Story updated, 26-February-2008 (28 months post-op
- by Mark)
been over 2 years since I went to Bogen and Straubing
with Dale and Julius for her 3-level lumbar ProDisc.
Her surgery was of mixed success as she still
pain even though her back pain is mostly resolved. I've
seen her once since the surgery, now about 18 months
ago. She looked good then, but the
pain was still written on her face. You must remember,
that I usually get to meet my clients while they are
going through the surgical ordeal and I rarely get to
see them 'recovered'. Sunday, Diane and I went to
Dale and Julius' house for stuffed
and blackout cake. (We both have eastern European heratige,
so we connected on our 'soul food'.) It was a wonderful
One of the things that we discussed was Dale's criteria
for success. She said that she 1) wanted to be able
to care for and play with her grandchildren; 2) paint
again (she's really good); and 3) be able to cook for
happy to report that she's three for three. (Times
like these are absolutely the best part of my job!)
Global Patient Network and Mark Mintzer
By Dale Steuer
3-level ProDisc (lumbar)
Germany - October 2005
husband Julius, Mark, Dale, Helen (also
3-level lumbar, same day!)
When Mark Mintzer asked me to write a small
commentary on his services, he really put me on the spot.
First, there is no way I could limit my comments… and
there is no way I know of to actually describe an angel.
I could not imagine having gone through this without Mark.
The emotional impact of this impending surgery was enormous.
Add to that the frustration of foreign travel and dealing
with doctors and you end up with something overwhelming
and almost insurmountable. If I had to summarize I would
say that he brought sanity to an insane time.
I first ‘discovered’ artificial
disc replacements in the summer of 2004 and located a somewhat
local doctor. I had to wait three months for an appointment,
a month for a discogram and almost another month for the
results, which revealed four bad levels. My doctor had
to petition the FDA for a compassionate use permit and
estimated a three week to three month delay which would
be followed by his own three month backlog. By April, 2005,
after not hearing from my doctor and his not returning
any of my phone calls, my frustration level forced me to
the internet which eventually led me to Mark Mintzer. I
contacted Mark as a crazed female with no direction, fearing
I would have to spend the rest of my life as a handicapped
hermit, no longer able to enjoy life as I had known it.
He listened to my ramblings before he knew whether I would
actually utilize his internet services and within minutes,
his soft voice, belying his size, reassured me there was
help. He pointed me in the right direction and though terribly
busy getting ready to attend a conference in New York,
gave me all the time I needed, while explaining the services
he could provide. Having already seen his website and thinking
his fees were more than reasonable, I immediately became
his newest client. This proved to be my best investment
in the ADR world.
The Rathaus (city hall) in Bogen
While he was in New York,
I gathered my records, x-rays and MRI’s and within
days of his return, we were ready to go. He contacted Dr.
Bertagnoli in Germany on my behalf, who in less than one
week, was ready to accept my case. I too had contacted
Dr. B just prior to contacting Mark and still hadn’t
received a response. Feeling I needed more information,
Mark also contacted a local doctor who could explain the
actual procedure and provide specific information about
my condition and what to expect. He got me an appointment
that same week. Please understand, I couldn’t even
get a doctor to return my phone call within a week. With
the three month average wait time for an appointment, I
was beginning to believe this angel thing. For referencing
a timeline, this was May, 2005.
Let me explain that neither
my husband nor I wanted to go to Germany. I cannot stress
this point enough.
don’t matter… I did not want to go to Germany,
period. If at all possible, having surgery out of this country
was out of the question. I also must mention that the Charite
disc had FDA approval for one level. Approval for the ProDisc
was expected in early 2006.
My husband and I saw the local doctor and were so impressed
with his confidence that we scheduled a fusion and three
level Charite ADR with him for mid-July. One week prior to
my surgery, with all surgical tests completed, my insurance
company denied coverage. I fought for two months.
During this entire time,
Mark, without telling me what to do, strongly suggested
that the complexity of
two previous back surgeries and four levels with a possible
fusion, required Dr. Bertagnoli’s experience and the
ProDisc. Though aware of my stifling fear of going to Germany,
he stayed vigilant in his recommendation during my fight
with Blue Cross. By September, 2005
I threw my hands up in
defeat and agreed to go to Germany and have Dr. B do my surgery.
With no financial participation from Blue Cross, and with
the cost in the U.S. more than double the cost in Germany,
including airfare, food and lodging, the choice was taken
out of my hands. Either I have the surgery in Germany or
I don’t have the surgery. Living my life was unacceptable,
we therefore, still extremely weary, agreed to go to Germany.
Long story-short, I had only a three week notice. I had forgotten
that things happen fast when you’re dealing with Mark.
He mentioned in passing, again with no pressure and almost
hesitantly, that another aspect of his business was accompanying
clients to Germany for support, knowledge and when necessary,
even intervention. After discussing it with my husband, we
jumped at the opportunity, both of us welcoming the prospect
of having someone else in charge. Now though that might be
a bad choice of words, that’s how we felt. We still
made all our own decisions, but Mark walked the walk and
talked the talk. He’d been there, done that, many times
I suppose in retrospect, I should have been grateful with
so little time because planning a trip abroad, for whatever
reason, is time consuming. Planning air travel and hotels,
as well as making sure things are covered at home enveloped
me and though constantly aware of my imminent surgery, it
was kept on the back burner of my mind. Emails to Germany
for reservations, even if immediately responded to, took
two days each. As three weeks evaporated into two, I became
panicked. Enter Mark again, taking over this process for
me and within days, had our reservations.
Though each making our own
airline arrangements, we flew out on the same plane, meeting
for the first time
airport. Just knowing that he would be with us as soon as
we landed in this foreign country was comforting. My husband
was uncomfortable with the whole Germany thing as well as
worried about me. I was, simply put, a nervous wreck. Mark
prearranged for a taxi, whose driver would become our concierge,
to take us to our hotel, a small but clean B&B within
walking distance to the hospital. He arranged for my hospital
check in the following morning and along with another client,
took us to dinner that evening.
The view from Dale's room at Hotel Theresientor
After a terrible night’s sleep, we met
Mark for our short trip to the hospital. Once checked into my room, he spent
most of the day with us while I went through my intestinal cleansing. He
helped us set up our internet and phone connection. That evening he accompanied
me to my pre-surgical physical, explaining questions I didn’t understand.
Then, once bedded down for the night, he and my husband left for a late dinner.
The following morning he was able to hold my
hand during my dreaded discogram. He was the only person who bothered informing
my quite anxious husband that my surgery had been delayed by three hours.
I understand that Mark also intervened on my behalf when that evening I was
begging for pain relief. In all honesty, I don’t remember it.
I awoke only intermittently the following day
after returning to my room from ICU at 9:00am. Unfortunately, having slept
all day, I woke up that night and despite taking German versions of sleeping
pills as often as I could, I was awake and anxious all night long. The minutes
literally crawled by. Having been called back to the hospital for another
patient, Mark came and held my hand, talking softly and trying to offer as
much comfort as he could.
He stayed with us for seven days providing
support, comfort and companionship. Though my back no longer ached and my
incision caused almost no discomfort, my left leg was ‘dead’ and
on fire. He gave me as much assurance as he could that it would improve,
though not soon enough to please me. Before leaving, he made sure we were
okay and able to fend for ourselves.
So maybe calling
him an angel is overstepping it a bit, but you’ll never convince me
of that. He not only led us down the path, but opened the door and invited
us in. I’ll
never forget what he did for us and will be forever grateful.
Moonrise at Oberalteich