Children's Emergency Department is now located in Children's Tower: 1001 E. Marshall Street.

Learn more
View alerts close
An unexpected meeting: Family reconnects with CHoR doctor decades after surgery
February 23, 2024
CHoR patient Jenna Jacoby with her parents at a college swim meet

    Pediatric surgeon, Dr. Jeffrey Haynes, is inspired by former patient’s success

    CHoR surgeon Dr. Jeffrey HaynesDr. Jeffrey Haynes, pediatric surgeon and director of our Children’s Trauma Center, has operated on thousands of children in his multi-decade career. From life-saving trauma situations to planned surgeries for complex conditions, he’s left an indelible mark on families now spread across the country and beyond. Occasionally, he has the pleasure of learning about the health and success of his patients years later, as was the case recently with now 33-year-old Jenna Jacoby.

    Last fall, Dr. Haynes was going about his routine of checking on his patients in the Children’s Tower when he was stopped by a woman in the hallway. Lauren Goeke, a nursing instructor with VCU School of Nursing, was in the hospital with her students when she spotted Dr. Haynes. He had operated on her sister, Jenna Jacoby, 25 years ago. Beyond the successful surgery for a rare condition, the family remembers the experience so fondly because of Dr. Haynes. Lauren, surprised to see him, simply had to let him know.

    A rare diagnosis for a small child required surgical expertise found at CHoR

    When Jenna was a toddler, her parents noticed a bulging spot in her neck. She was diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome – characterized by pressure on nerves and/or blood vessels between the neck and shoulder (the area called the thoracic outlet) – when she was just 18 months old. While it’s not uncommon for this condition to result from trauma of a car accident or repetitive injuries such as in a baseball pitcher, it’s quite rare for it to occur in a child as young as Jenna. This made it challenging to find a medical team with knowledge of how to proceed and the experience to confidently follow through.

    “The doctor who diagnosed me said I would need surgery. We went to a lot of hospitals before we ended up in Richmond,” said Jenna, whose family lived in Northern Virginia.

    The upper right side of Jenna’s body was weak and small, while the left side was normal. When she moved her head and right arm in certain ways, blood flow was cut off and she experienced paralysis.

    “It was a waiting game. They needed me to be bigger to do the surgery but didn’t want to wait too long and risk the paralysis becoming permanent,” Jenna added.

    CHoR patient Jenna Jacoby in her hospital bed at 8 years oldJenna was 8 years old when she ended up having the surgery. Her parents knew, but didn’t share with her at the time, that it came with some risks given the location of the issue and her small size.

    “Jenna needed a decompression of the thoracic outlet for her debilitating neurologic symptoms. She was young, which makes the anatomic approach more challenging and more familiar in the hands of a pediatric surgeon, although this is a rare condition in children,” said Dr. Haynes. “I had been referred a number of these conditions around the time I saw Jenna and so had some experience with this problem. Pediatric surgery is a small community so perhaps word got out about our experience here.”

    A special, purposeful approach to caring for kids and families facing medical hurdles

    Dr. Haynes’ expertise was a large part of the reason the Jacoby family decided to travel to Richmond – but Jenna recalls a comfort level with him that she didn’t have with the other doctors they saw.

    “I remember being in rooms with all the doctors and medical students and taking off my shirt and all of them poking and prodding. I remember telling my parents that I felt like a science experiment, and I didn’t want to do it anymore,” said Jenna. “What was really different with Dr. Haynes was that he met us in the hospital lobby, walked us to the room, talked through everything with us. He never made me feel like I was young. He always included me in the conversations.”

    This approach comes naturally for Dr. Haynes, who is a father – and now a grandfather.

    “I think it all starts with the fact that I love kids. And during my entire practice, when I enter a patient room, I always engage the child first and then include the entire family. I have always seen that as very foundational. I want the child to be completely involved in the process, as appropriate by age, so that there are no surprises. That builds a relationship of necessary trust between child and surgeon and family and surgeon,” Dr. Haynes explained.

    Jenna stayed in the hospital for a few days after surgery, then had a lot of physical therapy to help her regain strength. She also needed to relearn many tasks that required fine motor skills, like writing and tying her shoes.

    “I remember one time before my surgery I was taking a timed SOL practice test and my arm went numb. My teacher was upset, but I couldn’t write,” recalled Jenna.

    Former CHoR patient Jenna Jacoby today at age 33Short- and long-term success following surgery with pediatric expert, Dr. Jeffrey Haynes

    Jenna grew up in a competitive swimming environment. She swam as a child, but her body needed a few years to play catch-up and build muscle post-surgery. By the time she was 12 or 13, she began to really excel, then went on to swim throughout college at a NCAA Division 1 school.

    Today, Jenna is a manager with the International Rescue Committee. She works out, lifts weights and walks her dog several miles every day. With her health challenges in the rearview mirror, she was thrilled to reconnect with Dr. Haynes via email after he and her sister crossed paths.

    CHoR patient Jenna Jacoby's dog“Learning of Jenna's success on so many fronts is a reminder of the huge privilege it is to be a children's surgeon,” said Dr. Haynes. “In a way, not hearing for so many years is rewarding that the initial challenge has been solved. But loop closure like this is a true validation and motivation to continue to do what we do for as many children as possible.”

    Jenna and her family are thankful to have found him when they needed expert and compassionate care.

    “My family absolutely loves Dr. Haynes. He goes above and beyond. He’s such an amazing, caring human,” she said.

    Learn about the latest surgical care provided in the Level 1 Children’s Surgery Center at CHoR.

    Subscribe to our blog

    Sign Up