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Joint Replacement Surgery Rescues Hoboken Firefighter’s Knees

Without total joint replacement surgery on both knees, firefighter Ricardo Bracero might have had to hang up his rescue gear and give up the career he loves at a young age.

Instead, with two new knees implanted by orthopedic surgeon Douglas Holden, M.D., at The Valley Hospital Total Joint Replacement Center, Ricardo, 41, will continue to put out fires in his hometown of Hoboken for many years to come.

With improved motion and superior flexibility of his knee replacements, Ricardo can also keep up with his part-time job guiding planes into the gates at Newark Liberty International Airport. His new knees also score a grand slam in helping him to coach the Hoboken High School softball team and to assist his wife, April, in coaching the MLB Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) Hoboken Shockers, who have made it to the RBI World Series for the last five years.

Injuries to Ricardo’s knees while he was serving in the U.S. Navy from 1990 to 1994 caused him debilitating pain and eventually difficulty walking. Eighty pounds of fire clothing, equipment, hoses, and breathing gear took its toll on his knees as he climbed stairs in high-rise buildings while fighting fires.

“I was told 15 years ago that eventually I would need my knees replaced, but I tried other conservative options first, including medication, cortisone injections, rehab therapy, and then arthroscopic surgery,” recalls Ricardo. “I decided to have the surgery because I did not want to put my fellow firefighters at truck #2 at risk by not being able to do my job.”

Ricardo chose to have his two knee joints replaced so he could rehabilitate both at the same time and then return to work at full capacity.

Dr. Holden, who is fellowship-trained in total joint replacement, says Ricardo’s knees were out of options if he wanted to continue to work and coach in physically demanding jobs and leisure activities.

“Because he is relatively young to undergo this surgery, he should have at least 15 more years of mobility with these knee implants before they may need to be replaced,” notes Dr. Holden.

Orthopedic surgeons at Valley perform total joint replacement surgery for knees, hips, shoulders, and ankles that have been debilitated by injury, arthritis, or other illnesses of the bones and joints. Special pain management and anesthetic techniques, including femoral and sciatic nerve blocks used during surgery, help to minimize patients’ discomfort after the procedure. The Total Joint Replacement Center’s multidisciplinary team provides individualized care by guiding patients step-by-step from “prehab” exercise through to rehabilitation therapy.

Thanks to Ricardo’s success with his surgery, April chose to have Dr. Holden replace one of her knee joints, which she had injured during her deployment in the U.S. Navy. She has since returned to her job with the U.S. Postal Service.

“It was wonderful to help two military veterans,” says Dr. Holden, who is an Iraqi War veteran.

“The best advice I can offer anyone who needs a knee replacement,” says Ricardo, “is to come to Valley and work hard at your rehabilitation therapy. I have been able to return to my firehouse, perform my jobs with no restrictions, and hit softballs to the girls during practices and warm-ups.”

For more information about the Total Joint Replacement Center at The Valley Hospital, call 201-447-8365.

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