Getting patients back on their feet Joint replacement center speeds return to normal life

June 24, 1996|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,SUN STAFF

When Judy Beach had surgery on her right hip three years ago, she sat in the hospital for eight days feeling "very alone and frightened," she said. So it was no wonder she was apprehensive about total hip-replacement surgery.

That is, until she visited Anne Arundel Medical Center's new Center for Joint Replacement, where she was in and out of the hospital in four days and took with her a new hairstyle, a whole new batch of friends and new-found confidence.

"I didn't know how I was going to manage," said Beach, 62, as she practiced using her crutches on her last day in the center. "Today, I know I'm going to be just fine."

Beach, a Churchton resident who overcame her biggest obstacle during her hospital stay by climbing a daunting flight of stairs, said knowing others were going through the same thing helped her.

"To see everybody out there trying to get back on their feet, it makes you feel like you can do it, too," she said.

The staff at the center, touted as the only facility of its kind in the state, starts working with patients six weeks before surgery.

Health aides visit their homes before and after surgery to make sure the homes meet the patient's needs with such things as safety seats in the showers and taller commodes. And a team of doctors and nurses offers classes to patients and their families so they know what to expect, said Lori Brady, a nurse at the center.

Patients begin therapy the day after surgery with a series of pumps, extensions and squeezes in a slow-paced aerobics class they can do in orthopedic chairs.

Peppered with shouts of encouragement and jokes about "future roller-blading adventures," many patients find therapy sessions are bonding sessions as well.

"Oh, it's fun," said Mearle Jensen, 62, a Bowie resident who fractured her hip two years ago in a fall and had it replaced last week.

"It makes you almost want to do it all over again," she said, laughing. "Well, maybe not the surgery part."

At the end of their stay -- usually an average of 3 1/2 days -- each patient is sent home with a new hairdo created by a hairstylist who is brought in once a week.

"It's extremely important physically, as well as psychologically, to get them up and back on their feet," said Melanie Tiedemann, who works with patients twice a day. "After surgery, a lot of them might start out feeling very depressed and worried about losing their independence. But, the camaraderie and encouragement they give each other here helps them overcome those fears.

"This is an aggressive program that allows them to be functional in no time at all."

It's also a program that promises patients the ability to get back to a normal life, she said. Almost every activity except skiing is encouraged six weeks to three months after recovery.

"When I first found out I had to get it done, I was devastated," Jensen said. "I never thought I'd walk again. But, I have not been disappointed by this program. I've made many friends and had such an enjoyable time here. You feel so much like an individual and not like just another Social Security number. It's wonderful."

Pub Date: 6/24/96

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