by Richard Lieberman
During a recent surgical procedure at Community Memorial Hospital in Ventura, I had run into a series of coincidences that brought me under the care of Neurosurgeon Katherine Wagner who had recently joined the practice of Dr. David Westra and unbeknownst at the time a small series of coincidences brought me back 74 years and a continent away.
Originally, I had been scheduled to see another Neurosurgeon, but the wait time was measured in months. Got an unexpected call from the same neurosurgery office. A new surgeon had joined the practice and asked if I would like to see her. Yes of course I said and was scheduled for just a day later. This turned out to be coincidence number one.
After doing my due diligence on a Dr. I did not know and was new to Ventura when I discovered she went to medical school in the state and city where I was born. Later I was to discover Dr. Wagner was born and lived in New Jersey and had attended Rutgers Medical school in my hometown. This turned out to be coincidence number two.
“A logical choice for me was to go to Rutgers Medical School, my home state school with an excellent reputation in my field of study’” Wagner said. “When I was a third-year medical student, I rotated with the neurosurgeons on my neurology clerkship. One thing I loved about neurosurgery is that it married some of the aspects of medicine that I enjoyed like doing something for a patient that would help deal with a problem in the more short term. Found it really gratifying that we had patients leave the hospital without that brain tumor they had been suffering with,” she added. When you are a neurosurgeon, it really is the center of your life and a lot of decisions you and your family make are based on that, A lot of my and my family’s decisions are based on my career,” she said.
Some time after our first meeting I was scheduled for neurosurgery and Dr. Wagner would be the surgeon.
“One thing about Neurosurgery is that there are only so many places you can work, just so many places that have a job opening at the time you are looking,” So what I really liked about Ventura, I really fell in love with the community here. I love the scenery, the downtown scene, it really has a small city vibe it just cannot be replicated in other places,” she said. There is a devotion to the town that you really cannot find anywhere else, people are really, really proud of their community, she added.
After being admitted to Community Memorial one evening Dr. Wagner stopped by my room and we chatted for a bit. As we talked, I mentioned that I had been born at Beth Israel hospital in New Jersey some 74 years ago. She smiled and said, “I worked at the same hospital, I did rotations there” Coincidence number three.
We continued to chat for some time, and I don’t know why I even mentioned this, but I asked her if she had ever seen a Netflix Documentary called “Lenox Hill” (it is a documentary series about neurosurgery and surgeons at a New York hospital) She visibly perked up for a minute then said “Oh I was in the documentary” and coincidence number four found it’s way to a small hospital room in Ventura, California.