New Lease on Life

From Taiwan Review 2020-05-07

BY MEG CHANG
PHOTOS COURTESY OF CHINA MEDICAL UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL

Treatment at a hospital in Taiwan made all the difference for Theodore D. Nelson.

Taiwan hospitals are increasingly adopting advanced surgical procedures that can enhance quality of life for patients with serious conditions.

The upgraded techniques and equipment are drawing plenty of interest from abroad, with Taiwan becoming a go-to location for foreign nationals seeking top-quality care.

Providing evidence of how Taiwan Can Help realize Health For All is the story of Theodore D. Nelson, who received treatment at China Medical University Hospital (CMUH) in the central city of Taichung. Previously an assistant professor at University of Guam in the south Pacific territory, Nelson hurt his back while teaching a basketball youth development program.

Theodore D. Nelson, right, and his family discuss the treatment plan with Dr. Chen Hsien-te during his first visit to China Medical University Hospital in central Taiwan’s Taichung City in April 2019.

Theodore D. Nelson, right, and his family discuss the treatment plan with Dr. Chen Hsien-te during his first visit to China Medical University Hospital in central Taiwan’s Taichung City in April 2019.

The injury came as a shock to Nelson’s family and friends, who knew him as a man capable of lifting fifty-gallon drums of water. “Before the accident I was really active. I loved the outdoors, fishing, free diving, hiking and hunting.” The injury changed everything, as his back steadily deteriorated over nine years until it affected his hips and knees.

In addition to limiting his mobility, the constant pain left Nelson tossing and turning at night. “I might sleep well for 20 or 30 minutes, but I’d always wake up in pain.” After several rounds of surgery, including procedures in Hawaii, Nelson was still unable to walk without crutches.

“I couldn’t do 90 percent of the things I wanted to do,” he said. “It got really scary because I was hunching over and unable to straighten my back.”

Dr. Chen, right, uses an advanced O-arm imaging system during Nelson’s spinal surgery at CMUH.

Dr. Chen, right, uses an advanced O-arm imaging system during Nelson’s spinal surgery at CMUH.

Nelson gained a new lease on life in late 2018 when he learned of potential treatment options at CMUH from Fong S. Wu (吳宏聲), a committee advisor to Taiwan’s Overseas Chinese Affairs Council who has lived in Guam for many years. At first Nelson was hesitant, unsure whether the treatment would be covered by his insurance plan, but CMUH was quick to address his concerns.

According to Aichi Chou (周艾齊), chief executive officer of CMUH’s International Medical Center, the hospital quickly contacted Nelson’s insurance provider to iron out the details. “We’ve been in the Guam market since 2016, so it was no trouble making all the necessary arrangements,” she said.

Dr. Chen Hsien-te (陳賢德), director of the CMUH Spine Center, said Nelson arrived at the hospital in a wheelchair looking pained and dispirited. “He originally came for spinal surgery, but after extensive examination we strongly recommended hip replacements first, as his joints were severely deformed.”

Nelson, flanked by his family and CMUH medical staffers, celebrates his successful hip replacement surgeries.

Nelson, flanked by his family and CMUH medical staffers, celebrates his successful hip replacement surgeries.

In accordance with the treatment plan proposed by Dr. Chen, Nelson underwent two hip surgeries in May 2019. “He knew the procedures had been successful because he was mostly pain free and could walk with a mobility aid just two days after,” Dr. Chen said. Nelson returned home for three months of recuperation before going back to the hospital for a spine operation in August the same year.

While the success of Nelson’s surgeries owes much to the expertise of CMUH staffers and state-of-theart equipment like the O-arm surgical imaging system, Dr. Chen said the trust built between patient and medical team lay at the heart of the happy outcome.

Surgery can be a taxing experience both physically and mentally. It was therefore crucial to keep Nelson fully abreast of developments at every stage of treatment, Dr. Chen said, adding that CMUH makes a special effort to instill positive energy in its patients to help them through the difficult times.

Nelson, center, enjoys fishing with his friends in Guam.

Nelson, center, enjoys fishing with his friends in Guam.

This approach clearly paid off for Nelson. During a press conference organized by CMUH at the Hyatt Regency Guam in late 2019, the Guamanian described his experience as a blessing. “I can finally sleep after nine years. I feel so much better now.”

Stephanie, Nelson’s wife, also thinks the treatment has been a game changer. “Honestly I’m just grateful I don’t have to listen to him moaning and groaning,” she said with a smile. “Now his quality of life is much better, and he can enjoy his retirement.”

Rehabilitation is going well for Nelson back in Guam, and while he still walks with a cane, he can fish with his friends again. “If I need any more treatment, I’m definitely going back to Taiwan. I won’t go anywhere else.”