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    Trailblazing neurosurgeon tackles impossible surgeries with a cross-campus team.
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Neurosurgeon Dr. Ehud Mendel performs life-saving surgeries


Helen Hall needed help. She was 90 years old and her spinal cord had been attacked by an aggressive tumor that was making her life nearly unbearable, causing agonizing headaches and paralyzing parts of her body. Helen was desperate for relief, but doctors kept reminding her of her age: to operate on a 90-year-old spine would be risky.

But for Ehud Mendel, MD, a neurosurgeon and director of Ohio State’s Spinal Biodynamics and Ergonomics Laboratory, whether to operate was never a question. Helen wanted the surgery, and he was one of only a handful of people in the world who could do it safely and successfully.

He operated. And she regained control of her life.

“Without Dr. Mendel, I probably would have been in a wheelchair, and I think also that it’s possible that I might not have been alive,” Helen says. “I was getting worse. Day by day, I could see that I was getting worse.”

It is bold surgeries such as Helen’s that have made Dr. Mendel one of the foremost spinal neurosurgeons in the world. He recently led a multidisciplinary team that created a new surgical technique for removing bone tumors. 

The surgery is difficult: If a surgeon breaks any part of the tumor off, cancer cells can flood the patient’s body, causing harm that is impossible to repair. If the tumor is not removed in one piece, a patient’s chance of surviving drops almost to zero percent. “You are signing the death certificate of the patient when you do it incorrectly,” Dr. Mendel explains.

 



  • “[Dr. Mendel] is a rare breed...the kind of guy who excels with intelligence, with care, with kindness and love towards people."
    George Skestos


 

George and Tina Skestos sets up fund to support Dr. Mendel

Dr. Mendel and his team are supported by the generosity of The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center donors George and Tina Skestos. “He’s a rare breed,” George Skestos shares. “He gets up in the morning early and runs eight or 10 miles then goes to work at his job at 6 a.m. and does all these operations that take 15, 12, 25 hours. And there are so many lives he has
saved because of his ability.”

The Skestoses established a chair at the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center to ensure Dr. Mendel can advance his work, which crosses many parts of the broader Ohio State community. For each surgery, Dr. Mendel partners with engineers and artists, using 3-D printers to create exact replicas of individual spines so he can practice surgeries in advance. He leads a research team. He teaches future doctors, and he has trained surgeons around the globe.

“I love him with all my heart — I can’t think of anyone I love more as a doctor,” George Skestos says. “Anyone that has anything to do with the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center, they should meet him, because he’s just the kind of guy you want to meet — the kind of guy who excels with intelligence, with care, with kindness and love towards people.”

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