Until April 30, 71-year-old Ruth-Alice Laliberte had never spent a night in a hospital “not even as an infant”. Ruth-Alice, like her mother, was born at home in the house in Easthampton that she and three previous generations of her family have occupied for over 100 years. Ruth-Alice’s mother was born in the family home as well and also never stayed in a hospital until she was 61.
So it was a big event for Ruth-Alice when she had her left knee replaced at Cooley Dickinson Hospital on April 30 and spent the next week recovering here as well. The experience was a very pleasant one for her, though, and it was made more meaningful by the fact that she was the first person to be operated on in the hospital’s new Kittredge Surgery Center and one of the first three patients to recover in the expanded Joint Replacement Center.
Ruth-Alice recounts with a chuckle that when she arrived at 6:30 a.m. for her surgery, the staff person inside the building had to holler to her through the glass that she’d let her in just as soon as she could figure out how to unlock the door. “They kept saying to me, ‘You’re the first person to walk through the door,’” says Ruth-Alice, who is retired from the business office in the Chemistry Department at University of Massachusetts.
“It was a very nice experience. You just felt like they wanted to make your stay as comfortable as they could make it.”
“It was a very nice experience,” she adds. “You just felt like they wanted to make your stay as comfortable as they could make it.”
Ruth-Alice has osteoarthritis and has suffered with pain in her left knee for many years. She had a pronounced limp, and she says her masseuse often told her the left knee was tight, likely from compensating and tensing up her muscles.
Her physician and chiropractor both finally recommended the joint replacement as they cautioned that the prolonged limping could cause problems in her hips.
Dr. Joseph Lellman of Hampshire Orthopedics was Ruth-Alice’s surgeon. Recovering in the Joint Replacement Center, Ruth-Alice said there were many staff members on hand and only three patients, so the nurse-patient ratio was very favorable.
“When you needed something, they were there for you,” she says of staff. “I even asked for an emery board, and one was brought to me” And, one day, Ruth-Alice was desperate to have her hair washed, and a nurse came in to help her to do that in her bathroom. “I actually felt human after that,” she says. “The staff there was just great. They wanted you to be comfortable. Whatever you needed, they said, ‘Just let us know.”
Ruth-Alice also loved her large, private room and private bathroom, and the view wasn’t bad either. She says she could see the Skinner House on the top of Mount Holyoke from her room.
Because Ruth-Alice drives a standard shift, she wasn’t able to drive when she first returned home. A Cooley Dickinson physical therapist visited her daily at first to teach her the rehabilitation exercises, and then the visits went to five per week and then three.
Ruth-Alice does her exercises twice daily, and her knee is feeling much better. She has already been out gardening in her extensive, beautiful beds, and she has had many social engagements as well.