Medical center a hub of activity

March 07, 2004|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

'Til death to our parts.

Until our vision goes dark, our limbs get unusably weak, our back permanently stoops over, our heart stops churning, our internal organs fail - until we hear we have no chance, we try to get better.

Some of the healing hands and minds we trust - doctors, nurses, lab technicians, oncologists, physical therapists, and on and on - staff Robinwood Medical Center west of Hagerstown each day.

It's been described as a "medical mall," a collection of storefront offices under one roof.

One recent light wintry day, patients were "shopping" there for clearer sight, more flexible joints - and a breather in a battle against cancer.


The healthy have the halls to themselves first.

Members of a walking club step off early. They stroll on tile and carpet on the second floor, rounding floor planters like buoys.

Pat Galbraith of Hagerstown arrived at 7:20 a.m. to cover between 2 1/2 and two miles.

Today, she's matched with Charles Slick, 65, of Hagerstown, who wants to do two miles. "It depends on how you feel that day," he says.

Lloyd and Louise Hamilton of Hagerstown, both 79, walk three miles, four times a week. They say an upstairs loop is three-fourths of a mile, a downstairs loop slightly less.

"It's exercise," Lloyd Hamilton says. "We're trying to lose weight, naturally."

Hundreds of people in Washington County's 10K-A-Day (for 10,000 steps) program walk at Robinwood Medical Center, Valley Mall and Hagerstown Fairgrounds, Christine Moats, Washington County Hospital's wellness coordinator, explains later. The medical center is the most popular spot.

"This is easier on the feet, with the carpets," Louise Hamilton says.

'What the heck'

Robinwood Surgery Center is an all-purpose place for basic ear, nose and throat procedures, plus hernias, breast biopsies, colonoscopies and podiatry, Director of Surgery Lana Gladhill says.

Today is cataract day.

It's also the 68th birthday for Pat Harbaugh of Blue Ridge Summit, Pa., but the day belongs to her husband, Fred. He's having surgery on his left eye.

"It's getting to the point he has to have something done," she says in the waiting room.

"You come out, you can read things you thought you could read before but you couldn't," says friend Bill Laudeman, 71, of Blue Ridge Summit, who has had surgery on both eyes.

Robert Young, 61, of Hagerstown, who delivers more than 300 morning and afternoon papers a day for The Herald-Mail, is preparing for his surgery. "I've been worrying about it for years ..." he says. "You hit a certain age and you say, 'What the heck.'"

The last he knew, his vision was 20/2000. That would mean that a person with normal vision could see from 2,000 feet what Young could see from 20 feet. His bifocal lenses are thick and curved.

"The last thing I want to do before I die is drop the glasses down," Young says, pretending to toss them to the floor and stamp them with his shoes. Glasses have been a part of his face for 50 years.

Water pressure

Arms, legs and hips flex and twist in the swimming pool at Total Rehab Care, a joint that tends to joints.

"Up. Out. In. Down," physical therapist and assistant aquatics instructor Kim Heiston, 38, calls out as she joins in. Snow is falling outside the steamed windows.

Five men and two women in bathing suits bend their knees around foam barbells and do jumping jacks. Most are rebuilding themselves after joint replacement surgery.

"As long they want to come," Heiston says during a series of kicks. "It's a way to keep up mobility, strength."

April 3 will mark three years since John Werking, 71, of Hagerstown, had his left hip replaced. He doesn't need low-impact aquatic therapy anymore, but he wants it. "I do this because you can stay in shape," he says.

Water calisthenics is pre-conditioning for Al Gruber of Hagerstown, days before surgery on his left knee.

Fourteen years ago, when his right knee was fixed, "they didn't have anything like this," says Gruber, 90.

Pulverizing 'wax paper'

Young is on his back in a surgery room, sedated, with a blanket on his torso and legs. A plastic sheet protects his face, minus a hole cut out to expose his right eye.

Don't touch anything, someone warns a visitor in a gown and mask. "Anything in Smurf blue is sterile."

Dr. David J. Ludwick sits in an office chair that has Smurf blue patches wrapped around the arms. At 10:15 a.m., he wheels himself to a microscope trained on Young's eye and begins.

"I've been through this about 4,000 times with him ..." says registered nurse Cindy Strait, who narrates. "The lens (in the eye) itself becomes thick, hard and discolored. People describe it as looking through wax paper."

Ludwick makes two tiny incisions in the cornea. He irrigates, keeping the eye moist. A ring fixed around the eye holds it steady.

Ludwick injects numbing medication and Viscoat, an elastic solution that protects the cornea.

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