An International Accident, and the Total Joint Center’s Excellence Under Pressure
When Stacey and Gene Mihaly were on a biking holiday in Sweden several years ago, they never expected they were rolling into an accident that would include international negotiations, a proprietary Swedish medical instrument, a pandemic, a call to a senator, and the deft skills of Derek Jenkins, MD at the Total Joint Center at the Miriam Hospital.
“Gene and I were biking in Sweden, and I ended up having a pretty bad biking accident as I tried to avoid a car that crossed the bike path,” said Stacey. “I went down on my left side and broke my hip. The pain was excruciating.”
“It’s easy to perform well under the best conditions. But what do you do when everything goes wrong? That’s where you get to really show what you’re made of.” -Derek Jenkins, MD
An ambulance rushed the Mihaly couple to a hospital in Helsingborg, where x-rays showed a clear fracture. “My options were to have my hip either pinned or replaced. Each carried implications for post operative care, both in Sweden and when we came home," said Stacey. "Because I knew Dr. Jenkins from his excellent care of my mom, I literally called him from the emergency room and asked him what he recommended. My husband was able to text him my x-rays then and there. Because the US and Sweden used different hip hardware at the time, Dr. Jenkins suggested the pinning. When I was back in Rhode Island a week later, he started me in physical therapy. And Dr. Jenkins has been by my side ever since.”
A Specialized Tool for a Unique Procedure
For a while, the pinned hip held up just fine. That is, until arthritis settled in, and steroid injections to relieve the pain no longer were effective. A hip replacement was clearly going to be in her future. That’s when the Mihalys remembered the words from her Swedish surgeon: “if you ever need to have your hip replaced, make sure your doctor has the right extraction tool for the pins, or – I’m not sure how you say this in English – he will destroy you.”
Easier said than done.
The emerging COVID-19 pandemic created a host of supply chain problems, one of them being that a US-manufactured tool that might approximate the Swedish tool was unavailable for the foreseeable future. Dr. Jenkins and the Mihalys spoke at length about what would need to happen to have the extraction tool shipped from Sweden.
Stacey's husband combed through the paperwork from his wife's surgery, which described the pins and who the manufacturer was. Medical regulations in both countries precluded the purchase of the extraction tool outright. Through a contact provided by the manufacturer, he connected with a Swedish surgeon and the doctor volunteered to ship one directly to them, to be returned after the surgery.
A call to Senator Jack Reed helped to expedite an FDA assessment of whether the tool could be allowed into the United States. Once given the green light, the special tool, after weeks of research and international communications, wound up in the couple’s hands.
International Collaboration during a Pandemic
There was still one last crucial step, which took place via Zoom: Dr. Jenkins was trained by his Swedish colleague how to use the special extraction device.
By this time, however, the pandemic was causing non-emergency surgeries to be postponed.
“The story itself is just unbelievable with everything that we went through to make it happen,” said Dr. Jenkins.
After two postponements spanning months, Dr. Jenkins and Stacey were finally able to proceed with what amounted to a two-in-one surgery: the removal of the pins and then a successful total hip replacement. “My heroes are truly my husband and my surgeon,” said Stacey. “They both left no stone unturned.”
She found that the exemplary work of her entire care team at The Miriam Hospital made a huge difference to her overall experience. “I always heard people say that The Miriam was their hospital, and now, having experienced its care firsthand, I understand why. That’s a very special place of healing.”
Traveling the World Again
Since the procedure, she has slowly but surely gotten back up to speed through physical therapy and follow-up visits with her doctor. The Mihalys have even traveled internationally again.
Her case is just one example of the work Dr. Jenkins and the Total Joint Center do every day.
“Even though we were challenged, we continued to provide the best possible patient care,” Dr. Jenkins said of the work the center performed during the pandemic. “It’s easy to perform well under the best conditions. But what do you do when everything goes wrong? That’s where you get to really show what you’re made of.”
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