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Alberta man travels to Newfoundland and Labrador for hip surgery, sings St. Anthony's doctor's praises

Jerry and Toni Stacey, pictured, are singing the praises of staff at the Charles S. Curtis Memorial Hospital in St. Anthony, after Jerry's hip replacement surgery this past March.
Jerry and Toni Stacey, pictured, are singing the praises of staff at the Charles S. Curtis Memorial Hospital in St. Anthony, after Jerry's hip replacement surgery this past March. - Submitted

Health board chair says more referrals to St. Anthony hospital possible

ST. ANTHONY, N.L. – It looked like Jerry Stacey would have to wait months before getting a hip replacement.

The 59-year-old Fort McMurray, Alta., resident was on a waitlist and looking at options overseas when he learned he could have his surgery in Newfoundland and Labrador. 

“I was having lots of pain and everything and I was looking overseas, looking at Lithuania — believe it or not — and having the surgery done there,” he told The Northern Pen. “For five years, it was agony.”

It was hindering his ability to golf, hike, hunt and do all the other activities he enjoyed.

But Stacey soon learned from a good friend in Labrador, that there was a “fantastic doctor” in St. Anthony capable of performing the surgery.

He got a referral from his doctor in Alberta and, in a week, he got a call to set up the appointment in St. Anthony.

Stacey had the surgery, covered by Alberta Health Care, with Dr. Ravi Vatturi in March.

Two months later, Jerry is recovering and he and his wife, Toni, are singing the praises of Dr. Vatturi and the staff at Charles S. Curtis Memorial Hospital.

“Treated with royalty,” he said. “The nursing staff, the doctors, the anesthesiologist — everybody that was involved was fantastic.”

“I’ve never experienced this in Fort McMurray or Alberta,” said Toni. “The doctor was incredible.”

The Staceys live in Fort McMurray, but Toni’s roots are on the Great Northern Peninsula: she hails from Roddickton-Bide Arm. Jerry is from Swift Current, Sask.

Jerry’s surgery was originally scheduled for Tuesday, March 13, but because he had to fly back the following weekend, Dr. Vatturi decided to move it to Friday, March 9.

“He thought it might be a little too early (to travel after surgery), with blood clotting and all that and he actually put me in four days earlier,” said Jerry.

This gave Jerry more time to recover before travel.

Vatturi also checked in on Jerry during The doctor's day off that Saturday.

Stacey is into the ninth week of recovery. The full recovery period is typically 12 weeks, but it appears he’s ahead of schedule.

“I have no pain, the only limitations I have right now is bending over to put my socks on or squatting down to, say, work on a vehicle,” he said. “I got to be careful with how fast I’m bending because of the healing that has to take place in the muscle.”

In an April letter to the Labrador-Grenfell Health board of directors, Toni and Jerry expressed their gratitude to Vatturi and the medical staff at the hospital.

Boyd Noel, chair of the hospital board, says it shows they can handle referrals from other hospitals. He feels more health care facilities can refer patients to other hospitals where certain services may be more readily available.

“We’ve got such a great team of doctors, including Dr. Vatturi, that can do (this type of specialist) work that is not to capacity,” Noel told The Northern Pen. “If we’re going to have the professionals here and paying them, we should be using them.

“We should be availing of our own expertise in the area.”

The Stacey’s hope the St. Anthony hospital can sustain this level of service.

“Support fully that St. Anthony hospital, never let the doctors go that they got there, and never let the staff go and make sure the hospital stays in that area,” said Toni, addressing locals. “Even for us to be able to come back there, that’s wonderful.”

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