Treatment in the Nick of Time

Patient Perspectives Patricia Sabatos

August 16, 2018

Prior to a diagnosis of giant cell arteritis (GCA) in late 2016, 63-year-old Belford resident Patricia Sabatos had never really been sick before.

GCA is an inflammatory disease that affects the optic nerve of the eye and caused Patricia to observe a blind spot in front of her eye. Patricia’s eye doctor prescribed a steroid to manage the condition, and while it helped, it also caused side effects, including pain in her lower back, shoulder blades and abdomen.

An Emergency Strikes

When she started to experience excruciating abdominal pain while getting ready for work one day in 2017, Patricia didn’t immediately worry. “At first, I really didn’t even think about it,” she says. “I thought it was just another side effect from the steroid.”

Patricia decided to rest until the pain subsided. When the pain did not go away, however, she grew concerned. Her cellphone was in the other room, and she would have to get herself up before she could call for help. Several hours passed until Patricia was able to make her way to the kitchen to send a text to her husband, Andy, that read, “HELP.”

Taking Quick Action

Patricia was taken to the Alton A. Hovnanian Emergency Care Center at Riverview Medical Center, where she was seen by emergency medicine physician Stephanie Reynolds, D.O.

By the time she arrived, Patricia was fading in and out of consciousness.

“Upon presentation, I quickly recognized that Patricia was in septic shock and began our time-sensitive fluid and antibiotic protocols and ordered a CT scan,” says Dr. Reynolds. Sepsis is a serious medical condition that can result in organ damage or death; it happens when the body’s immune system has a severe response to infection. Septic shock occurs when sepsis is accompanied by dangerous changes to the body’s circulatory, cellular and metabolic systems.

The computed tomography (CT) scan that Dr. Reynolds ordered revealed that a tear in Patricia’s bowel was the source of the infection causing her sepsis.

“As the radiologist on call that evening, I promptly interpreted her emergency abdominal CT scan and realized the severity of her condition,” says Douglas O’Connor, M.D. “Patricia was in urgent need of care to repair the tear in her bowel.”

Lifesaving Surgery

David Dupree, M.D., a surgeon affiliated with Riverview, would perform the lifesaving procedure.

“According to Dr. O’Connor, Patricia’s abdominal CT scan identified the source of infection, so I quickly called Dr. Dupree to consult,” says Dr. Reynolds. Dr. Dupree recalls, “Patricia was dying from septic shock due to a perforated intestine, causing overwhelming sepsis.” During surgery, he removed a segment of Patricia’s colon, small intestine, appendix and ovary, and managed the flare in her intestine.

After the procedure, Patricia was in the Intensive Care Unit for more than a week. She spent a total of 18 days in the hospital.

Recovery At Last

On October 20, 2017, after six weeks of healing, Patricia was finally able to go home. Today, thanks to the expert, coordinated care she received at Riverview, Patricia is feeling like herself again. She is back to enjoying the things she loves, including sewing, cooking, reading and spending time with her nine grandchildren, four daughters and their husbands. This summer, Patricia is looking forward to going to the beach — something she was unable to do last summer due to her illness.

“My experience at Riverview was outstanding,” Patricia says. “The doctors, nurses and therapists were great — the care I received was wonderful. Without them, I wouldn’t be here today.”

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