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Patient Stories

Giving Your Best

By March 15, 2023May 15th, 2024No Comments

In 2020, Javier G. Fell from a concrete wall, hurting his arm severely. He could not move his arm or rotate his elbow. Emergency room X-rays confirmed a broken elbow.

Javier with two family members and Dr. Kaska.

“They told me they could not treat me because I did not have insurance and it was not an emergency,” Javier explains. “I started thinking that this was how I would always be — always with unrelenting pain.”

The local clinic referred him to Dr. Serge Kaska, an orthopedic specialist and Project Access volunteer. Dr. Kaska confirmed the diagnosis and the need for surgery. Javier did not have insurance, but Dr. Kaska took the time to tell him about Project Access and encouraged him to apply.

“The reason I volunteer with Project Access is so I can use my specific surgical skill set with trauma and fractures that may not have healed properly,” Dr. Kaska says. “I can add value to people’s lives here in San Diego.”

With the application completed, the pandemic delayed Javier’s surgery for two years. During that time, Javier, the sole family wage earner, had limited to no use of his right arm and couldn’t work or do any physical activity.

“Every time I slept I would just end up hurting myself more, so I was not sleeping,” Javier says. His emotional health declined along with his physical health. He was sad and frustrated, isolating himself from his family at home. “I didn’t feel useful. I was always angry. I yelled a lot. I did not feel like a normal person,” he continues. Javier’s mom recalls, “Leaving him alone with his thoughts and pain, and not seeing a future or a change coming, I felt so worried all that time (about suicide).”

Finally, his surgery was scheduled at Scripps Encinitas. “I was so nervous about the surgery, but Dr. Kaska explained everything really well,” Javier says. “All the nurses, doctors, and staff told me everything that was going to happen.”

The recuperation was challenging and Javier recalls being bruised and swollen for quite a while, but he was also hopeful and noticed changes in himself after the surgery. “Once I had surgery I was so thankful — to God, to Project Access, Dr. Kaska, the nurses, the hospital,” he says. Javier states he is appreciative of more things, wanting to work hard to give back. His mom states, “He is healthier, taking care of himself, he has returned to work, and seems much happier.”

Dr. Kaska was introduced to orthopedics through his own injuries playing football. “My coaches encouraged me to strive to reach my full potential,” he says. “Both my parents were scientists, and this extra nudge propelled me into medicine.” Dr. Kaska enjoys the innovation that can be found in recognizing problems and finding solutions. He invented C-Armor, which is a drape that keeps an x-ray machine sterile for use in the operating room. Time away from work includes surfing, mountain biking, and snowboarding.

Dr. Kaska holds a Mother Theresa quote close to his heart: “Because in the final analysis it is between yourself and God, and it is better to give your best.” Since 2008, Project Access has facilitated $27 million in care for more than 7,500 uninsured patients just like Javier by providing free consultations and surgeries — all thanks to the dedication, time, and talent of our volunteer specialty physicians.