Weekly Feature



2018-10-24 / Front Page

Kenmore Mercy, local doctor make surgery possible for Army vet

Army veteran Kurt Santini, a resident of Virginia, received long overdue spinal surgery free of charge last week at Kenmore Mercy Hospital, courtesy of the hospital, local spinal surgeon Dr. Franco Vigna, and a military veteran support program called Operation Backbone.

According to the hospital, Santini was injured during a parachute accident while serving with the Army’s 10th Division, losing air mid-jump during a mission and free falling approximately 100 feet. As result of his injuries, Santini had suffered with severe back pain due to spinal cord compression for 17 years. His goal going into surgery was “for me and my wife to have a fulfilling life, a life that is more than dealing with my disabilities.”

When Vigna, of the reVive Spine Center in Niagara Falls, heard about Operation Backbone, he immediately wanted to get involved and reached out to Mike Sformo, the nonprofit’s founder and CEO and a Western New York native.

“We like to take care of the people that take care of us,” said Vigna, who donated his services to perform the surgery, relieving pressure on Santini’s neck and back.

Kenmore Mercy donated an operating room, professional staff, medical supplies and post-surgical care.

According to Sformo, the Department of Veterans Affairs was not designed to handle the overwhelming number of requests for medical care being made by an aging population of veterans of the wars in Vietnam and Afghanistan. This has led to a lack of diagnoses and proper medical treatments.

He said outside resources such as Operation Backbone help supply the medical care requested by veterans, coordinating medical logistics with key specialists to get hundreds of servicemen and women on the road to recovery each year. The nonprofit also works with service members worldwide to help to improve their quality of life, lessen their pain and reduce their dependence on pain medications.

“Many of these individuals have been managed very sporadically in the past,” Sformo said. “The longer period of time that goes by, the more indoctrination of opioid dependency, pain, depression, frustration, behavioral issues and medical injuries.”

“This ultimately impacts their loved ones and their jobs, thus making the recovery very long and complex,” he continued. “Therapy or stronger interventions to address their problems is the start. Candid talk and proper medical opinions are the key.”

Walt Ludwig, Kenmore Mercy’s president and CEO, said the hospital was pleased to be part of the team helping Santini get on the road to recovery, which is in keeping with the hospital’s mission.

“It is the mission of Kenmore Mercy Hospital, and all of Catholic Health, to help those in need like Kurt, who would otherwise still be waiting for his surgery,” he said.

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