Dana Feldman’s story at Long Island Jewish (LIJ) Medical Center at Valley Stream began when she was rushed to the emergency room after her dog Sarge, a Cairn Terrier, bit off a portion of her ear. It was 2012, Dana was 21 years old, newly graduated from SUNY Cortland and unsure of her future. Her immediate future, however, would include plastic surgery, a hospital stay and eventually treatment in a hyperbaric chamber.
“I got a call from one of the emergency room doctors, very upset that a piece of a young woman’s ear had been bitten off by a large dog,” said Homayoun Sasson, MD, director of hand and plastic surgery at LIJ Valley Stream. “In situations like this, every minute counts as to how fast you can put the piece back on and prevent infection.”
“Dr. Sasson called me after he had done the surgery,” explained Devandra Brahmbhatt, MD, medical director of the wound care and hyperbaric program at LIJ Valley Stream. “He told me that there is a young pretty girl whose ear was chewed off by her own dog. He said I put it back together in the ER, but it doesn’t look very good and I’m not sure it’s going to survive.”
In fact, part of Dana’s ear was turning blue due to the lack of blood flow to the reattached portion.
“The only offer I had was to try hyperbaric oxygen, we had nothing to lose,” said Dr. Brahmbhatt. “For a young girl to accept whatever the outcome would be, even if the ear wasn’t going to survive and she might lose a part of the ear --she was perfectly ok with it.”
After the first treatment, or dive in the chamber, Dana’s ear went from bluish purple to pink, which encouraged her doctors, but it was just a start. Dr. Brahmbhatt prescribed 50 dives in the chamber for 50 days straight.
There was one problem: the treatment center was only open Monday through Friday and Dana needed a continuum of care every day.
“Everybody was rooting for her and so the technician said, `I’m prepared to come on Saturday and Sunday.’ So that’s what we did,” Dr. Brahmbatt Said. “On Saturday and Sunday, I came in and the technician came in and we opened the chamber and treated her.”
For two hours every day, for 50 days straight, Dana laid in the quiet of the hyperbaric chamber as 100 percent oxygen under pressure surrounded her. The treatment raises the oxygen concentration in the blood and helps facilitate new blood vessel formation or angiogenesis.
“We were able to save 80-90 percent of her ear, including the cartilage, which I think is a great save,” said Dr. Brahmbhatt.
On a warm July day this summer, Dana took a trip back to LIJ Valley Stream, where she first met Dr. Sasson and Dr. Brahmbhatt. She wanted to see them again four years after they cared for her with great urgency, calm, and expertise.
“After spending about two weeks in the hospital, I kind of self-reflected and realized how these doctors took care of me. And seeing them all collaborate and work together to help me, it propelled me to go into the medical field,” said Dana. “So I’m going to study to be a physician assistant in the fall. And I can thank all of the people here who helped me and contributed to that and affected my whole life basically.”
“It’s the greatest compliment you can have to inspire someone,” said Dr. Brahmbhatt. “I think a lot of people went beyond the call of duty to care for her because she was such a wonderful person.”
Long Island Jewish Medical Center at Valley Stream is a 305-bed hospital offering a wide range of programs and services to patients from Nassau and Southeastern Queens counties. The hospital has one of the most advanced Emergency Departments in the region and a 21-bed short-term psychiatric unit. The hospital is also home to the Orzac Center for Rehabilitation, a 120-bed skilled nursing facility featuring long-term care, rehabilitative medicine, and an Adult Day Health Care Program.