Neighbors Helping Neighbors


Howard Hospital’s Orthopedic Joint Center Educational Program Sets Care Apart

Written by Knees and Hips on December 4, 2013

After three successful orthopedic joint replacements at Frank R. Howard Memorial Hospital (HMH), 82-year-old Myra Figueiredo only visits the hospital to see a hospitalized neighbor or catch up with HMH employees she befriended during her stays.

Figueiredo is like many patients who receive care from HMH’s Orthopedic Joint Center of Northern California (OJC). She is pain-free and enjoys mobility that she didn’t think possible before having her joints replaced. She will tell anyone who’s interested that the OJC is the place to go for orthopedic care.

“Before I had my surgeries, I had so much pain. Now I have none,” she said. Figueiredo tried non-surgical approaches, but to be pain-free she required surgery. She had her first shoulder replaced approximately ten years ago. In the years that followed, she had her other shoulder replaced and then one of her knees. She explained how well-prepared she was for the surgeries and the recovery process because of the extensive education and the coach—a friend or family member—required for all OJC patients.

“That’s the big difference: the pre-op classes and having a coach. You don’t think about it, but you have to learn how to get in and out of the car or use the bathroom with one arm or leg,” she said. “By the time I left [the pre-op class], I felt comfortable with the exercises I needed to practice and Sandra [daughter and coach] knew how to be helpful.” Sandra Figueiredo speaks proudly of her mother. “Mom was always so healthy. My earliest memories of are her doing floor exercises with Jack LaLanne on the TV,” she said. “I think she just wore out her joints.”

OJC Coordinator Patti Nichols has worked with patients and their coaches for years, and has had an active role in helping people get back to the life they love. “I always say, ‘If you hit a brick wall, turn left,’” she said, smiling warmly. Once people decide they do not want to live with the pain, Nichols helps patients prepare for surgery, including making sure they feel comfortable with the personal details of daily life. “People who have never used a walker need to practice, so they can balance without falling for the short period they need the tool. Coaches who have never moved a person with a compromised joint need to know how to keep them safe,” Nichols said. “We teach them all that.”

Myra Figueiredo said of her hospital stays, “If being in the hospital can be enjoyable, it was. Everyone was so nice and the food was really good.” She commented that even after so many years, she still sees HMH employees who cared for her during her first surgery. “I recognize everyone. You can tell when people are happy when you stay in the hospital for several days. You pick up vibes. They are happy.”

Figueiredo also noted that the team approach makes patients feel supported. OJC patients complete physical therapy as a group and encourage each other through it. In honor of the hospital’s history, each patient is assigned a horse that raced against the famous Seasbiscuit and they “race” each other by earning points for the distance walked through the hospital halls.  “I won the horse race,” Figueiredo said proudly.

“I just really liked the whole experience,” she said.