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Local Doctor Discusses Surgery Performed On Train Tracks In Northeast Philadelphia

By Diana Rocco

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) –  A local doctor helped perform surgery on a patient under circumstances that were far from routine.

Einstein Medical Center ER Dr. Melissa Kohn got a 3 a.m. call Wednesday. A 46-year-old man was stuck under a train on tracks near Grant Avenue in Northeast Philadelphia. Doctor Kohn was at home, but with her emergency kit in her car she was prepared for anything.

"I'm used to working on the ambulance and seeing a lot of different unusual scenes, I haven't necessarily had to crawl underneath a train to save somebody before," said Dr. Melissa Kohn, Einstein Medical Center.

The fire department was on the scene and had assessed the situation. The only way to free the man was to amputate his leg at the ankle.

"The fire department had already tried to consider moving the train or lifting the train but there wasn't an option for that," said Dr. Kohn.

Dr. Kohn and her colleague, Dr. Megan Stobart Gallagher, have performed countless surgeries before but never in these conditions. The patient was heavily medicated and awake, and this time their operating room was underneath the engine of a freight train.

'We crawled underneath the train on our bellies," said Dr. Kohn.  "We used a scalpel to cut through some of the tissues and then we used two different types of saws to be able to cut through the bone."

With their tools in hand, the doctors had to climb up a steep embankment and onto the tracks. Under the train at that hour of the morning, it was more than 100 degrees while they were performing the surgery. It took about 40 minutes, but the man was finally freed and taken to the hospital.

"We were there trying to do the best thing for the patient, so anytime we have a good outcome, and by being able to get the patient out from underneath the train, that's seemed a first step in the process of being a good outcome," said Dr. Kohn.

He lost his foot, but the quick thinking and resourceful actions of these Einstein doctors saved his life.

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