Fighting RA Hand Pain as a Team

Ginamarie Russo’s hand surgeon has not only helped her pain—he’s also become her friend.

Lori Murray
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Actress, model and writer Ginamarie Russo explains why her hand surgeon has not only helped her beat debilitating hand pain—he’s also a close confidant who’s involved with her total arthritis care.

Here, Ginamarie and her doctor share the keys to their successful relationship and how to partner effectively with your healthcare team.

Ginamarie Russo has racked up a lot of frequent flier miles lately. Between her acting gigs in Los Angeles and modeling assignments in New York City (which she does with her identical twin, Annamarie), the bicoastal dynamo needs to be ready to go wherever opportunity knocks. Not to mention the stories she writes for International Business News and other publications (she’s a big-time boxing and music fan, and often covers those topics).

But here’s the amazing part: The 26-year-old is doing it all despite four knuckle replacements, a joint fusion in her thumb and her 14-year battle with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

None of this surprises her hand surgeon, Charles Melone Jr., MD: “With Ginamarie, failure is not an option,” says Dr. Melone, who specializes in orthopedic surgery of the hand and wrist at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City. “I think what makes her so successful—and not just with her surgeries, but with everything she does—is that she approaches it as a challenge, and she’s going to meet that challenge no matter what it takes,” he notes. “And that’s particularly important when someone has a chronic disease like RA. I did not give her a cure for her joint deterioration, but I gave her one solution to a complex problem.”

And for Ginamarie, the solution to her hand pain has continued to evolve. She first sought out Dr. Melone’s expertise four years ago after hearing about the renowned surgeon’s work in the boxing world. (Dr. Melone is the go-to hand specialist for pro athletes and sports teams around the country).

Right away, Ginamarie was impressed. “He wasn’t quick to operate,” she remembers. “He suggested medication and physical therapy before jumping into surgery—which was scary to me because I had never had surgery before. He asked a lot of questions and was concerned about my overall condition, so I trusted him.”

October 2013