Surgery that years ago used to result in a 6 month body cast – now patients are going home the next day.
“I could have fell over when he said if you feel well enough to go home …”
At 35, this father of two was told he would not make it to 40
“To have the outcome that I have now is just amazing. I mean there is just no other words to describe it.”
Plus cooling the body to help reduce brain injury.
“With the old system you sort of had to pick between the heart or the brain and that is obviously a tough choice and so now we can really direct treatment at both.”
Amy Bradley: I’m Amy Bradley, welcome to the Conemaugh Connection. We’ll have these stories and more coming up in our program. Today we are celebrating our recognition as one of the nation’s Top Hospitals.
HealthGrades – the nation’s leading healthcare rating company has recognized Memorial Medical Center with the 2008 Distinguished Hospital Award. This means out of 5,800 hospitals in the entire country, Memorial ranks in the Top 5% for overall clinical excellence. What does this mean for you?
Steven Tucker: “It is an awesome accomplishment and one that could have never been achieved without every single employee in this organization.”
We are very proud of our quality but we also know there is always more work to be done and we know what really matters is how this quality helps you – the patient.
More than 16,000 patients come through our operating rooms each year. Not surprisingly, our high volumes and experienced team have contributed to stellar marks for general surgery. For some, surgical advancements mean getting back in the game or … back on their feet. For others it is truly a second chance at life and not having to say goodbye too soon.
In soccer, the position of goalie or keeper is a demanding job.
Hannah Speigle: “It’s stressful because you have to do a lot of quick motions. You know, sudden stops and turns and dives and hitting the ground a lot.”
Cal-U keeper Hannah Speigle was just heading into a new season – yet to play the first game when things went bad.
“I was going to make a save. I play keeper, and I landed just not very well in a hole and my knee gave out and pretty much just buckled. 3:15:34 it was a pretty sharp pain right in my knee. It hurt really bad right away and I didn’t feel like I could bend it.”
An MRI – revealed a torn ACL – one of four ligaments that are critical to the stability of the knee.
Torn ACLs are routinely repaired with surgery and rehabilitation. And now, for high demand patients - athletes like Hannah, there is a new surgical option called Double-Bundle ACL Reconstruction.
Dr. Katz: “In the past we would reconstruct only one of the two bundles of the ACL which contains the anterior medial and posterior lateral bundles and this procedure tries to restore more normal anatomy and kinematics of the knee by reconstructing both bundles of the ACL.”
Dr. Katz is quick to say that the standard single-bundle reconstruction is still an excellent choice.
“A standard ACL reconstruction works well for 85 to 90 percent of the patients and about 10 to 15 of patients, occasionally, residual instability persists and for certain high demand patients and high demand sports it is thought that this might be a better procedure.”
Both single and double bundle ACL repairs are done most times as outpatient surgery and rehabilitation time for both is the same – about six to eight months.
A busy Hannah is already back to helping out on the family farm, working at a part time job and working hard to strengthen her knee and get back to the pace she is used to.
Hannah Speigle :“I like to be active and doing things and running and keeping in shape and keeping my body healthy. So it is real important. I’m hoping to have a nice full recovery.”
Along with new procedures in the Operating Room comes new ways of doing old procedures… in 1972 Thomas Gutskey had spine surgery that left him in a body cast for six months!
Thomas Gutskey: “It was solid from my neck down to my hips and in the evenings when I’d go to bed I could take that off but I had another brace that I had to put on to sleep in. An after I had all this done they had to actually teach me how to get up and walk again.”
Now 35 years later when pain once again began shooting down his leg, Mr.Gutskey was facing a much different procedure.
Dr. Chowdhry: “We did a spinal fusion in December. He was out of the hospital the next day, wore no brace, and so he was just overjoyed.”
With the aid of a microscope and small cameras, Dr. Chowdhry and his colleagues at Conemaugh Neurosurgery are now able to do many spine procedures with minimally invasive techniques. In this case approaching the injured area of the spine through a small incision just below the tail bone.
“You can actually accomplish a fusion through that without having to open the abdomen which requires at least a six inch incision and a lot of postoperative pain.”
’I’ve had patients who have had previous surgeries and then they had minimally invasive surgery and they can really tell the difference.”
Being able to go home the next day came as a big and pleasant surprise.
Thomas Gutskey: “ I could have fell over when he said if you feel well enough to go home, and I said about he braces and he said we don’t do that no more.”
“I’m very excited to be part of this learning new things; new techniques and seeing patients get better. Particularly some of the things that in the past we were not able to solve – the technology has helped us do that.”
More and more surgeries can now be done in a minimally invasive way and doctors say even the traditional open cases have benefited from the new technology.
Dr. Carney: “The advanced laparoscopic surgery we do around here has taught us a lot about our open surgery that we do around here, and we apply a lot of laparoscopic principles to open surgery which we didn’t do in the past but I think now we do and that tends to bring patients of move patients further along surgically post-op.”
Shawn Toth, a 35-year-old single father of two, had been told by doctors at other hospitals that there was nothing that could be done to help his rare genetic abnormality called pancreatic divisum.
Shawn Toth: “It’s a very severe debilitating pain. It’s almost like having a spear shoved through you and out your back. The pain radiates from the front to the back, and the other down side to it, the organs were digesting themselves.”
For nearly ten years, Shawn was in and out of many hospitals – at one point spending eight months in a hospital bed, down to a mere 105 pounds. He was constantly nauseous and in severe pain - robbed of his ability to eat, work and spend time with his daughters.
“I missed almost an entire year with my kids with just sporadic, you know, in between getting to see them and it just, you know you missed their birthday, you miss Christmas. It was horrible.”
Autumn: “It was scary because everything like changed because every morning when I was about to go to school I didn’t see my dad, and I usually see my dad when I wake up and I was really, really scared that like one day when I’m in school I might not see my dad and he might be dying in the hospital.”
Several attempts at surgery were made.
“I had lost 37 ½ units of blood and they had to abort the surgery and told me that is couldn’t be done.”
He was told to go home and prepare for the end. But ironically, after searching for treatment at hospitals across the nation, Shawn’s salvation came in his own hometown in the hands of Dr. James Gregory and his colleagues at Conemaugh Surgical Associates.
Dr. Gregory: “He’s very grateful that we were willing to take the chance. To be honest he had come to the point in his life where he would have actually rather have died in the operating room then continue with the problem he had.”
This time the surgery was a success.
Shawn Toth: “I truly believe that, you know, God brought Dr. Gregory here to Johnstown to help me.”
“To fly through the surgery like he did and to be able to have the outcomes that I have now is just amazing. I mean there is just no other words to describe it.”
Amazing results, thanks to a surgical team that has brought a new level of expertise to our area and to the people of Central Pennsylvania.
Dr. Gregory: “The recuperative period afterwards is on the order of about two months and so that is a long time for a family to be committed to going back and forth to a major institution someplace else. So from geography standpoint, for patients to get this surgery here and have the same results that they would at another university center is a great advantage I think to people in this area who, you know, traveling is difficult here.”
Shawn is now being weaned off of the pain medication that he needed to make it through the past decade. He’s looking forward to a possible career in healthcare and making up for lost time with his girls.
Shawn Toth: “When you are used to something for ten years, telling you that you couldn’t do this and, you know, robbing you of everything that you enjoy in your life and then you’re given it back, what can you say? I mean that’s the best gift that you could every ask for.”
Autumn: “ I want to say thank you because if they didn’t do, get his pancreas out, then he would probably die and I would, that’s the last thing I would want him to do.”
Amy Bradley: Such a great story. To learn more about different types of surgery you can check out our website www.conemaugh.org. There you will also be able to watch a longer, more in-depth interviews with the physicians we spoke with for this program.
Coming up …. Can cooling the body help prevent brain injury? See this new technology in use today at Memorial. But first throughout our show we’d like to give you a glimpse at our HealthGrades report card, and hear what it means to the doctors and caregivers who provide such excellent care.
- Ranked in the Top-10 in PA for overall Orthopedic Services (out of 260 PA hospitals)
- 5 Star Rated for Joint Replacement - 2008
- 5 Star Rated for Total Knee Replacement - 2008
- 5 Star Rated for Hip Fracture Repair - 2007, 2008
Dr. Katz: “I think that all the departments of surgery or all the divisions in the Department of Surgery at Memorial perform high quality work, and we offer the latest in terms of technology and in terms of procedures here at Memorial in Johnstown.”