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Dr. L. Reuven Pasternak

Berlinda crawling before Dr. Wesley Carrion performed surgery on her two clubbed feet at Stony Brook University Hospital. Photo from Steve Kramer

A teen born with two clubbed feet is closer to her dream of walking on her own thanks to the efforts of Long Islanders and Stony Brook University Hospital.

When Steve Kramer, a retired Brookhaven National Laboratory accelerator physicist, traveled to Haiti last year through Life & Hope Haiti, a nonprofit founded by Haitian-American Lucia Anglade, he never knew what a profound impact his trip would have on one student’s life. It was while working at the Eben-Ezer School, built by Anglade in Milot, Haiti, he met 16-year-old Berlinda, who would crawl to get from one spot to another.

Berlinda with Steve Kramer, behind wheelchair, Lucia Anglade, left, and Dr. Wesley Carrion, after her surgery. Photo from Steve Kramer

Moved by her struggles, Kramer reached out to Dr. Wesley Carrion at Stony Brook University School of Medicine’s Department of Orthopaedics about performing surgery to fix Berlinda’s feet. Kramer sent the doctor copies of her X-rays, and Carrion told him he felt he could treat her and rotate the feet. He agreed to do it free of charge, donating his time and equipment.

“We looked at her and felt she had a fairly good chance of standing,” Carrion said.

After Carrion performed surgery on Berlinda in November, fixators — external frames that are attached by pins drilled into leg bones -— were used to rotate her feet to stretch the tendons. After the fixators were in place, Berlinda received outpatient services from the hospital, and she stayed at Anglade’s home on Long Island, according to Kramer.

The fixators were removed March 9 and Berlinda was put in leg casts until March 19. She has been working with physical therapists at the hospital, and while she can stand with braces with help, she has a long way to go before she can stand on her own.

“She was crawling around her village. She was unable to stand, so when we got her up with physical therapy, those were literally her first steps.”

— Dr. Wesley Carrion

Kramer said she has to build up strength, and she feels a lot of pain when she moves her left knee as it is locking up after not being used for months. However, he said she was pleased to be out of the fixators, which caused her pain at times.

Carrion said fixators can be painful, and when Berlinda’s wheelchair would hit bumps, the pain would increase.

“It’s tough when you got these fixator frames on that look like giant tinker toys that you attach to the limbs,” Carrion said. “They’re things that hurt. They’re things that are uncomfortable.”

Carrion said it’s difficult to determine if Berlinda will stand without braces. She had polio and did not receive proper treatment, and also has spina bifida. Carrion said despite a hole in her spinal column, it hasn’t presented any problems.

“If we can get her walking with braces, that’s a huge win,” Carrion said. “She was basically crawling around her village. She was unable to stand, so when we got her up with physical therapy, those were literally her first steps.”

Kramer said the hope is for Berlinda to stay until she completes physical therapy, which will take a few months, since she will receive better treatment in Stony Brook than in Haiti. To help with Berlinda’s airfare and outpatient expenses, Kramer set up a GoFundMe page.

Berlinda and the temporary casts she wore before getting leg braces. Photo from Steve Kramer

He said with money from that account, he can buy physical therapy equipment, like parallel bars so she can practice standing and walking outside of physical therapy treatments.

Kramer said during Berlinda’s stay in New York, it was the first time she saw snow, and he showed her how to make a snowball.

“She knew what to do with it,” Kramer said. “She wanted to throw it at me, and she did.”

Kramer said Berlinda, who will turn 17 April 13, loves learning, and despite attending school for only one year, easily solved basic arithmetic problems when he first met her.

“She never lost that bright smile and willingness to work with whatever she had,” Kramer said, adding that sometimes those with handicaps in her village are shunned and even her siblings have bullied her.

When Kramer first approached Carrion, the doctor informed him that he would also need to get the hospital to donate some of the costs for the November surgery. It was then Kramer reached out to Department of Medicine’s Dr. L. Reuven Pasternak, who serves as vice president for health systems and chief executive officer of Stony Brook University Hospital. Pasternak said requests like Kramer’s to waive charges are not unusual from doctors and members of the community.

“She never lost that bright smile and willingness to work with whatever she had.”

— Steve Kramer

“We do this from time to time, and the way it usually occurs is that a physician encounters somebody, oftentimes overseas, and in the course of doing a medical mission or in their travels,” Pasternak said. “And it’s somebody who has a correctable medical condition that will make a huge impact on their lives.”

While Pasternak was out of town during the surgery and hasn’t met Berlinda yet, he said Kramer and Carrion have kept him informed about her recovery and follow-up treatment.

“It’s a testimony to cooperation and collaboration because it required a lot of people to step up and say that this is important to do and basically volunteer to do it,” he said.

For more information about fundraising efforts to help Berilnda, visit www.gofundme.com/berlindasmiracle. To find out more about Life & Hope Haiti or to get involved, visit www.lifeandhopehaiti.org.

Raising the new Stony Brook Southampton Hospital flag at the celebration to introduce Stony Brook Southampton Hospital, from left, Cary F. Staller, Esq., SUNY Board of Trustees and Stony Brook Foundation Board of Trustees; Ambassador Carl Spielvogel, SUNY Board of Trustees; L. Reuven Pasternak, MD, Chief Executive Officer, Stony Brook University Hospital, and Vice President for Health Systems, Stony Brook Medicine; Kenneth Kaushansky, MD, Senior Vice President, Health Sciences, and Dean, Stony Brook University School of Medicine; Robert S. Chaloner, Chief Administrative Officer, Stony Brook Southampton Hospital; Samuel L. Stanley Jr., MD, President, Stony Brook University; Kenneth P. LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), New York State Senator; Kenneth B. Wright, Chair, Southampton Hospital Association Board; Kathy Hochul, New York State Lieutenant Governor; Fred W. Thiele Jr. (I-Southampton), New York State Assemblyman; Fred Weinbaum, MD, Chief Medical Officer and Chief Operating Officer, Stony Brook Southampton Hospital; and Marc Cohen, SUNY Board of Trustees. Photo from SBU

By L. Reuven Pasternak, M.D.

When hospitals in the same region are able to work together, they can deliver health care to residents in ways that are complementary, efficient and effective.

Dr. L. Reuven Pasternak

We are celebrating a major milestone in the development of the Stony Brook Medicine health system to transform health care on the East End of Long Island. On Aug. 1, Stony Brook finalized an agreement with the 125-bed Southampton Hospital — now called Stony Brook Southampton Hospital — to join as a member of Stony Brook Medicine.

Although Stony Brook and Southampton have been providing health care services to the East End for nearly 10 years, this formal agreement will enable us to improve health care quality and access, coordinate care and improve efficiency for patients through shared resources and managing the flow of patients between the two facilities.

Patients will benefit from this relationship because it helps our hospitals match the level of care provided to the level of care needed in the facility ideally suited to a patient’s needs. It provides patients from eastern Long Island with greater access to Stony Brook Medicine’s specialists, clinical trials and advanced technology, combined with the convenience and personalized care of a community-based hospital.

In the time that it has taken to finalize our agreement, we have successfully collaborated on bringing new services to the East End, the most critical of which is the new cardiac catheterization laboratory, part of the Audrey and Martin Gruss Heart & Stroke Center, which will be the first on Long Island to open east of Route 112, and where clinical operations are scheduled to begin on Sept. 5.

An aerial view of Stony Brook Southhampton Hospital. Photo from SBU

And coming in late 2018 is the new Phillips Family Cancer Center, a facility that will be staffed by both Stony Brook-based physicians and physicians from Southampton and promises to make top-level cancer care more easily accessible to East End residents.

Stony Brook and Southampton have been working collaboratively in our hybrid operating room, which is also part of the Audrey and Martin Gruss Heart & Stroke Center. This specialty operating room, equipped with sophisticated imaging, enables Stony Brook board-certified vascular surgeons to perform minimally invasive interventions to treat abdominal aortic aneurysms, complex peripheral arterial disease, carotid disease and the entire spectrum of vascular conditions.

Additional cardiology services have been established in the East End area. Stony Brook cardiologists Travis Bench, M.D., and Dhaval Patel, M.D., have opened practices at 676 County Road 39A, Southampton, and 600 Main Street, Center Moriches, so that patients with specific types of focused cardiac issues can get care closer to home.

Another important benefit of our agreement is that we now have additional clinical training sites to support the growing class sizes of Stony Brook’s undergraduate and graduate medicine training programs, as well as health technology programs. Graduate medical education programs, including internal medicine, family medicine internship and residency programs, plus osteopathic medicine programs in surgery and transitional year resident programs are currently being offered at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital with additional rotations planned for emergency medicine medical students and residents.

Together we are taking a bold step forward for the advancement of health care as we build on our successful collaborations to better serve the needs of Long Islanders.

Dr. L. Reuven Pasternak is the CEO, Stony Brook University Hospital and vice president for health systems, Stony Brook Medicine.

The front entrance to the new ambulatory care center. Photo from SBU

By L. Reuven Pasternak, M.D.

Dr. L. Reuven Pasternak

As a native Long Islander, I know that we Long Islanders like to have choices and flexibility in many aspects of our lives, and we’re not shy about saying so. Having choices and flexibility in the quality of medical care we receive is certainly no exception.

That is why, on March 1, Stony Brook Medicine opened a new, multispecialty ambulatory care center, Advanced Specialy Care, at 500 Commack Road in Commack. The new center has more than 30 specialties designed to meet the majority of families’ medical needs, all under one roof.

Not only does this provide convenience for you and your family, it provides peace of mind because it means you can expect to receive the high level of expertise and compassionate care Stony Brook Medicine primary care doctors and specialists are known to provide.

And if surgery or other specialty care or access to clinical trials is needed, you can go to Stony Brook University Hospital without any disruption in the continuity of your care. As part of the only academic medical center in Suffolk County, Advanced Specialty Care offers it all.

Stony Brook doctors located in the Commack facility include primary and specialty care internists and pediatricians, gynecologists and obstetricians, dermatologists, orthopedists and urologists, surgeons and neurosurgeons. We also have a complete imaging center on site to provide X-rays, mammograms, ultrasounds, bone densitometry, and CT and MRI scans.

Another indication of how committed we are to serving our patients in western Suffolk and beyond is the sheer size of our state-of-the-art facility. The Advanced Specialty Care center occupies nearly 120,000 square feet of space, with room to expand as additional services are added. The location is just minutes away from the Sunken Meadow Parkway (Sagtikos), the Northern State Parkway and the Long Island Expressway.

We want this to be as close to a one-stop shopping experience as possible for you and your family. Whether it’s for a regular checkup or something more, I hope you will take advantage of having the power of Stony Brook Medicine close by, under one roof, at Advanced Specialty Care in Commack.

Dr. L. Reuven Pasternak is CEO at Stony Brook University Hospital and vice president for health systems at Stony Brook Medicine.

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