A Teamwork Approach To Patient Care

A Teamwork Approach To Patient Care
The Wellington Orthopedic Institute Provides Expert Treatment For A Wide Range Of Conditions

Story by Mike May  |  Photos by Denise Fleischman

If you have an orthopedic issue involving your neck, shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, knees, ankles or feet, you don’t have to travel far to find medical help. For more than 20 years, the Wellington Orthopedic Institute has been ready to provide patients with professional care, advice, guidance and surgical assistance, if necessary.

Located on the campus of Wellington Regional Medical Center, the Wellington Orthopedic Institute team is led by Dr. Michael Mikolajczak, known as Dr. Mike. For more than 12 years, he has been assisted by certified physician assistant Leah Saporito. They are a dynamic duo of orthopedic care and surgical procedures.

Dr. Mike’s roots in Wellington go all the way back to the 1980s, back when the intersection of Forest Hill Blvd. and State Road 7 had a flashing red light.

With each patient who enters the Wellington Orthopedic Institute office, the ability to efficiently communicate is the key to a successful experience.

“If you speak with the patient, ask questions and listen, they will often tell you what the real problem is,” said Dr. Mike, whose practice deals with patients who range in age from adolescent teenagers to those more than 100 years old. “We are now treating three generations of people within the same family.”

“On occasion, a patient presents having back pain, but it is often traced to the hips,” Saporito added.

A major strength of the practice is its teamwork approach.

“I have a dedicated team here,” Dr. Mike said. “My office manager has been with me for 23 years, my X-ray technician has been with me for 13 or 14 years, and Leah has been working here for 12 years or so.”

Strong customer service is another strength of the Wellington Orthopedic Institute. “We are a boutique orthopedic group. Every patient has different needs,” Saporito said. “We make sure that every phone call to the office gets answered by a person in the office.”

While the business hours for the Wellington Orthopedic Institute are Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Dr. Mike is available at any time if a patient really needs help.

“I’m available 24/7 for my patients,” he said. “If they need me, I’m available to help.”

While he is an experienced, proven and talented surgeon, surgery is always his last and least preferred course of action.

“We take great pride in a course of action where patients have control over their care,” Dr. Mike said. “We give each patient the best evaluation based on a physical exam and a conservative approach to their care. Surgery is the last option for most patients when exhaustive, conservative care fails.”

When Dr. Mike enters the operating room — either in the hospital or at his surgery center — he is usually assisted by Saporito. She is impressed by his attention to detail. “He’s very meticulous in every operation,” she said.

The atmosphere in the operating room, while sterile, is serious and upbeat.

“During surgery, I like to listen to music that patients usually select,” Dr. Mike noted. “The music is a background tranquilizer for the patient.”

Successful orthopedic practices, such as Wellington Orthopedic Institute, are often known for their stunning success stories. And the Wellington Orthopedic Institute is no exception.

“A few years ago, a man in his 90s was pushed into our office while in a wheelchair, and he was in very bad physical shape,” Saporito said. “He had a bad hip and didn’t think anything could be done. He was in desperate need of help, and he was high-risk, due to his age. Well, we performed hip surgery, and he recovered. Two years later, he walked into our office unassisted and asked that we operate on his other hip. And we did, with success.”

The Wellington Orthopedic Institute also has worked on many patients within the equestrian arena from around the world — riders, handlers, trainers and owners.

“About 12 years ago, U.S. Olympic jumper McClain Ward suffered a shattered knee,” Dr. Mike said. “I operated on him, fixed his knee, and he returned to competition within a few months. He competed in the Olympics a few months later, and he won a gold medal in the team competition.”

The Wellington Orthopedic Institute also works with athletes in many other sports to repair most extremity injuries.

In addition to providing care for human beings, Dr. Mike has a successful track record of operating on animals in the western communities, as a volunteer.

“I’m a voluntary consultant with Lion Country Safari,” he said. “I operated on Lissa, the white rhinoceros, about five or six times. She lived for another 10 years. She had a cancerous tumor on her horn, which was successfully treated.”

Dr. Mike is always reminding patients what they can do to stay healthy.

“We are always telling our patients to exercise regularly by riding a bike, going swimming, using an elliptical machine, doing yoga and/or going to a Pilates class,” he said. “Those forms of exercise are easier on the joints. Also, I’m always reminding my patients about making better footwear decisions.”

He understands the importance of his patients maintaining a high quality of life and is committed to making that a priority. “Joint mobility and balance are the keys to life,” Dr. Mike said.

In addition to providing words of wisdom to his patients, he practices what he preaches.

“I try to keep myself in good physical shape. I currently enjoy biking, swimming and playing golf,” Dr. Mike added. “I played competitive basketball and baseball until I was in my 50s.”

Another positive influence was his father.

“My dad was a master tool and die maker,” Dr. Mike said. “Having to deal with that kind of equipment and mechanical knowledge helped me with my orthopedic skills.”

Even though Dr. Mike admits that he’s now in the “autumn” of his life, he has no plans to slow down, as he enjoys helping residents of the western communities.

Through the years, Dr. Mike has been active in the local hospital and community growth. He has served on multiple hospital staff positions at Wellington Regional Medical Center during his tenure. From a present member of the orthopedic steering committee and active teaching staff, he has served as chief of surgery and past chief of staff.

“I feel voluntary positions helped grow the hospital, community and medical staff,” Dr. Mike said.

The Wellington Orthopedic Institute is located at 10115 W. Forest Hill Blvd., Suite 102, on the campus of Wellington Regional Medical Center. For more information, call (561) 670-2010 or visit www.orthowellington.com.