NEW LONDON, CT — Amidst a pandemic with ever-escalating numbers, Lawrence + Memorial Hospital offers a quiet oasis for care in their ambulatory surgical care center, the Pequot Health Center, which just recently started offering neurosurgical services.
The Pequot Health Center is one of many ambulatory care centers introduced in the last decade to offer a faster, more cost-effective alternative for patients after advances in technology made surgeries less complicated to perform and less painful.
These health centers have many benefits. For one, they’re less expensive to operate than hospitals. For another, patients spend less time in a care setting and more time recovering from the comfort of their home. And during the COVID-19 pandemic, they offer an additional benefit: they reduce a patients’ risk to exposure since they don’t have to go to a hospital where coronavirus patients are being treated.
Caryn Turchi, a Middlesex County resident, became one of the first neurosurgical patients in the Pequot Health Center in December 2020. Numbness and pain shot through her thumb, index, and middle fingers off and on for years. However, like many, she sits at a desk all day for her job and chalked her symptoms up to bad posture.
But one day last summer, after working in her garden, she suddenly felt a terrible pain in her right hand. “I could not even open a jar of peanut butter,” she recalls. Caryn saw a physiotherapist, who suggested her symptoms were severe enough that she should see a surgeon before starting any treatment.
The surgeon diagnosed her with spinal cord compression coming from her neck (formally called cervical myelopathy). due to a herniated disc.
Without surgery, she would develop progressively weaker arms and hands, and they would eventually become permanently paralyzed. Caryn was also told that if she were to slip and fall, jarring her neck, she could become paralyzed or even die.
She spoke to Yale assistant professor of clinical neurosurgery Dr. Patrick Doherty, MD, who is also chief of neurosurgery at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital for a second opinion and ended up picking him as her surgeon.
When she went into the Pequot Health Center that morning at 6 am, she was the only patient there. “I was their priority. It was very nice,” she recalls. After the 90-minute procedure, in which Dr. Doherty performed a cervical discectomy and fusion, she was discharged by 1 pm.
While her neck was sore for a few weeks because of the surgery itself, and she needs physiotherapy to retrain her neck muscles, the numbness and pain in her hands is entirely gone. Caryn feels great and expects to be back at work as early as February.
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