Patient Stories

A United Family Story of Care from the Heart

Amazing Orthopedic Team Creates a True Life Outlook Reversal for a Spinal Fracture Patient

In July, 1998, former Chinese women’s gymnastics team member Sang Lan fractured her spine in a serious accident while warming up on the vault during the 1998 Goodwill Games in Uniondale, NY, leaving her paralyzed from mid-chest down at age 17. For those dealing with a cervical fracture, like Sang Lan at that time, it is often a deeply daunting life prospect as victims immediately feel they face life-long paralysis. The initial physical damage very often gives way to deep emotional and psychological pain as well, when faced with such a challenge.

The same type of cervical fracture also happened to David, (name changed to protect real patient’s privacy). David, who comes from Germany, fortunately faced a much different destiny than Sang Lan, thanks to the medical team at Beijing United Family Hospital (BJU). Arriving at 8pm on December 6, 2017, David underwent emergency spinal surgery to address cervical fractures that left him paralyzed from the neck down. The amazing result, only one day after the surgery, was that he could move his fingers and toes while lying on the bed in the recovery room. After an exhaustive uphill battle to help David through a very difficult spinal surgery, the orthopedic team of Beijing United Family Hospital produced tremendous results for this patient, creating a miracle of life.

A Bad Fall Leads to UFH’s Emergency Room for This German Patient

David experienced a bad fall during a visit to Luoyang, dislocating his upper spine, leaving him paralyzed. After 5 days in a local hospital, his insurance company intended to evacuate him back to Germany through International SOS. However, taking into account the nature of the injury and that transporting him such a long distance might endanger his life, the insurance company decided instead to transfer him to Beijing United Family Hospital for treatment.

At BJU, 57 year-old David was also found to be diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis (AS), a type of severe debilitative arthritis without a cure that can eventually lead to immobility. It is sometimes called “undead cancer” in Chinese, as it can lead to partial or full paralysis, but not necessarily death. Patients with this disease often develop a severe physical disability in the absence of systematic treatment, seriously impacting their life and work. Beijing United Family Hospital’s Department Chair of Orthopedics, Dr. Jike Lu, described that before the accident, due to the disease David’s spine was already very brittle and easy to break like bamboo. David’s wife said the accident occurred in the evening when he was crossing a parking lot and accidentally slipped and hit his head on a car. After initial tests, David’s cervical vertebra numbers 2 and 3 were both found to be fractured.

On December 5, 2017, David arrived at Beijing United Family Hospital, 5 days after the accident. After being diagnosed with AS which was found to lead to this central spinal cord injury, it was clear to David that the situation was extremely serious, and that he was facing full body paralysis perhaps for his entire life. It was understood and discussed with the medical team that if emergency surgery was not performed immediately, the disease could further cause lung infection, urinary tract infection, lead to bed sores, or cause other issues which might threaten his life at any given time, let alone the spinal fracture potentially leading to respiratory arrest.

Only One Day after Surgery His Toes Could Move, Seeing an Overnight Reversal of Fortune

On David’s first day at BJU, the physician and medical team immediately conducted a thorough examination. Time is life! Therefore, the whole hospital worked together in a rapid fashion to line up everything and get David ready to undergo emergency surgery by the very next day. Not only did a full complement of medical and surgical staff become available to assist with the surgery, but BJU’s Department of Medical Equipment properly and promptly provided all the necessary orthopedic spinal surgery equipment. This included some very special surgical equipment, such as a posterior cervical retractor, non-invasive anterior cervical instruments, and other special equipment for such a complex surgery. Dr. Lu Jike, together with some of China’s top spinal surgery specialists invited in from Tianjin, took on the big responsibility of this operation, clearly discussing all the ramifications and options of the surgical plan to make sure everyone was on the same page.

The operation ended at 3am on December 7. Later that very same day, David, who was not able to independently move his extremities before surgery, was not only able to sit up with a bit of support, but was able to also move his toes and shoulders all on his own.

David’s wife excitedly noted that David’s hand also moved a bit right after surgery, which was completely impossible pre-operation. Understanding that a full recovery would take very a long time, the patient was surprised to wake up and see the progress. Some of his first words upon recovery were, “Everything is getting better and better, it’s a lot better than before!”

Sophisticated Spinal Surgery Bed Plays a Key Role

An important piece of equipment made a critical difference for this patient to have a successful operation. The special orthopedic Jackson-table Spine Surgery Bed had been previously purchased and was available for just such situations, at an investment of over RMB one million by Beijing United Family Hospital. The Jackson-table Spine Surgery Bed is almost exclusively used for spinal surgery, as it can be set in different positions according to the severity of the spine, thoracic and lumbar vertebras injury. Its special functions mean patients are safely moved during surgery in a way that provides maximum safety and security.

By using this special surgery bed, Dr. Jike Lu conducted posterior decompression, fixation and bone graft fusion, all while turning Mr. David through nearly 360-degrees of positions, without any negative pressure or effect on the cervical spine. By the end of the operation around 3 am the next morning, the surgical team was not only able to stabilize the spine and relieve the compression, but it also was able to prevent possible complications in the future.

Multidisciplinary Teams Worked Seamlessly to Maximize the Patient’s Safety

The very effective collaboration between multidisciplinary teams of medical personnel at Beijing United Family Hospital has been praised in the past by both patients and industry professionals alike. This successful procedure and treatment for David highlights the advantages of such multidisciplinary collaboration within BJU.

Orthopedic Department Chair Dr. Jike Lu, who hails from Australia, has 30 years of experience in orthopedic clinical practice. He is known as an authoritative expert in spinal cord injury and paralysis. He has conducted in-depth research and published extensively on spinal cord injuries, publishing more than 60 articles on spine, spinal cord, and limb injuries in globally-renowned orthopedic scientific journals such as Spine, Spinal Cord, Cell Transplantation, Brain, Brain Research, Ankle, and American Orthopedics, among others.

Dr. Liu Wei, Chair of BJU’s Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Management, carefully designed the anesthesia program for Mr. David before his surgery. Dr. Liu not only has superb skills, but also remained inside the operating room during the entire surgery, ready to deal with any possible situations that could potentially arise. “The contribution from the anesthesiology team is unforgettable,” said Dr. Jike Lu. “If there had been no good anesthesiologist there, the operation couldn’t have been completed successfully,” he said.

In addition, Beijing United Family Hospital’s Chief Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine Specialist, Dr. Sahba Maani, was involved in the preoperative discussion with the orthopedic surgery team. Dr. Maani and his team made sure the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) was on standby and ready to go from the time the patient was admitted, throughout the operation, and through recovery.

An experienced, fully-trained, and fully-equipped nursing team was assisting at all times, lead by OR Head Nurse Ge Rui. Nurse Ge and her team stayed up all night to remain at David’s side, there for anything he or his family needed.

Physical therapists later helped David to conduct immediate joint rehabilitation exercises, practicing joint and muscle activity right after surgery. Beginning rehab right after surgery can accelerate a patient’s recovery time.

“We have great confidence in United Family Hospital,” said David’s wife. “Even in Germany, I do not think it could be better than this.” she said. She went on to compliment BJU on not only the satisfactory surgical results, but also the full range of postoperative care Mr. David received.

The professionalism of the physician team, the dedication of the nursing team, the solidarity and collaboration among the multi-disciplined teams, the timely use of high-tech equipment, showed both the hardware and software of the hospital that combined for success. In this life relay race, the Orthopedics team at Beijing United Family Hospital moved way out in front for David, passing on the baton of life to David himself, allowing him to continue on to amazing success and glory!

Orthopedics at Beijing United Family Hospital (BJU)

The Department of Orthopedics at Beijing United Family Hospital is chaired by Dr. Jike Lu, an Australian orthopedic surgeon and an expert in trauma, spine surgery, and joint arthroplasty. It is comprised of a team of experts and specialists that hold an international level of distinction in modern orthopedic surgery. We are dedicated to providing our patients with the full spectrum of high-quality orthopedic primary and subspecialty services.

Our services include, but are not limited to:

  • Trauma surgery (Fracture, dislocation, injury of neurovascular soft tissues)
  • Joint surgery (Shoulder, elbow, wrist, hip, knee, ankle)
  • Spine surgery (Cervical vertebra, thoracic vertebra, lumbar vertebra, sacral vertebra)
  • Hand surgery
  • Foot and ankle surgery
  • Pediatric orthopedic surgery
  • Orthopedic oncology
  • Sports medicine
  • Manual physical therapy
  • Treatment of osteoporosis

Honeymoon Dental Emergency

I live [abroad] and suffered severe toothache on the plane on my way to Beijing for a holiday (honeymoon). I was traveling with Great Rail Journeys and while we were waiting at Hong Kong airport, where we had to change planes, they contacted the local tour guide in Beijing to request assistance.

By the time I arrived at Beijing airport the local tour guide had made an appointment for me to visit the dental clinic in a couple of hours time. I went straight to the hospital from the airport. The hospital/dental clinic was immaculate and everyone spoke perfect English making it easy for me to be understood.

I was actually seen half an hour earlier than the initial appointment time. The nurses, who spoke with me about my symptoms and who took the x rays were very helpful and efficient. The dentist Dr Yang was fantastic. She worked quickly and very thoroughly and explained all the time what she was doing.

She explained the treatment I would need when I returned to my home town. She very helpfully followed this up by emailing me the x rays and the medical report so that I could send this on to my dentist. The service throughout was fabulous. I finished the course of antibiotics and had absolutely no problem with my teeth for the remainder of my very enjoyable holiday.

I cannot speak highly enough about the excellent service I received in China. Within 4 hours of landing at Beijing airport I had been seen by the dentist, had x rays and over an hour’s treatment and was back at my hotel with painkillers and antibiotics! My sincere thanks to everyone who was involved in my care on the 2nd September. I am very grateful.

-Ms Tilson

We’re There When You Need Us

A recent letter from a patient who experienced an unexpected medical emergency:

Dear UFH staff,

I cannot say enough good about United Family Healthcare hospital and the way that I was treated from all of your staff. I wrote several “Letters of Appreciation” for Dr. Bai, many of the nurses and for my Physical Therapist – Ma Huan Huan before I left. Unfortunately, I did not have enough time before I left the hospital for the United States to complete “Letters of Appreciation” for my Dietician Carlynn Sze.

During the short time that I spent with Carlynn helped me to understand the impact my diet has on diabetes and the way that food is metabolized by my body and how insulin allows the blood sugar to be absorbed and used by my cells. She also helped me understand the importance of a balanced diet including the why eating the right carbohydrates is so important.

Several years ago, I had a six week course on Diet and Diabetes; however this course basically misled me into avoiding carbohydrates as much as possible. Again, thanks to Carlynn I now understand the importance of a balanced diet.

Lastly, I also want to praise Rossana Fernandes, Patient Service Officer and her department. Rossana is a consummate profession. Rossana kept me informed on many issues that affected my stay and helped me adjust to my circumstances so far from home and family. She is a true treasure for your hospital. Thank you for allowing me to comment on my stay.



The Green Channel of Life

Arguably the greatest source of stress while traveling abroad for business or pleasure is experiencing sickness or emergencies in a place where your loved ones and adequate language skills are painfully absent. In February 2013, immediately upon landing at the airport, a Japanese traveler experienced a sudden intense headache and nausea and subsequently fainted. He was rushed to the Emergency Room at Beijing United Family Hospital (BJU). Upon arriving, ER staff could not detect the patient’s heartbeat or breathing. After performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and a head CT scan, the physician discovered that the patient was suffering subarachnoid hemorrhage (internal bleeding between the brain and its membrane) and acute hydrocephalus (collection of water in the brain). These symptoms are typical of hemorrhaging caused by an intracranial aneurysm.

An intracranial aneurysm is a weakening/thinning of a cranial artery wall that causes the artery to gradually enlarge over time, forming a bulge in the blood vessel. Blood pressure in this part of the vessel starts to increase and could eventually rupture the artery, which is what happened to the Japanese patient. According to international standards, there are five Hunt-Hess level classifications for intracranial aneurysms (Level 5=near death). Upon arrival, the Japanese patient was between Level 4 and Level 5. The BJU Green Channel for cerebral vascular diseases was employed. Neurosurgeons arrived at the ER within five minutes. Within 90 minutes, all relevant personnel had arrived and emergency treatment was underway.  According to the gold standard of intracranial aneurysm diagnosis, the neurosurgeon ordered a cerebral angiography of the patient to confirm whether the subarachnoid hemorrhage was due to an intracranial aneurysm. He discovered that the parent artery feeding the vessel with the aneurysm contained a thrombosis (blood clot).

While the patient received emergency treatment, BJU Japanese patient service officers found a way to contact the patient’s family in Japan. In the four hours before the patient’s family arrived, the neurosurgeon drained cerebrospinal fluid from the patient’s lateral ventricles (compartments within the brain) to alleviate his severe hydrocephalus and prepared to perform interventional embolization in the artery. However, within these four hours, the neurosurgeon noticed on the angiogram that the parent artery had used the thrombosis to close itself off, thus preventing the patient’s condition from worsening. Stabilized, the patient was immediately transferred to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for monitoring and treatment of complications. He regained consciousness the next day.

During this time, leader of the Neurosurgery team Dr. Ling Feng kept experiencing an unsettling feeling. Mortality rates from the first aneurysmal rupture were relatively low. However, if the rupture is improperly treated, mortality rates from the second rupture skyrocket to between 60% and 70%. Mortality rates from a third rupture can be 85% or higher. Professional sensibility made Dr. Ling order a CT angiography to determine whether the clot in the parent artery would stay put. Unfortunately, Dr. Ling saw what she had feared: the clot was starting to unravel. Cerebrovascular disease specialist Dr. Zhang Hongqi immediately performed an emergency embolization procedure and kept the patient’s life from being threatened again.

Three days after the embolization, the patient was discharged from BJU and escorted back to Japan by his family. Because the aneurysm occurred at an extremely rare site, and because the patient would be at highest risk for brain edema five to seven days after the rupture, Dr. Ling contacted the most renowned cerebral vascular disease specialist in Japan to ensure the patient would receive follow-up treatment and care after returning home.

The time between the patient’s arrival at BJU to his discharge from the hospital in the care of his family was only seven days. This eventful week saw incredible teamwork between Emergency, Radiology, Catheterization Lab and Neurosurgery staff members that resulted in accurate diagnoses and timely responses that pulled the patient twice from the brink of death. Staff of the Green Channel for cerebral vascular diseases, Catheterization Lab and ICU seamlessly coordinated the patient’s diagnosis, treatment and recovery, making inter-hospital transfers unnecessary. Tirelessly laboring alongside these teams, the Patient Services Department shouldered all responsibility for communicating between hospital staff and the patient/patient’s family as well as making every effort to give the patient and his family the best healthcare experience possible. With the help of Dr. Ling, the patient has already started follow-up treatment in Japan and is well on his way to recovery.

Information compiled from BJU Neurosurgery review conference and an interview with Dr. Nie Qingbin

(中文) 2015—2016年度患者故事集锦


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