New York Daily News—July 17, 2012
Surfing is his passion, but after a horrific motorcycle accident, Nicholas Gelorum feared he’d never be able to ride the waves again.
Long Island doctors told the 21-year-old from East Meadow that his damaged right arm would just get better on its own as the stretched-out nerves recovered.
But while broken bones in his leg and hand healed in the months after the accident, his arm deteriorated.
His worried mom looked to the Internet for answers and found Manhattan’s Hospital for Special Surgery — which is ranked No. 1 in the country for orthopedics.
Gelorum went in for a second opinion — and not a moment too soon.
Dr. Scott Wolfe, who directs the hospital’s new Center for Brachial Plexus and Traumatic Nerve Injury, said advanced electrodiagnostic tests showed three of the nerves had been severed, not stretched. And the chance to repair such an injury is best within three to five months.
“By a year, a muscle gets so atrophied it can’t respond,” Wolfe said. “Nicholas had a very serious injury. Sixty percent of the nerves which control his entire arm were gone. ... The nerves were ruptured at two sites.”
More than 10 hours of surgery were needed to take pieces of working nerves in Gelorum’s legs and attach them to the severed nerves in his arm.
The doctor got started around 5:30 a.m. on Oct. 26, 2010, with four surgeons assisting and a team of technologists, anesthesiologists and nurses on hand.
As Wolfe worked, staffers rushed tiny sections of the leg nerves to pathologists, who quickly froze specimens to see if they were viable.
After the nerves were transplanted, they began to regenerate — from the neck to the fingertips.
“It’s an amazing process,” Wolfe said.
His team also did nerve transfers, reattaching the endings of nerve bundles in Gelorum’s arm to spots where they would work better.
“Nicholas never gave up, and I think that’s a big reason he’s back doing what he’s doing,” Wolfe said. Eight months after the surgery, Gelorum surprised the doctor with his progress — flexing his bicep and lifting his arm over his head.
“Surfing is something I can’t give up. ... I wanted to do anything to get back out there. I was actually pretty impressed with what I could do,” he said.
Wolfe said cases like Gelorum’s keep him motivated.
“This is what I love to do,” he said. “You never love having to put someone back together after a horrible accident ... but it’s exciting.”
Read the full story at nydailynews.com.