Mako Robotic-Arm Assisted Surgery Tool Got Lifelong Athlete Back on His Feet Again Fast

By the time he was in his late 50s, Michael Cantone knew that his knees were shot.

He could barely bend them when he got into and out of his car, and “the pain was a 12 out of 10.” A lifelong athlete who went to the gym five days a week and had played professional baseball and coached for 20 years, he said knee pain was taking away the things he loved to do.

“The breaking point is when you can’t go downstairs with your feet straight,” he says. “I didn’t want to have to go down the stairs sideways.”

Michael, a retired postal service supervisor in Woonsocket and a resident of Johnston, RI, tried cortisone injections, but the relief only lasted a few months. Doctors told him he needed knee replacement surgery, but the thought of it was unsettling, at the very least.

“I guess you could say I have white coat fever when it comes to being in the hospital,” he says.

But Michael, now 61 and a father of four, has a daughter, Carmella, who worked as a surgical technician with Dr. Joseph Lifrak, an orthopedic surgeon at Charlton Memorial Hospital in Fall River.

She told Michael about the work Dr. Lifrak was doing with the Mako robotic-arm assisted surgery tool, which allows surgeons to pre-plan the surgery and reduce the amount of cutting they must do in knee replacement. That reduces the size of the incisions and damage to surrounding tissue, reducing post-surgical pain and hastening recovery time for patients.

Michael said he met with Dr. Lifrak at his office in Providence and liked the surgeon immediately.

“He was a sports guy, he was very personable, and his staff was phenomenal,” Michael says. “He told me, ‘We can get this done,’ and I was ready.”

Under the careful supervision of Dr. Lifrak and with the help of Mako robotic-arm assisted surgery tool, Michael had his left knee – where the bone-on-bone pain was worse – replaced in February 2022 at Charlton Memorial.

It began at 10am, and he was home by 5pm that afternoon. He said he had pain the first couple of weeks, probably because he overdid it during the first days of rehab; but within six weeks, he was back in the gym and riding an exercise bicycle to gain strength and flexibility, as well as cardio fitness.

“Once you do the first knee, you know what to expect,” he says. “And start to get a feeling for your capability and mobility.”

He had the right knee replaced last November. The surgery began at 7am and he was home by 2pm. The pain was minimal, and within two and a half weeks, he was able to do squats and the exercise bicycle again. Michael extends his thanks to his gym, Next Level Training Center in Johnston, RI, who were also instrumental in his recovery.

He said he has minimal scarring, thanks to the smaller incisions that the Mako robotic-arm assisted surgery tool enabled Dr. Lifrak to make and to the Vitamin E that Michael spread on his skin around the incision points. Michael said he is so pleased with the procedure that he has recommended it to several friends.

Michael said that he and his wife, Jerri, to whom he has been married for 35 years, along with their children and grandchildren, are looking forward to his active retirement.

“I can’t say enough good things” about the surgery and the care he received at Southcoast Health. “I am thrilled. I am so fortunate. And I am able to live life on my terms again.”

To learn more about Southcoast Health’s Mako robotic surgery, visit Mako™ Robotic-Arm Assisted Technology | Southcoast Health.