Thursday, June 5, 2008

30 years ago today my world changed. Thanks be to God, and Dr. Mark and Charles Pitman, Barbara Bader, PT and many others

June 5, 1978  A clear, sunny day just like today.
A day I will never forget.
From a care free teenager one minute, to a teenager bleeding severely on the street, clenching my left leg crushed beyond recognition.
I cried out to God like never before: “HELP!”
Help came with a sense of peace, and then a nurse who put a tourniquet on my leg.
The ambulance showed up soon after, with my best friend Terry, an EMT, who held my hand, which I crushed all the way to the hospital at Glen Cove.
The pastor from my church, Pastor Brown, and Lisa from youth group happened to be there at the hospital, and stayed there until my parents arrived.
Dr. Mark Pitman, on his way out to his car, walking out through the Emergency Department happened to see my X-Ray of my shattered tibia and fibula on the board, and asked the nurse if he could help, even though the initial evaluation looked like my leg was not salvagable.
Dr. Pitman came into my room, and in my pain and fear gave me some hope for healing.
Dr. Mark Pitman and his brother Charles had experience piecing together people who had stepped on landmines during the Israeli War years before.
Dr. Pitman told me my leg looked like I had stepped on a land mine, and that there was a slim hope of saving it.

I spent that whole summer at Glen Cove Hospital, with MANY caring nurses, nurses aids, and physical therapists who helped keep me sane with much compassionate care.  Barbara Bader, a physical therapist, helped me get through the painful Hubbard tank hot betadine treatments to try to treat my large open wound.  Dr. Pitman took me back for a total of 11 surgeries over several months, including several debridements for sepsis, and for bone grafts that wouldn’t heal, and skin grafts that would not heal.  My family went through hell and back that summer, including my mom and dad and brother and sister, and many other family members who faithfully visited me regularly and made me appreciate family at a whole new level.  The pastor from my church, Pastor Brown, came to visit me every single day in the hospital except just one, and encouraged me to read the Bible for myself to figure out who God is, and who I was, which I did do with the large amount of time I had on my hands.  I discovered God’s great love for me and for us, and how He desires to pour His love through us to others as His loving hands and feet.  Transforming time.

Dr. Mark Pitman months later listened to me when I proposed a new design for the Hoffman external fixator which did not seem stable enough to hold my bones in my leg, causing pain and delayed healing.  His gentle smile, and willingness to try the new design led not only to immediate relief of the severe pain in my leg but eventually helped lead to permanent bone healing and a functional leg which has worked great for the past 30 years, including many long days in the operating room.

As I prayed on the night in the hospital before my last leg surgery in December 1978, I had great peace that God was going to use this very bad thing that happened to me for a greater good.  I caught a glance of a vision that my experience as a patient, combined with my “tinkering” skills could be used by God to bring healing.

Since that accident 30 years ago today, I do believe that God has put many caring people in my life to help bring healing and encouragement, and direction.
I thank God for every one of them.
I also thank God for sparing my life 30 years ago today, and healing my leg, and giving me a passion to serve Him with great energy He provides every day to bring glory to Him in humble service as a father, husband, neighbor, and surgeon.

Thank you, Dr. Mark and Charles Pitman for taking on my case 30 years ago today, and sticking with me through it all, even when it was rough.
Thanks for also being mentors and encouragers to apply my “tinkering” to help patients.  For the past 14 years of practice, and many more years of training before it, this combination of “tinkering” innovation, with compassionate care has continued to grow and develop.

Thank you Barbara Bader, Physical Therapist, and the many other caring nurses and other caregivers who cared for me through that very dark valley.
Thanks to the nurses who pushed my head and chest on the stretcher out the emergency exit so I could get a breath of fresh air that summer, while obeying the doctor’s order that my leg with the open wound “did not go outside the hospital.” :)

Thank you Mom, Dad, Ken, Kris for sticking with me, and loving me during that rough time and through the long journey of training.

Thank you Jeff and my other friends who even jumped on the back of trains on a regular basis to come and see me.

Thank you God, for sending me a wonderful wife and best friend, and also wonderful children which are a gift from you.

Thank you God, for the wonderful staff you have blessed me with at Hey Clinic, and at Duke Raleigh Hospital and WakeMed Hospital, and not so long ago at Duke Medical Center.

Thank you God, for the thousands of patients and families who have touched my life, prayed with and for me and my staff and other patients, and who have been a great encouragement to me.

30 years ago today, at this time, I was in the operating room as a patient, with the Pitman brothers washing out my shredded leg, and applying the external fixator.
26 years ago today I graduated from MIT in Electrical Engineering, minoring in bioelectrical engineering, after doing bone/tissue healing research for 3 years.
22 years ago today I graduated from Harvard Medical School, staying on at Harvard for Internship and then Residency in Orthopaedic Surgery.

Every year when June 5 rolls around, I always pause to give thanks to God, and to the wonderful caring people He has put in my path.
In my past 14 years of practice and almost 5,000 surgeries, there have many times where God has been able to use my own story of suffering through 11 surgeries and 2 plus years of recovery to encourage some of my patients and families that faced similar trials.  

In some small way, I hope the daily life I live out for God would be a thankful Gift that I can live out of the love and healing I have received.

June 5 2008
Today, unlike having surgery, I did surgery on 2 people who were in severe pain and disability with crushed nerves.  On rounds this evening, both of these patients had excellent relief of the pain that was there in the morning.  I also rounded in the hospital, and saw many patients in clinic who did not have Hoffman external fixators like I had, but who had “internal fixators” made out of titanium, which I molded and fashioned and inserted to help straighten up crooked spines in children, adolescents, and adults.  On hospital rounds I saw a 13 yo who had a corrected kyphoscoliosis, as well as a 20 yo young man with Scheuermann’s Kyphosis, and a 20 yo woman with a thoracolumbar scoliosis, as well as a 66 yo woman with a severe degenerative scoliosis with stenosis.  

Over at Hey Clinic this afternoon, I saw several postoperative follow-ups who were a big encouragement  I saw today, was “JJ”, an athletic young man, around the same age I was when I had my accident, just a few months out from his scoliosis surgery looking great, and back playing basketball wide open.  I also saw “Judy”, who had several previous scoliosis surgeries elsewhere, who came back today just a few months out from my complex revision scoliosis surgery now standing up straight and tall, well-dressed, and sharing what an encouragement her story of healing has been in her church.

Meanwhile today, I was followed around all day by my two pre-med “shadow” guests named Katie and Chris.  Katie is my niece from Pennsylvania, who goes to Penn State and is studying engineering and pre-med.  Chris is an engineer, already graduated from NC State, but feels led to go to medical school, but in the meantime is helping out with some biomechanical research we are doing with the Department of Engineering at NC State to develop better scoliosis instrumentation techniques and equipment.  Sharing life, and inspiring the next generation continues to be a wonderful part of my life of service.  Meanwhile, when I came home, my son showed me his progress on an engineering project of his own, with a unique new mount for a scoliosis hardware testing system he is helping to design and construct.  David is right around same age I was when I began to innovate and create new constructs.

Tonight, my son prayed a prayer of thanksgiving that my life was spared 30 yrs ago, and what God has done through my life since then.

I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for God, and the countless people that he worked through to make this day possible.

If God grants me another healthy 30 years on this earth, perhaps I can still be serving Him as a scoliosis surgeon, as my mentor Dr. John Hall did through his 70’s.

Thank you, God, for the way you can turn bad things into good (Romans 8: 28), and who brings healing and encouragement and purpose in all sorts of ways.

Lloyd A. Hey, MD MS
Hey Clinic for Scoliosis and Spine Surgery


Iris said...

Thank you for sharing your inspiring story, Dr. Hey.

I love Romans 8:28 too. I believe that God has given me an interest in health care and the gift of empathy because of my past experiences.

I went to see my former orthopedic surgeon just over a month ago for a check-up. My curves were 39 thoracic and 26 lumbar, so the upper curve appears to be pretty stable. The last time it was checked (in '03), it was 37-38 degrees. I was advised to come back in 2 years for follow-up. =) Just wanted to give you an update!

lynne said...

Dr Hey, I have to tell you that this was a very inspiring post which I read this morning. A few times during the day I thought about it so I had to leave a comment!
It will soon be 2 yrs that I had scoli surgery and I am very grateful for the help I have received.
I enjoy your blog very much,
Thank you--Lynne