Giving Back Life

For the past 10 years, Optim Surgery Center’s Dr. Donald McCartney has traveled to Guatemala to help with pediatric orthopedic cases. Traveling at least four times a year, for the past two years, Dr. McCartney has been working with 11-year-old, Mia Polanco and her 15-year-old brother, Carlos. 

In November, Mia received a life-changing scoliosis surgery after Dr. McCartney brought both her and her mother to America for the procedure; which without health insurance would have totaled around $120,000. This wasn’t the first time Dr. McCartney had helped out the Polanco family. Back in 2017, Dr. McCartney performed the same surgery on her brother, Carlos, who with a 90-degree curve in his spine had a much more severe case. This caused him to be constantly laughed at and bullied. 

Dr. McCartney’s philanthropic work in Guatemala is another expression of a dedication to medicine that has made Optim Surgery Center different from other practices.

"Compassionate care is at the heart of what we do,” says Rob Snipes, CEO of Optim Medical Center-Tattnall. "We are inspired by children like Mia who always have such a positive outlook despite their physical limitations and economic hardships. As a group, we're committed to helping the generations that follow us, whether they are right here in Georgia or in another country.”

"We have great working relationships with local community groups that provide primary care for the uninsured population,” adds John Salandi, administrator, Optim Surgery Center. "We coordinate with them to identify patients that are in need of orthopedic surgical care. Thanks to Dr. McCartney and his regular trips to Guatemala, Optim has made a life changing impact on the lives of now two children from another country. Having spent time with Jackie, Carlos and now Mia, I can tell you they are a wonderful family who are so appreciative of the support they have received.”

The far-reaching impacts of the surgery go far beyond simply correcting a curved spine. Thanks to the care they received, both Mia and Carlos now have a chance at a better life. 
Since the surgery, Carlos has been able to live the normal life of an energetic teenage boy. He’s now started to dance and is able to participate in sports like soccer. The stinging words of schoolyard bullies are now gone, and Carlos speaks with pride of the life-changing surgery he underwent. 

Now in the 5th grade, Mia has lived with zeal post-surgery; she loves to draw and has dreams of becoming an actress. Scheduled to return back home in December, Mia will be able to go about pursuing her dreams and can continue to go swimming with friends, one of her many favorite things to do. 

Mia's spine before and after surgery

“I don’t have enough words to express my thank you to everyone with Optim for everything they did for Mia and last year for Carlos. I will never stop appreciating everyone for being so wonderful with us,” says the mother of these two precocious children, Jackie Polanco. Appointments with Dr. McCartney, MD, of Optim Surgery Center can be made through or reached at 912.644.5300.  •