Knee Replacement at 93

January 15, 2020

At 93 years old, Ellena DiCicco is petite at 5 feet tall with beautifully styled brown hair. She is a whirlwind of happy activity in her large close-knit family, community service groups, clubs and church. But that activity was slowed by one thing: her knees.

“I got to a point that I was holding back, because I couldn’t walk well. But I didn’t want to give up all the things I was doing,” says Ellena, who lives in Manchester Township, New Jersey.

When her knees first became a problem in 2015, a neighbor at her senior residence told her about Joseph P. Bogdan, M.D., co-director of the Total Joint Center at Ocean Medical Center.

“My friend was very pleased [with her surgery], and when I met him, he was such a nice, caring doctor,” Ellena says. “He explained everything to me, and I felt confident with everything he told me.”

Dr. Bogdan started Ellena on conservative treatments, including injections. “By the middle of 2018, we had tried all conservative options, and Ellena decided to move forward with knee replacement surgery,” he says.

Age Is Just a Number

Some might assume that two elective surgeries might not be an option later in life. Ellena proves that’s not the case and that age doesn’t matter when considering a joint replacement.

Dr. Bogdan said that age was just a number. Ellena underwent the same preoperative testing as all of his patients, which included a physical exam, blood and urine tests, and a questionnaire. After testing, she obtained medical clearance. It was time to get her knees back in good working order.

Dr. Bogdan credits Ellena’s motivation and family support as important factors in her ability to have the surgery. Her five daughters all accompanied her to the class where she learned about knee replacement surgery. “They don’t let me do anything like that unless they approve,” she says. “They wanted to be prepared in case they had to help me recuperate.”

A New Year’s Present

For Ellena—and any knee replacement patient like her—the purpose of the surgery is to relieve pain and restore the ability to walk well and comfortably. During the procedure, the damaged bone and cartilage are removed and replaced with a prosthesis (an artificial joint) that is manufactured with metal alloys and plastics. Achieving the optimum recovery typically takes about three months but varies by patient.

Dr. Bogdan elected to do the surgeries in two stages. Because her right knee gave her the most trouble, the first surgery to replace her right knee—which Ellena calls her “New Year’s present” to herself—was scheduled for January 2.

After surgery, she was eager to follow instructions and complete her physical therapy at home, without needing a stay in an inpatient rehabilitation facility. Back at home, she was determined to stick with the exercises prescribed when she was in the hospital, and she got stronger every day.

Ellena used a walker for about the first week home for safety and stability, but by the time she went to see Dr. Bogdan for her post-op appointment, she no longer needed it. When she walked unaided into the doctor’s office, she loved that the staff was shocked to see her walking so well.

“I heal fast because I’m a determined person,” she says.

Seven months later, in July, Ellena had surgery on her left knee. The second time around, Ellena took advantage of Hackensack Meridian Health At Home and had four home visits from a physical therapist to help her recover.

Doing What She Loves

Ellena’s goal in recovery was to keep up with all her volunteer jobs that she loves to do. One of those jobs was chairing a Victorian tea party for her Federated Women’s Club of Lacey Township in April, just four months after her first surgery, when many others might have still been focusing on healing. With the help of her assistant, she hosted the popular Victorian tea party fundraising event where 110 attendees enjoyed different flavors of tea, tea sandwiches and petite dessert delights at a beautifully decorated site.

Another of Ellena’s volunteer jobs is working every Friday with two of her sisters at the Lots for Little Thrift Shoppe in Lakewood, New Jersey. Since the surgeries, she loves that she can get around easily and comfortably to work with the merchandise and help customers.

She’s also able to keep up with her five daughters, 15 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren.

Now that she’s back to her normal, active life, she says of her comfort level: “I sometimes forget I had my knees done! It changed my life because I can continue my life—being a member of the chorus, playing mahjong and playing card games. I’m doing so well that l have inspired two friends to go ahead and have knee replacements themselves.”

Learn more about the Joint Replacement Program at Hackensack Meridian Health.

Dr. Bogdan practices in Freehold and Bricktown. To make an appointment, call 732-840-7500.

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.