DENVER, Colo. — People rely on hospitals to help them when they need medical attention. These hospitals are often the reason that some of the most skilled doctors have chosen to enter the medical field.
That’s the case with Dr. Woosik Chung who is the director at Spine Surgery at Presbyterian St. Luke’s Medical Center Denver, Colorado.
SmartOR is one of the newer spaces in their facility. This is where Dr. Chung performs all his spinal surgeries.
He is responsible for the incorporation of some of the most recent technologies in this area. However, he didn’t get to where he is by accident.
“Growing up with a dad that was a surgeon and a mom that was an OR nurse, you know, you kind of take it for granted, unfortunately,” Dr. Chung said.
His story begins when he is three years old. This was South Korea’s most celebrated holiday.
“I remember I was playing with my friends. I believe that we were playing hide-and seek. I remember hiding behind a tractor and I remember the engine cover was open or it wasn’t there, and there was the propeller spinning and the fan belt around that propeller. Dr. Chung explained that I recall being on my tricycle while hiding. Nobody could find me so I got bored. The propeller was moving and I thought I could stop.
He cut both his hands. Both were clean cuts.
“The next thing I remember— my dad is holding me and compressing my arms and I heard my mom say, ‘I found them,’ and she was referring to my limbs,” Dr. Chung said.
They lived close to the hospital. His father was called in to help because many doctors were on holiday and couldn’t work.
“Luckily, thanks to my parents, my dad and the powers that be, I healed up and I was able to start using my hands again and I think it took me a long time to understand the significance of that,” Dr. Chung said.
What could have been a sad story turned out to be the beginning of an extraordinary career.
“I was curious about the OR, I was curious about what my dad did because I knew that he had done my hand surgery and so I think it made me want to go to his hospital more when we were living in Malawi and check out what he was doing,” Dr. Chung said. “He was as busy as ever so the only times I really saw him were if I visited him at the hospital and then I’d run around with him as he was making his rounds and then I’d kind of look in as he was operating outside of the OR.”
He was driven by his curiosity and exploration to become a doctor.
“Wow, this is pretty unique and it’s an opportunity that doesn’t come by that often and so maybe the best thing to do is to try and use my hands to help somebody else,” Dr. Chung said.
That’s exactly what he does now. Every day, he uses his own hands to improve the lives of others in this hospital. His result is not typical. Limb reattachment does not come as a sure thing.
“I would still say it’s a rarity. It only occurs in very rare cases. “I think in my case, thank God I was a young child, thank goodness the injury itself was what we call a clean cut and thank goodness that my father was able take care of me so promptly right after the injury,” Dr. Chung stated.
Although Dr. Chung’s story is not something people would see, knowing it makes them appreciate him for the surgeon and doctor he is.
“Get to know your doctor. Get to know your nurse. Dr. Chung stated that it is important to get to know your nurse because they want to be able and able to care for you. “Helping others, and do whatever you can, even if all the odds are against you, and as long as you look at that goal and you work towards it as hard as you can, well sometimes amazing things can happen.”