After tragedy, a site for healing

Bayview orthopedic unit named in honor of medical couple who died in auto accident

May 11, 2006|By NICOLE FULLER | NICOLE FULLER,SUN REPORTER

Nearly everyone had a story of going from pain to nearly instant rejuvenation at the hands of Dr. James Wenz, who died more than two years ago with his wife in a horrific crash in Baltimore County.

There was Gregory Schaffer, president of Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, whose wife's double knee replacement surgery was performed by Wenz, an orthopedic surgeon who pioneered smaller incisions for joint replacement surgery, greatly speeding his patients' recovery.

And John Sibrea, who had knee replacement surgery about two weeks before Wenz died.

"Three or four days after the procedure I was doing everything I could do before," Sibrea said. "He was a marvelous doctor. He was a real remarkable fellow."

Family, friends and medical professionals came together yesterday at a ribbon cutting to dedicate the new Wenz Orthopaedic Unit at Johns Hopkins Bayview to James and his wife, Dr. Lidia Z. Wenz, a child psychiatrist.

Lidia Wenz, 44, was behind the wheel of the family's 2000 Hummer heading south toward their Millersville home on Interstate 83 in January 2004 when the car swerved and struck two tractor-trailers. Both doctors died at the scene. Their children, Adrianna and James Jr., survived. They are now ages 10 and 9, respectively.

James Wenz's parents, Madeline and Fred Wenz, and his twin sister, Lisa Serridge, who live in New Jersey, attended the ceremony with the Wenz children. They live in Florida during the school year with their mother's sister, and spend summers and some holidays with their grandparents and aunt.

"We're really honored that this place is dedicated to our parents," Adrianna said after the ceremony. "I'm sure they'd be really proud of the place."

The unit is the only orthopedic facility in the Hopkins system and has 10 private rooms, equipped with 27-inch, flat-screen TVs, stainless-steel minirefrigerators, couches accented with cherry wood and a physical therapy and rehabilitation center.

It was a place, his family and colleagues said, that Wenz had dreamed of.

"I remember when he was just beginning to envision this," Serridge said. "He was talking about how he wanted to help improve things for his patients. It's just overwhelming to see it in reality."

Dr. Simon C. Mears, the unit's medical director, called James Wenz "my friend, my partner, my mentor."

The unit's first patient, when it officially opens Monday, is having knee replacement surgery.

The patient: James Wenz's father, Fred.

"It was just meant to be," he said.

nicole.fuller@baltsun.com

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