Howard "Tom" Thompson was certain that his wife had played a trick on him. He walked from the kitchen to the living room to answer the phone and when he turned around to grasp his canes, they were gone. She hid them! Or so he thought.
At that moment, Tom realized that only a few days after having both hips replaced, he had walked with no pain and no canes.
Impressed yet concerned that he may have caused further injury to himself, Tom called Paul M. Pellicci, MD, attending orthopedic surgeon at Hospital for Special Surgery, who replaced both hips. Dr. Pellicci's lighthearted reply: "As long as you're feeling that well, why don't you come clean my garage?"
With gratitude, Tom decided to do something with more lasting impact.
Trust in HSS
In 1997, with renewed mobility and quality of life, Tom established a charitable remainder trust with HSS. By funding the trust with appreciated stock, Tom avoided paying taxes on what would have been a substantial capital gain. He also received a large, immediate tax deduction for his donation. In turn, HSS ultimately receives a donation to help fund both patient care and its facilities.
For Tom, establishing a charitable remainder trust to support Special Surgery's efforts to help patients like him was an easy decision. "I recommend the Hospital to everybody. I'm so impressed with what was done [to help me], how it was done, and the longevity," expresses Tom, "it's amazing to me."
"He knew the number by heart"
Tom's hip problems started gradually. It was not painful, exactly, but difficult. Climbing the steps of the railroad station for his daily commute to New York City from Connecticut became a chore. So did routine tasks such as putting on his pants, shoes and socks.
One day, at the advertising agency where he worked, Tom had a conversation with a co-worker that would change the quality of his life. Previously, Tom had noticed that his co-worker "walked with a great swaying motion, in obvious discomfort." But after being out of the office for a couple of weeks "he was walking tall". "I asked, ‘What happened to you?'" Tom recalled. "That's when he told me about HSS and Dr. Pellicci."
Encouraged by the fact that his co-worker had memorized Dr. Pellicci's phone number, Tom was even more impressed by his first visit at HSS. Four weeks later, Tom underwent bilateral total hip replacement, a surgical procedure in which both hips are replaced. He recovered in the hospital for 10 days followed by two weeks at home.
Two hips, good as new
Within weeks of surgery, Tom returned to his work and normal life, without pain, setback or complications from infection. "People [would] never believe me when they see me being active, and I tell them I had both hips done," states Tom. Dr. Pellicci wasn't surprised.
"We have the lowest infection rate in total hip replacements and total knee replacements reported in the world, and that's no accident," says Dr. Pellicci. HSS has implemented the use of total body exhaust suits for surgeons and those assisting in surgical procedures; designed specialized operating rooms; and instituted rigorous protocols for sterilization and other techniques to minimize the chances of infection. "It's expensive," explains Dr. Pellicci, "but if you save scores of people from infection every year, it's well worth the cost."
Now, more than 16 years later, Tom's new hips are still working for him. At age 78 and retired, Tom walks, cares for the yard, climbs the ladder, shovels snow, and enjoys bowling. He also volunteers his time to the Red Cross, Meals on Wheels, the Darien (Connecticut) Community Fund and other charitable organizations. With an active lifestyle, Tom's only concern is the longevity of his hips.
"I asked Dr. Pellicci about how long my hips would last, and he responded, ‘Until I retire,'" remembers Tom. "My comment to him was: ‘You're not retiring early, are you?'"