Mission worker travels 10,000 miles for neck surgery in Louisville
In early March, word spread quickly in southern Papua New Guinea that Selina “Lena” Allen, the missionary nurse, was headed home to the United States for neck fusion surgery at Norton Hospital.
Lena saw 700 patients in the two days leading up to her departure for Louisville. Most stopped by to stock up on medicines dispensed by her clinic.
Just as her patients were in a hurry to see her, Lena was determined to get the surgery over and done with so she could return to her life’s work on the impoverished island nation north of Australia.
Her journey, which spans 10,000 miles, dates back more than 20 years when she suffered a whiplash injury in a fall. A chiropractor and anti-inflammatory medicine helped relieve the pain, but it never went away. In 2011 she consulted with her long-time friend Mitchell J. Campbell, M.D., orthopaedic spine surgeon, who said she was a candidate for surgery. She held off, returning to Papua New Guinea to resume her nursing work.
Dr. Campbell, impressed by her commitment, arranged to have surplus medical supplies from Norton Healthcare’s operating rooms sent to her clinic. By 2015, Lena’s pain had become unbearable and she made plans to return to Louisville for the procedure.
“Dr. Campbell has been a blessing to us and to our ministry,” Lena said.
“Lena is the quintessential example of a compassionate caregiver,” Dr. Campbell said.
Her trip to Louisville served as a sort of homecoming. She and her husband, John, have family and a home in Louisville, where John served as pastor of the Landmark Independent Baptist Church.
They arrived in March and Lena underwent an MRI of her neck in preparation for surgery. John E. Harpring, M.D., neurosurgeon, Norton Neuroscience Institute, also helped perform the procedure to fuse damaged vertebrae in her neck and relieve her pain.
The surgery was a success and Lena is on the road to full recovery with no physical therapy required. She was released by her physicians and does not expect to endure any of the neck pain that was once so disabling.
“God gives you the strength for what you need,” Lena said. . “I couldn’t do this on my own.” Lena needed all the strength she could get once she returned to Papua New Guinea in mid-September.
She and a handful of volunteers care for an average of 12,000 patients annually. Some patients walk up to two days to see her. The Allens have forged deep bonds with the people they serve. Lena says she and John will continue their work for as long as their health allows.
Need expert spine care?
Turn to the world-renowned orthopaedic spine specialists of Norton Leatherman Spine Center. Our specialists constantly seek new methods to improve the effectiveness of treatments and surgery, and many have pioneered important breakthroughts in spinal treatment that are in use around the world. To schedule an appointment with a spine specialist, call (502) 792-8969.