Saturday, January 10, 2015

Hey Clinic Celebrates 10 Year Anniversary This Week! So many precious patients, families and co-workers to be thankful for.

This week marks a special time for Hey Clinic -- our 10 year anniversary for opening up our doors as a lifelong scoliosis center!  Today is the first day I've had a few minutes to sit down and reflect on that, after a very busy several weeks.  The text that I got this morning was a good way to start:

I got the following text from a scoliosis mom from Nevada earlier today, whose daughter Jackie had scoliosis surgery with us at Hey Clinic earlier this fall, which she gave me permission to share with all of you:
"Dr Hey-  Jackie is doing GREAT after her surgery!  This is her first regular season game this year.  She is in black.  So hard to get a good action shot!  Hope you got her xrays and that all looked good. Have a great weekend."

It was way back in 1989, while working as a resident for Dr. John Hall, Dr. John Emans and others at Boston Children's Hospital at Harvard that I got the idea of serving patients with scoliosis, kyphosis and other deformities across the whole life spectrum -- not just as children/adolescent (pediatric) or adult.  While I saw the patients at Children's getting great care, there was this awkward period when those scoliosis patients grew up -- either without surgery, who had been observed and/or braced, or patients who had surgery.  Where do they go as an adult?  Do they just find an adult spine surgeon?  Or just do nothing and hope for the best?

No, there should be a better way --- caring for scoliosis and other spinal deformities from age 0 to 100, and developing a long-term relationship with the scoliosis patient and family.  I pursued this vision through pediatric scoliosis training with Dr. Hall, Emans and others at Boston Children's Hospital, and then with adult orthopedic surgery and neurosurgery spine fellowship training at Duke University Medical Center, with Dr. William Richardson, Dr. Dennis Turner, Dr. Wilkins, Dr. Cook, Dr. Alan Friedman and others.  I then joined the faculty at Duke, where I served for almost 10 years, where I focused on serving patients with spinal deformity, including patients with complex revision spinal deformity surgery.  

But it was 10 years ago this week that I moved my practice from Duke Medical Center in Durham to the Duke Raleigh Hospital Campus, and opened up the Hey Clinic for Scoliosis and Spine Surgery -- an independent clinic focused on delivering high quality, compassionate scoliosis care across all ages.  We've served thousands of families since then, helping patients with conservative treatment, minimally invasive treatments, as well as performing thousands of scoliosis surgeries at both Duke Raleigh Hospital, and WakeMed Children's Hospital.  Boy have we learned a lot, and grown a lot, and improved a lot.   We've developed our own custom electronic health record (EHR) for scoliosis, we've had weekly quality improvement meetings every week now for many years, where we apply our our Deming-Inspired Continuous Quality Improvement methodologies to continuously learn and improve -- not just in the clinic, but across the continuum of care.  

I've worked with my SRS colleagues from around the world on developing newer techniques for scoliosis surgery safety, and ways of getting kids, adolescents and adults straighter, and with a better long-term quality of life. The learning never stops.  

After 10 years at Hey Clinic, 19+ years of practice, and 25 years since I was inspired and mentored by Dr. Hall and Emans, I must say that I still love my "job" every day, which doesn't feel like a job at all… just an amazing opportunity to be a part of a really important web of relationships where I can contribute and help make a difference for the long run… and bring a smile to a child, teenager, or even an older adult to get their wish to "Get It Straight!"

Jonathan and his mom standing up straight
going home from WakeMed after 2 months
While I am not a good writer / blogger, and haven't gotten much better at that since high school ( I really didn't have a good high school English experience).   Maybe that's one reason why I went to engineering school, and not liberal arts school!  However, I have definitely always been a "tinkerer" / "fix it" kind of person growing up, and have definitely been blessed to be able to gradually improve/perfect the "craft" of scoliosis care and surgery.  This has come from a constant commitment to continually learn, and continually focus on getting better, not just as the surgeon / craftsman, but also as a team leader and team member.  Great scoliosis care is definitely a team sport, and we've been honing our team both at Hey Clinic and with our hospital and other care partners with a constant effort to make things better and safer over time for our patients and families.

One of my most special memories from 2014 was caring for Jonathan, a 10, now 11 yo boy with a connective tissue disorder, who had a scoliosis and kyphosis over 130 degrees.  He was unable to gain weight since his stomach and intestines were being crushed by his scoliosis and kyphosis.  He also had breathing issues doe to poor lung capacity.  And he also had many previous surgeries with history of infections and lots of scar tissue.  Some medical centers actually turned him down for even considering surgery.  Well, this fall we finished an incredible journey with Jonathan, his amazing family, and the WakeMed Children's Hospital, at the Raleigh Campus.  Jonathan was placed in axial traction for several weeks, actually gained over 14 lbs, had improved pulmonary function and then looked like a completely different kid!  I then fixed his scoliosis this past December, and after some time in the PICU and on the floor, he actually went home the Friday before Christmas, after a huge celebration lunch for Jonathan, his family, and the wonderful WakeMed staff.  This journey is well documented by Jonathan's dad Mike and mom Jennifer on his Caring Bridge site, which his folks said was ok to share with all of you here on the blog: Jonathan is back home now, still gaining weight, and back to school, and off all the narcotics, and always has a big smile.  His incision has healed well, and he is breathing well, and has a whole new posture!

I do thank God, my family, my mentors, SRS and other colleagues, Hey Clinic staff, hospital staff, and all of our patients and families who have made this journey so far absolutely a joy and a blessing.  Many years ago after I was hit by a car and spent months in the hospital with a horrible leg fracture and multiple surgeries, I felt that God was going to take that bad thing and turn it into a good thing where I could use my tinkering gifts to help serve patients --- Hey Clinic has been, and will continue to be a great Living Learning Laboratory to keep working to make that an ever better reality for many patients to come.  I am humbled to see what God has done so far through so many awesome people I've had a chance to know and serve with.  

So for now it's time to go to bed, and get up and round at WakeMed and Duke Raleigh Hospital.  One of my patients actually traveled across the country for a revision scoliosis surgery, and got his wish for a straight spine after 7 years.  While we suggest to our out of state patients seeking scoliosis care to always consider the SRS.ORG website to find a scoliosis surgeon near them, some, like Jackie, and others still choose to make the trip to Hey Clinic.  If they do, we always strive to make it worth the trip by using our compassion, experience, and team-centered quality control processes to deliver the outcome and patient and family experience that brings a smile and lasting results for long-term quality of life, good posture and appearance, as well as curve correction and prevention.

Thanks to all of you who have helped Hey Clinic over these past years in so many ways, including prayer, encouragement, hard work, innovation, service, late nights, early mornings, some sweat… but many smiles and laughs along the way as well.  A big part of the Joy in the Journey is who we get to Journey with!  And you all are a great joy to all of us.

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

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