Arlene's story

Arlene in wheelchair outside hospital entrance with fall flowers and pumpkins behind her.

Arlene Robertson, an 88- year-old retiree, began to experience sudden pain in her right hip and groin. Thinking it was just a matter of aging, she started using a cane, hoping to relieve the pressure on her hip. However, the pain intensified over time.

She went to her chiropractor, but had no symptom relief following treatment. Arlene followed up with her primary care physician, who suggested another facility, where she previously had shoulder surgery. The physician she saw there thought her pain was originating from her back and treated her with an injection, followed by a course of oral steroids. When Arlene continued to have no relief, an MRI of her lumbar spine was done, followed by a second injection.

As the month passed, Arlene was in so much pain she would cry in bed at night. One evening, she called her son and told him she couldn’t take the pain anymore. Arlene’s family rushed her to Penn State Health St. Joseph Medical Center, where an orthopedic surgeon reviewed her case and did a further workup.

Arlene was diagnosed with a closed fracture of her right hip, most likely from progressive degeneration. “My hip just wore down over time,” said Arlene. The surgeon referred Arlene for an orthopedic consultation at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. There, the team decided that Arlene could start pre-conditioning at an inpatient rehabilitation hospital prior to evaluation by the orthopedic surgery team.

Arlene chose Penn State Health Rehabilitation Hospital based on input by family and friends. She started her rehabilitation program in preparation for her surgical consultation five days later. At that appointment, Arlene’s orthopedic surgeon recommended a right total hip replacement, and she was scheduled for surgery two days before her 89th birthday.

Several days after her surgery, Arlene returned to Penn State Health Rehabilitation Hospital for continued rehabilitation. There, the team created a customized program with the knowledge that Arlene lived in a second floor apartment.  She was determined to regain her independence and be able to do her own cleaning, shopping, driving and finances once again.

Arlene focused on navigating stairs, getting in and out of a car and using a shower bench. “My therapists gave it to me straight,” said Arlene. “I really liked that they explained to me why I should not move certain ways. They pointed things out to me and showed me how to be safe. With their encouragement, I began to walk with the walker and could tell I was getting better every day.”

Support from family and friends both near and far was important to Arlene’s recovery, too.  In addition, her son and daughter participated in the Care Partner Program for education and training so they could help Arlene once she returned home.

Nearly two weeks after her surgery, Arlene was ready for discharge.  She was thrilled with the progress she made during her stay. “I am walking with the walker to my own car, which my son will be driving, and I will be going home to my apartment. I need help carrying my walker up and down the stairs for now. But, once I am in my apartment, I can be independent.”

Arlene looks at her total hip replacement as a unique 89th birthday present and a fresh start. After discharge, Arlene continued her rehabilitation with home therapy, reaching her final goal of walking without the walker. She is back to being completely independent.