Stephen's Story

Man Praises Exceptional Experience at University Hospitals After Traveling from Out of State for a Hernia Repair

As a trained Registered Nurse (RN) and licensed social worker, Stephen Knezek, 67, has 25 years of experience in health care. A resident of New Haven, Conn., he is semi-retired, very physically active, and has enjoyed good health for most of his life. However, you can imagine his concern in November 2012 when he began having chills and abdominal pain at night.

Although his lab work was normal, local doctors performed a computerized tomography (CT, or CAT scan) of Stephen’s head, abdomen and legs, only to discover gallstones and a very infected gallbladder.

After an unsuccessful attempt to remove the gallstones through a throat tube, doctors scheduled surgery on December 26, 2012. By this time, Stephen was so sick they were forced to perform an open surgery, which took six hours, in order to remove the gallbladder and fully clean out the infection.

“I was healing well until I noticed a bulging at the incision site in May 2013,” Stephen said. “I found out that I had developed a massive incisional or ventral hernia.”

Advanced Hernia Condition Requires Surgical Repair

A ventral hernia is a bulging or tear of the abdominal wall and is often the result of surgery. Stephen’s physicians encouraged him to wear a support device, expecting the bulging would diminish over time.

Instead of diminishing, Stephen’s hernia worsened and grew larger. In the summer of 2013, it was unmanageable. “At that point, I was 65 and on Medicare, and surgery was approved to repair the hernia. I was scheduled in September 2013 with a different surgeon to repair my large ventral hernia.”

While most ventral hernias are maybe an inch, Stephen’s hernia was now 6 inches by 5 inches, very large and a more difficult repair. The surgeon used mesh to repair the ventral hernia and felt it was a successful solution. Stephen tried to move on with his life, but the bulging wasn’t any better. In fact, the mesh actually tore his muscles, and shifted in the process.

Stephen’s Local Surgeon Refers Him to Cleveland Hernia Specialist

Knowing it would take an advanced solution to get the now more complex condition repaired, Stephen’s local surgeon remembered Yuri Novitsky, MD, a prominent surgeon at University Hospitals’ Comprehensive Hernia Center in Cleveland, Ohio. Dr. Novitsky has performed a significant number of complex ventral hernia repairs and continues to develop novel and beneficial surgical techniques as well as research modern surgical mesh materials. As a result, Dr Novitsky is able to offer the most advanced repair techniques utilizing superior mesh products. Stephen’s local doctor agreed to coordinate the care with Dr. Novitsky and to provide follow-up care after the surgery.

Dr. Novitsky responded very quickly to the request and answered all of Stephen’s questions. Additionally, he asked Stephen to take pictures of his hernia and worked with the local surgeon to fully review his surgical history.

Dr. Novitsky informed Stephen that he had repaired even more complex conditions, and that he believed Stephen had a 90 percent chance of full repair.

Excellent Support from Concierge Services

Stephen and his wife, Victoria, used the concierge service at UH to set up all of the details for his surgery, including travel accommodations and reservations for his wife at a hotel convenient to University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center. “Our concierge specialist, Sandra Hendking, was amazing and tremendously helpful,” Stephen said. “She made all of the out-of-town arrangements and helped us with flights, hotels and even made sure Victoria had access to shuttles to the hospital. We didn’t have to worry about a thing.”

Surgical Success

“When my wife Victoria and I arrived in Cleveland to check in at University Hospitals, everything was flawless. People went out of their way to make it easy for us. The pre-op was perfect and the surgery was successful, albeit complex with a 12-inch scar.”

When Stephen woke up from the surgery, the first thing he did was look at his abdomen. He was thrilled that it was flat. The mesh from the previous surgery had actually bunched up and the rough side was exposed and irritating his intestines. He had been at risk of an intestinal rupture without this surgery.

Stephen said everyone at UH was so supportive, especially of Victoria, who was with him during the entire process. She was kept informed of Stephen’s status at all times and everyone was positive and considerate to both of them.

“The UH facilities were exceptional compared to my two stays at other teaching hospitals. It was like comparing a 2-star to a 5-star hotel,” Stephen added.

Expert Teamwork at University Hospitals

Finally resolving a difficult health situation, Stephen is so appreciative of the outstanding care at UH, including the excellent nursing care on all shifts. They helped with pain management and answered all of his questions. He is especially grateful to Dr. Novitsky and his local doctor who was able to recommend a surgeon that could help him with such a complex medical condition. With his hernia finally repaired, Stephen vows to do everything he can to continue to recover and be proactive about his health.