By Stephan Watson
Early on a gray morning, as Paula Pitarresi slept under a blue sheet in an operating room in the Buffalo Surgery Center, Dr. Andrew Stoeckl sliced open her right knee, sawed away the damaged bone and cartilage and built her a new knee out of metal and plastic parts.
Three hours after Stoeckl finished stitching up Pitarresi’s knee, she was starting physical therapy in an apartment in a Williamsville hotel, where she slowly bent and extended her leg and carefully walked up and down a small set of stairs. While in the recovery suite, the 64-year-old Hamburg woman had a nurse with her around the clock and enjoyed free takeout from an Italian restaurant.
Hundreds of people locally, and more than 700,000 patients nationally, have total knee replacement surgery each year. But Pitarresi is one of the few patients to receive a replacement knee without ever setting foot in a hospital.