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‘Second Opinion’ takes prime-time look at spinal cord injuries

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ROCHESTER — Spinal cord injuries — which more than 11,000 American suffer each year — will be the focus of a special edition of WXXI-TV’s national heathcare series “Second Opinion.”

The episode airs 9 p.m. Thursday on WXXI-TV, channel 21 in Rochester, and cable channel 11 in Batavia.

University of Rochester Medical Center CEO Dr. Brad Berk shares his personal story about his 2009 bicycle accident that injured his spinal cord, and has left him in a wheelchair. Joining Dr. Berk is Byron resident Charlie Durkee, who talks about his accident that left him paralyzed at the age of 22.

Each week Second Opinion host Dr. Peter Salgo presents an actual medical case to a panel of experts. The panelists are not allowed to review the case file before the cameras roll. This keeps the conversation authentic — mirroring the doctor-patient exchanges that occur across America every day.

In “Spinal Cord Injury,” Berk joins panelists Dr. David Chen, medical director of the Spinal Cord Injury Program at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago and Dr. Paul Maurer, a neurosurgeon at University of Rochester Medical Center, to discuss his accident and treatment.

Berk’s wife, Mary, joins him on set to share her experiences since his accident, including how it has affected their lives. She offers firsthand advice to families undergoing similar challenges.

Durkee also joins in the conversation, as he shares the trials he has faced since his accident.

Many people who suffer spinal cord injuries are left with some form of irreversible damage, such as paralysis.

Although medical scientists are working toward the day when the effects of spinal cord injuries can be reversed, today’s therapies focus on helping disabled individuals lead productive, independent lives.

“Second Opinion” is endorsed by both the American Hospital Association and the Association of Academic Health Centers. Dr. Roger Oskvig, an acknowledged leader in gerontology and associate professor of medicine at University of Rochester Medical Center, is the series’ principal medical advisor.

In addition to the weekly broadcast, “Second Opinion” engages and educates viewers online through a comprehensive Web site at

Regular episodes air at 3 p.m. Saturdays and 1:30 p.m. Sundays on WXXI-TV. It is also seen on more than 250 public television stations across the country.

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