Retired Ball Player Puts Grand View's Joint Replacement Center in A League of Its Own
When Ruth Richard was at the height of her baseball career in the 1940s and 50s, she knew squat about knee pain. As a catcher with the All American Girls Professional Baseball League, she would crouch behind a batter to seize a pitch, or leap to snag a foul ball. Ruth played catcher and outfielder for the Rockford Peaches - a team made famous by the movie "A League of Their Own."
Decades later, Ruth began to feel the effects of her baseball days. Still spry in her 80s, she began to experience piercing pain in her left knee. She turned to orthopaedic physician and surgeon Paul Weidner, MD, who recommended knee replacement surgery.
To prepare for the surgery, Ruth attended a half-day program by Grand View's Joint Replacement Center, where nurses and therapists taught her what to expect during her hospital stay and recovery. They discussed pain management, physical therapy, and safety.
Dr. Weidner replaced Ruth's damaged knee joint with metal and plastic implants that function like her original knee. The surgery was a complete success, and Ruth became pain-free.
Ruth recovered from surgery in Grand View's Joint Replacement Center, a uniquely designed unit run by specially trained staff. Large, private patient rooms enable physical therapists to begin rehabilitation at the patient's bedside. Ruth was out of bed the evening of her surgery and began physical and occupational therapy the very next day. "I was delighted the unit had all private rooms. That was the greatest," said Ruth, now 82. "The nurses were wonderful, too."
During her stay, Ruth received individual physical and occupational therapy, participated in group physical therapy classes in the unit's gym, and learned how to care for her new joint. Three days later, she returned home, where she continued her recovery with the assistance of nurses and physical therapists of the Grand View Hospital Community Nurse - Home Care Department. Ruth also participated in two months of physical therapy in the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Department at Grand View's Outpatient Center at Sellersville. "The physical therapy area is gorgeous, with its windows overlooking the woods," Ruth said. "My whole experience at Grand View was excellent."
Ruth believes baseball may have contributed to her need for a knee replacement, yet she has no regrets about playing. The star player's athletic ability - evidenced at Sell-Perk High School (now Pennridge) - was her ticket out of town. After tryouts in Allentown, she received an all-expense-paid trip to Havana, where she competed against 600 girls from the United States, Canada, and Cuba.
"I was 18 when I went into the league," Ruth said. "Back then, you were lucky to get out of town. They gave me my first long train and plane rides, and I traveled all over the country." The Rockford Peaches played nearly every night - 126 games from Memorial Day to Labor Day, with double-headers on Sundays and holidays. Anywhere from 1,500-3,000 fans turned out to watch "the players in skirts." At their peak, the Peaches were so popular they drew more fans than the town's minor league men's team.
"We had great fun," Ruth said. "Nearly everyone was single, but we had chaperones. You couldn't get away with anything. We loved playing ball so much we went by the rules."
The league's popularity waned and collapsed by the start of the Korean War. Ruth returned home and worked for 26 years at a gauge manufacturing company. From time to time, she would see her former teammates as they signed autographs at a memorabilia shop in Cooperstown, New York - home of the Baseball Hall of Fame. The 1992 movie "A League of Their Own" sparked a wave of interest as a new generation learned of the Rockford Peaches. Ruth met director Penny Marshall and roomed for three days with actress Lori Petty (who played pitcher Kit Keller) on a publicity tour. "I like to tell people that Geena Davis, nearly 6 feet tall, played me as the catcher," laughed Ruth. "At 5 feet 4 inches, I'm just a little shorter."
Despite her average height, with her new knee, Ruth is standing tall. "I'm really glad I had my knee replaced. At my age, I am so pleased how well I came through it. It feels really good. The whole experience was a home run."
Source: Annual Report 2010