Dr. Steven E. Kopits, a Modern Miracle Maker
I would like to present you a man who is considered as a real miracle maker, the saver of the little people: Dr. Steven E. Kopits (July 17, 1936 – June 18, 2002). He had deep roots in Central Europe as he was born in Hungary. After the turbulent years of World War II, they’ve settled in Argentina where he received a solid Jesuit education in which he demonstrated academic excellence. In the 80s, with the establishment of the International Center for Skeletal Dysplasia, as its founder and director, at the St. Joseph Medical Center, Steven had become fully absorbed with his lifetime passion: the caring and healing of little people. – George, the brother said in Steven’s eulogy.
Dr. Kopits is the pioneering orthopaedic surgeon who devotes his entire medical practice to the treatment of persons with Skeletal Dysplasia, usually referred to as Dwarfism. Patients come from all over the world seeking Dr. Kopits’ expertise and compassionate medical care.
There are plenty of amazing stories from his patients. Here is an example: Juliana and Katia DeSouza were born with diastrophic dysplasia caused by genetic dwarfism. Juliana needed an extensive help to be able to walk, to drive, to care of herself.
Dr. Kopits decided to waive his fee for Juliana’ s care. He also convinced the hospital to accept Juliana as a charity case. The cost of the surgery was about’ $350,000 — a price the DeSouzas could never afford on their own. Juliana’ s hips, knees, ankles and feet were re-constructed so she could walk.
According to an other story, Leah Chorniak was diagnosed with dwarfism.
Leah was 5 years old then, and had already had five operations that failed to correct her crippling bowed legs. Dr. Kopits told the girl’s parents of the hardships to come: a series of operations and painful physical therapy that would span a decade. But he also showed the couple a photograph of one of his many patients who had undergone treatment and gone on to college.
Now she said she expected to be mobile and through with her surgery within a year.
Dr. Kopits, the 6-foot-2 (188 cm) surgeon who is the director of the International Center for Skeletal Dysplasia and had about 1,800 patients undergoing treatment, said:
If they dropped us on another planet where everybody was short, they’d think we were the weird ones. We just wanted to get across the idea that little people are important as people, not more important, not less important than other people, but as important.” ‘It Really Isn’t’ a Tragedy’.
The first doctor who breaks the news of dwarfism should tell the parents that it appears a tragedy, but it really isn’t. So I tell them, ‘Your child will be able to walk and drive a car and keep a house and have a family.’
But maybe what is the most important is that Dr. Kopits did not try to make dwarfs taller, he rejected bone-stretching techniques as unsafe and unproven.
He calls his treatment ”planned management,” scheduled around strategically planned ”surgical windows,” points in a dwarf’s life when operations will do the most to prevent deformity, paralysis or crippling. Treatment of the condition, he said, had been based on ”crisis management,” given only after disabilities became evident. But signs of the problem typically show up 10 years earlier, he said, and prompt treatment during skeletal development is critical to prevent long-term disabilities.
He was a miraculous man, just take a look at some of his patients words about him.
I met him when I was 3 years old. Throughout the years he became a dear friend of mine. He was no longer just my doctor but someone in whom I confide and talk to about anything. Unfortunately, on June 18th, 2002 he passed away from brain cancer. It is difficult to put into words what a great man he was and how he enriched my life.