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Joint surgery patients bond

November 15, 1998|By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

To friends and family, Wilma Cunningham is considered the "bionic woman."

The Greencastle, Pa., native has had five total joint replacement surgeries with in the past few years. Her hip, shoulders and knees have all been operated on by Hagerstown orthopedic surgeon Dr. Ralph Salvagno.

"I feel good," she said.

Cunningham and about 375 other joint replacement patients of Dr. Salvagno and his partner, Dr. Tom Altizer, gathered Sunday for a reception at the Four Points Hotel.

Those attending have had total joint replacements of the knees, hips, shoulders or ankles performed by either of the doctors.

"He's just a caring doctor. He takes care of you and is considerate," said Cunningham of Salvagno.

She said she attended the party to meet with other patients that went through the surgery at the same time she did.

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"I came to see all the people and what progress they've made," she said.

"Our first reunion, which was held last year, was a tremendous success and we have had an even greater response to the invitation this year. It gives people who have had similar experiences a chance to get together and share stories, talk about the changes in their lives due to this procedure as well as enjoy some good food and music," said Tracy Wolford, office manager for the doctors.

The physicians have a total of 40 years experience treating people with joint problems, said Salvagno.

In all, they have completed about 2,000 total joint replacement surgeries, he said. Most of their patients are in their 70s, with the oldest being 90, he said.

"It's tremendous to see all the people you have taken care of return for the celebration," he said.

Salvagno said he and his partner decided to host the joint reunion as a way to catch up on how everyone was doing.

"We held last year's party at the office (at Robinwood Medical Center) and people were flowing out into the lobby," he said.

About 200 people showed up in 1997, he said.

This year, Altizer said about 315 people made reservations to attend and close to 400 showed up.

"I've been richly blessed. It humbles you - having the privilege to give people who would have been disabled or crippled a chance to swim, bike, golf and enjoy an active life," said Altizer.

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