Ben Romer of Rockland has an athlete’s spirit. He loves hockey, playing for the Bay State Breakers and loves cheering for the Boston Bruins.
In October 2015, Ben needed that athletic spirit after he suffered a severe bite by a family dog. Ben’s mom, Kristy, brought Ben to South Shore Hospital’s Pediatric Emergency Department. As the team determined how to treat Ben’s bite, Kristy noticed her son was flushed. The team confirmed he had a fever and saw that his hand was swelling. The Trauma team paged John Kadzielski, MD, an orthopedic surgeon and Director of the Division of Hand Surgery at South Shore Hospital, who was on call that day.
After additional screening, Dr. Kadzielski quickly determined that Ben’s injury was more serious than a simple dog bite. Ben had necrotizing fasciitis—a serious bacterial infection that can cost patients their limbs—and sometimes their lives.
“I still hear those words,” Kristy says.
“He was losing tissue rapidly and was in septic shock,” Dr. Kadzielski recalls.
Dr. Kadzielski took quick action, taking Ben to the operating room where he underwent radical treatment to save his arm and life. In the operating room, Ben’s temperature was so high that the thermometers could not even read it. After surgical and antibiotic treatment, Ben’s temperature came down and his vital signs stabilized. After he was stabilized in the operating room, Ben was brought out to the South Shore Hospital post-operative care area.
Given the need for intensive care after surgery, the South Shore Hospital team made the decision to transfer Ben to Boston Children’s Hospital’s pediatric intensive care unit for close monitoring. Dr. Kadzielski worked closely with the team at Boston Children’s Hospital to coordinate his operative plans and plans for ongoing care.
Within the first week, Ben had three more surgeries at Boston Children’s Hospital to stop the infection and to save his hand. Kristy kept in close contact with Dr. Kadzielski as the team made decisions about the best way to treat Ben’s infection, texting him for advice.
“It all starts with Dr. Kadzielski, without a doubt. He saved Ben’s life. There’s not a doubt in my mind,” Kristy says.
It required carefully coordinated care between the surgeons at Boston Children’s Hospital and Dr. Kadzielski to save Ben’s hand. Then the rehabilitation team from the South Shore Hospital Center for Orthopedics, Spine and Sports Medicine joined Ben’s team to ensure he regained as much function as possible.
For months, Ben attended occupational therapy sessions five days a week. Instead of driving into Boston every day, Ben received therapy at the Center for Orthopedics, Spine and Sports Medicine in Hingham, just miles from his home in Rockland. Occupational Therapist Kathy Kowalski, a certified hand specialist, was impressed by Ben’s tenacity.
“He has the attitude of an athlete,” Kathy said. “Ben is self-motivated. He’d push through pain and want to do more than I was asking him to do. He’s an impressive boy.”
After six months of occupational therapy, Dr. Kadzielski performed another outpatient surgery to remove some tissue scarring that limited the movement of Ben’s tendons and joints. While Ben responded well, his team determined that he still needed additional surgery at Boston Children’s Hospital to resolve lingering issues to improve his hand function—and hockey performance.
“Everyone has his best interest at heart. Everyone worked together for Ben. Kathy still gives Dr. Kadzielski reports on Ben’s progress,” Kristy said.
Ben was in Boston for a week after that final procedure, returning to South Shore Hospital for follow-up care, including the occupational therapy with Kathy, which started immediately after the operation to ensure his hand would function well.
It’s been a long road for Ben and his family. But nearly two years later, Ben’s preparing for another season of hockey. He may need additional surgeries in the future, but Ben’s focused on the hockey season ahead.
Did you know South Shore Hospital has a clinical affiliation with Boston Children’s Hospital? Our neonatal intensive care unit, pediatric emergency department and inpatient pediatric care is provided in association with physicians from Boston Children’s Hospital. Visit our website to learn more about how we work “As One” with our clinical partners in Boston to provide the community with world-leading medical care close to home.
If you'd like a referral to a South Shore Hospital-affiliated hand surgeon, call our physician referral line at 781-624-6673.