A patient from the Dominican Republic is giving new meaning to the term “medical tourism.”
Although Nancy Florentino lives in the Dominican Republic, she is well known at Hospital for Special Surgery’s International Center. The fit and attractive mother of two has been to the hospital numerous times and says she wouldn’t go anywhere else for orthopedic care.
Nancy first learned about HSS four years ago when her husband, José, came to the hospital for a foot injury that left him in constant pain. Once an avid tennis player, he had to put his favorite sport on hold. For two years, he searched for the right diagnosis and treatment in Santo Domingo, seeing several orthopedic surgeons to no avail. By the time he learned about HSS from a friend, even walking was painful.
José saw Dr. Andrew Elliott, a foot and ankle specialist at HSS, who performed surgery to relieve a painful bone spur and repair his injured Achilles tendon. Within 10 months, José was playing tennis and is now pain-free. “We’re so grateful for the care he received,” Nancy says. “Who knows what would’ve happened. My husband would probably be walking with a cane.”
Meanwhile, Nancy had a serious problem of her own. In 1990, she was in a car accident and suffered a broken leg. Over the years, she experienced increasing pain in her knee. She later found out that the surgeon who set her broken bone in the Dominican Republic did not align it properly. Because of the way it healed, it started causing problems. In 2006, she had a knee arthroscopy with Dr. Stephen Fealy at HSS. “He was very nice, and I have referred patients to him,” Nancy says.
Her knee was starting to bother her again. In 2008, she came back to New York and was referred to Dr. Rozbruch, chief of the Institute for Limb Lengthening and Complex Reconstruction. He performed an operation called a tibial osteotomy, in which he made a small cut in her bone, the first step to realign it properly and relieve the stress on her knee. After the operation, Nancy wore a frame on her leg for three months, the time it took for her bone to heal properly and be realigned.
The procedure was a success and she was able to resume exercising and other activities she enjoyed without being sidelined by pain. “It was worth it, now my leg is normal. The pain is gone, and I’m back to my active life,” she says.
“The problem with Nancy’s leg caused extra stress on her knee, and she developed premature arthritis at a young age. Many doctors had no solution,” Dr. Rozbruch explained. “I offered her an approach that preserved her joint, corrected the deformity and ended her knee pain. It will also prevent the progression of arthritis in her knee. I feel really good that I have been able to offer her this unique and effective solution, and I feel very proud that she came all the way here to see me and have treatment at HSS.”
Nancy speaks highly of Dr. Rozbruch. “He makes me feel like a ‘VIP’ patient. He spends a lot of time with me, answering every question. If I have another health problem, he refers me to other doctors, even calling them to explain my problem. You don’t see that very often. He is very professional.”
Nancy is so happy with the care she received at HSS, she has recommended the hospital to about 20 people from the Dominican Republic in the past four years. “I’ve lost count,” she says. She has recommended the hospital to friends, family members, friends of friends, even people she met at her gym who had an orthopedic problem.
“After I was able to find a solution to the problem I had for so many years, I knew I had to do something to help others in a similar situation.” Nancy tells people about the excellent care she and her husband received at HSS, referring them to the International Center, where someone is always available to speak Spanish to the caller.
“The International Center is excellent. Whenever I come to New York, I feel like I’m part of the HSS family. The staff is so kind and supportive.” “They treat you like a family member, trying to help you any way they can.” says Nancy.
A few years ago, she referred a 75-year-old Dominican business man with a shoulder problem. One day when she saw him, his arm was in a sling and he couldn’t move it. She convinced him to travel to New York to see Dr. Fealy at HSS. Dr. Fealy performed shoulder surgery, and the next time Nancy saw her friend, the pain was gone and he had complete range of motion. He was delighted with the care he received.
Not everyone Nancy refers to HSS ends up needing surgery. After her friend was told her 11-year-old son needed an operation, Nancy suggested they go to HSS for a second opinion. The family found out the boy’s problem could be relieved with conservative treatment, and surgery was not necessary.
“It’s always a pleasure to welcome Nancy when she comes to the hospital for follow-up care,” says Liz Cobena of the International Center. “We always feel a tremendous sense of satisfaction when we can help patients with complicated problems who were not able to get the care they needed in their own country.”
Nancy says she will continue to refer patients to HSS. “It makes me happy knowing I can help somebody else.”
Anyone who would like more information is invited to contact the International Center.