Hand in Hand
Lending a Big Hand in Annapolis to Save a Tiny Hand from Romania
Anne Arundel Medical Center helped a very special patient in October, thanks to the generosity of three of the hospital’s physicians and a local church. Stefan Chidesa, a Romanian infant, was born with the fingers on his right hand fused together. But thanks to orthopaedists Thomas Harries, M.D., and Jeffery Gelfand, M.D., along with anesthesiologist David Corddry, M.D., Stefan will soon have 10 fingers on which to count.
Stefan was born earlier this year in the southern part of Romania near Bucharest. His mother, Felicia Chidesa, was told Stefan should not have surgery for at least a year. Fortunately, she did not listen.
“I couldn’t find anyone who would do the surgery until he was older,” said Ms. Chidesa, a high school English teacher. “The doctors were guessing at when it was safe to begin the surgery to fix Stefan’s hand. This made me think it was possible to do it sooner rather than later.”
A German doctor confirmed her concern by telling her the longer she waited, the more malformed her son’s hand would become because it would not grow as fast as the other hand. Ms. Chidesa, the wife of a Baptist pastor, contacted Dr. Doina Zuba, a Romanian-American doctor she had met while hosting a medical missionary group sent by the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Annapolis. Dr. Zuba found a doctor in America who would perform the surgery immediately, but it would cost the family $25,000.
“We were devastated,” Ms. Chidesa said. “We couldn’t have raised that much money, even in our entire life time.”
But the Annapolis church congregation was undaunted and decided to contact Dr. Harries, a member of the church who also happens to be a member of the Orthopaedic & Sports Medicine Center. Dr. Harries, along with Dr. Gelfand, one of his partners and a hand specialist, and Dr. Corddry, an anesthesiologist specializing in pediatric care, agreed to perform the surgery at no cost to the family. The hospital donated its services as well.
“I think there is a desire in a lot of physicians to do things like this—it’s why we went into medicine,” Dr. Harries said. “To be able to help someone who might not otherwise have access to this kind of medical care is an amazing feeling. You get much more out of it than you give.”
After the surgery, Dr. Gelfand called Ms. Chidesa to find out how Stefan was doing.
“I think there is a desire in a lot of physicians to do things like this—it’s why we went into medicine.” —Thomas Harries, M.D., orthopaedist
“That is not something that would have happened in my country,” she said. “In my country, you call the doctor if there is a problem. People have reached out to us so much.”
The church congregation and the doctors donated everything from the plane tickets to the housing to the surgery. To show her gratitude, Ms. Chidesa created a photo album of her town for the doctors and brought them hand-crafted traditional gifts from her country.
“I wanted to give them a reminder of what they did for a Romanian boy,” Ms. Chidesa said. “I want them to know that his family will always be grateful to them and pray for them.”
The doctors have decided to create a long-lasting reminder of their own—a foundation to help other children like Stefan.
“Helping Stefan has been such a positive experience that Dr. Harries and I have decided to set up a foundation to help more children,” Dr. Gelfand said. “And Stefan’s mother said she would like to help.”