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Members in the News | 'Perfect Storm' Helps Amputee Receive New Leg

Both doctor and patient see the hand of God in a series of coincidences that changed the life of a man from the Dominican Republic.

“I’m a firm believer that things happen for a reason,” said SVS member Dr. Richard Lynn.

The coincidences began more than a year ago, when Dr. Lynn and his wife Margrit won a stay at a resort in the Dominican Republic. Though the prize had expired, the bilingual Dr. Lynn called the resort to see if it could still be honored. He reached Arturo Guerrero Castillo, who passed the request on. The certificate ultimately was honored and soon Dr. Lynn talked with Castillo again. Castillo, discovering Dr. Lynn is a surgeon, told him of a colleague he was trying to help, Graviel Jacobo, who had lost his leg 20 years earlier at age 6 and whose prosthesis was failing. Dr. Lynn said he would be happy to see what he could do.  

The long-ago accident occurred when a very hungry, young Jacobo had walked to the railyard to see if he could get some sugar cane to eat. Taking sugar from a train cart dislodged the cart, which moved and crushed the small boy’s leg. “It’s a miracle he didn’t bleed to death,” said Dr. Lynn. “It was a very high amputation, almost like a disarticulation.”

“It was really hard for me,” said Jacobo of the accident and its aftermath. “My school was about 30 minutes away in walking distance and I used to walk every day on crutches.”

In 2007, a group of missionaries from Springfield, Mass., visiting through a hospital in La Romana Dominican Republic, met Jacobo and arranged for him to get a new leg at the Shriners Hospital for Children in Massachusetts. “After using the crutches for so many years, I was really happy,” said Jacobo. “I was born again that day.”

He received a replacement leg three years later, which broke earlier this year.  

During the resort stay in late May of this year, Dr. Lynn assessed the situation, including the existing prosthesis. “It was broken in two or three places, including by the knee and foot. He’d been compensating by limping,” said Dr. Lynn.

No places in (Santa) Domingo could do the work and taking him elsewhere was cost-prohibitive.

Dr. Lynn told Castillo and Jacobo he could make not promises, but would see if he could get help when back in the states, and while attending the then-upcoming Vascular Annual Meeting.

Then:

•    Dr. Lynn looked up exhibitor information for VAM and noted two companies involved with prosthetic work would be in attendance.

•    While researching online, he discovered that two longtime SVS members’ practices – those of Drs. Carlo Dall’Olmo and William Edwards, Jr., both of whom he knows – partner with one of the companies, Amputee Associates LLC. in Nashville.  

•    Dr. Lynn contacted both fellow surgeons, who put him in touch with company CEO Ted MacDonald. The two made plans to meet at the firm’s VAM booth.

•    Amputee Associates agreed to donate the cost of the prosthesis and care if airfare and food could be covered. An anonymous donor agreed to provide those costs.  

•    Jacobo flew to Savannah Vascular & Cardiac Care Institute in Savannah, Ga., in August. The company proceeded to build him a new prosthesis, fit him and provide rehabilitation.

“Then he goes back to the Dominican Republic like he never had a problem in his life,” said Dr. Lynn.

Jacobo is thrilled with his new leg and the continuing help he is receiving via email and phone calls. “I thank God every day for his blessing, which I was not expecting,” he said.

Dr. Lynn called the situation a “perfect storm,” including the humanitarian collaboration between industry and community doctors. No one involved received compensation, he noted. “The only one who benefited here was the patient.”  

Like Jacobo, Dr. Lynn is thrilled with both the outcome and the number of people who reached out to help. “There’s no amount of money I could have been paid for the sense of pride I have from being able to help,” he said.

“And I didn’t do it alone. It took a lot of people,” Dr. Lynn said, adding, “Mostly God.”

(To see all of the SVS news from the December 2016 Vascular Specialist, please click here.)