Dr. Manolescu demonstrates the state-of-the-art microscope funded by Covenant Foundation Lottery ticket purchasers for the Misericordia OR
Thanks to Albertans who purchased Covenant Foundation Lottery tickets, Covenant Health patients needing spine surgery are benefiting from a state-of-the-art microscope that has transformed care at the Misericordia Community Hospital, reducing infection risks and speeding recovery times.
Jackie Van Heukelom was one such patient, who up until two years ago suffered from debilitating back and sciatic pain that significantly impacted her life.
“I used to walk my two dogs; I had not walked them since 2018,” says Jackie. “I quit shopping because I couldn’t stand in line at the store, and I stopped doing housework. I would come home from work and just sit on the couch – I had no quality of life.”
Jackie says it got so bad that she was walking almost at a 45-degree angle for a year. “If I tried to stand up straight, I had to bend my knee.”
All that changed when she had minimally invasive spine surgery last December at the Misericordia Community Hospital.
“It was a night and day difference,” says Jackie. “When I woke up, my sciatic pain from my buttocks down to my leg was instantly gone and has not come back. It was a 100 per cent turnaround for me. I’m so happy!”
Jackie was operated on by Dr. Andrei Manolescu, an orthopedic and spine surgeon who performed a fusion and decompression on the two lowest vertebrae of Jackie’s lumbar spine using the new lottery-funded, next-generation microscope.
With the microscope’s enhanced, high-density image quality, Dr. Manolescu was able to get a more precise view of Jackie’s spine.
“The microsurgery microscope allows me to employ minimally invasive surgical approaches to the spine, and as such preserving the muscles and tendons. I can access the spine with less invasiveness, which translates into less blood loss, less chance of infection and faster recovery within the first year after surgery.”
He adds that use of the equipment results in a significantly reduced recovery time for patients. “They have faster functional recovery within the first year when comparing to the traditional open spine surgery.”
April Grindheim, Covenant Foundation philanthropy officer, is grateful for the lottery supporters who helped fund the multidisciplinary microsurgery microscope, which cost over $350,000 and makes surgeries like Jackie’s possible.
“Together with our Covenant Foundation Lottery supporters, we’re transforming care for Albertans, including helping to fund the development of centres of excellence such as the one for minimally invasive spine surgery at the Misericordia Community Hospital,” says April. “This year is the 30th anniversary of our lottery and we’re excited to celebrate 30-years of life-changing wins – not only our lucky lottery winners but also patients like Jackie who have benefited over the past three decades.”
Jackie Van Heukelom stands outside the Covenant Foundation Lottery 2022 Dream Home
Jackie walks her dog, Jasmine
Jackie recently returned to her administrative assistant role with the Government of Alberta after three months of recovery. She says her progress has been slow and steady.
“I still sit with an extra cushion on my couch, but I’m able to stand and walk longer, sleep through the night without waking up in pain.” And she is able to walk her dogs again.
Carol Price, operating room program manager at the Misericordia hospital, says the new equipment has the capability to treat both cervical and thoracic spine disease, as well as help surgeons perform other procedures.
“The addition of this innovative technology will enhance experiences of patients who are undergoing breast reconstruction utilizing their own tissue, as well as enable us to be known as a centre of excellence for our spine surgery program,” says Carol.
She adds that the leading-edge microscope will be an important teaching and training tool for surgical residents, fellows and nursing staff.
For Jackie, the surgery has been “life transforming” and has opened up a whole new world for her. “My doctor said to give it six months and to let pain be my guide. I’m looking forward to going back to the gym, riding my bike – maybe even doing something wild like dancing!”
Written by: Karen Cho
To help us equip Covenant teams with the leading-edge tools they need such as microsurgery microscopes, please visit our online donation page.