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UB surgeon shares medical miracles in new book

Philip Glick.

UB faculty member Philip Glick contributed two essays to a new book of essays recounting clinical events that medical specialists consider to be "medical miracles." Photo: Douglas Levere

By LAURA HERNANDEZ

Published October 10, 2016

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“If we’d not been by his side and in the operating room ready to go, this patient would have died. ”
Philip Glick, professor
Department of Surgery

Philip Glick recalls the phone call he received one day many years ago from a rabbi who wanted to know where a congregant could get a second-trimester abortion. The fetus had a sacral tumor at the base of its spine that was bigger than the fetus itself.

After explaining that such a procedure could not be done in Buffalo, the UB surgeon says he felt as though the mother wasn’t offered all possible options. Glick, who specializes in fetal and pediatric surgery, met with her and proposed an alternative option: He would closely monitor the fetus’ progress; plan a time, place and mode of delivery; and operate on the baby once it was born.

The mother agreed.

Shortly after successful surgery to remove the tumor, the mother and child left and were thought to have moved out of town.     

But 13 years later, Glick sat in a temple and watched as that same child walked across the bema to recite his haftarah at his bar mitzvah.   

“A tear came to my eyes,” says Glick, a professor of surgery in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences who also is affiliated with UB’s School of Management. “A total miracle, especially when considering how my conversation with the rabbi started.”

Book cover, Miracles we have seen.

This story is one of two Glick shares in the new book, “Miracles We Have Seen: America’s Leading Physicians Share Stories They Can’t Forget,” edited by University of Colorado faculty member Harley A. Rotbart.

Rotbart, professor and vice chair emeritus of the Department of Pediatrics in Colorado’s School of Medicine, invited leading physicians and specialists to contribute essays to the book, which shares medical miracles and illustrates a more empathetic side to medicine.

Glick, who attended medical school at the University of California, San Francisco and receiving residency training in adult general surgery, fetal surgery and pediatric surgery, believed he was superbly trained and had gained the confidence and wisdom to take on almost all medical and surgical situations.

He says he has since discovered that medical knowledge, training and experience alone can’t always explain miraculous recoveries.    

“With time and experience I learned that caring for patients and their recovery requires an immense interdisciplinary team,” he says. “If a patient’s family says they want to say a prayer for their loved one, for me, for my hands or for the team, I’m happy to take all the help I can get.” 

The other story Glick shares in the book is about a boy who lived on a farm in Western New York. He had been medevaced to Women & Children’s Hospital of Buffalo suffering from hemolytic uremic syndrome after swimming in a pond contaminated with e coli from cow manure. Most patients with this condition experience renal failure that is often reversible with dialysis.

Glick says that to be safe, he decided to expedite a nephrologist’s request to place a dialysis catheter the next morning. He placed it the same evening of admission.

While in the operating room, the patient spontaneously hemolyzed red blood cells, became hyperkalemic and his heart stopped; CPR was started. Glick says that because this happened in the operating room, the surgical team was able to place the patient on extracorporeal support in less than 20 minutes, all while continuing CPR.

“If we’d not been by his side and in the operating room ready to go, this patient would have died,” he says.

The child subsequently recovered and returned to his life on the farm.     

“If any of the circumstances of this case were different,” Glick says, “there might have been a tragic outcome. Again, another miracle had occurred.”   

Among the other miracles recounted in the book are stories of a 9-year-old boy who was decapitated in a horrific car accident but survived without neurological damage; a woman who conceived and delivered a healthy baby, despite having had both of her fallopian tubes surgically removed; and a man in need of a heart transplant whose heart began healing itself.

The book offers insight into the lives of these doctors and how the miracles they’ve experienced have influenced their lives and careers, and what these outcomes mean to both the doctors and patients.    

“A miracle occurs when, despite the expertise, teamwork, efforts and understanding of the human condition, a patient’s survival or quality of life defies all the odds and logic, and is otherwise not explainable,” Glick notes.

All proceeds from the book are being donated to charities chosen by the contributing physicians and patients.

The book is available for purchase online.

Glick says he and Rotbart will appear on WKBW-TV’s “AM Buffalo” program to talk about the book. The broadcast is scheduled for 10 a.m. Oct. 20.