go through a pre-operative educational process in which all questions are answered.

The surgery is done at the hospital and then the emphasis shifts quickly to the therapy stage.

The new Total Joint Center at the hospital involves all the doctors who do joint replacements.

Drs. Tom Altizer and Ralph Salvagno built a joint replacement practice together in 1996 at the Robinwood Center. Shortly thereafter, they started the Total Joint Center.

"It's a big change for some. There is less hospital time, so the chance of a patient getting sick in the hospital is lessened," Salvagno said.

Patients are customarily back in street clothes within two days after the surgery, Salvagno said.

"It's a question of expectation," he said. "The program is designed with a lot of adaptability."

Both Foster and McSherry agreed that the process is speedy - there's no lolling around in bed for them.

Salvagno said while today's joint replacements are state-of-the-art, there is a life expectancy limit for them. What that means is that replacements aren't done routinely in younger people or in people who still have adequate range of motion.

"These replacement joints are good, but they aren't as good as the ones God gives us," Salvagno said.

Fred Otto had a hip replaced in September 1996. Now 73 and still active as the director of the Washington County Commission on Aging, Otto is also pleased with his new joint, which has a life expectancy of 15 to 18 years.

"Dr. Altizer did my surgery after I had gimped around in pain for six to eight months," Otto said. He went through the pre-operative education and testing, gave several pints of his own blood to be used during the surgery, then had it done under local anesthesia.

"I walked the second day. The occupational and physical therapy started right away," Otto said.

Six weeks later, Otto was back to work.

Foster and McSherry are also expecting to be going to lunch together again soon and enjoying life, out and about ... new knees and all.

For more information on the Total Joint Center, contact Pat Ford at 301-790-8060.

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