Doctor returns to do residency at hospital where he once fought for his life

lgierer@ledger-enquirer.comJanuary 27, 2014 

Matthew West is back where it all began.

The doctor is doing his residency at Midtown Medical Center where he was born 29 years ago. He is working with the neonatal intensive care unit in which he spent the first seven weeks of his life fighting for survival.

He is a graduate of Brookstone, the University of Georgia and the Medical College of Georgia.

He will do the first year of his residency here then finish with three years at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C. He is one of several doctors in Midtown Medical Center's transitional year residency program, and he will finish here in July.

"I am glad I can care for people in the community that cared so much for me," West said.

As for working in the NICU, he remarked, "It is just amazing the work that is done here. The workers here have such passion. Some are still here from the time I was born."

West was not born premature but did suffer from persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn, a condition in which his blood was not getting properly oxygenated. He was on a ventilator for three weeks.

West explained that oxygen enters the body through the lungs and is carried by blood flowing by the lungs to the rest of the body. With PPHN, the blood fails to flow by the lungs.

Dr. Louis Levy was head of the NICU when West was born. He recently attended West's marriage and told the young doctor that he was one of the sickest children he ever saw with the condition. He recalled West a "fighter."

"We have a lot of little fighters up here," West said of the children he sees in the NICU. "A lot of them."

West said he has a connection with the babies in NICU and can share his experience to give encouragement and comfort to parents with a child in the NICU. "It is special for me," he said.

Dr. David Levine is currently the chief of the NICU.

Though West is working with pediatrics now, he does not plan to make that his specialty.

Instead, West is going to be an ophthalmologist.

West has traveled to Zimbabwe in Africa and has assisted Columbus ophthalmologist Stephen Beaty doing eye surgeries, such as cornea transplants.

Beaty makes regular trips to the country where he spent part of his childhood as the son of missionaries.

"There are people with cataracts so bad that they were blind. With some, a 15-minute procedure and they could see. People screamed with excitement. To see those kind of results, so quickly, it was pretty neat," West said.

He said that for that kind of work, "There is a great need both here and in other countries."

It is very possible that West will one day have a practice in the Columbus area, where his parents still reside.

West said, "I have a real passion for helping people here."

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