Dr. Edwin Vyhmeister has steady hands.
Whether they’re tying an intricate fly fishing knot, or performing micro-surgery the surgeon, and newly-minted Alaskan, specializes in processes that require a delicate touch.
The Chile-born hand surgeon also has a strong German accent, and a way of cracking jokes so dryly it takes a second for them to sink in.
As he talked about being powerless to stop himself from watching people’s hands and looking for potentially hazardous behavior, Vyhmeister grinned.
When his wife, Ingrid Vyhmeister is cooking, he said, he has a hard time watching her chop food.
“She can cook, as you can tell,” he said, looking down at his stomach. “She’s very accurate with a knife but, boy if she’s cutting vegetables … people are a little cavalier about cooking and there are issues with that. I just repaired a poor young man from one of the fast food places in this community who, half of his finger is gone in the cutting equipment.”
He’s so bad about watching carefully, he said, that his three sons won’t let him watch them play with anything sharp.
Vhymeister will be working out of the Kenai Peninsula Orthopaedics office, 291 Fireweed Street in Soldotna, but his skills are such high demand that he’ll also be working on-call for Central Peninsula Hospital. He’ll start working as an on-call surgeon in the emergency room this week.
For Vhymeister, who started his training in general surgery and became board certified as a general surgeon, hands held a magnetic attraction once he began his training rotations in Detroit-area hospitals.
“I love the meticulous surgery and the anatomy and the care for hand injuries,” he said. “It’s complex, its delicate, it’s also functionality. You’re trying to restore the ability for the patient to use their hands.”
Vhymeister also has sharp eyes — though he uses magnifying rings during certain surgeries. And, while it’s all about the hands and upper extremities for the long-time private-practice specialist, he is careful to point out that he works on macro-level issues.
“For example, if a patient comes in with a broken (bone), I will not fix that,” he said. “But, if the nerve has been damaged because of (the break), I will fix that. It’s the microscopic aspect of the soft tissue in the upper extremities that I deal with.”
There are no other board-certified hand surgeons on the Kenai Peninsula, said Central Peninsula Hospital Marketing Manager Camille Sorensen. “Anytime we can get this kind of specialty down here is awesome.”
CPH CEO Rick Davis wrote in an emailed statement that the hospital was pleased to welcome the surgeon to the community.
While Vyhmeister will be working with Central Peninsula Hospital, he said people who wanted to reach him for consultations should got through Kenai Peninsula Orthopaedics, or KPO.
It was at the Soldotna-based KPO that Vyhmeister saw his first patient in September and business has been rolling in steadily ever since, he said.
For now, however, Vyhmeister said he is helping his newly-arrived family to settle in, they would like to go fishing soon.
“My wife ties her own flies … we love fly fishing,” he said.
The fishing and outdoor recreation are what attracted the Vhymeisters to Alaska, he said.
“We are outdoors people. So, we may be fishing, snowmobiling, quad-running, (and) going up into the mountains,” he said.
Vyhmeister said he is looking forward to treating people on the Kenai Peninsula who may have been avoiding a long drive to Anchorage to get treatment.
“They’ll ignore it and they’ll live with it, and there’s so many things I can help people with,” he said.
Reach Rashah McChesney at Rashah.email@example.com.