OAA Patient Ambassador: Meet Grace

January 29, 2015

Grace Shin, 77, of Bethlehem found herself with severe back pain until she came to OAA Orthopaedic Specialists.

Shin decided it was time to see a doctor because she was miserable in her daily life. She was bothered by being unable to walk or stand up straight, even crawling up stairs to reach her bedroom.

Her daily life was a struggle because she suffered from spinal stenosis and spondylolisthesis due to aging. Spinal stenosis is the narrowing of space in the backbone and spondylolisthesis occurs when one bone in your back slides forward over the bone below it. Photo of Grace

She tried non-surgical methods like epidural steroid injections but they unsuccessfully alleviated her pain. As a former anesthesiologist Shin witnessed many surgeries, “I had been avoiding spinal surgery because of fear,” she mentioned. It wasn’t until her daughter, an orthopaedic surgeon in New York State, finally convinced her.

Not wanting to live an impaired life, Shin sought the help of OAA Orhthopaedic Specialists. Familiar with the practice she proceeded to look for a spinal surgeon among OAA staff and found, Dr. Stephen P. Falatyn.

Before entering the medical field, Dr. Falatyn graduated with a degree in chemical engineering from Cornell University. He worked for DuPont making polymers and Nestle Company, reformulating Goobers® and Raisinettes®. “While I liked my engineering work, it did not allow me to work with people the way that I really wanted to do,” explained Dr. Falatyn.

He pursued his passion and completed orthopaedic surgery training at the University of North Carolina and did two additional years of specialized spine training and an another two years to gain the very best spine training possible.

“I chose Dr. Falatyn because of his mechanical engineering background,” Shin revealed. She felt comfortable because her daughter was also a mechanical engineer before becoming a surgeon.

Dr. Falatyn made sure Shin understood the surgical procedure he had chosen for her. She left the appointment with zero concerns about the surgery. “I feel that one of my greatest strengths as a doctor is my ability to discuss making the spine healthier with my patients,” mentioned Dr. Falatyn. The day of the procedure Shin was at ease.

Surgery was successful with no complications. Grace was discharged from the hospital two days later. Recovery times vary for each individual, “Even if we want to get better immediately sometimes our body needs time to recover. I advise my patients to get up and moving as fast as they can after surgery. If they are a little slow that's OK too,” adds Dr. Falatyn.

She is now mobile, walking straight, without pain and able to walk up stairs without assistance. She even returned to old hobbies like reading, embroidery and shopping. Her only regret was not doing it sooner. Dr. Falatyn chimed in, “We sometimes forget what we have until we lose it.”

“He made me a whole new person,” she happily shared. Shin speaks highly of her experience writing letters to members of her church recommending Falatyn for spine problems.

Some patients, like Shin, know where to find quality physicians, others do not. Dr. Falatyn explains, “Patients need to know that they only get one opportunity to get their first surgery done perfectly. They just need to come to see me or one of my partners at OAA to get the great care they deserve.”

-Elizabeth Kern