Two years ago, Patricia Martin spent six weeks in the hospital and endured more than 21 hours of surgery to relieve back pain brought on by spinal stenosis. Her surgeon at State University of New York Upstate Medical Center, Richard Tallarico, helped her to get her life back.
"He gave me a new lease on life," she said. "I haven't been able to walk a block in two years."
Martin and three other orthopedic patients, along with directors and developers, donned hard hats and gold ceremonial shovels for the Oct. 28 groundbreaking of the Upstate Bone and Joint Center at Campus East.
The $19 million high-tech medical and educational center on Fly Road in DeWitt will provide a complete range of orthopedic services for patients from a 15-county area. The facility is expected to be completed by late fall 2010.
"Our focus is to improve our ability to serve our patients in all of Central New York," said Brian Harley, president of Central Land LLC.
The Upstate Bone and Joint Center will be located on a 37-acre parcel of land east of the New Process Gear auto parts plant, right off Route 481. The 90,000-square-foot building will house a new practice, Upstate Orthopedic Ambulatory Surgery Center, and the current University Hospital Department of Orthopedic Surgery, located at 550 Harrison St. in Syracuse.
The 40-year-old center needed to be expanded and more easily accessible, especially since 55 percent of patients come from outside of Onondaga County, Harley said.
The new facility will also accommodate SUNY Upstate Medical Center residents on Campus East, developing its partnership with University Hospital. The 6,000-square-foot education conference and training center will include a 125-seat auditorium, two classrooms and a computer lab.
"It's a step forward for us, and it allows us to offer the best muscular skeletal care in one location," said Dr. Stephen Albanese, chairman of the SUNY Upstate Department of Orthopedic Surgery.
The patients who helped break ground were honored during the ceremony.
"These patients are the real heroes for they have overcome tragedy to live life to the fullest," Albanese said.
Martin plans to celebrate her 68th birthday next year with a 68-mile bike ride along the Erie Canal to raise money for the Golisano Children's Hospital at SUNY Upstate.
"(My doctor) told me there are certain things I shouldn't be doing at 67, and I proved him wrong," she said.
Lindsay Kenton is a journalism major studying at Syracuse University. She is a regular contributing writer for Eagle Newspapers.