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For 91-Year-Old Lucille Horn, Medical Breakthroughs and Shopping Are Key to Her Long and Healthy Life

Knee Replacements Pioneered at Hospital for Special Surgery Have Kept Her Active for More Than 25 Years

New York City—May 12, 2011

Lucille Horn and Dr. Thomas SculcoIn 1920, three months before women received the right to vote, Lucille Horn was breaking down a totally different kind of barrier.

Two-pound Lucille, premature and a surviving twin, clung to a thread of life at a Brooklyn, N.Y., hospital where there was limited support available for premature babies. Her distraught parents received the discouraging advice that they shouldn’t rush the burial of her twin because Lucille’s chances for survival were slim. Desperate, Lucille’s father sought out a brand new medical device, an incubator, which he saw on display during his honeymoon the previous year on the Boardwalk of Atlantic City.

There were several “baby incubator exhibits” at fair grounds on the East Coast because the device was not yet accepted by the medical community. Lucille’s father tracked one down at a Coney Island side show exhibit and rushed Lucille, who was wrapped in a blanket, via taxicab to where she was placed in an incubator and looked after by nurses for the next several months. Despite its location, nearby the Ferris wheel and the Parachute Jump, the care was professional and free as the clinic was financed through entrance fees. Visitors to the exhibition paid five cents to see Lucille and the other babies that were being treated there. Today, incubation of neonates is a standard part of medical care.

Lucille not only lived, she thrived. When she was 19, while attending the 1939 World’s Fair she visited an exhibit where incubators were on display. There she met Dr. Martin Cooney, a French physician, and the man responsible for bringing the technology to the U.S. and who had overseen her care at the Coney Island exhibit years earlier, to show him how this invention had saved her life. Several years later, Lucille married, and was raising five children of her own.

Fast forward 45 years. Lucille, age 65, a tennis player and grandmother who was criss-crossing the country visiting family, was suffering from severe knee pain. At Hospital for Special Surgery, doctors examined her and thought that she would be a good candidate for relatively new medical treatment, total knee replacement. Dr. John N. Insall, an orthopedic surgeon, and Albert Burstein, Ph.D., a biomechanical engineer, both working at Special Surgery, had created customized knee implants for a number of patients who could benefit from total knee arthroplasty.

Lucille, no stranger to innovative medical treatment, optimistically agreed to the surgery by Dr. Insall. After her first knee replacement in 1985, she was hospitalized for two weeks, and then went through rehabilitation. The following year, she underwent the surgery again by Dr. Insall, to have her second knee replaced. Three months later, she was able to make a cross-country flight to California to attend her daughter’s wedding. Today, nearly 600,000 people in the United States undergo knee replacement each year. Dr. Insall's work at Special Surgery has made these advances possible.

Lucille, now under the care of Dr. Thomas Sculco, the surgeon-in-chief at Special Surgery, was told, when she came in for her yearly exam, that her original implants are still in good shape. Her knee replacements have provided Lucille with mobility for more than 25 years, remaining intact through day-to-day wear and tear as well as an accident where Lucille was hit by a car and landed on her hands and knees. She broke a wrist but her knees came through unscathed, save for a few scrapes and bruises.

Today, at 91, Lucille walks on the boardwalk nearby her Long Beach, Long Island, N.Y., apartment that she shares with her daughter, Barbara. Lucille attributes her vitality and longevity to the fine care she received as a newborn, as well as the time she spends with family and friends and trips south to Florida to visit her sister, Dorothy. She has also always been an avid reader and mall shopper and confesses that she still can’t resist a good shoe sale, which might confirm a recent study of 2,000 adults 65 or older that showed that those who shopped frequently lived longer than those who didn’t.


About HSS | Hospital for Special Surgery
HSS is the world’s leading academic medical center focused on musculoskeletal health. At its core is Hospital for Special Surgery, nationally ranked No. 1 in orthopedics (for the ninth consecutive year) and No. 3 in rheumatology by U.S.News & World Report (2018-2019). Founded in 1863, the Hospital has one of the lowest infection rates in the country and was the first in New York State to receive Magnet Recognition for Excellence in Nursing Service from the American Nurses Credentialing Center four consecutive times. The global standard total knee replacement was developed at HSS in 1969. An affiliate of Weill Cornell Medical College, HSS has a main campus in New York City and facilities in New Jersey, Connecticut and in the Long Island and Westchester County regions of New York State. In 2017 HSS provided care to 135,000 patients and performed more than 32,000 surgical procedures. People from all 50 U.S. states and 80 countries travelled to receive care at HSS. In addition to patient care, HSS leads the field in research, innovation and education. The HSS Research Institute comprises 20 laboratories and 300 staff members focused on leading the advancement of musculoskeletal health through prevention of degeneration, tissue repair and tissue regeneration. The HSS Global Innovation Institute was formed in 2016 to realize the potential of new drugs, therapeutics and devices. The culture of innovation is accelerating at HSS as 130 new idea submissions were made to the Global Innovation Institute in 2017 (almost 3x the submissions in 2015). The HSS Education Institute is the world’s leading provider of education on the topic on musculoskeletal health, with its online learning platform offering more than 600 courses to more than 21,000 medical professional members worldwide. Through HSS Global Ventures, the institution is collaborating with medical centers and other organizations to advance the quality and value of musculoskeletal care and to make world-class HSS care more widely accessible nationally and internationally.


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