Greater Baltimore Medical Center
"We Trust GBMC"

Audrey Sento's Story

About four years ago, my husband, Bill, had contacted a recommended back/spinal surgeon in the area, and doctor not affiliated with GBMC. The diagnosis indicated a need for minor surgery done as an outpatient in the surgeon's medical facility. We were not given the option of being admitted into a hospital.

The surgery seemed successful and was followed by the normal routine examination. A few weeks later, Bill began to suffer terrible back pain and subsequently, returned to the surgeon for another exam. The surgeon was very adamant that the pain had absolutely nothing to do with the surgery and prescribed some muscle relaxing medication.

The pain continued and escalated warranting two or more additional visits to the surgeon. Bill could barely walk or sit, let alone resume any normal activity. Lying flat was the only thing that provided partial and temporary relief for him. Bill described his pain repeatedly to the surgeon via phone and in person. During his final visit, Bill was dismissed by the visibly annoyed surgeon. The surgeon told him that he performed a perfect surgery, that there was nothing more he could do, and again recommended the muscle relaxing and pain medications. The surgeon also suggested that Bill see his primary care physician because “his job was done.”

At this point, Bill could barely move due to the severity of the back pain which seemed to generate from the surgical incision. In talking with a family friend, a nurse at GBMC, she recommended Bill see Dr. Hartjen, an orthopedic back and spine surgeon at GBMC. The appointment was made quickly as Dr. Hartjen recognized the urgency.

This wonderfully bright and compassionate man, an outstanding surgeon and, above all, a physician who listens and evaluates, took about ten minutes to address three possible causes for this excruciating pain and immobilization. One of those was a spinal infection which he chose to address immediately. He ordered a biopsy the next day.

The radiologist performing the biopsy at GBMC was another prince of a man, a gentle soul and an educator. After the procedure, he took me into his office and explained in detail, not only the diagnostic procedure, but also by referring to Bill's actual imaging. He definitively located the source of the infection. Dr. Hartjen’s expertise was magical!

From that point, Dr. Hartjen referred Bill to an infectious disease specialist. The spinal bacterial infection was identified. It originated from the surgical site.

The treatment was an antibiotic which was to be transported in ice to our home in St. Mary's County weekly. It was administered via a portable venous injecting pump which ran continuously, 24 hours a day, seven days a week for months. Each day there was a "hookup" procedure necessary for us to follow under the strictest of sterility guidelines. The degree of infection was regularly monitored. Two weeks into treatment Bill began to feel better.

Had Bill not seen a GBMC team of physicians and been treated by their diagnostic expertise, and had it not been for the willingness of Dr. Hartjen to "listen to his patients," the outcome could have been fatal. We can thank a GBMC nurse for her caring as well.

Our reasons to continue to support and trust this facility, not to mention put our lives in the hands of the professional staff, are obvious.

By the way, during our stays following recent orthopedic surgeries at GBMC, it is a blatant rule to use antibacterial protocol at every patient contact. Preventative medicine is definitely a good life-saving practice, and Bill is proof!

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