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PROS surgeon saves teen's hand

PROS surgeon saves teen's hand

Sixteen-year-old Benjamin Novotny doesn’t remember much about the ATV accident that almost cost him his hand on July 25, 2017, nor the rush to the hospital or hours of emergency surgery that followed. While his memory is hazy of all that took place two years ago, he does remember the calming nature of the surgeon that happened to be on call that fateful day.

“I was only 14 at the time and I was really scared,” Benjamin said. “I don’t remember a lot of what happened, but I remember him being calm. I’m glad he was there to calm me down.”

For Benjamin’s mom Michelle Willey, the memories of the day are seared in her mind and what stands out for her is the quality treatment her son received from Dr. Stanford Israelsen, an orthopedic surgeon at Powder River Orthopedics & Spine in Gillette, Wyoming.

PROS Orthopedic Surgeon Efforts Save Teen’s Hand“Dr. Israelsen was very professional, very kind,” Michelle said. “He was quick to act and explained things as he was going. I was just very impressed with him overall.”

From Sheridan, Michelle and Benjamin had been in Gillette visiting her parents and Benjamin was enjoying the day riding ATVs. When the ATV he was driving rolled, his hand was injured, in what medical professionals call a de-gloving, where the top layers of skin and tissue are torn away from the underlying muscle, connective tissue or bone. He also broke several bones in his hand and the wound was full of dirt.

“He came in with a really dirty, open wound,” Dr. Israelsen said. “It was critical to get to surgery as quick as possible when you have a severe injury like that.”

The surgery was mostly to clean the wound and reattach the tissue that had been torn away. Since the family lived in Sheridan, they requested to do their follow-up care closer to home. But when Michelle took Benjamin to the Sheridan orthopedic surgeon a few days later, that doctor’s assessment that an infection was starting caused him to tell the mother and son that Benjamin’s injuries might be better served with the surgeon who had seen the injury and worked on it from the beginning.

After a quick phone call to Dr. Israelsen’s office, Michelle and Benjamin were en route to Gillette where he would once again undergo surgery.

“Both surgeries were urgent,” Dr. Israelsen said. “The important thing we did was the initial management of the problem.”

With so much dirt in his hand, infection had been the biggest concern. After the second surgery, Dr. Israelsen also had to tell the family that he believed they would be better served by someone who could provide more specialized care. So after a night stay at Campbell County Memorial Hospital, Benjamin was taken by ambulance to Denver Health Medical Center where trauma specialists and plastic surgeons would perform three more surgeries in the next week and two more in the past two years.

Today, Benjamin is an active 17-year-old who plays football, attends school and works part-time. While his hand will never be 100 percent, he and Michelle are thankful that he still has his hand, and they both credit Dr. Israelsen’s quick response both times for making that happen.

“I don’t think we could have asked for a better orthopedic surgeon,” Michelle said. “We got an amazing start to help him save his hand.”

Michelle and Benjamin stopped by Dr. Israelsen’s office this summer to thank him for his efforts.

“It really made my day. It’s nice to see the end result in what looked like a disaster initially and actually turned out well in the end,” Dr. Israelsen said.

Expert Orthopedic & Spine Care in Gillette, Wyoming

Dr. Stanford Israelsen is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon at Powder River Orthopedics & Spine in Gillette, Wyoming. The physicians at PROS take an innovative and comprehensive approach to the treatment of acute and chronic orthopedic pain. Have your procedure in our modern operating rooms at Campbell County Memorial Hospital or Powder River Surgery Center.

See the PROS for:

  • General orthopedic surgery
  • Joint replacement surgery: shoulder, hip, knee and ankle
  • Shoulder, elbow, hand and wrist surgery
  • Sports Medicine
  • Spine surgery and injections, including minimally invasive procedures
  • Bunions and great toe arthritis procedures
  • Foot and ankle surgery
  • Trauma and fracture care
  • Workplace injuries

For a consultation, call 307.686.1413 or visit www.cchwyo.org/PROS.

PROS is a Campbell County Medical Group Clinic with Campbell County Health.

Article written by Kim Phagan-Hansel, Wyoming freelance writer