Five Years, 500+ Patients

New Joints Mean a New Life

James Kuiper, 67, dreamed of dancing with his wife again. Lee Mitchell, 76, just hoped for pain-free days. For both men, hip replacement surgery made their hopes and dreams become a reality.

As an art history professor at Chico State University, James spends a lot of time on his feet. It’s what artists do, he says. “I would stand at least 25 to 30 hours a week when teaching, even more when not.” But a painfully degenerated hip joint made standing difficult. It also prevented him from fishing with friends and dancing with his wife, all favorite pastimes.

Lee, of Woodland, says his debilitating hip pain was the result of old age and wear and tear. “The pain was just nibbling away at me, and I was taking more pain killers than I really wanted to take.” The pain was also preventing him from participating in favorite activities, such as bike riding and donating his time serving as Santa Claus at schools and holiday parties.

Both men had friends who recommended the Joint Replacement Program at NorthBay VacaValley Hospital, after experiencing successful surgeries with one of the Joint Replacement Program surgeons.

NorthBay’s Joint Replacement Program (JRP) is now in its fifth year at VacaValley Hospital. The program has helped improve the lives of more than 500 patients during that time, by offering hip and knee replacement surgeries with a two- to three-day hospital stay, according to Cynthia Giaquinto, clinical manager. “Prior to opening the JRP, average length of stay was six or more days,” she explains, and the shortened hospital stay and large number of success stories can be attributed to the program’s innovative team-healing approach.

Before having surgery, patients attend a class, tour the facility and meet other people who will have replacement procedures on the same day. Post surgery, the focus is on getting them up and walking, with friends or family members—as well as other JRP patients—serving as “coaches.”

“I was well prepared for the surgery by the staff,” James notes. “They meet with you before intake, it’s not frantic or frenetic, and they help you understand what goes on and emphasize that you will get better.”

Both James and Lee had their hip surgeries on a Monday in December 2011, and developed a good fellowship during their recuperation. “I had my right hip done and I called James the left hip guy,” Lee says. “I was up and walking on Tuesday. The fact that other people are right beside you and going through the same thing helps you out psychologically.”

“Because we’re in small groups, we developed a camaraderie,” says James. “My recuperation was exactly as described. I was in physical therapy for two weeks, and in short order I was walking and back to working.” Having a hip replaced wasn’t a bad experience, he emphasizes. “In fact, I had a good time. The nurses were fantastic, Lee was upbeat and positive. I told people I got my new hip at the spa!”

“The JRP has grown each year and improved the lifestyle of many patients,” Cynthia says. “I often have patients call or come see us with great stories about how much better their life is, due to joint replacement. Our patients have returned to activities that they were unable to do because of pain, such as horseback riding, golfing, playing basketball, traveling, coaching soccer, swimming, hiking and dancing.”

“How did people get along without hip replacements?” Lee marvels. “They must have suffered, limped around and died in pain. If I could have had this at age 50, I would have.”

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