To the Editor:
Although we sold our family home on Tarpon Avenue years ago, we have enjoyed vacationing on the island frequently since. Our last visit, however, turned into a nightmare.View More images >>
One early Monday morning while we were on the island my significant other, Randy Whitelaw, turned, quite literally, canary yellow. I took him to the Boca Grande Health Clinic where he was seen by Dr. Michael Steffan. Dr Steffan, deeply concerned about Randy's significantly elevated bilirubin level, ordered a CT scan. Other than severe jaundice, Randy had no other symptoms of any illness at that time so we booked a CT scan at a facility in Englewood for the next day and went about our business.
On Tuesday a CT scan was performed and findings were consistent with a diagnosis of gallbladder or pancreatic cancer. We were flabbergasted! Dr Steffan suggested immediate local hospitalization - we refused. Instead we consulted with physicians known to us in NYC and St Louis. They too agreed ... pancreatic cancer was likely. Arrangements were made to leave Boca Grande and to seek treatment in St. Louis, where Randy is originally from.
Flight reservations were made for a Wednesday morning departure, but late Tuesday night Randy fell suddenly and seriously ill, barely coherent and spiking a high fever. Emergency intervention was inevitable so with much intrepidation I drove Randy to Englewood Community Hospital. My greatest fear - emergency care in an unfamiliar, small community hospital - was about to be realized ... or so I thought.
While it may have made some difference to the staff when I told them I was a registered nurse and an attorney specializing in health law and ethics, all who attended to us, including emergency room physician Dr. John Meyer and three nurses, were absolutely amazing. Dr Meyer found Randy to be far too ill to travel to St Louis or anywhere else. He suggested we bring in a gastroenterologist from the community. Again, I was reluctant to put my loved ones care in the hands of a small town physician. But there was no choice. Randy was moved from the emergency room to a private room where I could sleep-in with him while we awaited consultation with Dr Tony DiTomaso, the gastroenterologist recommended by Dr. Meyer.
At 7 a.m. Dr DiTomaso arrived at Randy's bedside. Upon review of Randy's recent medical history he too believed Randy's situation was grim. He spoke frankly, confidently, and with a degree of compassion uncommon in health care practice as I had come to know it. We instantly and willingly put our fate in his hands. Shortly thereafter Randy was wheeled into the operating room.
Less than two hours later Dr DiTomaso emerged from the operating room with a look of calm and satisfaction on his face. He was obviously genuinely pleased to bring me good news. In spite of indications to the contrary Randy had nothing more than a large, and unusually painless, blockage in his common bile duct.
I know I can be difficult to deal with and quite critical when it comes to medical care for the people I love, but I have nothing but praise for the excellent, timely, compassionate care Randy received throughout his ordeal. The Boca Grande Health Clinic staff treated us like special clients rather than the strangers to their service that we actually were. Dr Steffan gave us his personal cell phone number and asked that we keep him posted...imagine that! Dr. Meyer and his RN staff were more attentive to Randy than any ER team I've witnessed in my 30+ years of nursing practice. Every hospital employee who attended us, be they housekeepers, dietary services, or floor or operating room nursing staff, introduced themselves to us, extended every possible courtesy, and acted professionally and competently...a combination of health care delivery skills too often absent in health care settings. Dr. DiTomaso has followed Randy’s recovery with phone calls and ongoing support. We sing his praise.
Sincere thanks to all who participated in Randy’s care. We are forever grateful.
Liz Colosimo, RN, Esq.Las Vegas, NV
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