At age 73, retired advertising executive Mike Fillichio was trying to enjoy life following a high-speed, high pressure career. But there was a problem: his hip hurt. His years playing football and baseball at the University of Michigan teamed up with decades of tennis, golf, work and normal wear and tear to make bone grind against bone. It hurt.
“I kind of wore out my hip and needed a replacement,” he says.
A native of Illinois with homes in Harbor Club on Lake Oconee, Ga., and Delray Beach, Fla., Mike had access to excellent hospitals anywhere in America. He chose St. Mary’s, ranked as Georgia’s top hospital for joint replacement in 2011 by Georgia Trend magazine.
“I had all the confidence in the world that it would go well, and it did,” he says. “It couldn’t have been any better. I’ve had enough experience with other health problems, including cancer, to know the people at St. Mary’s were just incredible.”
A growing problem
The hip is a major joint that allows the leg to move and support weight. Tough, slippery cartilage protects the inside of the joint like Teflon®, letting the top of the leg bone (femur) glide smoothly inside its socket in the pelvis. But over the years the cartilage can wear out, causing pain and disability.
In Mike’s case – as for millions of Baby Boomers entering their 60s and 70s – the worsening pain kept him from doing the things he loved. Instead of living the active life he had worked so hard to enjoy, he was struggling just to get around the house.
“The good news today is that hip replacement is a safe, reliable way to reduce pain and restore function,” says Ron Leftwich, RN, director of St. Mary’s Orthopedics Unit. “High-tech modern implants are better than ever. Surgical procedures have been refined for optimum results. And post-surgical rehabilitation helps more and more patients make the most of their new hip joint.”
Continuum of care
The journey to a full recovery begins before surgery, Leftwich notes. It starts by talking to your doctor.
“Total joint replacement is highly effective but it’s also major surgery, so you need to look at all your options,” he says. “There are a number of non-surgical therapies that you and your doctor may want to try to see if they relieve your pain and increase your function.”
However, many people, including Mike, reach a point where conservative measures simply don’t provide enough relief.
“I had an appointment with my orthopedic surgeon, Dr. [John] Manfredi, and we talked about my symptoms and how my hip pain was getting in my way,” Mike says. “He took x-rays and a CT scan and did several tests and found that, basically, the top of my femur had worn out. It was bone on bone. Surgery was really the only option,”
About two weeks before surgery, patients come to St. Mary’s for a pre-operative visit. During this visit, staff take the patient’s medical history, check vital signs and perform any lab work or tests requested by the doctor. Patients also have an opportunity to talk to nurses and anesthesiologists and to ask questions about their surgery.
When his day of surgery arrived, Mike was ready to go. “I had no worries about it,” he says. “I was confident it would be excellent, and it was. I wasn’t chosen to have the best staff. I wasn’t the only patient in the hospital. But the doctors and nurses at St. Mary’s made me feel like I was their only patient. I couldn’t have been more comfortable.”
Once the surgery is complete, the job of maximizing the new joint’s range of motion, strength, and function is in the patient’s hands, says Tim Sorrells, director of St. Mary’s Rehabilitation Services.
“The patients who get the most out of their new hip are usually the ones who work hardest in rehab,” he says. “Joint replacement isn’t a magic bullet. With rehab after surgery, most patients can enjoy a fuller and faster return to the activities they love.”
At St. Mary’s, rehab begins within hours, helping the patient get out of bed, sit up in a chair and begin bearing weight on the new joint. The patient may also learn how to use assistive devices. And after discharge, St. Mary’s offers numerous options to promote a full recovery:
Mike’s month of physical therapy at his Harbor Club home prepared him for his seasonal return to Florida. Working out on his own, his hip continues to feel great and no longer gets in the way when he wants to swing a golf club, take a walk, or work on the landscaping around his home.
“I’m so grateful my friends recommended Dr. Manfredi and St. Mary’s,” he says. “My hip feels great. The people at St. Mary’s are just incredible. I couldn’t ask for better.”
Surgeons who perform total hip procedures at St. Mary’s