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First Spine Surgery in Belize Print E-mail
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Written by Shane D. Williams   
Thursday, 30 August 2012 00:00

Dr. Joel Cervantes performes first spine surgeryFive Weeks after the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital’s Director of Medical Services, Dr. Adrian Coye, performed the first open heart surgeries in Belize the hospital’s Chief of Neurosurgery and Spine Surgery, Dr. Joel Cervantes, performed the first Scoliosis Surgery in Belize’s history. 

On Wednesday, August 22nd, Dr. Joel Cervantes and his team partnered with a team of specialist from the United States and Canada to execute the first twisted spine correction surgery inside the KHMH. The patient was a 13-year-old girl, whose scoliosis was at a stage where surgery was the only treatment option. Scoliosis is a medical condition in which a person's spine is curved from side to side. The spine of an individual with scoliosis may look more like an "S" or a "C", rather than a straight line. Surgery is usually recommended by orthopedists for curves with a high likelihood of progression-those greater than 45 to 50° magnitude. Those are curves that would be considered as cosmetically unacceptable for an adult.

According to the KHMH, the surgery would not have been possible without the donations made by NuVasive Spine Foundation and Amedica. NuVasive donated spinal implants used in the surgery that cost upwards of US$50,000. They also donated a cell-saver machine that allows the collection and return of a patient’s own blood in cases where large amounts of blood loss is possible. Amedica donated instruments and implants valued at US$100,000.

The members of the Belizean team that participated in the first scoliosis surgery in Belize are Dr. Joel Cervantes, Anaesthetist Dr. Ruben Pineda; George Arthurs, Frank Lorenzo; Intensivist/ Internists Drs. Jorge Hidalgo and Pedro Arriaga; Chief of Pediatrics Dr. Mirta Ochoa; Sister Alicia Moody; Respiratory Therapist Rocio Giron and Mark Cargill among others. The North American team was led by Ms. Keri George of Alberta, Canada. It also included Dr. John Williams, Dr. Andrew Moulton, Jarrett Self, Mary Dietz and Caitlyn McCullough; all of different cities across the United States. 

The surgeries were made possible through the partnership of KHMH, the Belize Spine Program (BSP) and the Resources for Medical Education and Collaboration (RMEC). RMEC is a US based non-profit organization, which collaborates with BSP to bring sustainable access to spine care for the Belizean population. The mission of the Belize Spine Program is to provide quality patient care, education for physicians and staff at KHMH and to provide technology that would otherwise not be available.