As we have written in this space before, everyone has a hero doctor — someone who has intervened in their life, made a difference, and enabled them to come back to the office and talk about the great care they got. The people who don’t come back to the office to talk about it may not have had hero doctors, but we will never know.
For that reason we are reluctant to print articles about hero doctors, though we have made exceptions in this issue, our annual health and fitness issue. In our health and fitness issue in June, 2006, we made hero doctors our focus, canvassing readers for their stories of medical practitioners who changed their lives. But otherwise we have tried to steer clear of the subject, instead building issues around the therapeutic value of pets (in 2010), the workout regimens of our physically fit readers (2008), and twice around climbs of Mount Kilamanjaro (2009 and again in 2013).
But there have been a few exceptions. Twelve years ago our editor, Richard K. Rein, wrote a long first person account of his sudden immersion in the cardiac intensive care unit and the subsequent installation of a stent to open up a 90 percent blocked artery.
And now this year. Some of us were skeptical when the editor returned with a proposal for another first person account, also lengthy. Another hero doctor story? Not exactly, Rein argued. First the story would not only deal with the medical team that successfully implanted a new knee in his right leg in January, but also with the institutional and professional challenges of setting up a “hospital within a hospital.” It’s not an easy thing to do. Yet three of our major area hospitals have set out to do just that for joint replacement patients — one of the fastest growing patient categories around.
Rein also argued that his report would not give his caregivers the automatic hero’s treatment. He promised he would report on the entire process from operation to physical therapy, warts and all. All the newspaper industry consultants will tell you this article is too long and no one will read it. That may be true for you. But someone contemplating a total knee replacement may have a different opinion. Rein’s first person account begins on page 10.
Also inside: Barbara Fox’s story of the start-up company in Pennington that hopes to create a business by facilitating the post-operative concerns of patients such as our editor. Their first product, as matter of fact, is aimed at joint replacement patients. See page 11.
Our health and fitness issue is the perfect occasion to report the good news that Peter Crowley, the CEO of the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce, has returned to work after receiving a kidney transplant.
As Crowley noted in an April 23 letter to the editor, “for more than 20 years I have been managing my chronic kidney disease (CKD). My situation has reached the point where I need to take actions in addition to the medications that I have been receiving for the past 20 years to continue to manage my health.
“The positive news is that in early May I will be receiving a kidney from my brother. Transplant for kidney disease patients is the most effective way to overcome the disease and my family has been my biggest supporters on this path.”
Now, Crowley reports, “I have ‘officially’ returned to work. I wanted to take a moment to personally thank all of you for your kind E-mails of support, your prayers, and your wishes for a speedy and healthy recovery. I am thrilled to be able to report that the transplant went extremely well and that I have fully recovered, as has my brother who was my donor.”
This seems like a good time to repeat Crowley’s April 23 statement of support for organ donation. “I realize how very lucky I am, I have a brother who is willing to donate to me. There are people who are on the transplant list who wait for years to receive a new kidney. Organ donation is truly a gift of life, and I am very grateful to family, friends, and co-workers who screened to be a donor. If you are able, please learn about and consider live organ donation as well as resister as an organ donor on your driver’s license.
“To learn more about chronic kidney disease please contact the Robert Wood Johnson Kidney and Pancreas Transplant Center, www.rwjuh.edu/medical_services/kidney_pancreas_center.html, or the National Kidney Foundation, www.kidney.org.”
To the Editor:
Help the Caregivers
More than 1 million New Jersey residents are caring for an aging parent or loved one, helping them to live independently in their own homes. Family caregivers have a huge responsibility, and their roles are challenging. Tasks include performing medical or nursing tasks for their loved ones with multiple, chronic physical and cognitive conditions, taking care of wounds, and administering medications. Yet despite their critical role, most unpaid caregivers receive little to no training and are never visited by a health care professional after discharge from the hospital. This has to change.
To provide caregivers with the resources they need and to help older Americans live independently, we can take some common sense steps that would make a world of difference to them. That’s why AARP supports the CARE Act, which will better support family caregivers as they safely help New Jersey seniors stay at home.
This bill, if passed, would require hospitals or rehabilitation facilities to record the name of the family caregiver when a loved one is admitted into a hospital, notify them when they are discharged, and provide an explanation and live instruction of the medical tasks.
If YOU care, please support the CARE Act.
Professor Emeritus, Rutgers
June 21 was an exciting day in New Jersey and around the world, as it marked the Longest Day, the sunrise-to-sunset team fundraising event for the Alzheimer’s Association, so named to recognize that every day is “the longest day” for those living with Alzheimer’s disease. In New Jersey that equals more than 500,000 people, comprising those with the disease, their loved ones, and caregivers.
The Longest Day teams choose an activity and perform that activity for 16 hours. Participants are part of a movement to raise funds and focus attention on the Alzheimer’s epidemic during Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month in June.
Locally New Jersey boasted more than 30 teams for the Longest Day, and activities included knitting, bowling, tennis, and crafting. One of our national sponsors was the American Contract Bridge League, of which several clubs in New Jersey participated. Pole Position Raceway, a nationwide go-karting franchise, had several facilities involved, including one in Jersey City. And we had a number of individual teams led by New Jerseyans whose loved ones have been affected by the disease.
People wore purple on June 21, to honor anyone in their lives who has been touched by Alzheimer’s. The Alzheimer’s Association, Greater New Jersey Chapter is your readers’ local source for education and support at 800-292-3900 or www.alz.org/nj.
Kenneth C. Zaentz
Interim President and CEO,
Greater New Jersey Chapter