81-Year-Old Veteran Chooses Rehab Over Surgery - Veterans Health Administration
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81-Year-Old Veteran Chooses Rehab Over Surgery

Veteran participating in physical therapy

George Xenakis, Doctor of Physical Therapy, and Korean War Veteran Victor Ferentino Photo by Margaret Dessau

By Claudie Benjamin, Public Affairs Specialist, VA NY Harbor Healthcare System
Thursday, February 26, 2015

Running has always been a passion for Victor Ferentino, 81, an Army Airborne Korean War Veteran. For 60 years, his exercise routine has involved running three to five times a week for at least 40 minutes.

A year ago, he had an accident while jogging on Houston Street in Manhattan. “My leg gave out and I went flying.” Following this incident, Ferentino found he had trouble walking and suffered pain in his left knee.

Unwilling to give in to pain, he persevered, running for a month until the pain became so severe he consulted an orthopedic surgeon. The physician took X-rays and diagnosed advanced bilateral knee arthritis and recommended surgery.

Ferentino, a retired architect who ran a company importing wines from Italy and France before retirement, always researched problems, wanting to learn as much as possible in order to make an informed decision. He consulted two other orthopedists who also recommended surgery. “I like to know all about my condition and options before deciding on treatment.”

He also contacted doctors at a sports medicine research center in Tubingen, Germany who advised physical therapy (PT) rather than surgery. Reading that there was only a one-percent chance of improvement with surgery, with equal results from intensive physical therapy alone, Ferentino says he opted for Synvisc injections every six months and physical therapy three times a week at VA New York Harbor’s Physical Therapy clinic at the Manhattan Campus.

He also exercises three times daily at home. His routine included mini-squats, straight leg raises, and several stretches for his lower extremities. Instructed in this program by his physical therapist, the exercises change as Ferentino’s condition improves.

Since he lives in a fifth floor walk-up apartment, it was essential for him to regain his balance and strength in order to perform activities for daily living. Although he’s had to give up running, Ferentino is strongly motivated. “It’s embracing life,” he says.

He has proven to be a fast healer and credits much of his rapid success to George Xenakis, Doctor of Physical Therapy, and the new Clinical Coordinator of Rehab at VA’s Manhattan Campus. “Since George took over, it’s been tremendous. Not just physically, he’s helped me mentally. He draws the best out of the PT setting.” says Ferentino.

Dr. Xenakis earned his DPT license at Rutgers and has nine years of experience in a variety of settings including private offices, nursing homes and clinics. Dr. Xenakis says he encourages patients to set goals with him as their clinician and buy into whatever it takes to accomplish these goals. “I begin patients with lots of education besides exercises, giving reasons and explanations. That improves compliance.”

Veterans enrolled in the VA health care system can find the physical therapist at their VA medical center — here’s the locator.

For physical therapists interested in a physical therapy career with VA, start here.