Beth Hewson of Northampton is an athlete who knows a lot about the importance of training.
So, last April, when hip X-rays revealed the 55-year-old woman had no cartilage in her right hip joint, and Dr. Henry Drinker recommended a hip replacement, surgery was scheduled, and Beth went into training.
“I wanted to get strong,” she says. “I wanted to be so strong for this.”
“It’s that whole attitude of, ‘You’re going to get well,’”
Beth did Pilates workouts four to five times a week and bicycled outside and on a stationary bicycle. She also used the elliptical trainer and lifted weights.
She had hoped to lose eight pounds in the effort, too; while that didn’t happen, she knows her work made a difference in her recovery.
Beth’s surgery was October 17, 2005, and in mid-November, she was walking about two miles a day with a cane, and a yoga teacher and practitioner, she was already experimenting with yoga poses.
For someone who was extremely reluctant and skeptical about surgery and had put it off for roughly eight years, Beth found she was quite pleased with the results. She was also very grateful for the care she received at Cooley Dickinson Hospital’s Joint Replacement Center.
“I was really impressed with this place,” says Beth, who provides daytime care for elders at Hawthorn Services in Chicopee and also teaches at Now and Zen Yoga in Chicopee. “It’s really incredible. It’s this comprehensive package. It looks at everything.”
In the Joint Center, patients undergo surgery on a Monday, and throughout the week receive group and individual physical therapy, with discharge on Friday.
Beth says on the day of the surgery, staff came in and got her into a seated position in her bed. “It’s that whole attitude of, â€˜You’re going to get well,’” she says.
The second day, Beth walked the center’s hallway with a walker, and on the third, she was walking with crutches. Healthy because of her pre-surgery training, she walked the halls quite a bit. “I was ready to move,” she says, noting how great it was not to feel the arthritic pain any longer.
Beth was in group physical therapy twice a day and individual physical therapy once each day. Occupational therapists work with patients on such things as dressing, grooming and hygiene once each day Wednesday through Friday.
Five people went through the Joint Center with Beth, and she says it was great that everyone got to know one another.
Anne Ridabock, the clinical coordinator for the joint center, particularly impressed Beth with the practical information she had to offer about the procedure and recovery. “She really knows what’s going on in that Joint Center,” Beth says.
Dr. Drinker’s knowledge, experience and technical skill also helped Beth in her recovery, she says.
Beth says all of the staff in the Joint Center were helpful and caring; these employees in particular made a difference: Margery Carenzo, a day nurse; Christie Tirrell, physical therapist; Mary Ann Kowal, a night nurse who is now retired; and Dr. Alex Voshchin, anesthesiologist. Beth sent Cooley Care Grams —in which patients can recognize and thank a staff member —to Carenzo, Tirrell and Kowal.
“I loved the team approach in the center,” Beth says. “Folks have it down. It’s really comprehensive. They have done this enough times they can really anticipate the needs of patients.”
Beth adds, “Even the janitors were sensitive and kind. They would make conversation with me and be friendly when they came in the room.”
One of the things that struck Beth was the fact that so many of the staff members in the center had been at the hospital for many years. Margery Carenzo, for instance, has been with Cooley Dickinson for 40 years and Joyce Chunglo, LPN, for 35.
“I’d asked them how long they’d worked there as they’d come in,” she says. “All of them had been there for 15 to 25 years, and they were still upbeat. Still glad they were here.”
After her surgery, Beth says she was thrilled to have the opportunity to meet with President and CEO Craig Melin. Melin invited both Beth and Don Frizzle, another joint center patient and the president of the Cooley Dickinson Hospital Auxiliary, into his office to talk with them about their care.
A special student at Dartmouth Medical School’s Center for Evaluative Clinical Studies (CECS) and an applicant to its PhD program, Melin is in a course that called for a team of students to look at the clinical care in one segment of an organization and to recommend improvements. His team chose the Joint Replacement Center at Cooley Dickinson and completed a 10-week project in which they looked at the flow of care, the measure of outcomes and patient feedback.
Melin met with Beth and Frizzle as part of this project.
Beth says, “His unassuming manner impressed me. I can’t help but think there is a rod of steel in there. I could see he was very committed to community hospital work.”
Melin, too, was grateful for the meeting.
“Beth and Don’s feedback was a critical part of our learning as they helped us to understand what they, as patients, were looking for, what they thought the strengths and opportunities were and how important the post-hospital care was to their overall outcomes,” he says. “As students, we in turn are recommending opportunities to the joint replacement team, and as president, I’m committing to the team support to help them look at improvement possibilities and to implement those that make sense after their study.”