The Baltimore Sun: No Summer Break

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No Summer Break

On August 24, 2002, the Baltimore Sun published an article titled “No Summer Break.” An excerpt from that article describes the “intense stretch from May to September” when “Dr. Dror Paley has his orthopedic surgeon’s hands full lengthening the limbs of dozens of children.”

No Summer Break

Dr. Dror Paley is midway through his 12-hour day fixing children’s arms, legs and hips when he steals away to a staff lounge for a chocolate protein shake.

People are waiting on him … children from other states, children from other countries, and the parents of a 15-year-old who must drive through the night to Saginaw, Mich., to arrive in time for her first day of school. Hurry, hurry.

Ah, August, the busiest month of the year for a pediatric orthopedic surgeon with a rare specialty: limb lengthening and reconstruction. The season for Paley begins in late May. Surgery is only the start of the process that can add 3 inches to a child’s height in a single summer. In the stretching phase, which lasts three months, the bone is held in place with pins. That’s when most complications occur, and Paley can’t be sloppy; to head them off, he checks on his patients every two weeks.

Beginning in May, then, 10 to 15 patients a week are added to his clinic after surgeries. The load builds until August when the waiting room…is out of control.

Each summer, Dr. Dror Paley welcomes children and families from across the U.S. and around the world as they arrive at the Paley Institute seeking cutting-edge treatment for complex orthopedic conditions.

Five percent of Paley’s operations are to lengthen limb of those born with achondroplasia, a bone disorder causing dwarfing. Most of his patients have other deformities, such as a short thigh bone or missing fibula, the narrow bone next to the main shin bone.

Paley brought limb-lengthening to the United States in the 1980s after studying it with experts in Russia and Italy. Doctors still have little use for it, with most recommending amputation rather than growing the bone, a treatment once considered worse than the disease. Paley changed things, writing the textbook for a new generation. Little did he know how much his summers, too, would change.

The Paley Institute Today

In the decades since the article was published, Dr. Paley founded the Paley Institute at St. Mary’s Medical Center, an orthopedic program specifically designed to treat limb lengthening, complex deformities, and a range of orthopedic conditions. The treatment philosophy of the Paley Institute continues to focus on reconstruction over amputation, and a commitment to preserving limbs and joints and restoring function.