Surgeon Optimistic He Can Save G.I.'s Leg from Amputation

Daily News—NEW YORK—October 16, 2007

On the sunny glory that was Monday in a city that bustled obliviously as if we were not at war, Army Capt. Brian Jantzen awaited the operation he hopes will save his right leg.

"I'd like to keep it," Jantzen said.

He spoke with a quiet evenness without a hint of self-pity, a true soldier in a blue hospital gown. He had come to Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan because a doctor here saw a chance worth taking.

The 29-year-old Jantzen reached down and pointed to just below where his right leg had been shaved in preparation for the operation he hopes will keep him whole.

Both his bared legs bore serious scars from his wounds and from the numerous surgeries he had undergone in Iraq and then Germany and then Walter Reed.

The left leg was doing well and Jantzen, of northern Virginia, had only the highest praise for Walter Reed, in particular for his highly skilled and experienced surgeon there.

The Walter Reed surgeon seemed to have done all he could for the right leg, and Jantzen went on a Wounded Warrior trip to Florida in part to observe how the amputees coped.

A second Wounded Warrior trip in June brought him to New York and to Ground Zero. The significance would be clear to anyone who heard his immediate answer when asked why he had enlisted.

"9/11."

Jantzen happened to meet retired Firefighter Flip Mullen. The two fell to talking and Mullen questioned Jantzen about his wounds and the prognosis.

"He said, 'I know a doctor ...'" Jantzen recalled.

Mullen's work with Wounded Warrior, a nonprofit group that aids severely injured service members, had won him an award as one of Irish America magazine's Top 100 Irish-Americans, and his fellow honorees included Dr. John Kennedy of Hospital for Special Surgery.

Kennedy was a one-time star athlete who had become a star sports surgeon, treating players for the Giants among others. He was being honored for traveling each year to Santo Domingo to treat the poor. He told Mullen he was also ready to do what he could for wounded soldiers who might want a second opinion.

Mullen took Jantzen to see Kennedy, who decided he just might be able to do something about the right leg.

"In our experience, we've found something like this can be treated, to give him realistic hope he can save his leg," Kennedy said Monday.

Kennedy was careful to note, "The guys in Walter Reed do a brilliant job. ... We're in no way trying to look better than they are."

Late yesterday afternoon, Brian Jantzen and his mother, Georgann Jantzen, arrived at Special Surgery on the upper East Side, tucked behind Sotheby's and the big Grace Kelly exhibition.

In the early evening, Jantzen was taken into the operating theater. Kennedy went to work with his colleague Dr. Austin Fragomen. Kennedy could offer no guarantees, but the night ended with word that the operation had gone well.
 
Read the full story in the New York Daily News.

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