A Huge Impact for the Tiniest of Patients

Thursday, July 12, 2018

In its first year, the collaboration between WellSpan and Johns Hopkins Children’s Center helps more than 180 children and families stay close to home for advanced surgical procedures.

Thanks to WellSpan’s pediatric general surgery collaboration with Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, Cassidy Why was able to receive life-changing treatment close to home.

Valerie Why knew she was making the right call. She had peace of mind.

But, in the moment, that still didn’t make the heart-wrenching decision to let go and put the life of her 13-month-old baby girl in the hands of a surgical team any easier.

“That was the hardest part,” Valerie recalled.

It would be a trying time for any parent, but the Springettsbury Township mom found solace in being close to home, loved ones and her network of support. In the moment, she did find the strength, and little Cassidy went off to the operating room at WellSpan York Hospital — where her Johns Hopkins Children’s Center pediatric surgeon was ready.

It was one of the initial surgeries of a new clinical collaboration between WellSpan and Johns Hopkins Children’s Center to bring the advanced capabilities of its General Pediatric Surgery practice north to WellSpan patients in Central Pennsylvania.

“WellSpan sees the importance of partnerships,” says Douglas Arbittier, MD, MBA, Vice President of surgical services, WellSpan Health. “When you keep the patients at the center of all your thinking, it becomes clear when they will benefit, and these are the partnerships we pursue.”

An hour and a half after they took Cassidy in for surgery, the surgeon emerged, telling Valerie and her husband, Timothy Why, that the procedure to install a gastrostomy feeding tube to help with Cassidy’s health was a success.

Emotional support, compassion and advanced specialty care close to home have all played a part to help Cassidy, now 2 years old, in her battles against cerebral palsy and epilepsy.

“The capability to be in our hometown was amazing,” Valerie says. “We didn’t have to worry about going over state lines. Family and friends were able to be there for us, to support us. Our church was able to come and support us.”

Leading up to the surgery, the family’s lives had been turned upside down. It started on Cassidy’s first birthday, when she was admitted to WellSpan York Hospital for the first time with seizures. Many hospital visits at various medical centers followed. Then, Cassidy became ill and couldn’t maintain a healthy weight.

“I don’t want to think about her and how dire it would have been if we did not get to Dr. Turkewitz and go to WellSpan York Hospital,” Valerie says.

David Turkewitz, MD, worked closely with the Why family due to Cassidy’s complex medical needs — as he has with countless children and their families over the years.

“In many ways, pediatrics is so different than the world of internal medicine,” Dr. Turkewitz says. “We realized that if we can bring this specialty care directly to WellSpan York Hospital, there is the huge added plus of keeping the care close to home and a family’s support system.”

As Chair and education coordinator of pediatrics and director of pediatric emergency medicine for WellSpan York Hospital, Dr. Turkewitz took the lead, along with David Hackam, MD, PhD, Surgeon-in-Chief for Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, to make a clinical pediatric general surgery collaboration with Johns Hopkins Children’s Center a reality.

Announced in August 2016, the collaboration brought the new general surgical practice to York along with eight Johns Hopkins Children’s Center board-certified pediatric surgeons, who are available for consultative services at the WellSpan York practice location and to perform surgeries at WellSpan York Hospital.

With the family and their care team approaching Cassidy’s surgery, the timing was just right.

“You could tell the skill and the compassion was there, that she was in good hands,” Valerie says. “She is in a better state now. She is healthy, and we can keep her healthy. You can tell she is growing and developing.”

Cassidy’s story is one of more than 180 pediatric general surgery successes achieved since the WellSpan-Johns Hopkins Children’s Center collaboration began. The practice offers the latest minimally invasive and surgical treatments for all aspects of surgery for neonatal, infant, child and adolescent conditions.

“We are just starting, and we think it’s only going to get better,” Dr. Hackam says. “We have been amazed at the reception we have had from the families, patients and hospital staff — from the operating room to the emergency room.”

For more information about pediatric surgery and Johns Hopkins Children’s Center’s collaboration with WellSpan Health in general pediatric surgery, please visit WellSpan.org and search “pediatric surgery.”