Patient Stories

Spinal Surgery Puts Motorcyclist Back on Two Wheels

Robert Gulley

Robert was working as an aircraft mechanic when he suffered a back injury. As he stepped out of a tow tractor after towing a plane, he felt excruciating pain in his leg and hip. When several months of physical therapy did not provide any relief, Robert’s family doctor referred him to Usman Zahir, MD, an orthopedic surgeon and spine specialist at the MedStar Orthopaedic Institute.

“Dr. Zahir, he was perfect. He’s great!” Robert says. “I know he’s a busy man, but if you have a question, he’s there. He doesn’t brush you off. He takes the time to explain things to you and answer your questions. He even shows you models to help you better understand.”

Dr. Zahir diagnosed Robert with spinal stenosis, pinched nerves and bone spurs, and he started him on a series of pain-relieving injections.  “Trying to first relieve symptoms with more conservative treatments, such as medication, physical therapy or injections is typical, and is my preference,” says Dr. Zahir. “After a series of injections, his level of pain wasn’t improving and it was clear Robert was a candidate for [spinal surgery].”

“I came out of surgery and said, ‘Wow, no more nerve pain,’” Robert remembers. “It was gone. I couldn’t believe it!” Robert’s hobby of riding motorcycles has taken a back seat for about a year due to his injury. Now, thanks to Dr. Zahir and successful spinal surgery, he’s looking forward to getting back to riding his shiny red motorcycle with his wife, Lynn, in the seat behind him.

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Wide-Awake Hand Surgery: Low Risk, High-Quality Results

Long before the pain in her fingers woke her from sleep, Mary “Jeannie” Engling knew it was past time to take care of the carpal tunnel syndrome that had plagued her for years. She was concerned about having surgery until she met hand surgeon Alison Kitay, MD, from the MedStar Orthopaedic Institute. “I was hesitant about anesthesia,” Jeannie says. “But then a friend encouraged me to go to a lecture Dr. Kitay was giving in the community. She dragged me there—and I’m so glad she did.”

After meeting with Jeannie, Dr. Kitay recommended a revolutionary treatment, wide-awake hand surgery. During Jeannie’s procedure, Dr. Kitay made a small incision and released the tunnel “roof” to provide more room for the nerve—and then closed the incision with a few stitches.

“I had very little pain and was back to normal activities right away. I’m going to have the other hand done soon!” says Jeannie.

According to Dr. Kitay, with small procedures, like Jeannie’s, “We can avoid the risks of anesthesia and sedation by simply numbing the area. Surgery can take just 10 minutes, and after some cheese and crackers, patients can drive themselves home. It’s the biggest change in hand surgery in the last decade, and a huge boost that improves patients’ quality of life.”

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Mary Jeannie Engling

New ACL Repair Surgery Gets Athletes Back in the Game


Kaniya Brown’s track season was finished after an ACL tear. The dreaded sports injury that ends athletes’ careers and stops weekend warriors in their tracks left her sitting on the sidelines. Doctors told Kaniya that even after a long recovery from ACL reconstruction, it was unlikely she would be able to run competitively again. But the high school senior wasn’t about to let the injury ruin her final track season. The Marylander had her hopes set on recovering for the highlight of her running career, competing in the Penn Relays.

Seeking a better option than ACL reconstruction, Kaniya’s father discovered Wiemi Douoguih, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon with the MedStar Orthopaedic Institute who performs ACL repair procedures. “When Kaniya first came to see me,” Dr. Douoguih says, “she told me she really wanted to compete in the Penn Relays again. It was only five months away, but she was a great candidate for the procedure.”

Dr. Douoguih performed the ACL repair surgery in October. Two weeks later, Kaniya was back on her feet, and she quickly began physical therapy. Five months later, Kaniya was back on the track, racing in the Penn Relays with a stronger knee.

“I’m running and can play soccer again,” reports Kaniya, who is now a freshman at the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore. “I’m also looking forward to trying out for the track team when the outdoor season begins in March.”

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Shoulder Replacement Surgery – A Family Affair

When Frank Ferney could no longer tolerate his horrible shoulder pain, he turned to Brent Wiesel, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at the MedStar Orthopaedic Institute, for relief. According to Dr. Wiesel, “Shoulder replacement surgery has one of the quicker recoveries for joint replacements. Although most people regain full function after about four months, patients continue to improve for about a year and a half. Immediately, though, their pain is improved.”

Incredibly, despite the severity of Frank’s symptoms, he was back on the golf course for an annual trip to South Carolina only two months after shoulder replacement surgery. “I wasn’t 100 percent, but I could play a short round,” Frank says. “That trip was important to me.”

Shortly after Frank’s surgery, his aunt, Virginia Whitmire, developed shoulder pain so bad that the cooking enthusiast could barely eat, let alone cook. Due to Virginia’s age, some surgeons would hesitate to perform shoulder replacement surgery on her, but Dr. Wiesel did not consider her age to be a stumbling block. After surgery and physical therapy, Virginia is now back to cooking.

Both Virginia and Frank are thankful that Dr. Wiesel was able to ease their pain and help them return to the activities that they love.

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Frank Ferney and his aunt, Virginia