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Diane Hitchcock

Noank, CT

My long and rewarding relationship with HSS began in 2009 when my brother, who has had both knees and both hips replaced at HSS, recommended that I contact Dr. Geoffrey Westrich regarding my debilitating left knee osteoarthritis. I have always been a very active, outdoorsy nature lover, enjoying activities such as mountain climbing, biking, kayaking and rock-climbing all around the world with my family, as well as ballet dancing. By 2009 I was in constant pain and barely able to walk, much less dance or climb. Within a month of my total knee replacement I was back in the ballet studio doing my barre exercises and I climbed Mt Katahdin in Maine-crossing the “Knife’s Edge” 11 months later. Dr. Westrich truly gave me back my life! With my new knee I was able to take a rock-climbing trip to Thailand in 2014 to celebrate our children’s’ PhDs! What fun! By 2017 my right shoulder was following my knee in succumbing to osteoarthritis. As I was contemplating a shoulder replacement, I awoke one morning with spontaneous right foot-drop. I was horrified! The shoulder took a back seat while I dealt with the spine problem. I had not realized I had osteoarthritis of my spine but an MRI revealed disc degeneration and nerve compression of L5/S1. When PT failed to improve the situation, I returned to HSS to see Dr. Federico Girardi for a surgical consult for spinal fusion. The goal of the surgery was to prevent further degeneration and worsening of my neurological symptoms, but, Dr. Girardi was optimistic that with time the foot-drop would improve. To my amazement and delight the foot drop completely resolved within a few days! With slow and consistent PT, I was back to hiking in 6 months but my right shoulder had, by then, reached the point that I could barely use it to perform my work as a pediatric echocardiographer. In 2018, one year after my spine surgery I was back at HSS, this time under the care of Dr. Lawrence Gulotta, for a total shoulder replacement. I expressed a goal of being able to snorkel and kayak on a family trip to Borneo in June of 2019 and eventually to be able to rock-climb again. He assured me that I would be able to achieve those goals and, indeed, with in 6 months I was biking, snorkeling, mountain climbing and kayaking. In October I was also able to get back in the rock gym - 11 months after my total shoulder replacement. Never once did any of my doctors at HSS express the notion that these goals were too extreme for a 66-year-old woman. They all stood right by me asking what my goals were for my life’s activities and working with me to achieve those goals with both exquisite surgical techniques and thoughtful, realistic physical therapy programs to help me achieve those goals. “Back in the Game” isn’t just lip service at HSS - it is a mission statement.