Organizing spine surgery is like conducting an orchestra

At a high level, it can feel that way! There are multiple players, and everyone has an important part to play. Recently, this worked superbly well, and we were able to really help our patient Tizita.

Tizita was in high school a couple of years ago, and happened to drop a book. She bent down to pick up the book, and the librarian noted her twisted spine. The librarian is the father of one of our patients, and suggested that she visit us.

TizitaTTizita has had a difficult life, with a progressively twisting spine. Plus her family had its share of problems as well. Tizita’s Christian faith has been a source of comfort, and she constantly tells herself “God has a plan.” She sings in her church choir. She writes poetry. For years, when shopping for clothes, she would ask her mom “does it match me?” She was really saying “Does it emphasize my spinal deformity?”

Tizita’s mom advised her to go to nursing school. Tizita considered this, but then chose surveying!

We evaluated Tizita, and diagnosed scoliosis, with a double curve – 108 degrees on top, 95 degrees on the lower half of her spine. In America, a single curve of 50 degrees gets appropriate surgery.

Over a year ago, Dr. Rick was contacted by Diane Curley, a Long Island nurse who is Director of Clinical Resources at Catholic Health Services and a volunteer with Operation Hearts and Home, a Long Island based charity dedicated to improving the lives of children in Ethiopia and Ukraine. Diane thought that Long Island doctors could help our patients. She introduced us to “The Long Island Spine Specialists,” who expressed interest in helping our patients. Rick, a native of Long Island himself, met with them at their Commack, NY headquarters. After long email exchanges, they chose Tizita to operate on, at no cost.

Earlier this year, Tizita flew to Long Island and was housed by Mae, the administrator of the group. Dr. Laurence Mermelstein and his partner, Dr. Hargovind DeWal operated at Good Samaritan Hospital in West Islip. They were assisted by plastic and reconstructive surgeon Dr. Michael Dobryansky, of the Long Island Plastic Surgery Group. Medical device company Medtronic donated the implants, and SMS donated the intra-operative spine monitoring.

In a long day of surgery in May, the doctors put in 2 rods and 24 screws. Tizita recovered well and even had a “ladies night out,” where 10 women went by limo into Manhattan to an Ethiopian restaurant. Tizita has returned back home to Ethiopia, healing and looking forward to resuming her surveying studies after the summer rains.

All of us want to thank Dr. Mermelstein and everyone in Long Island who helped Tizita. Dr. Rick commented “As a native of Long Island, it makes me especially proud that Long Island folks have come through. Not only did they provide medical care, they opened their homes and their hearts.” Long Island – we love you!

 

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