SISTERS BREAK HIPS, RECOVER TOGETHER
Across nearly eight decades of sisterhood, Mary Ann Langer and Judy Hanson have spent countless hours together — starting with the evenings Judy would tag along on Mary Ann’s dancing dates, and extending through their frequent card- playing outings together in their later years. They never expected they would also be in the hospital together, too.
Mary Ann, 83, and Judy, 78, were participating in a Euchre tournament at a local church on February 11, 2017. When they left at about 10 pm, it was raining outside. Judy’s daughter-in- law left them briefly to see where Judy had parked her car, and that was when it happened: “She screamed my name, I screamed her name, she grabbed my arm and down we went,” says Judy.
Neither woman is sure why they fell; the sidewalk wasn’t icy. But fall they did, and the next few hours were a flurry of motion — Judy’s daughter-in-law hurried back to them, and several individuals from the crowd that had started to gather worked to make them more comfortable while they waited for the ambulance. Both women were transported to the Mercyhealth Hospital and Trauma Center emergency room, where they quickly received a diagnosis: Judy had broken her right hip and Mary Ann had broken her left hip.
HEADED FOR SURGERY
From the minute they arrived at Mercyhealth, the “twins,” as staff dubbed them, made quite an impression. Mary Ann’s 10 children, almost all of whom live in the area, flooded the emergency room, as did some of Judy’s four children. The cousins wandered in and out of their mothers’ rooms, trading information with each other on the patients’ pain levels and treatment plans. When the sisters were admitted, they requested that they be placed in the same room.
Relatively speaking, Judy had an easier time those first few days because she was able to undergo surgery the day after her fall. Douglas R. Palmer, MD, orthopedic surgeon at Mercyhealth Hospital and Trauma Center, performed a repair that involved making a small incision near the outside bump of the hip, putting the hip back into position, and inserting a rod and screw into the femoral head to keep it in position. Mary Ann, on the other hand, had to wait until the next day for her surgery because she was taking warfarin, a blood thinner, and she needed to getit out of her system before undergoing a surgical procedure. “We want to get patients into surgery as quickly as possible,” says Dr. Palmer. “But when they are on blood thinners, they have a higher risk of bleeding during surgery, so we wait 24 hours.”
The wait was extremely painful for Mary Ann, but in the meantime, she got help from a guardian angel — a certified nursing assistant (CNA) named Kristy. “She came in and said, ‘I’m going to fix you,’” remembers Mary Ann’s daughter Barb Haun. “‘It’s going to hurt, but it’s going to work.’ And she explained exactly how she was going to adjust my mom, and it did work. Mom felt so much better after that.”
Once they were both recovered from their surgeries, Mary Ann and Judy were transferred to the Mercyhealth Transitional Care Center on the fifth floor, where they would stay until they recovered from their surgeries enough to go home. While they had been in separate rooms on the surgical floor after that first night, Mercyhealth staff members were able to find a room for them to share again. They got along very well — except when Mary Ann tattled on Judy to their nurse, asking why Judy wasn’t wearing compression stockings but Mary Ann was. The nurse promptly got some stockings for Judy, too. “They weren’t talking to each other for about half a day after that,” says Barb.
The vast majority of the time, they entertained each other. “We’d go down to the dining room and play cards for money,” says Mary Ann. “We were the talk of the floor. The certified nursing assistants (CNAs) and nurses would pit us against each other to try to motivate us to walk farther during our rehabilitation.”
CNA Shaleika Griffin remembers working hard to use the sisters’ close bond to help them recover. “Mary Ann would get discouraged,” she says. “I just tried to lift her spirits by creating a fun little competition between the two of them. When Mary would find out Judy was doing something, she would say, ‘I’m going to keep pushing.’”
After returning home, the sisters both underwent outpatient physical therapy at Mercyhealth East. As the weeks passed, they became more and more comfortable returning to their daily activities — which include playing cards, going out to lunch and making trips to casinos. “I would never want to break my hip again,” says Judy, “but it helped that Mary Ann was there with me and we had such good caregivers at Mercyhealth.”