Close to Home

For associate editor Melissa Jacobs, covering a behind-the-scenes look at a surgery is personal.



Hobart Rowland

A major part of associate editor Melissa Jacobs’ job on the health beat is to interview patients and convey their experiences. But, in telling Ruth Henninger’s story, Jacobs never could’ve realized that, in essence, she’d be telling her own. 

Exactly 14 months before her June conversation with Henninger, it was Jacobs on the operating table at Bryn Mawr Hospital, undergoing an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion to fix two herniated disks in her neck. When she visited Henninger in the pre-op area for this month’s “Inside the OR” feature, it prompted vivid memories of her short stay there. Later, when she saw Henninger’s incision, she could almost feel her own scar burning. “Harry Potter style,” she notes. 

Smucker and Jacobs

Smucker and Jacobs

Though Jacobs’ surgery was a complete success, she carries the memory of the misery that preceded it. “I’ve tried to funnel that into the stories about patients’ pain and their journeys to healing,” she says. 

There was also a personal connection for Main Line Today staff photographer Tessa Smucker. “My mom had a similar surgery three years ago, so I was fascinated,” she says. “One of the best parts [of Henninger’s surgery] was toward the end, where Dr. Mark Kurd pulled out part of the disk—such a tiny piece that I know was having a tremendous impact on the patient.” 

Smucker at work

Smucker at work

Smucker did an amazing job documenting the whole process, from the doctors scrubbing in, to the surgery itself, to post-operative consultation with the patient’s husband. “I was a little nervous about how I would react to being around blood,” Smucker admits. “A photographer passing out while holding a camera over a patient would not be a good thing.”

In the end, Smucker was fine. “I really didn’t have time to focus on the blood part,” she says. “Dr. Kurd did a fantastic job of explaining the techniques as he proceeded, which helped me do a better job.”

An assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at Thomas Jefferson University, Kurd specializes in treating cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine disorders at the Rothman Institute. So it’s hardly a surprise that he’s among this year’s Top Doctors. The 2016 directory is our largest yet, with more specialties than ever. It’s the definitive guide to the finest practitioners in a region where top-quality healthcare has become a foregone conclusion. 

 Enjoy the holidays.

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

Sign up to stay in touch!