Volunteer John Melfa's work with the Total Joint Program at Monmouth Medical Center has been so well received by the patients, their families and the hospital staff that he was invited to take part in a weekly pre-operative informational class.
Two months before his first knee replacement surgery, Toms River resident John Melfa was on a cruise with 35 family members and recalls standing on the deck and waving from the ship as they left to explore ports of call, because walking any distance was too painful.
For Melfa, the family reunion was the turning point that convinced him he needed to seek knee replacement surgery. He turned to Monmouth Medical Center orthopedic surgeon Gregory Foos, M.D., who replaced John's left knee in November of 2008, and the right knee just four months later in March 2009.
He describes his experience with Monmouth's Total Joint Program as excellent, adding that the nursing staff was exceptional. In fact the experience was so transforming that just two-and-a-half months after his second surgery, he began volunteering on the orthopedic unit talking toand encouraging patients.
“It’s quite amazing to see their expressions when I tell them that I had the surgery and now am able to walk all over the hospital,” he says.
He notes that last January he took a cruise with his wife, and that the experience was totally different.
“I was able to walk all over the ship and at each port of call," he says.
Dana Delatush, who leads Monmouth’s Total Joint Program along with fellow joint and spine clinical coordinator Jaclyn Conway, says Melfa’s efforts were so well received by the patients, their families and the hospital staff that he was invited to take part in a weekly pre-operative informational class. The class is designed to teach patients what to expect when they come in for hip or knee replacement surgery, and to help decrease the anxiety of those who are planning total joint replacement surgery.
“John has become an integral part of our program,” she says.
"I met Dana when my wife and I came in for my first knee replacement pre-op class, and I had such a great experience that when I came back for my second surgery, I asked her about volunteering to talk to patients about what to expect with a knee or hip replacement," Melfa says. "The class was wonderful — it really helped me so much."
Delatush notes that Melfa has brought his own innovative ideas to the unit, including bringing in walkie-talkies that keep him in contact with the nurses' station, and make himself available to help with whatever they need. She says she often consults with him when implementing new ideas.
“I welcome his viewpoint — especially since he has experienced the program firsthand,” she says.
Melfa notes that you do not have to have a medical background to be a hospital volunteer. "I worked in sales my entire career, and I know how to talk to people," he says.
To encourage patients, he shares his own experiences.
"I tell the patients — it's painful, it's not easy, but it's so worth it,” he says. "Patients ask a lot of questions, and the two things I emphasize are that physical therapy is the key to recovery, and that everyone is different. I tell them when you think you've taken the last step you can, try to take one more."
Stressing that he only shares his personal experiences and does not give any medical advice, Melfa says he makes himself available to patients when he is not at the hospital by sharing his email address and cell phone number.
As a part of his role with the program, Melfa also provides tours of the Monmouth Medical Center orthopedic unit and surgical floor. Additionally, he can also provide information on a new pain management system at Monmouth Medical Center that works by infusing pain medication directly into the surgical site through a catheter continuously for up to three days. The On Q pain ball provides non-narcotic pain medication specifically to the part of the body affected by surgery, offering Monmouth Medical Center patients a new way to control pain after joint replacement surgery explains the Clinical Coordinator.
“Patients have had really good results with the pain ball, and it's great to be able to share that with people who are facing surgery," says Melfa, a volunteer fireman for 32 years who says his volunteer work at Monmouth has been very rewarding. He notes that volunteerism is a way of life for his family, pointing to his wife's volunteer work with ambulance corps and his son's role with a volunteer fire company, and that his daughter fosters homeless animals for a local shelter.
The Total Joint Program at Monmouth Medical Center is dedicated to the care of hip and knee joint replacement surgery patients. The goal of the program is to provide around-the-clock, high-quality, compassionate care so that following surgery, patients are comfortable, informed and ready to start their recovery.
In addition to the pain management program, Monmouth Medical Center's Total Joint Program highlights include a designated Total Joint Unit that is staffed by nurses and therapists who specialize in the care of spine and joint patients, designated and specialized total joint operating room teams, a total joint coordinator and physical therapists dedicated to increasing mobility and building strength and occupational therapists to instruct patients on activities of daily living.
“When reflecting on his experiences as a volunteer at Monmouth Medical Center, a smile comes to John’s face,” Delatush says. “Ironically, the same thing happens to the faces of the people that John has touched with his volunteer work.”
To learn more about volunteer opportunities at Monmouth Medical Center, call 732-923-6670. For more information on the hospital's Total Joint Program, call 732-923-7971.
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