The Angels Of Northwell


After a year of suffering from back pain after falling off a step stool, I decided, along with my neurosurgeon, to repair the damage to my lower back through the wonders of surgery.
Dr. Michael Lefkowitz and his team worked miracles on my lower back, repairing the fracture and relieving the pressure on my nerves. It took more than six hours to complete the surgery in Northwell’s Manhasset Hospital operating room. I spent five nights in Manhasset before being transferred to Glen Cove for a week of inpatient acute rehab.
As I was mentally preparing for surgery and the subsequent recovery, nothing could have prepared me for the helplessness I would be going through. Even if I wanted to do something for myself, I wasn’t allowed. Early in my stay, I had to rely on the nursing staff to roll me over from my back to my side.
Let me tell you something about being a patient in a hospital. Dignity goes right out the door. Once the catheter was removed, my best friend became the urinal. Unable to walk alone, I couldn’t go anywhere except the bed to a chair and back again. If I had to go to the bathroom, I had to be delivered in a “Sara steady” and make the best of a commode. And that, my friends, was the least of my dignity problems.

That’s where the angels stepped up to the plate.
At my lowest point, they were always there to lend a helping hand. It didn’t matter who was on shift at the time. An angel showed up to help me whenever I pressed that call button.
Although my early days in Manhasset were a little blurry, things changed once I got to Glen Cove for rehab. Not only did the staff have me up and dressed every day by 7 a.m., but I also received two hours of physical therapy and an hour of occupational therapy.
I know it sounds crazy, but since I’ve been home, I miss all the attention I was getting while in the hospital. Don’t get me wrong, every minute I was there, I wanted to be home. Most of the night nurses called me “Mr. Paul.” They all laughed at my jokes and did everything they could to make me comfortable. I understand it’s their job, but it was the way they delivered my care. They weren’t just taking care of me because they had to. They knew how much I needed them, and they stepped up to the plate and knocked it out of the park every time.

It didn’t matter how embarrassing it was for me; they made it a pleasant experience every time. Of course, maybe the fact that I told them I was a newspaper columnist and would be writing a column about them had something to do with it?
I wish I could remember the name of everyone who took care of me to thank them personally, but that ship has sailed. The entire staff on the 1-South Rehab unit knows who they are. Don’t let me forget the physical therapists and occupational therapists, either. To name some, but not all, would be unfair.

Since being discharged from rehab in Glen Cove, I’ve been home under the watchful eye of my wife and Louie the Labrador. Sleeping was (and still is) the most challenging part because I can’t get comfortable yet. It’s certainly getting better every day.
There’s not a lot you can do when recovering from spinal surgery. I’ve spent way too much time watching shows on Netflix, but what else is there?
I’ve still got a long recovery ahead of me, but my main goal will be my son Kevin’s wedding at the end of July. I want to walk into that reception hall on my own.
Thanks to all the angels of Northwell, I have a good shot at that.

Paul DiSclafani’s new book, A View From The Bench, is a collection of his favorite Long Island Living columns. It’s available wherever books are sold.

Leave a Reply