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MUSC Health Blog

Date: Apr 2, 2018

Dr. Alana Ronnquist and family

Dr. Alana Ronnquist and family 
Photo provided by Abbey Medley Photography


My name is Alana (Rojewski) Ronnquist and I currently work as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences here at MUSC. I am honored to serve as the 2018 March of Dimes Ambassador Family in memory of my son, Nash.

In October of 2015, I went into preterm labor with my first born, Nash, who was delivered by emergency C-section at MUSC, weighing only 1 lb., 10 oz. and only 11.5 inches long. He appeared to be doing well for only 24 weeks and as parents we remained hopeful. We spent every moment at his bedside in the NICU and over the course of the following weeks, the extent of his lung complications became clear.

After being diagnosed with persistent pulmonary hypertension, he was kept on ventilators, prescribed nitric oxide for his symptoms, and received several doses of surfactant. Through it all, he was an amazing little boy - he would look at us when we went to his bedside, grab our fingers, respond to our voices, and loved kangaroo time. His care team of doctors, nurses, and respiratory therapists worked tirelessly to give him the best possible chance given his challenging circumstances. Ultimately, at 55 days old, Nash could not fight anymore and passed away peacefully in our arms.

Dr. Chris Goodier and baby Maia
Dr. Chris Goodier and Maia

Nash is now a big brother! On March 20, 2017 at 37 weeks, we welcomed our beautiful rainbow baby, Maia. She weighed 7 lbs., 12 oz. and was 20 ¼ inches long. Thanks to the preventative care I received by Dr. Chris Goodier and the entire Maternal Fetal Medicine team at MUSC Women's Health, Maia arrived perfectly healthy and full term. She entered the world screaming – a sound we never heard from Nash, as he spent his life on ventilators.

We are so grateful for the care we received from MUSC that allowed us to bring Maia safely into the world. We know that every provider used every resource at their disposal to give Nash the best chance at life, but providers and researchers need more to treat our most fragile babies – research has to progress. That is why we march for Nash – to raise money for March of Dimes that will go towards lifesaving research. Please join our family in the fight against prematurity at the Charleston March for Babies on April 28!

For more formation about the walk or to pledge your donation here, please visit the Charleston March for Babies.

Complex spinal deformities can cause debilitating pain, restricted movement, even low self-worth. MUSC Health Spine Center specialists partner with patients to get them relief – no matter the patient’s age or cause of the pain.

“There's a lot we can do to help people who have back pain related to a complex spinal deformity. With our skilled surgeons and comprehensive support team, we have capabilities today that we didn’t have before,” says Charles Reitman, M.D., an orthopaedic surgeon and co-director of the MUSC Health Spine Center.

Spine surgery can be complex. To avoid complications, Dr. Reitman pays particular attention to patients’ health prior to greenlighting surgery. Working together with patients, he helps improve their symptoms and self-image.

Common Causes of Back Pain From Spinal Deformities

Many adults with spinal deformities suffer from the effects of an untreated childhood ailment. However, spinal deformities may occur at any age and be caused by other factors, including:

  • Injury
  • Cancer
  • Infection
  • Inflammatory conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis
  • Degenerative disease
  • Postoperative complications

“The main types of spinal deformities include sagittal plane deformities, such as kyphosis, and coronal plane deformities, such as scoliosis. For both these conditions, corrective spine surgery can be pretty complicated,” says Dr. Reitman.

Partnering With Patients to Make Spine Surgery Happen

Because spine surgery can pose so many complications, Dr. Reitman says many spine surgeons may be reluctant to perform surgery on older patients or those in less-than-ideal health.

The team at MUSC Health Spine Center works with patients to make spine surgery possible for them, regardless of their health impediments.

“A patient with a severe sagittal plane or coronal plane deformity, for example, may be in severe pain, unable to stand up straight and may have limited function. That patient shouldn't think twice about getting evaluated for spine surgery — no matter their health or age,” he says.

Dr. Reitman notes the importance of patients taking ownership over their health prior to spine surgery, which helps avoid complications and ensures more effective results. Dr. Reitman works with patients to overcome health hurdles before surgery.

Common roadblocks that can impede healing and recovery include:

  • Smoking
  • Overweight or obesity
  • Heart disease or lung disease
  • Diabetes
  • Low bone density
  • Poor bone quality

Dr. Reitman emphasizes: “If patients commit to tackling any health problems they have (with our support), then we can often get them through surgery safely and effectively. That’s our goal: to find patients relief, safely and help them lead a more fulfilling life.”

Spine Surgery Offers More Than Back Pain Relief

When patients optimize their health prior to surgery, Dr. Reitman says they optimize their chances of success.

“Spine surgery is not a walk in the park for anyone. At MUSC, we have a high-level, coordinated critical care team that can handle complicated cases. For patients who commit to ensuring they can reach their ideal health prior to surgery, it’s more than worth it,” says Dr. Reitman.

“With many complex spinal deformities, the body is in a position that it simply wasn't meant to be in. Corrective surgery does more than relieve pain – it improves patients’ self-image and self-worth. Even though it’s a high-risk surgery with potential complications, the vast majority of patients who have been through it tell me that they’d do it all over again, in a second. Patients say spine surgery gave them their life back. That’s what we’re here to do, for as many patients as we can,” he says.

For more information, contact Dr. Reitman at

MUSC Children’s Health welcomed Dr. Laura Hollinger in late 2017 as part of the pediatric surgical team and as assistant professor of surgery in the Division of Pediatric Surgery.

The Texas native earned her undergraduate degree from Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas, which is also Dr. Hollinger’s hometown. From there, she earned her doctorate in medicine degree from the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston at McGovern Medical School.

She also completed a two-year research fellowship at the Methodist Hospital Department of Surgery and Research Institute where she studied critical illness and the distant organ effects of kidney ischemia-reperfusion injury. She completed her fellowship in pediatric surgery at the University of Texas with training in both open and minimally invasive approaches to neonatal and pediatric general surgical diseases.

Her enthusiasm for building and repairing things started at a young age, and she says that she thinks her mother knew before she did that she would ultimately choose to become a surgeon. While in medical school, she was mentored by Dr. Barbara Bass, who is one of the female pioneers in general surgery and president-elect of the American College of Surgeons.

Dr. Hollinger has been recognized for academic excellence and is the recipient of many awards including the Raleigh Ross Scholar Award from the Texas Surgical Society, the American College of Surgeons Resident Award for Exemplary Teaching, The Methodist Hospital Department of Surgery Resident of the Year Award, and the Excellence in Research Award, Critical Care: American College of Surgeons Surgical Forum.

Her surgical interests include pediatric ECMO support during critical illness, congenital diaphragmatic hernia as well as prenatal diagnosis and intervention. She enjoys working with the MUSC Advanced Fetal Care Center multidisciplinary team and team’s ability to diagnose and offer counseling and therapy for babies with prenatal conditions.

Dr. Hollinger said it’s a thrilling opportunity to be at MUSC Children’s Health and the upcoming Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital scheduled to open in the fall of 2019. She said it’s nice to be able to focus on pediatric patients and their families and their complex needs while providing them with an environment that can be healing. She added the new children’s hospital reflects on the dedication MUSC has to the children of South Carolina.


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