Three Doctors, Plus NCC’s Nursing Director,
Call Successful Medical Procedure A ‘Miracle’
Each day, New Community Director of Nursing Veronica Onwunaka changes a bandage that protects the left foot of NCC Founder Monsignor William J. Linder.
It’s not an elaborate process but it requires at least two sets of hands, a watchful eye and the utmost attention given to complete cleanliness.
Wearing latex gloves, Onwunaka carefully unwraps several sponges, pads, gauze and bandages. She snips off the old bandage and cleanses the now recovering foot before applying a new bandage, with the help of another nursing home staff.
She takes painstaking care to ensure that Monsignor’s foot is healing properly because of all that has transpired over roughly a year and a half.
Those closest to Monsignor, also chairman of the NCC board of directors, know that he’s been surrounded by a team of medical professionals who, for several months, have been working tirelessly to prevent the amputation of his left leg.
“He should be walking soon,” said Dr. Najam Wasty, a cardiologist who specializes in vascular intervention at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, where Monsignor had his latest surgical procedure. Wasty was one of three doctors, plus Onwunaka, who cared for Monsignor.
After suffering a foot fracture in 2014, Monsignor’s recovery became troublesome due to circulatory complications plus his condition as a diabetic, according to wound care specialist Dr. Mark Granata, Monsignor’s podiatrist.
After Monsignor underwent several procedures that attempted to open the blockages in his injured leg, his foot only got worse, Wasty said. The left foot eventually turned a shade of blue, possibly gangrenous, and his leg was at risk of an amputation above the knee.
“It never hit me until six months (along) that this thing was scheduled for amputation,” Monsignor said recently.
The team dug in their heels and became more determined than ever.
Dr. Nicholas Guittari, a geriatrician and familiar face around New Community who serves as Monsignor’s primary care physician, helped to connect the team of doctors and also worked closely with Onwunaka.
Granata described Onwunaka—who accompanied Monsignor to a multitude of appointments, in addition to caring for his daily needs—as playing the role of coach for the team of doctors.
“If every diabetic had her as an advocate, I don’t think we’d have many amputations,” he said.
The latest procedure, at Newark Beth Israel, was successfully completed in roughly four hours, Wasty said. Using a newer gadget known as a re-entry catheter, the blockages that were preventing blood flow to the left foot were finally opened, going from 100 percent blocked to zero, he said.
Monsignor noted that the team worked together to persevere, even when the outlook was grim.
“It was very easy for them to give up but they didn’t…they were determined,” Monsignor said. “That’s why I still have a leg,” he added.
“They’re not afraid to try,” Onwunaka added. “That is important to give people hope.”
For Wasty, Monsignor’s endurance through the months-long process left the cardiologist impressed.
“It requires a certain amount of emotional fortitude on the part of the patient as well,” he noted.
Monsignor said he was grateful for his entire team, for both their medical expertise as well as their compassion.
“They’re wonderful people and they care,” Monsignor said.