Knee breaks in Bombay, fixed in Franklin

Published 7:49 am Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Suresh Vora could have had his pick of any big-city doctor in any big-city hospital to fix the kneecap he broke while visiting his mother in India.

But a doctor more than 8,000 miles away at Southampton Memorial Hospital in Franklin suited the 63-year-old Allentown, Pa., man just fine. Even better than fine, he said.

“I was walking outside the railway station in Bombay and there was a lot of construction at that time,” Vora said during a phone interview last week about how his patella came to be broken so far from home on March 6. “I got stuck in the construction, and I broke my knee.”

Vora was rushed to the hospital and doctors there wanted to remove and replace his patella. He notified his wife, who was visiting South America at the time, and his two children, daughter Brinda Dixit, who is a rheumatologist in Chesapeake, and Nilesh Vora, an engineer who lives in Norfolk.

The family quickly decided they wanted Vora closer. Both of Vora’s children knew Manish Patel, a sports medicine specialist and arthroscopic surgeon, by reputation. Dr. Patel, who practices out of SMH, had operated on a friend of the family to rave reviews.

“We knew about his other surgery, which had been successful,” Nilesh Vora said. “We have met him socially, too, so we felt comfortable with him. When it comes to your parents, not only would you want a professional but someone with a caring touch, and we felt he had that.”

The family made arrangements to get Vora on a plane and back to the states.

“It was a 16-hour nonstop flight from Bombay to Newark,” Vora said. “I met my wife in Allentown and then we drove down to Virginia.”

Vora broke his knee on a Friday afternoon in India. By 8 a.m. on Tuesday, he was in Patel’s office being evaluated. A few hours later, and he was on the operating table.

“The first time I met him was the day I operated on him,” Patel said with a laugh. “I basically did the surgery on my lunch break.”

Vora had broken his patella in three different pieces and his leg was swelling. During the hourlong procedure, Patel put in wires and pins and reattached all three parts.”

Vora is now walking with a cane. He will take about three months to recover, Patel said.

Vora said he was pleased with the experience and with the treatment from Patel.

“The hospital was very nice,” he said. “Everything was done very fast. The staff was very helpful and cooperative. Patel was excellent. He’s young, but very thorough. And he’s very straightforward.

At the hospital everyone was so professional and the human touch was there. That impressed us a lot.

Nowadays you go to the hospital and you see the professionalism, but the human touch isn’t there.”

Patel, who is board certified, fellowship trained and teaches surgery techniques, said the experience puts to rest the notion that one can receive the best care in a bigger institution.

“It’s not necessarily a big hospital system that’s going to give the greatest access (to technology) or the greatest care, as much as it is the surgeon who is taking care of you,” he said.

Vora said he is thankful that Patel was able to fix his knee, even if it took awhile to get to him.

“I have my knee back,” he said. “This will be a memory for the rest of my life.”