Dr. Sandy Halperin doesn’t remember everything that happened between his arrival at Capital Regional Medical Center for scheduled surgery and waking up in his room afterward, but he does remember how the team at his hospital of choice made him feel about the care he received. In 2010 at age 60, he was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s that continues to rob him of his short-term memory, but he clearly understands the benefit of his total hip replacement surgery in May, 2016, and why he chose Capital Regional for that important procedure.
The former dentist and assistant professor at Harvard is articulate and intelligent, and he struggles with remembering where he is in a conversation. As he talks about his experience at the hospital, he pauses, “what were we talking about?” Once reminded, he finishes his thought. For people with any form of dementia, a hospital stay can be frightening, confusing, and somewhat challenging for the physicians and staff caring for them. What Dr. Halperin experienced at Capital Regional was a focused and coordinated effort to ensure his surgery and recovery were successful, while at the same time catering to his special needs.
Jason Oberste, MD a board-certified orthopedic surgeon with Tallahassee Orthopedic Clinic, performed Dr. Halperin’s surgery. “Dr. Halperin had debilitating pain before surgery,” he said. “He needed a total hip replacement and we chose to use the anterior approach which allows for quicker recovery and less complications which is important for all patients but is definitely beneficial for those with dementia.”
Anterior hip replacement allows the surgeon to use the most minimal incision on the front of the hip. Rather than cutting through and detaching muscle, the surgeon moves the muscle aside which creates less damage and trauma to the soft tissue around the hip. “This approach is not new but implants and technology associated with it have greatly improved over the last several years,” said Dr. Oberste. Capital Regional has invested in a key piece of equipment that enhances this approach. “A unique surgical table, the hana table, is specially designed for this type of surgery and allows for easier access, better visualization during the surgery, and more precise measurements of the patient’s anatomy.”
In addition to choosing a procedure that required significantly less rehab and lower risks, Dr. Halperin’s surgery included individualized anesthesia care that took in to account his condition. “The main thing we wanted to make sure of was that he received enough anesthesia, but not so much that he couldn’t easily come out of it,” said Paul Brown, Director of Surgical Services at Capital Regional. “We also allowed his family in the recovery area. That’s not something we typically do but we knew it was important to get someone familiar in front of him as quickly as possible.”
After two hours of surgery and one hour in recovery, Dr. Halperin was moved to the hospital’s specialized orthopedic unit. Cindy Hojna, Director of Inpatient Post-Op and Orthopedic Services says that the 24-48 hours following surgery can be the most confusing for dementia patients. “We know to be more aware of the patient’s mental state,” she said. “We use tools like a bed alarm because we don’t want them getting up on their own. We also increase our pain assessments because it can be hard for them to accurately convey their pain levels and we want to make sure they are comfortable.”
All patients at Capital Regional benefit from private rooms in the orthopedic unit but to Dr. Halperin, it was a very important. “My daughter came from Atlanta and was able to spend every night in my room,” he said. “That was extraordinary!”
Dr. Halperin can’t recall all of the specifics about his experience at the hospital but he remembers this: “They gave me peace of mind. I can’t remember what I just said to you, but I do remember the care I received. I remember going to the pre-op classes and whatever they said there helped me. I remember Dr. Oberste giving me a realistic timetable for recovery before the surgery, and I remember he and his assistant calling to check on me after I went home. And while I can’t remember her name, I remember a staff member who came in and just sat and talked with me for a long time which gave me a lot of comfort. They treated me, not simply as a patient, but as a person.”
Dr. Halperin has healed from his total hip surgery at Capital Regional, but he says he has other health issues and knows that he could end up in the hospital again. “If something else happened and I was asked which hospital I wanted to go to, without question I would say Capital Regional Medical Center,” he said. “The environment is uplifting. They went above and beyond in taking care of me.”
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