Tag Archives: Hospital for Special Surgery

Bayside man recalls pioneering surgery that saved his life

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Konigsberg, Levine, Smith 150 Anniv

Life was not easy for Phil Konigsberg when he was growing up. As a child and teenager, he faced more challenges than most. When he was only two years old, he was stricken with polio, and his loving family and doctors did everything they could to help him.

He told his story at the Hospital for Special Surgery’s (HSS) 150th anniversary symposium, thanking Dr. David B. Levine, his former spine surgeon, and the hospital for saving his life.

Konigsberg, now 61, was among numerous speakers who came together to celebrate the hospital’s milestone at the symposium this past month. In addition to HSS patients who told their inspirational stories, the event featured noted historians, scholars, scientists, physicians and health policy thought leaders from around the country. Konigsberg explained that the polio caused scoliosis, and by age seven, he was in a turnbuckle cast to correct his spinal curve.

“I thought of it as a ‘mummy’ cast,” he said. “I remember a doctor periodically turning the metal turnbuckle attached to the cast, attempting to straighten my back while I was lying in bed.

He was supposed to be in the cast for nine months, but at six months, he developed pneumonia. He remembers being rushed to Hospital for Special Surgery.

“I know that I almost died that night. I recall being transferred by ambulance from HSS, which is an orthopedic hospital, to another hospital that had a special pulmonary unit. I had an emergency tracheotomy to enable me to breathe, and then I was put into an iron lung,” he said. “I recovered over the course of a year-and-a-half.”

In 1968, at age 17, Konigsberg had a critical decision to make.

“I remember being told by Dr. Levine and my parents that I was running out of time to have a spinal fusion operation, and that if I chose not to have the surgery, I was faced with the scoliosis continuing to get worse and eventually crushing my organs.”

The good news was that Dr. Levine was performing the surgery with relatively new instrumentation called “Harrington Rods” that reduced the curvature and provided more stability to the spinal fusion.

“Harrington Rods were a major advance in scoliosis treatment,” Dr. Levine explained. “In Phil’s case, we weren’t sure if he would need one operation or three surgeries, but we were able to correct his problem with the first procedure. We were all very happy about that.”

At the symposium, Dr. Levine asked Konigsberg what he remembered about his hospital stay.

“I am forever grateful to Dr. Levine and to Dr. James P. Smith, my pulmonologist, for each being my personal lifesavers,” he continued. “I strongly doubt I would be able to stand here today had they not been part of my life.”

Despite the breathing problems caused by polio, Konigsberg managed to graduate from St. John’s University and then enjoy a successful career in the insurance industry. In 1973, he became a founder of the Jamaica Estates-Holliswood-South Bayside Volunteer Ambulance Corps, of which he is a life member. He is the community advocate of the Queens Tobacco Control Coalition and has been a smoke-free advocate for the past 25 years. This year he will celebrate his 25th wedding anniversary.

Scoliosis treatment has come a long way since the 1960s, according to Dr. Levine, author of the new book, Anatomy of a Hospital, about the 150-year history of HSS.

“From the full-body plaster cast that patients wore in the 1950s, to the Harrington Rods, to improved rod implants and better techniques used today, there’ve been tremendous advances,” said Dr. Levine.

Today, people who have scoliosis surgery can usually go home after a week in the hospital, and before long, they can return to school or to work.



Train Like a Knick: New contest supports city hoop dreams

| smosco@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Michael Pantelidis

With “Lin-sanity” in full swing and Carmelo Anthony returning to the lineup, it seems like everybody wants to play on the New York Knickerbockers these days.

Now city kids will have that chance as the Big Apple’s hoops squad is teaming up with the Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) in announcing the launch of the first ever, “Train Like a Knick!” fan contest.

Supporting the importance of overall fitness and wellness, fans are invited to submit entertaining and healthy exercise videos showing how they train like their favorite Knicks players. The contest winners will receive a Knicks training experience at MSG Training Center, including personalized basketball drills and workouts with Knicks alumni and team’s training and rehabilitation staff.

“The exercise session designed by HSS reminded me that physical training sometimes goes beyond the basketball court,” said John Starks, who played for the Knicks from 1990 to 1998 and is currently an alumni relations and fan development advisor for the team. “My hope is that all recreational players understand the importance of exercise when playing basketball and will continue to lead a healthy lifestyle.”

Basketball fans 16 years of age and older are invited to submit a short video of 60 seconds or less showcasing how they “Train Like a Knick.” All content will be evaluated on originality, creativity and association with health and wellness. This may include specific basketball drills on rebounding and defense, stretching exercises or even making healthy food choices. Submissions will be accepted via HSS’s Facebook page until March 15, 2012.

Five finalists will be selected, and then fans across the country will have the opportunity to vote for their three favorites. In addition, each winner can invite up to four friends to “Train Like a Knick” too. One grand prize winner will also receive a VIP Knicks package.

“On behalf of HSS, we are proud to support the New York Knicks and are excited to bring this program and health and wellness messages to the fans,” said Lou Shapiro, president and CEO of HSS. “Together we strive to help both the professional athlete and the ‘weekend warrior’ keep moving and stay injury-free.”

To enter the “Train Like a Knick!” contest, fans must first “Like” Hospital for Special Surgery on Facebook. The “Train Like a Knick” contest is open to legal U.S. residents of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, at least 16 years old at the time of entry, who reside within a 75-mile radius of Madison Square Garden.