Select a name below to read about our grateful patients.
Linda Roberts traversed Florida, seeking a solution for the debilitating pain in both her knees. And making the trek from her Hypoluxo home wasn’t easy, since then-62-year-old Roberts suffered excruciating pain 24/7 and was often confined to a wheelchair. But she refused to give up. “I had two dislocated knees and for an entire year, I saw doctor after doctor,” Roberts recalls. “There was no traumatic injury or disease and without a cause, the doctors didn’t know how to fix the problem. Everyone told me I would just have to live with it, and they sent me home.”
One solution did come up, Roberts says, but she found it unacceptable. “After the pain became unbearable, there was talk about amputating my leg. It was crazy … and getting crazier by the minute.”
Roberts’ quest for help eventually led her to Robert B. Zann, M.D., orthopaedic surgeon and Bethesda Orthopaedic Institute Medical Director. After close examination, Dr. Zann agreed that Roberts’ case was unusual, but instead of sending the patient home, he called in his colleague, Elvis Grandic, M.D., an orthopaedic surgeon with a specialty in complicated hip and knee joint replacement. “When Linda came to me, I told her I could replace the joint. It would be a complex procedure, but I could do it,” Dr. Grandic says.
While Roberts’ diagnosis was rare, her swift introduction to Dr. Grandic was business as usual at the Bethesda Orthopaedic Institute. The Institute is built on a dedicated team approach, which opens the door to productive physician consults and leads every patient to the right surgeon with the right skill set and experience. In the end, Dr. Zann adds, “It’s about ensuring that we’ve taken every step to see that our patients are able to get their lives back and have the best quality of life."
Solving the Impossible
Dr. Grandic was not surprised that Roberts’ case stymied so many physicians since it was an extremely rare condition that was exacerbated by the fact that Roberts’ knee ligaments were compromised. Dr. Grandic was concerned that a traditional knee prosthesis would dislocate as well. The solution was a special hinged knee system, implanted first in Roberts’ right knee and then, one year later, in her left knee.
“Both knees involved a very complicated and long surgery,” Dr. Grandic says. “Linda did great—better than great. Only one month after her second knee surgery, she took steps without assistance. There’s nothing better than seeing Linda be able to walk for the first time in many years.”
As for Roberts, she’s already set her mind on a new goal. “I want to visit my sister and brother in Lexington, Ky.,” she says. “That’s where I grew up, and it’s been too long since I could travel. Maybe I’ll take a bike ride when I get there. Wouldn’t that be wonderful!”
Andrew Bloom knows about overcoming odds. At just 44 years young, he is a three-time stroke survivor. The Boynton Beach resident is now sharing his message of survivorship with others.
Bloom’s first stroke occurred at the young age of 21, while he was still living in New York. He was diagnosed with a malformation of the blood vessels in the brainstem, making them susceptible to bleeds and essentially causing a stroke. At the time, he was told that surgery was not an option. Relying on his determination, treatment and therapy, he went on to make a full recovery.
Over the next 17 years, Bloom led a relatively normal life. He was married, had two children, and moved to Florida where he worked selling medical equipment. Then, in August 2008, his brain began bleeding again.
“I had the classic stroke symptoms, paralysis on one side and slurred speech. It started gradually and became worse over a day or two,” recalls Bloom. “I went to the Emergency Department at Bethesda.”
Once again, the bleeding brainstem landed Andrew Bloom in the hospital. He spent three weeks at Bethesda Hospital East before he was well enough to be transferred to the Cornell Institute for Rehabilitation Medicine.
“I spent another three weeks in Cornell,” he said. “It was intense therapy; physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy.”
During his time at Cornell, Bloom progressed through various therapy activities. He worked on skills such as walking and strength coordination. He also did many repetitive tasks to rebuild the coordination between the brain and extremities. By the time he went home, he was able to walk with a walker.
“The staff was so caring. They were excellent. I really want to thank them for all they’ve done,” added Bloom. “The patients at Bethesda are in good hands.”
Bloom’s recovery continued with Bethesda’s Outpatient Rehabilitation after he left the Cornell Institute. More hard work allowed him to walk unassisted.
Over the next few years, Bloom looked for more solutions. He even went to Arizona for surgery in attempt to repair the weakened blood vessels. While the surgery was successful, there was still some weakness in the smaller vessels in his brain. In August 2011, he had his third brain bleed.
“It was a very similar experience to the second one,” says Bloom. “I recognized the symptoms and went to the Bethesda Emergency Room. I spent three weeks in the hospital, and then another three weeks in the Cornell Institute.
Today, Bloom has once again recovered from what he calls a “life changing event.” He can walk unassisted, although with a limp. He has decided to share his message of survival and recovery with others, hoping to encourage them in meeting their own challenges.
“Anyone who has experienced a life-changing medical event can relate. It’s easy to become discourage. I just want to share the message, ‘don’t give up.’ Keep working toward recovery, one day at a time.”
In May 2012, Bloom published his inspiring story in a book, “A Bleeding Brain.” Earlier this year, he began taking his message on the road, speaking to local groups about recovery and overcoming challenges; including the Bethesda Stroke Club.
Tomasina Santana and Jorge ozuna of Lake Worth knew that God had a plan for their family when they learned that Tomasina was pregnant again—after nearly dying last year during childbirth.
While pregnant with her daughter last year, Tomasina experienced the usual fatigue and overall discomfort, but the breathing problems were alarming. Doctors discovered that the Dominican Republic native had been scarred by rheumatic fever, leaving her with a severely blocked mitral valve in her heart that was causing her lungs to fill with fluid.
A Change of Heart
Thankfully, Tomasina and her baby girl were fine, but doctors urged her to schedule heart surgery as soon as she recovered from her daughter’s birth.
But when it came time for Tomasina’s heart surgery, doctors had an unexpected challenge—Tomasina was pregnant again. Tomasina’s obstetricians, Jose F. Castaneda, M.D., and Jose R. Nodarse, M.D., consulted with her primary interventional cardiologist, Rodolfo Carrillo, M.D. Dr. Carrillo then consulted with fellow interventional cardiologist George K. Daniel, M.D., to manage Tomasina’s care through a team approach.
“We needed to monitor Tomasina and her unborn child to ensure that the baby’s heart and vital organs were as fully developed as possible before we performed the mitral valve repair surgery,” said Dr. Carrillo.
Finally, when Tomasina reached her 30th week of pregnancy, the doctors were ready. A multidisciplinary team of 14 obstetricians, cardiologists, perinatologists, cardiac surgical nurses, and labor and delivery nurses, led by Dr. Daniel, participated in the delicate procedure of mitral vulvuloplasty to repair Tomasina’s mitral valve at the Bethesda Heart Hospital.
“Here you have two fragile lives in your hand, and you realize that by restoring blood flow in your patient’s mitral valve you are allowing her to be a mother to her children and a mother to her unborn child,” said Dr. Daniel.
Team Work Pays Off
According to Dr. Daniel, the procedure was a complete success. Seven weeks later, Tomasina delivered an 8-pound, 2-ounce baby boy named Rodolfo.
“When you have an advanced team of cardiologists and a high-risk obstetrical department in one hospital, it is rewarding to see what a team effort can mean for our families,” said Dr. Castaneda. “This is why we do what we do every day.”
As for the Santanas, they are enjoying baby Rodolfo and grateful to have the little boy they always wanted as the newest addition to their family.
After seeing four different doctors, Barbara Weissman still was not ready to give up on walking again. The avid reader and longtime diabetes sufferer from Boynton Beach had developed a serious infection in her leg and foot that required multiple surgeries. After a long battle to save her leg from amputation, she had developed scar tissue and contractures of the leg muscles. This prevented her from being able to move the ankle joint or stand or walk without severe pain.
As a result, Weissman spent more than a year in a wheelchair. Then, her doctor, George L. Mueller, M.D., referred her to podiatric surgeon Alan A. MacGill, D.P.M., A.A.C.F.A.S.
Dr. MacGill determined that Weissman had developed an equinus contracture—tightening of the calf muscles—from her previous surger-ies and prolonged recovery time. Unfortunately, conservative therapy was of no benefit and her diabetes and peripheral arterial disease meant she was not a candidate for more traditional surgical procedures.
Framing the Problem
When Dr. MacGill opted to use a Taylor Spacial Frame on Weissman, it was the start of a new chapter for her. Resembling a high-tech contraption from outer space, the Taylor Spacial Frame is a special type of external fixator that consists of circular metal rings connected to each other by metal rods. The entire device connects to the foot and leg by wires that go through the skin and into the bones for stability.
While standard external fixators have been used in the western hemisphere for the last 30 years, Dr. MacGill says the one fitted for Weissman was unique.
The Taylor Spacial Frame is different from traditional external fixators because of its six adjustable-length struts that allow the metal rings to move. A computer program is used to help determine a “prescription” for adjusting the struts over time to achieve the desired correction. This allowed Weissman to adjust the lengths of the struts daily until her ankle deformity was corrected.
The deformity correction normally takes two to four weeks and the frame is left in place for another two to four months, until the soft tissue and/or bone has healed. The device is used to treat deformities of the limbs, complex fractures, malunions and non-unions, and can be used in both pediatric and adult patients.
Slow and Steady
“Barbara’s health condition put her at risk for developing postoperative complications with more traditional techniques,” said Dr. MacGill. “The Taylor Spacial Frame allowed us to gradually and precisely correct her ankle deformity while minimizing these risks.”
Nearly a year after having her ankle fixed, Weissman is back on both feet once again. She’s a regular at the library, too, catching up on the latest mysteries.
“It’s like having my life back, to walk on my own and without pain,” said Weissman.
A Quick Fixator
An equinus contracture is the inability to raise the foot to a neutral position so it’s at a right angle to the lower leg. This condition, which can cause people to walk on their toes, can have numerous causes, including a tightening of the calf muscles. Treatment with external fixation involves the use of pins or wires secured to external scaffolding to provide support to a limb.