Complex fractures: Orthopaedic fracture care a family affair

Kobek family and Dr Mass universal

While their medical journey has been challenging, the Kobek family praise their UChicago Medicine doctor and hospital staff for providing excellent and compassionate care. Back row, from left to right: Alex and Suzanne Kobek. Front row: Orthopedic surgeon Daniel P. Mass, MD, Brandon Pangallo and Suzi Kobek-Pangallo.

Members of the Kobek family don’t mind making the 90-minute trip from South Bend, Ind., to the University of Chicago Medicine for their orthopaedic care.

"We have always sought out the best medical facilities," Alex Kobek said. "And the staff at the University of Chicago Medicine is so caring, professional and uplifting. We experience that with everyone -- valets, receptionists, technicians, nurses and doctors.

Suzanne and Alex

Alex’s wife, Suzanne, first came to the medical center in early 2007 after she experienced complications from surgery done on her left arm following a fall while on vacation in Acapulco.

"I thought the doctors in Mexico were just setting the break, but they ended up operating and putting in wires, plates and screws," she recalled. "When we got back to the States, my arm kept swelling up."

The couple made an appointment with orthopaedic surgeon Daniel P. Mass, MD, after reading about his expertise in reconstruction for complications related to prior treatment. Mass specializes in surgery of the arms, wrists and hands.

"The staff at the University of Chicago Medicine is so caring, professional and uplifting. We experience that with everyone -- valets, receptionists, technicians, nurses and doctors."

"Suzanne’s arm was broken in multiple places," Mass said. "Unfortunately, the previous repair was inadequate and the blood supply to some bone fragments was stripped. These issues led to bones that would neither heal properly nor hold plates and screws in place."

Over the next several years, Mass performed several reconstructive procedures on Suzanne, which included using the fibula from one of her legs and a bone from her hip to replace portions of bone that had deteriorated and died from lack of blood.

"When Dr. Mass explained things, it was always in a clear, open and unfrightening way," Alex said. "He remained devoted to Suzanne and her difficult situation for many years." Mass also treated Alex during that time, correcting a condition called Dupuytren’s contracture that limited movement of a finger on his right hand. 


The couples’ daughter, Suzi Kobek-Pangallo, and her son, Brandon Pangallo, also traveled from Indiana to see Mass for orthopaedic care. Both Suzi and Brandon were born with osteogenesis imperfecta, or brittle bone disease, a disorder characterized by chalk-like bones that can easily break. Both have had many fractures since they were very young.

Two years ago, Suzi broke bones in her left wrist and right forearm when she tripped and fell in her Mishawaka, Ind., home. The injury involved compound fractures and damage to bones that had sustained breaks earlier in her life. 

Having heard about Mass from her parents, Suzi and her husband Anthony decided she should come to the University of Chicago Medicine for treatment. Doctors in the emergency room at St. Joseph’s Hospital in South Bend agreed that she needed specialty care. Although her fragile bones were challenging to repair, Mass was able to correct the breaks in three surgical procedures using tension bands, plates and screws.


While driving on a curved road last Memorial Day, Brandon lost control of his truck and swerved into a tree. The severe impact left him with multiple fractures in his ribs and limbs. After physicians at Memorial Hospital in South Bend stabilized the young man, the University of Chicago Aeromedical Network (UCAN) transferred him to the medical center for surgical treatment. 

Brandon’s care required the teamwork of two attending surgeons working in coordination. "His case was challenging because he broke bones in both forearms and in both lower legs," Mass explained. "Fractures occurred at the end of bones that already had internal metal rods in them and also between existing plates. In addition, one of the legs had an open fracture." Mass worked with colleague Douglas Dirschl, MD, to perform five multifaceted operations on the young man over a month.

Today, Brandon continues to do rehabilitative therapy at home but describes his condition as "100 percent better" and says he is close to getting back to all of his normal activities.

Suzi praises Mass for his comfortable bedside manner and for the excellent care he has provided her, her son and her parents. "He has been a godsend to all of us," she said.

Daniel P. Mass, MD

Daniel Mass, MD

Daniel Mass, MD, is a highly regarded expert in orthopaedic surgery of the hand and upper extremities. He has a special interest in the research and treatment of flexor tendon injuries, and he also studies the mechanics of the hand, wrist, and elbow.

Learn more about Dr. Mass