Smooth sailing

How a hip replacement got this boat lover back on the water

As soon as he saw the sleek, 22-foot fishing boat, Tom Ryan knew it was the buy of a lifetime. He immediately thought of all the places he and his wife could cruise to for fishing and clamming. But with a heavy heart, he passed it up. “At that point, my hip was in such bad shape, I knew I wouldn’t even be able to get in and out of the boat without incredible pain,” he said. He already owned a boat, but it was getting less use. “At that point, I couldn’t even get out of my car easily.” Then 71, Mr. Ryan, who lives in Manorville, had been dealing with increasing pain and decreasing mobility for a couple of years. He thought more often of all the things he couldn’t do
than the ones he could. Off the list: going up stairs, grocery shopping with his wife, taking a walk whenever he wanted, putting on socks without a tool to help. He made a determined effort to get his boat out a few times during the summer of 2019, but eventually gave up. “I thought this is how it had to be, with getting older,” he said. “A big part of me felt like it was inevitable that I’d end up sitting in a chair most of my days.” Then, in late January, he heard about a talk on joint replacements at Mather Hospital given by orthopedic surgeon Michael Fracchia, MD, of Long Island Bone and Joint, a practice of Orlin & Cohen Orthopedic Group. Though not sold on the idea of undergoing surgery and skeptical that it could help, he decided to attend anyway, as the hospital was only about 20 minutes away. It wasn’t long into the talk — during which Dr. Fracchia outlined the procedure, the various specialties involved and how rehab figured into it — that he was sold. Mr. Ryan went up to Dr. Fracchia after the presentation. “I asked if he could squeeze me in that night,” he said with a laugh. “But honestly, if he’d said yes, I would have done it.” Instead he had to wait a couple of months — he had his hip operation on March 10th, and it ended up changing everything.

What’s involved
Although each patient is unique, in many ways, Mr. Ryan is typical of the type of patient Dr. Fracchia sees who have hip issues. “These patients are often in a lot of pain, have limited mobility, and it’s getting worse,” he said. “Usually, the pain is in the groin, which surprises people because they think it’ll be the outer hip.” Patients like Mr. Ryan tend to curtail activities they once enjoyed, either because of pain or out of fear the hip
will get “stuck” in a certain position. Often, they’ve tried many other avenues for relief, like anti-inflammatories and physical therapy, to no avail. The hip replacement surgery takes about an hour, Dr. Fracchia said. Mather’s focus on having the newest surgical technologies and techniques has been a boon, Dr. Fracchia said. The goal is to get patients up and walking the same day, reducing hospital stays and shortening rehabilitation. Although
most patients spend the night and go home the next day, some do end up leaving in the evening, depending on their post-surgery progress. With physical therapy, hip replacement patients can often expect to be back to their everyday activities within just a few weeks. Joint replacement surgeries such as hip and knee procedures really do change lives, said Dr. Fracchia. Implant design improvement often means they will last a lifetime.

Getting mobile again
For Mr. Ryan, the surgery and rehabilitation process was smooth. He offers high praise for Dr. Fracchia as well as the physical therapists and nurses who made that day and the ones following much easier. “I can’t say enough about everyone who helped me and was involved with this, they were all so tremendous,” he said. “I actually have arthritis in my other hip, so I’ll be having this done on the other side at some point, but now I have zero concerns that it will be a success.” In the meantime, Mr. Ryan is more active than he has been in years. All the walking he’s done has led to a 40-pound weight loss, and his boat is getting a lot of time on the water, which means plenty of quality time with his wife. Now, he seeks out chances to be active and can’t believe he ever thought being resigned to life in an easy chair was just an inevitable part of aging. And that boat he passed up as the one that got away? It went back up for sale. This time, he said yes.