Traveling Across the World for Specialized Spine Care

Group photo of doctor with young patient and parents

Dr. Vitale with Eliya and her parents

For the Harel family, finding out their 11-year-old daughter Eliya had spondylolisthesis came with a mix of fears and emotions they hadn’t anticipated.  Her mother Mairev says, “Eliya just woke up one morning in excruciating pain.” 

After taking her to a doctor in Israel, where they live, and learning about Eliya’s diagnosis, her mother immediately began researching treatments and specialists who could help treat this rare and progressive condition. Together with her husband, the Harels interviewed about 7 of the top spine surgeons in Israel to see who could best care for their daughter and make sure she’d be on the right road to recovery.  What they found out was that this type of surgery was only performed about twice a year at most by doctors in Israel and Mairev knew she would now have to start thinking internationally.

As Mairev began doing her research, she came across a mother’s forum online which discussed their child’s experience with spondylolisthesis and how they coped with it.  It was there that Mairev noticed a common thread – many of these mothers had taken their children to see and be treated by Dr. Michael Vitale, pediatric orthopedic surgeon at NewYork-Presbyterian and Columbia University Irving Medical Center.  She began communicating with the moms on the forum and was impressed by the overwhelmingly positive feedback she received about Dr. Vitale and his team.  After much research and learning that he was truly an expert in this condition, the Harels decided to make the trip to the US and choose Dr. Vitale and his team for Eliya’s surgery.

The result – 10 hours of surgery performed by Drs. Vitale and Richard Anderson so that Eliya could wake up pain free for the first time in a long time. 

Though Eliya is still on the road to recovery, Mairev says, “We couldn’t have asked for better professionalism and care than what we received with Dr. Vitale and his team.  They have been wonderful and we continue to keep in touch with them and communicate with them.  After the surgery, they recommended she do rehabilitation at Blythedale Hospital which was so helpful for Eliya because she basically needed to re-learn to walk again.”

The Harels spent a total of six weeks in the US for Eliya’s surgery and recovery and went back to Israel feeling confident that she was on the right track.  Mairev says, “Having the ability to ask questions is priceless and there’s always been someone there from Dr. Vitale’s team or NYP every step of the way.”



Learn more about Eliya's road to recovery.