Hip Hip …. delay … Hooray!

Terri Alexander (prior to surgery) discussing the stairs at her Home Safety Evaluation with RVNAhhealth's Joe Naber, OT.

Above: Terri Alexander on the steps to her home, prior to surgery, discusses her Home Safety Evaluation with RVNAhealth Occupational Therapist Joe Naber, OT.

Hip Replacement Surgery in Pandemic Times

It was late March, and Terri Alexander was ready. Ready to be done with the pain, the sleepless nights, and mostly ready to get back to being herself again. It was time for her surgery.   

But then, it wasn’t time.  The Coronavirus pandemic had taken hold in the United States and elective surgeries such as Terri’s total hip replacement were all being postponed. The news came on the day prior to her pre-op appointment.  “I entirely understood the reasoning, of course,” says the long-time Danbury resident, “but it was still extremely disappointing. I had finally decided to take action and was looking forward to being “myself” again. It was a major letdown.” 

The pain and discomfort were getting old. A few years prior, still only in her mid-50s, Terri had started feeling progressive pain on her left side.  “At first I thought it was sciatica or perhaps too much running, as I was not normally a runner but had recently added it to my workouts,” she explains. But it didn’t go away. Instead, it got worse.

Finally, after a European vacation with her family last autumn, in which Terri painfully struggled to keep up walking through capital cities, Terri’s daughter implored her to do something. “It had become unbearable,” says Terri. “That’s when I went to Dr. Deveney [of OrthoConnecticut].”

Terri Alexander reviews exercises with RVNAhealth Occupational Therapist Joe Naber.

“Often our first course of action is to provide non-operative solutions to ease a patient’s pain,” explains Dr. Deveney, “Terri was already to the point that surgery was her best option in order to get back to doing what she loved. Unfortunately, COVID hit and we had to delay her surgery. I thoroughly understand and appreciate her frustration. She was ready to be back in action. So was I!”

Had Terri’s surgery taken place prior to the #StayatHome order, Terri could have used the lockdown to recover her strength and mobility at home and be raring for the gym when it re-opens later this month. As it was, she did her best to stay strong for her surgery — and her sanity. “I tried to maintain a workout schedule of sorts, as prior to lockdown, I was definitely a “gym rat” working out vigorously six days a week. It was difficult though because as the pain progressed, I was unable to do any sort of meaningful cardio, mainly weight/strength training.” 

When the State of Connecticut approved the return of outpatient elective surgeries, Terri was one of the first in line. Her total hip replacement was performed at the Western Connecticut Orthopedic Surgical Center in Danbury on May 26. 

“During the pandemic, Terri’s discipline and diligence in exercising put herself in a great position for surgery and recovery,” says Gigi Weiss, Director of Rehabilitation Services at RVNAhealth, Terri’s in-home clinical team post-surgery. “She went in strong, and she came out strong.  And her intense motivation has made her a very gratifying patient. Terri’s recovery is going very well.”

Terri agrees. “I feel pretty darn good!!,” she reported a week after surgery and a week after returning home.  Terri went home the same day she had surgery, not uncommon for candidates like her, who meet certain health criteria, and pass a ‘home safety evaluation’ that confirms there are no serious mobility risks within their homes.

Terri’s assessment was seconded by her RVNAhealth team of nurses and therapists — all Danbury residents themselves — who cared for Terri at home, from the day she had surgery, throughout her speedy recovery. 

Gene Valmonte, RN Case Manager with RVNAhealth was the first one on the scene. “Terri looked remarkably well for someone who had just come out of surgery. And she just keeps getting stronger and more comfortable.”

“When I conducted Terri’s home safety eval and saw how eager and inspired she was to move forward and get her life back, I was very happy for her. I knew she would work hard, follow precautions and never look back,” says Joe Naber, OT, “She has navigated her home – including several flights of fairly steep steps – very gracefully.”

Jose Garduque, PT, Terri’s physical therapist, sums it up. “My job with Terri,” he says, “has been to strike the right balance of encouraging her to follow her incredible strength and will without incurring any risk to recovery. Sometimes too much too soon can backfire, but that hasn’t been the case with Terri. She has been incredible.”

“I am so happy I was able to have my surgery,” agrees Terri. “Everyone has been so wonderful from start to finish. Now, I just need the gym to re-open.”  Soon enough!

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