I got a lesson in death and dying today that further opened my heart & mind.
I got the intuition to call a The Way To My Heart Inc patient today. His wife answered his phone. She said he had passed. She had meant to call me but hadn't yet because she was still sorting out her emotions. But I was on her list of critical calls to make as per her husband.
"𝘔𝘢𝘬𝘦 𝘴𝘶𝘳𝘦 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘤𝘢𝘭𝘭 𝘒𝘺𝘮 𝘣𝘦𝘤𝘢𝘶𝘴𝘦 𝘴𝘩𝘦 𝘨𝘢𝘷𝘦 𝘮𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘨𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘵𝘦𝘴𝘵 𝘨𝘪𝘧𝘵 𝘰𝘧 𝘢𝘭𝘭 - 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘤𝘩𝘢𝘯𝘤𝘦 𝘵𝘰 𝘨𝘦𝘵 𝘮𝘺 𝘢𝘧𝘧𝘢𝘪𝘳𝘴 𝘪𝘯 𝘰𝘳𝘥𝘦𝘳, 𝘩𝘢𝘷𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘤𝘰𝘯𝘷𝘦𝘳𝘴𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯𝘴 𝘐 𝘩𝘢𝘥 𝘢𝘭𝘸𝘢𝘺𝘴 𝘮𝘦𝘢𝘯𝘵 𝘵𝘰 𝘩𝘢𝘷𝘦 𝘣𝘶𝘵 𝘢𝘭𝘸𝘢𝘺𝘴 𝘵𝘩𝘰𝘶𝘨𝘩𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦 𝘸𝘢𝘴 𝘮𝘰𝘳𝘦 𝘵𝘪𝘮𝘦, 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘵𝘰 𝘴𝘢𝘺 𝘨𝘰𝘰𝘥𝘣𝘺𝘦 𝘵𝘰 𝘢𝘭𝘭 𝘰𝘧 𝘮𝘺 𝘧𝘳𝘪𝘦𝘯𝘥𝘴 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘧𝘢𝘮𝘪𝘭𝘺."
Our relationship started one month ago when his wife messaged me through our website. She asked if we could help her husband get help for his Peripheral Artery Disease. She said his doctors kept brushing him off and he had debilitating pain in his legs that prevented him from treating his own patients. He was down to barely two days a week and he couldn't even stand up during clinic.
I called several Vascular Specialists in their area and none could get him in urgently. So, I threw out a Hail Mary to Modern Vascular's Dr. Stephen Leschak. He was a 3.5 hour drive from the patient, but this man who had devoted his own life to medicine wasn't getting answers or attention locally. Dr. Leschak heard my urgent plea for help and arranged to get him in as a priority as first patient the following morning. So, patient and wife hopped in the car for the overnight trip.
The diagnosis and prognosis was unexpected for all. PAD was the least of this man's problems. Yes, he had artery blockages but they weren't worth treating in this case.
A thorough evaluation beyond a standard ultrasound uncovered more. Dr. L and his wound care specialist not only found ulcerated lesions and determined he had undiagnosed rare and painful Calciphylaxis. But further testing showed it had gone systemic already -- meaning he didn't have much time to live. Early diagnosis and treatment is critical to improving mortality. Unfortunately, he had already reached end stage.
Dr. Leschak had to break the news -- not something he has to daily with basic PAD treatments as his specialty.
I received this text from the patient afterwards:
"𝘑𝘶𝘴𝘵 𝘨𝘰𝘵 𝘣𝘢𝘤𝘬 𝘩𝘰𝘮𝘦. 𝘐 𝘸𝘢𝘯𝘵 𝘵𝘰 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘯𝘬 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘋𝘳. 𝘓𝘦𝘴𝘤𝘩𝘢𝘬 𝘧𝘰𝘳 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘵𝘪𝘮𝘦 𝘵𝘢𝘬𝘦𝘯 𝘵𝘰 𝘨𝘦𝘵 𝘢 𝘥𝘪𝘢𝘨𝘯𝘰𝘴𝘪𝘴. 𝘐𝘵 𝘸𝘢𝘴 𝘯𝘰𝘵, 𝘰𝘧 𝘤𝘰𝘶𝘳𝘴𝘦, 𝘸𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘐 𝘸𝘢𝘴 𝘱𝘳𝘦𝘱𝘢𝘳𝘦𝘥 𝘵𝘰 𝘩𝘦𝘢𝘳, 𝘣𝘶𝘵 𝘐'𝘮 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘯𝘬𝘧𝘶𝘭 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘐 𝘬𝘯𝘰𝘸 𝘸𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘪𝘴 𝘩𝘢𝘱𝘱𝘦𝘯𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘵𝘰 𝘮𝘦. 𝘋𝘳. 𝘓 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘴𝘵𝘢𝘧𝘧 𝘸𝘦𝘳𝘦 𝘬𝘪𝘯𝘥 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘤𝘢𝘳𝘪𝘯𝘨. 𝘐 𝘬𝘯𝘰𝘸 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘸𝘢𝘴 𝘢 𝘷𝘦𝘳𝘺 𝘥𝘪𝘧𝘧𝘪𝘤𝘶𝘭𝘵 𝘴𝘪𝘵𝘶𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯 𝘧𝘰𝘳 𝘋𝘳. 𝘓 𝘵𝘰 𝘩𝘢𝘷𝘦 𝘣𝘦𝘦𝘯 𝘧𝘢𝘤𝘦𝘥 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩. 𝘏𝘦 𝘤𝘰𝘶𝘭𝘥'𝘷𝘦 𝘫𝘶𝘴𝘵 𝘴𝘦𝘦𝘯 𝘐 𝘩𝘢𝘥 𝘢𝘳𝘵𝘦𝘳𝘺 𝘣𝘭𝘰𝘤𝘬𝘢𝘨𝘦𝘴 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘵𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘵𝘦𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵, 𝘣𝘶𝘵 𝘩𝘦 𝘸𝘦𝘯𝘵 𝘣𝘦𝘺𝘰𝘯𝘥 𝘵𝘰 𝘥𝘪𝘴𝘤𝘰𝘷𝘦𝘳 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘸𝘰𝘶𝘭𝘥𝘯'𝘵 𝘩𝘢𝘷𝘦 𝘤𝘩𝘢𝘯𝘨𝘦𝘥 𝘮𝘺 𝘱𝘳𝘰𝘨𝘯𝘰𝘴𝘪𝘴 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘭𝘪𝘬𝘦𝘭𝘺 𝘸𝘰𝘶𝘭𝘥'𝘷𝘦 𝘢𝘤𝘤𝘦𝘭𝘦𝘳𝘢𝘵𝘦𝘥 𝘮𝘺 𝘮𝘰𝘳𝘵𝘢𝘭𝘪𝘵𝘺. 𝘐 𝘵𝘳𝘶𝘭𝘺 𝘢𝘱𝘱𝘳𝘦𝘤𝘪𝘢𝘵𝘦 𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘪𝘯𝘵𝘦𝘨𝘳𝘪𝘵𝘺, 𝘩𝘰𝘯𝘦𝘴𝘵𝘺, 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘧𝘳𝘢𝘯𝘬𝘯𝘦𝘴𝘴 𝘪𝘯 𝘥𝘪𝘴𝘤𝘶𝘴𝘴𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 𝘮𝘦 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘯𝘰𝘵 𝘣𝘭𝘰𝘸𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘮𝘦 𝘰𝘧𝘧 𝘭𝘪𝘬𝘦 𝘮𝘺 𝘰𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘥𝘰𝘤𝘵𝘰𝘳𝘴."
At The Way To My Heart Inc our mission is to help patients live a better quality of life. We try so hard with outreach to have patients find us sooner so we can help them get the early diagnosis, the right treatment, and the right doctor in time to help them live a much longer life. Unfortunately, that's not always possible. I learned today that even in the final days, we can help patients live a better quality of life. This man's wife's words to me expanded the value of our mission in stating that his greatest gift was 'knowing his fate' so in his final days he, his family, and his friends could find peace and closure.
That's why I'm thankful for physicians like Dr Leschak, who go above and beyond PAD, and treat the whole person, as an individual, not a CPT code. He could've just looked at an ultrasound and treated the arteries, but Dr. Leschak took the time to get the whole picture.
I feel so lucky to be surrounded by not only talented operators but truly amazing humans -- true super heroes who sport scrubs vs a cape! Every one of the members of our prestigious Amputation Prevention Panel would tell you that first and foremost the patient's quality of life is priority #1. Our Senior Physician Advisor Dr. Lorenzo Patrone always shares this quote which I wish every doctor would live and work by: "𝘠𝘰𝘶 𝘵𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘵 𝘢 𝘱𝘦𝘳𝘴𝘰𝘯, 𝘐 𝘨𝘶𝘢𝘳𝘢𝘯𝘵𝘦𝘦 𝘺𝘰𝘶, 𝘺𝘰𝘶'𝘭𝘭 𝘸𝘪𝘯, 𝘯𝘰 𝘮𝘢𝘵𝘵𝘦𝘳 𝘸𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘰𝘶𝘵𝘤𝘰𝘮𝘦.” ~ Patch Adams
Dr Lorenzo Patrone lives by those words, even most recently displaying this above and beyond approach to care. Our Nurse Practitioner Kay Smith sent him a patient with non-healing ulcers who was brushed off by her physicians. He discovered it was not PAD. But since he learned her mom died just days before of a heart attack, he ordered further testing and discovered that she could suffer the same fate if not addressed soonest. Early treatment was coordinated to give her a better prognosis than if she had never known.
We realize at The Way To My Heart that patients with PAD typically have a lot more going on than just blocked arteries in the legs. Most have multiple comorbidities. The aforementioned cases demonstrate that. So, while we specialize in the understanding of PAD, we, too, support the 'whole person' and with the help of our incredibly talented network of physicians and clinicians such as Dr. Leschak and Dr. Patrone, we truly are committed to helping patients live a better quality of life, whatever that may mean, and however long that may be, whether it's one day, ten days, or 40 years.
The greatest gift of all is giving patients a better quality of life...
...even if it's just the gift of knowledge. R.I.P.
Author: Kym McNicholas, Emmy Award Winning Journalist and PAD Activist