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Tuesday, November 15, 2022

A Joint Effort

Posted By: Advancing Care
Arun Sharma
Photos by Ken Gabrielsen

Arun Sharma’s knees used to ache constantly. But thanks to St. Anthony Community Hospital, he’s getting his kicks out of life again.

By Deborah Skolnik

When Arun Sharma isn’t running his electrical construction company, you can find him on the golf course or cheering for his favorite sports teams. Given all that, the 55-year-old Hudson Valley resident is always on the go. But recently, a health issue — aching knees — put a damper on his active lifestyle.

“I noticed the pain when I was at the gym, doing exercises that required bending my knees,” Sharma recalls. “My knees also hurt when I sat for a long time and then stood up.” The problem intensified until climbing stairs turned into an uncomfortable chore. It also became painful to visit job sites, a vital part of Sharma’s occupation. Eventually, his knees ached even when they weren’t bent.

Sharma’s primary care physician referred him to an orthopedic surgeon, who ordered X-rays of both knees. “The specialist stated: ‘You have no cartilage in your knees,’” Sharma remembers. This wearing out of cartilage, called knee arthritis, was making the ends of his knee bones rub together, causing pain and swelling around the joint.

The physician administered cortisone shots to the area in an attempt to reduce the discomfort and swelling and injected a gel to act as a lubricant. Neither provided lasting relief. “I felt like I was going to be this way for the rest of my life,” Sharma said.

Straight Answers

The next option to explore was knee replacement surgery. Sharma was referred to John Hardcastle, MD, Director of Total Joint Replacement at St. Anthony Community Hospital, a member of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network (WMCHealth).

From the first visit, Sharma was confident he’d found the right surgeon. Dr. Hardcastle ordered another set of X-rays and concluded that a full knee replacement was needed.

Sharma appreciates how straightforward Dr. Hardcastle is. “Every question I asked, he answered,” he stated. “There was no ‘I’ll let you know later’ or ‘Let me look into that.’ He was up-front with me.” Dr. Hardcastle suggested operating on the left knee first, since it was causing more pain of the two.

Photo by Ken Gabrielsen

A Caring Call

The week before the operation was an anxious time for Sharma. “Was I nervous!” he remembers. “But then, the night before the surgery, the best thing happened: Dr. Hardcastle called and asked how I was feeling. He stayed on the phone with me for about 15 minutes, ensuring me everything was going to be fine.”

Although Sharma marveled at the kindhearted act, Dr. Hardcastle says he reaches out to all his patients shortly before their surgeries. “I was just raised to do to others as you would like done to you,” he says. “If I were going to have surgery, I feel like getting a call from my surgeon the night before would be calming. It also allows me to answer any questions patients might have.”

Two Successful Surgeries

Sharma underwent the replacement of his left knee. The surgery, which took less than two hours, went as planned. While Sharma was sedated, Dr. Hardcastle made an incision in his knee. Next, he trimmed the ends of the damaged bones of the knee joint, then capped them with metal. Lastly, he placed a plastic spacer between them, creating a new joint.

Sharma stayed in the hospital overnight. “The nurses were wonderful. They kept checking on me,” he says. Within days of his discharge, he was working from home, and a month later, he returned to his office. Assisted by physical therapy, he was back on the golf course in no time. The experience was so good, in fact, that he decided to have his right knee replacement shortly after.

By then, St. Anthony Community Hospital was able to offer robotic-assisted knee replacements. “It allows us to be even more precise with our bone cuts to put in the knee replacement,” Dr. Hardcastle shares. With the robot’s help, surgeons can also more precisely adjust the tension of the ligaments, connective tissues that hold the knee together. “Many patients have a better range of motion sooner,” he says. “I believe that robotic-assisted surgery is the future in terms of accuracy and precision.”

It certainly made a difference in Sharma’s recovery. “I needed a walker after both surgeries. With my first surgery, I used it for a week and a half before switching to a cane,” he says. “But with the robotic-assisted surgery, I was able to switch to the cane on the second or third day. Two weeks to the day after surgery, I didn’t need the cane anymore.”

Once he was fully recovered from both knee replacements, Sharma took two golf trips to Florida. “I have nothing but gratitude for Dr. Hardcastle, St. Anthony Community Hospital, my nurses and my physical therapist. They gave me my life back,” he says. “I walk up and down the stairs easily; I’m playing golf again two to three times a week, and I’m not limping on the course.”