A Miracle to be Alive:

South Holland Woman Thankful for Neurosurgical Care at Ingalls

Louise Gouwens believes ‘divine intervention’ played a role in saving her life last June. A few minutes before midnight, she was on her way home from a friend’s house.

Just a few blocks from her home, Louise, 80, momentarily nodded off. When she opened her eyes, she was heading straight toward the back of a semi-truck. Miraculously, Louise is still here to tell her story.

Immediately, the spritely South Holland great-grandmother of five felt a pain in her chest from what would later be diagnosed as a broken rib and a punctured left lung, but she also had a serious neck injury. “Possibly with the help of an angel, I was able to find and press an alert button that was in my purse,” she explains. “I mean my purse has a zillion pockets in it, but there it was.”

Paramedics rushed Louise to UChicago Medicine Ingalls Memorial, where she underwent two surgeries: the first on her collapsed lung, and a second surgery to repair two injured vertebrae high in her neck.

For a woman who visited Mayo Clinic and academic medical centers in Chicago for her healthcare, the prospect of undergoing delicate spinal surgery at a community hospital terrified her. With little information to go on, she asked her son-in-law, a former Ingalls occupational therapist, his opinion of Martin Luken, MD, the neurosurgeon who would operate on her neck.

“He told me he was very good,” Louise recalls. That was all she needed to hear. Reassured, Louise consented to surgery.

Delicate Spinal Surgery

“Louise had a complex fracture and dislocation of two of her cervical vertebrae,” Dr. Luken explained. “It’s a miracle she survived the crash. Her guardian angel was on duty that night.” To relieve the pressure on her spinal cord and nerves and prevent potential paralysis, Dr. Luken recommended a cervical laminectomy with lateral screws and rods to stabilize the spine.

Dr. Luken used the hospital’s sophisticated Brainlab mobile intraoperative CT scanning system to navigate the cervical spine – a first at Ingalls. The system produces fast, threedimensional pictures of the spine and nerves to guide surgeons as they operate.

‘Best-Practice’ Monitoring During Surgery

During any delicate spinal surgery at Ingalls, the surgeon is assisted by a highly trained technologist who monitors the functional integrity of the nerves, spinal cord and parts of the brain. Surgeons around the globe consider it a bestpractice for spinal surgery.

Following surgery, Louise spent a month at the Center for Rehabilitative Medicine at Ingalls relearning all her motor skills. Today, she looks forward to buying a new car so she can start driving again. “Dr. Luken is outstanding,” Louise says. “I’m so thankful that God used him to save my life. Jesus has been with me throughout this whole traumatic journey.”

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