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Gulf & Main Magazine

Pediatric Neurosurgery at Golisano: A Unique Partnership Ups the Care for Local Patients

Jul 30, 2022 07:01PM ● By Theodore J. Spinks, MD, FAANS

Seeing your child deal with any illness or injury is stressful in the best of circumstances. When that illness or injury involves the brain or spine and is truly life-threatening, the situation is scary and overwhelming. Now imagine your access to family and friends, your home, your job, your other children, and all of your support system is ripped away. Your entire world turns upside-down, and you find yourself in an emotional free fall while trying to care for your sick child.  

This is the situation many of Southwest Florida parents have lived when their child was diagnosed with a neurosurgical problem. Their child was whisked off to St. Petersburg, Miami, or Orlando. One parent had to get in a car and drive, while the other parent stayed with the remaining children and tried to work to pay the bills. And that’s assuming there is another parent. The fact that many of these families have been able to keep their lives from falling apart is a tribute to human resilience. 

The administrations of Lee Health and Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital (JHACH) in St. Petersburg began working several years ago to solve this problem. They crafted a unique partnership that would provide pediatric neurosurgery services in the Lee Health system, in conjunction with the Johns Hopkins system. Their vision was a program that would replicate the quality neurosurgical care offered at JHACH, delivered to children at Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida.  

Thanks to that vision, in concert with hard work from the staff of both facilities and generous monetary and emotional support from the Southwest Florida community, parents of children with brain or spine problems are now able to find care right here in the Fort Myers area.  Family support systems and jobs remain nearby, even while caring for a child with life-threatening neurological problems. This road is still hard, but both family burden and patient care are improved when families can be kept in situ. 

Because of the support and generosity of the community, Golisano Children’s Hospital is already caring for children with complex neurosurgical problems, including brain and spine tumors, hydrocephalus, spina bifida, developmental abnormalities, spinal deformities, brain and spine trauma, and Chiari malformation. Even in the rare situation where a child needs a surgery that is not yet suitable for Golisano Children’s Hospital, the surgery can be performed in St. Petersburg, but all pre- and post-op care can be provided in Fort Myers.   

As chief of pediatric neurosurgery, I am humbled and honored to be a part of this program as we grow yet another segment of Golisano Children’s Hospital into a high-quality service for the families of this region. I am excited about what the future holds for my family’s new home. 


Theodore “T.J.” Spinks, MD, FAANS, is chief of pediatric neurosurgery at Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida.