Getting the Call From Ukraine

March 29, 2023

Viacheslav Babak plays an important role in Ukraine’s war effort. He, however, hurt his back last year, and it forced him to slow down and seek medical care in Ukraine. Bed rest and a brace did not help. 

Fortunately for Viacheslav, one of his friends knew Dr. Joseph Aferzon, chief of neurosurgery at Middlesex Health. Dr. Aferzon is originally from Ukraine and still has many connections to his homeland. 

A phone consultation determined that Viacheslav had a spine fracture and that surgery was needed in order for him to feel better, and Dr. Aferzon was asked if he would perform the surgery — in Connecticut. 

There were many logistics to work out. Viacheslav found a way to safely get to Connecticut, while Dr. Joseph Aferzon teamed up with Dr. Jeffrey Bash, a spine surgeon, to perform the surgery. Middlesex Health coordinated services. It was a collaborative effort as individuals came together to help a Ukrainian in need.

Ukrainian general
Viacheslav Babak

In December 2022, Viacheslav arrived in Connecticut, and Dr. Aferzon and Dr. Bash performed a minimally invasive thoracic lumbar reconstruction — an advanced procedure done at few facilities. To do the procedure, you need a thorough understanding of anatomy, Dr. Aferzon says, adding that you work with a small, restricted portal — and not a traditional, large, open exposure. This significantly decreases surgical morbidity. You need the special tools, experience and guidance to work within such a narrow surgical channel, he says.

When performing Viacheslav’s surgery, they approached both from the anterior and posterior, gently flipping him over mid-way through the procedure. They used Middlesex’s new Globus Medical’s Excelsius3D™ intraoperative imaging device during surgery, which offers superior enhanced imaging, and the device helped them navigate the anatomy and place screws and rods. In 2022, Middlesex Health was the first health system in New England to use this device, making Viacheslav among the first to benefit.  

“This procedure was well suited for Viacheslav’s injury,” Dr. Aferzon says. “It can also be used for procedures that happen as a result of acute trauma, osteoporotic fractures, tumors and degenerative disease.” 

Viacheslav’s surgery took six to seven hours, and he had a short stay at Middlesex Hospital in Middletown before staying with Dr. Aferzon briefly to recover. About one week after he was discharged, a grateful Viacheslav returned to Ukraine and resumed fighting for his country. Dr. Aferzon continues to check on his progress from afar. 

“I want to emphasize the high professionalism of the hospital staff, their “golden hands,” and their sensitive hearts,” Viacheslav says. “While being treated at Middlesex Hospital, I felt only kindness, care and respect from the medical staff. Thank you very much for everything!”

Featured Providers

Joseph Aferzon, MD

Joseph Aferzon, MD

Specialties / Areas of Care

  • Spine Surgery


  • Portland, CT
    (860) 832-4664
Jeffrey A. Bash, MD

Jeffrey A. Bash, MD

Specialties / Areas of Care

  • Orthopedic Surgery


  • Middletown, CT

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