Steps to Success

New Knee, New Lease on Life

Who says you’re supposed to slow down as you hit your silver years? Not Ennio DePianto. A lifelong runner, the 75-year-old also loves to play golf, dance, travel and ski. He exercises regularly and keeps himself busy maintaining more than 700 olive trees on his 160 acres in rural Vacaville.

But, about 10 years ago, Ennio found he couldn’t run on the street anymore because it made his right knee sore. So, he switched to a recumbent bicycle in his home gym. As the pain continued, he saw his doctor for treatment that included cortisone shots, but his knee just kept getting worse. An exam revealed what he suspected, there was no cartilage left and his knee was bone-on-bone.

“My knee pain impaired everything and I wasn’t able to do what I wanted to do. I knew I would need to have it replaced, but I was apprehensive.”

That is, until he ran into a friend who had knee surgery just the month before, through the Joint Replacement Program at NorthBay VacaValley Hospital. “She said, ‘Ennio, look! Can you believe I’m doing this?’ And then she just stuck her leg out there and danced around a bit,” he laughs.

Her enthusiastic endorsement was enough to send Ennio to meet with his friend’s doctor, Andrew T. Brooks, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon for the NorthBay Joint Replacement Program. “He was very easy to talk with, and spent a lot of time explaining what I could expect.”

Ennio also spent some time before the surgery with the staff at the Joint Replacement Program, including Cynthia Giaquinto, orthopedic program manager. “They really prepare you beforehand,” he says, giving him hope that the surgery would allow him to continue doing all the activities he loved.

The NorthBay Joint Replacement Program is designed to offer hip and knee replacement surgeries with a two- to three-day hospital stay. Every step in the program has been carefully planned to speed recovery and assure a successful outcome. Surgery takes place on the first day and the following days focus on getting the patient up right away and walking. A family member or friend steps up to serve as “coach” through the process, and all patients who had their surgery on the same day are there to urge each other on and celebrate their successes.

After patients go home, a home health nurse helps with rehabilitation exercises until the patient is ready to attend out-patient rehabilitation. “Oh, they were right there the way they said they would be,” Ennio recalls, “getting you up and out of bed right away.”

Those first steps on his new knee were strange, he admits. “It felt different, but normal again. Cynthia assured me that this is the process. The staff was wonderful and did a great job. And when the rehab nurses came to my home, they were very helpful, and motivated me to measure how far I could bend my knee and increase my range of motion.”

Ennio also did his part to make sure the surgery was successful, by making sure he was in the best pre-surgical physical condition. He exercised his leg muscles, including his quadriceps, at his home gym.

Now, 18 months later, Ennio is preparing to have his left knee replaced. “I have no hesitancy at all,” he says. “I just need to find the time when I can be less active for about two months. And for anyone else who is suffering with bad knees, I would say there is relief ahead. Just do it!”

Program Awarded Certification

The NorthBay Joint Replacement Program in Vacaville has earned the Gold Seal of Approval for demonstrating compliance with The Joint Commission’s national standards for healthcare quality and safety in disease-specific care. Certification recognizes the program’s dedication to continuous compliance with The Joint Commission’s state-of-the-art standards.

“Our program underwent a rigorous on-site review for compliance with standards of care specific to the needs of patients and families, including infection prevention and control, leadership and medication management,” says Cynthia Giaquinto, program manager for orthopedics.

“In achieving Joint Commission certification, the NorthBay Joint Replacement Program has demonstrated its commitment to the highest level of care for its patients,” says Jean Range, R.N., executive director, Disease-Specific Care Certification, The Joint Commission. “Certification is a voluntary process and I commend the program for successfully undertaking this challenge to elevate its standard of care and instill confidence in the community it serves.”

Getting Ready for Joint Replacement Surgery

The better physical shape you are in before your surgery, the better your recovery will be, says Cynthia Giaquinto, NorthBay Healthcare’s orthopedic program manager. But, for some people—particularly those with degenerative arthritis—pain can make exercising difficult. That sets up a vicious cycle,
she notes. “The irony is that the less you move around, the more you lose muscle tone and range of motion. The more you work your joints and keep them lubricated, the better it will be for you.”

She offers these tips to help you prepare:

  • Eat well. If you are overweight, your doctor may recommend a weight loss program.
  • Ask your doctor for pre-surgical exercises. Also ask about post-surgery exercises.
  • If you smoke, cut down or quit. Smoking changes blood flow patterns, delays healing and slows recovery.
  • Take supplements. Some people find that supplements, such as glucosamine and chondroitin, may help ease joint pain.

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