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73 and Counting

By Manuel Peña-Morros

The pain started when I fell about 12 years ago. I was a banker and was visiting a construction site for a project we were backing, and the platform I was on just collapsed.

I lived with pain in my right leg on and off for a decade. I also play a lot of golf, and that didn’t help.

When the pain began to interfere with my ability to walk, I knew I had to take action. I sought out the opinions of physicians in my native Dominican Republic, but also from hospitals in the United States. Then my friend, also a Dominican, told me: “Look, you have to go to Dr. Bydon. He did my daughter’s back surgery, and he’s the best.”

Ali Bydon is a professor of neurosurgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. His busy clinical practice focuses on degenerative disorders of the spine, spinal tumors, and complex reconstruction and restoration of the spine.

When I visited Dr. Bydon, our chemistry was perfect. I thought, “This is the guy.”

During our consultation, Dr. Bydon diagnosed ­­me with misaligned vertebrae, compounded by a narrowing of my spinal canal. This condition caused severe compression on my nerves, and left untreated, it could progress to permanent numbness or weakness of my legs. It was serious.

We set the date for surgery: July 7, 2017. My wife, daughter and I booked flights for our first trip to Baltimore.

My surgery took about four hours, and it went beautifully. I spent five nights at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, and a total of two weeks in Baltimore to follow up with Dr. Bydon. I am very happy that I had the surgery. I had the best surgeon, really superb nurses and received outstanding care.

I continue to stay in touch with Dr. Bydon about my physical condition. Once when I was experiencing some discomfort, I called Dr. Bydon, who answered the phone sounding strange. It turns out he was on vacation in Lebanon, and it was two o’clock in the morning. He was whispering so he wouldn’t disturb his wife. But he got up, answered my questions, and then we talked about the World Cup.

You simply don’t find doctors like that anymore in this world.

It’s been more than two years since my surgery, and I’m doing well. I’m not 100 percent, but I’m at 85-90 percent in terms of my mobility. I walk 5-7 miles a day, and when I play golf, I try to walk the whole course.

I feel good and tell people I’m 73 and counting. Thanks in part to my experience at Johns Hopkins, my projection is to reach my 105th birthday!

Manuel Peña-Morros is a trustee of Indiana Institute of Technology; former board member of Valores León, a brokerage house in the Dominican Republic, and of the insurance company Seguros SURA, S.A.; and retired chair of Banco León. He and his wife live in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and have two children and four grandchildren.


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