Breakthrough spinal surgery in Freeport heralds new approach for healthcare 

A breakthrough surgical procedure performed at Rand Memorial Hospital (RMH) in Freeport, Grand Bahama, heralded a new approach to the delivery of healthcare in The Bahamas.

An Open Reduction Thoracic Spine Fracture procedure performed on a 20-year-old male patient at the Rand last Friday marked the first time a complex spinal surgery was performed at that hospital.

It also marked the impressive collaboration of surgical teams from the Rand and Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH).

Describing the eight-hour surgery as successful, Dr. Valentine Grimes, lead surgeon and consultant orthopedic surgeon at PMH credited the successful execution of the surgery on the excellent planning and scheduling between the Surgical Departments at RMH and PMH.

He thanked the administrators of both institutions for their support.

“The framework is there and hopefully it can be streamlined going forward so that emergency procedures like this can be performed in Grand Bahama on even shorter notice,” Grimes said.

On the actual procedure, Grimes added, “We achieved all of our surgical goals; we returned the spine to its normal position and reduced the pressure on the spinal cord; but due to the severity of the injuries, the patient is facing a long road to recovery. This was a team effort all around.”

He also thanked Dr. Athena Bain, a RMH physician, who assisted with surgery and surgical technicians Sandra Rolle-Allen, RMH, and Adora Hanna, who travelled with him from Princess Margaret Hospital and assisted the surgical team.

“We received a lot of support from the surgical team led by Dr. Freeman Lockhart and Dr. Terrel Humes, as well as the Anesthesia and Radiology staff. The Operating Theatre Staff at the Rand are receptive, capable and very willing to assist and learn.”

Grimes went on, “Typically, this type of injury would have been airlifted to PMH for treatment. In this instance it was necessary to travel to Grand Bahama to perform this procedure because there were no beds available at PMH to accept the patient. This type of spinal injury requires a special hospital bed, and the patient and his family were left with only three options: wait until a bed was available, which could be a matter of weeks or longer; airlift the patient to a USA hospital, or perform the operation in the Rand Memorial Hospital’s state-of-the-art surgical suite, recognizing that time was of the essence in this type of injury.”

Referencing the landmark surgical achievement, Lockhart, medical chief of staff GBHS, said, “This procedure at Rand shows what can happen when we move away from traditional thinking. Sometimes it makes more sense for a variety of reasons to bring the doctor to the patient rather than take the patient to the doctor.”

He noted, “This is something we can build on going forward.”

The patient receiving the procedure suffered a devastating thoracic spinal cord injury at the lower thoracic level with paralysis of both lower limbs following a motor vehicle accident.

Previously, all spinal injury patients at the Rand were airlifted to New Providence for surgical intervention at Princess Margaret Hospital or to a hospital in the United States.

With the successful procedure performed by Dr. Grimes and his team, Grand Bahama’s main hospital may be poised to begin a new chapter by offering patients the option of spinal surgery on the island, the Public Hospitals Authority said.

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