FOCUS ON PHILANTHROPY

Meeting Crisis with Compassion

One night in November 2014, Srini Dhulipala invited EHMC President and CEO Warren Geller to his home, and personally handed him a generous contribution. When the men shook hands, Srini stood tall; his grip was firm. No one could have guessed that just a few months earlier he had been one false move away from total paralysis.

Srini’s terrifying journey and amazing outcome started on vacation in Costa Rica. While swimming with his son, a wave flipped him, painfully, onto his head. Local doctors told him he had a muscle injury, but he had his doubts. By phone, his personal physician warned him, “Do not let anyone there touch your neck!” and advised him to get home A.S.A.P. As his pain steadily increased, and his arm began to go numb, Srini caught the earliest flight home.

Dr. Arginteanue

Mark Arginteanu, MD

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Once back in New Jersey, an MRI confirmed everyone’s fears: he had been walking around for four days with a broken neck. An epidural hematoma was causing blood to put pressure on the spinal column. In effect, Srini Dhulipala’s shattered neck was being held together by nothing but its own inflammation. “I was told I could go paraplegic at any moment,” said Srini.

His physician sent him directly to EHMC neurosurgeon Marc Arginteanu, MD, who recommended immediate surgery. When Srini asked about non-surgical options, Dr. Arginteanu assured him there was really no choice. “My injury was as severe as it gets,” said Srini, “and I was lucky the break had not yet paralyzed me.”

The procedure was a tremendous success. Srini said, “I owe my health to Dr. Arginteanu. Not only is he extremely capable, but he is just an amazing guy. When someone says ‘You may go paraplegic at any moment,’ you go into shock and do not know how to react. He softened the blow by being human and gentle. He had a way of saying, ‘Hey, man, I’ll take care of you. You’ll be OK.’ And I knew it would be OK.”

Srini was also fortunate to face the crisis with the support of his wife, Nancy, and their two children. Nancy said the staff at EHMC gave her courage. “Clearly, everyone was a tremendous contributor to the team,” she noted. “You could tell they had all worked closely together for a long time and had developed a cohesive relationship. That gave me a lot of confidence and made me comfortable Srini was in the best hands.”

Shortly after the surgery, Srini regained full mobility and — reflecting on his experience with the Medical Center — decided to take action, requesting a personal meeting with Warren Geller. “One of the unique perks of working at EHMC is the opportunity to learn about the incredible patient outcomes delivered daily by our clinicians,” shared Mr. Geller. “But a patient account like Mr. Dhulipala’s certainly stands as an extraordinary testament to the quality of care available at our Medical Center.” Their meeting concluded with Srini expressing his thanks and support by making his first philanthropic contribution to EHMC.

“Everyone deserves to be treated with the respect and care I was shown,” said Srini. “From the nurse who takes your swab to the doctor who meets you in the E.R., no one treats you like a number. They treat you like a proper human being and give you the care you need.”

“After all, I can really only fault Dr. Arginteanu for one thing,” Srini concluded, with a laugh. “My golf handicap has gone from a seven to an eight. Otherwise, he was amazing.”