Linda Kelly

RWJ Somerset Joint Surgery

Suffering from rheumatoid arthritis in her hips, Linda Kelly spent years walking in pain, crawling up and down stairs and relying on a wheelchair, walker or cane to get around.

But after double hip replacement surgery at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset in April 2015, the Jersey City woman is now walking pain-free and is able to enjoy walks in the park and attend outdoor craft fairs and festivals for the first time in years.

“It’s because of Robert Wood Johnson that I have a quality of life,” she says.

Ms. Kelly chose to come to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset for her surgery after hearing about its Joint Surgery Center from her sister who lives in Whitehouse Station.

The program has received the Joint Commission's Gold Seal of Approval™ for total knee and total hip replacement surgery. Its comprehensive approach to care includes a nurse who serves as a joint care coordinator, pre-surgery education and physical and occupational therapy services that begin the day of your surgery. Most patients are able to go directly home from the hospital after a two-day stay.

“Every aspect of my quick recovery depended on everyone working as a team to meet my needs,” Ms. Kelly says.

From the registrar and anesthesiologist to the nurses, phlebotomist and housekeeper, everyone was compassionate and caring, she says.

“They don’t treat you like a patient. You’re a person to them,” she says. “They don’t treat you like a number.”

She was especially touched by the little things such as the flower that was put on her breakfast tray each morning and the ability to wear her own clothes – not a hospital gown- while she recovered. As she walked the halls each day as part of her therapy, staff smiled and cheered her on. Kyala Pascual, RN, joint care coordinator, came to check on her every morning to see how she was doing.

“We are very patient-centered,” Pascual says. “We adjust everything to meet the patient’s needs and abilities. We know that no two patients are exactly alike.”

While most patients have only one joint replaced at a time, Ms. Kelly was an ideal candidate for bilateral hip replacement, says her orthopedic surgeon Thomas Nordstrom, MD.

“Both of her hips were in terrible shape,” Dr. Nordstrom says. “If we fixed one, but she couldn’t walk on the other, it would still have been tough for her to get around. I felt she would do better and have a faster recovery doing both hips the same day rather than do one and wait three months to do the other.”

Patients undergoing bilateral joint surgery face risks associated with increased blood loss and longer time under anesthesia. They are also at increased risk for infections and blood clots.

However, because Ms. Kelly was also only 58, thin and in good health with no other chronic health issues, Dr. Nordstrom felt the benefits outweighed the risks of operating on both hips at once.

“This has opened up a new chapter for me,” Ms. Kelly says. “My hips are wonderful. I am able to go down stairs without even thinking about it and I am no longer dependent on others for help.”

Months after her surgery, she still couldn’t stop talking about her gratitude to the team at the Joint Surgery Center at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset.

“I am so thankful to everyone. I will be forever grateful.”