“Everyone came to see me in Westerly.”


Kelly Gilligan and her dog, Maggie
With more than 200 acres of property in Wood River Junction, and miles of trails to explore, Kelly Gilligan has always enjoyed long walks with her dog, Maggie.

Increasingly, however, degenerative disc disease caused the vertebrae in Gilligan’s spine to pinch off nerves and create extreme pain.

“It was to the point that I couldn’t go grocery shopping,” she said. “To walk to the garage was excruciating.”

Today, Gilligan is happily back outside, walking with Maggie and free from pain; her return to the life she loves followed a complex spine operation at Westerly Hospital.

Her surgery in late August 2019, performed by Dominic Kleinhenz, MD, an orthopedic surgeon, marked a personal triumph for Gilligan – and also a milestone for Westerly Hospital. Gilligan’s spine surgery was the first of its kind, thanks to the arrival of Dr. Kleinhenz and other new members of the Westerly Hospital medical staff.

Four doctors from University Orthopedics are now providing care in Westerly, seeing patients and performing surgeries at Westerly Hospital as necessary while helping patients like Gilligan get the best possible care close to home.

“I thought for sure that my operation was going to be in Providence,” Gilligan said. “I told my family not to bother coming to see me, it’s too far. But everyone came to see me in Westerly.”


From left: Michael Hulstyn, MD; Thomas Barrett, MD; Stephen Gross, MD; and Dominic Kleinhenz, MD
Gilligan admitted to being nervous about the surgery, knowing she was Dr. Kleinhenz’s first case at Westerly Hospital. “But,” she said, “when we got there, the team was waiting for us, and everybody was just awesome. There were two anesthesiologists. They were very friendly and very informative. They also had extra people there to make sure everything went smoothly. I went in on a Friday, and I was home on Monday. And the nurses, they could not have been nicer.”

Dr. Kleinhenz described the experience from his perspective. “The operating room staff, the pre- and post-op nursing staff, as well as the floor nurses and the physical therapists, everyone really provided top-notch care,” he said. “I don’t think it could have gone any smoother.”

Joining Dr. Kleinhenz on the Westerly Hospital medical staff are Michael Hulstyn, MD, who specializes in sports medicine; Thomas Barrett, MD, who specializes in hip and knee replacements and joint revisions; and Stephen Gross, MD, who specializes in joint replacements and emergency cases, such as hip fractures.

Dr. Gross has been serving the Westerly area for 26 years, but he said having colleagues with different specialties practicing together in the community is a big plus.

“People want to stay local if they can,” Dr. Gross said. “They want to use local services. And now, in most cases, I think they will be able to stay right here.”

Helping a community hospital establish a comprehensive orthopedic program is a point of pride for the participating physicians from University Orthopedics, yet they all agree that there’s something uniquely appealing to see it happening in Westerly.

“Everyone at Westerly Hospital is really enthusiastic about these new services, and what excites me is that the hospital is full of great, happy people,” Dr. Kleinhenz said.

As for Gilligan, “I feel good!” she said. “Walking isn’t painful anymore. I think it’s awesome that we have these kinds of doctors, with these kinds of skills, right here in our community.”