My father, Gerald L. Ramsey, passed away on February 5, 2014.
My family often remarks on the excellent care that was provided to my father the last days of his life. He had received the news from his heart surgeon that surgery was no longer an option and there was nothing more they could do to extend his life. My mother, my sisters and I were with him when he received the news. Naturally, it was difficult to hear and we were all sad, scared and confused, and worried how my father would handle it. After the initial shock, my father calmly said to the group of medical personnel present, something to the extent of, "OK. I guess I'm done. How are you going to help me get through this?"
Center stage steps Dr. Lachlan Forrow (Director of the Palliative Care Service), like an angel from Heaven. He was reassuring, calm, soothing, totally in control and instilled in all of us a sense of confidence and comfort that this was not going to be the awful experience that we were dreading. This nightmare suddenly took on a sense of calm and purpose.
I remember him telling my dad, "We are going to do this on your terms. You will be taken care of. You will have all the pain medication you require and you won't have to chase nurses to get it."
After having spent a few weeks in the hospital with heart failure and growing frustration, agitation and fear of being in pain, Dr. Forrow's words were like a message from God. I spent the next 23 hours with my dad (the last 23 hours of his life), watching him gracefully say good-bye to family members while experiencing breathing discomfort, but no pain. He peacefully slipped into a very deep, long and calm sleep before leaving this Earth. I am deeply comforted to know that death can occur this way. My mother, thankfully, was able to see his last hours and see him at peace and in comfort. This would have made him happy, too, as he never wanted to be a burden on anyone and didn't want to destroy my mother's health in the process.
We cannot thank Dr. Forrow enough for all that he did. The entire staff at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center was wonderful, but he was very remarkable. He is excellent at what he does and I hope he is told this often. May God bless Dr. Forrow and keep him in this most important job of helping families cope with the most frightening part of life … death.
North Attleboro, MA
The following is an excerpt of Jack Jackson's story, which was also featured on WBZ News.
Read Jack's full story & watch the video
In February 2014, as Jack Jackson emerged from a post-surgery anesthesia haze in a BIDMC recovery room, his wife of more than 30 years leaned in to whisper in his ear. “They completed the surgery,” Cindy said. “And they got the whole tumor out.”
The surgery was a textbook-defying Whipple procedure, performed to remove a malignant tumor in Jack’s pancreas. It was scheduled after more than a year of chemotherapy, radiation, watchful waiting and constant evaluation, all under the devoted care of a multidisciplinary team made up of more than 30 clinicians who continued to see Jackson as an individual; yes, with metastatic pancreatic cancer, but also with options.
“I never felt like a number here. I’ve always felt like an individual patient whose case is being considered. I have a surgeon, I have an oncologist, there’s an infectious disease expert, gastroenterologist, endocrinologist, all these specialties have been pulled together in my case and I’m the beneficiary of all that,” said Jack. “It makes me feel pretty darn special and very alive.”
In September, Jack turned 60. In October he and Cindy will dance at their son’s wedding. In November they’ll celebrate their 32nd wedding anniversary and then comes another Thanksgiving, followed by the prediction of another cold and snowy winter.
Jack laughs. So long as the winter comes, he’ll gladly accept whatever challenges it brings.
On March 30, 2012, 30 weeks along, we learned that our son, Nolan O’Brien, would have some major health issues. We began seeing maternal-fetal medicine on a regular basis, doing ultrasounds every day to determine when would be the right time to deliver. Dr. Bill, Dr. Achilles, Dr. Gomez and RNP Marybeth Meservey became an incredible support system preparing our family for Nolan’s birth.
Nolan was delivered on April 20, 2012, at 33 weeks and went right to the NICU. It was unknown if he would survive. Nolan fought through a lot with the help of the NICU nurses and doctors, he began to look like a healthy child, and there was discussion about him possibly coming home. Around three months old, we began to realize that Nolan's breathing was becoming more difficult each day and that his lungs were too damaged to grow with him. The NICU then began preparing us for Nolan’s inevitable death.
When we learned that he was not going to survive, we decided that we were going to celebrate his life and create memories that his big brother Logan could talk about forever. We created Nolan’s “Bucket List.” The NICU helped us create and accomplish everything; Nolan put his feet in Cape Cod sand, sat in water from a family brook in NH, made a snowman, tasted chocolate, lollipops (his favorite), went down a slide, popped bubbles, smelled flowers, and celebrated a year’s worth of holidays so we could have a family calendar.
Nolan’s list culminated with a family trip to Fenway Park; with the help of the NICU, Nolan took one of his few trips outside BIDMC for his walk to Fenway. Nurses Sarah and Candy made the trip with us. With help from friends at NESN and the Red Sox, we were surprised with Nolan's name on the scoreboard. Nolan and Logan got to spend the day on the field at Fenway. Nolan put his feet on the earth for the only time on the grass at Fenway Park, a memory that we will have forever, and Logan will always be able to talk about doing this with his little brother.
Our NICU nurses, doctors, and our social worker became Nolan’s family and remain a part of ours. They are the most dedicated and compassionate people we have ever met. We will never be able to thank them enough for the time they gave us with our little Nolan.
Tim, Lori and Logan O'Brien
Health care has become a politically charged issue that evokes a lot of negative emotions for many of us these days. It doesn't really matter whether you are a liberal or a conservative, the health care system is just a mess. Ten weeks ago my daughter was admitted to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in a life-threatening state of uncontrolled seizures. The etiology of which may have been some crazy virus gone terribly bad, but we will probably never really know. Our first 8 weeks were spent in the intensive care unit, specifically SICU-A.
It was there that I came to understand our health care system in a deeper way than politicians and pundits seem to care about. The health care system is made up of men and women who go to work every day with the goal of helping someone. They are professionals who put their own lives on hold while they immerse themselves in the care-taking and well-being of others. While television shows and societal status may at times make their jobs seem glamorous, I didn't see glamour. I saw men and women who work endless hours giving of themselves intellectually and emotionally to save lives. I saw men and women who wrapped a heartsick family in compassion and love. I saw men and women who worked tirelessly to save my daughter's life, and they did. Thanks to them she will return to being a mother, a wife, a sister, a friend, a daughter.
There really are no words to express the gratitude we feel. I can only wish that when the healthcare crisis is debated, we all take pause to honor these men and women and the fragile lives to which they dedicate theirs.
To read more about our story visit my son-in-law's blog at bidmcgvb.wordpress.com.
Claudia, mother of Gloria
"Often when things don't work out in a patient's favor, he or she is quick to complain. Which is why when someone goes that extra mile, I believe that individual should be commended. There is such a person at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center who I wish to recognize for his dedication.
During the past year, I have been a patient at the Cancer Center under the care of Michael Goldstein, MD. Due to the type of gastric cancer that I have been diagnosed with, I frequently need to have a paracentesis done, which, as you know, requires a visit to the ultrasound department. These appointments usually tend to be last minute because my symptoms quickly change and cause me much discomfort.
The individual who has always been at the other end of the phone setting up these last minute appointments for me is Andrew Bissaro (Administrative Assistant, Thoracic Oncology). Andrew is patient, understanding, responsible and very knowledgeable. Additionally, his calming voice on the phone puts my mind at ease.
When I first call the hospital I am usually very stressed; however, every time I hang up from talking to Andrew, my mind is put at ease. I know I will be receiving a call shortly with a date and time for my procedure, knowing for certain that he has made every effort possible to accommodate my requests. I understand that working with the public can be very stressful, but I have never felt that Andrew was anything but professional and truly helpful. I have told him many times how thankful I am.
I hope that you and the staff at the Cancer Center realize how lucky you are to have an employee as wonderful as Andrew Bissaro!"
“I am writing to express my sincerest gratitude to and appreciation for the members of your staff who care for me. When I was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 2009, I started searching for the best doctors in the Boston area. Dr. Daniel Tarsy (Director of the Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorders Center, Neurology) came very highly recommended by many, and boy, were those recommendations right!
I have received excellent care from Dr. Tarsy, Director of this Center of Excellence as designated by the National Parkinson Foundation, and his multi-disciplinary team. This team includes:
- David Simon (MD, PhD, Neurology), who led some of the trials in which I participated.
- Althea Silver (RN, Nurse Research Coordinator, Neurology), who has been an important resource and support for me as well as my husband/caregiver.
- Jean Matheson (MD, Sleep Disorders, Neurology), who has helped me deal with sleep issues common with Parkinson's.
- Andrew Tarulli (MD, Neuromuscular, Neurology), who helped with neuropathy issues.
- Amanda Whitmill (CCC-SLP, Feeding and Swallowing Therapist, Rehabilitation Services), who helped me deal with swallowing issues associated with Parkinson's.
Active in Parkinson's advocacy and a researcher myself, I know that no two patients with Parkinson's are alike and each needs to be treated differently. Thus, a multidisciplinary team is critical to patient care, including mine, as well as for my family and caregivers. The team that Dr. Tarsy has put together is exceptional. Not only do they know their own field in general, but they are also very knowledgeable in the various conditions brought on by Parkinson's.
Getting a diagnosis of Parkinson's is shocking and upsetting, but Dr. Tarsy and his team members were so caring and understanding of the situation. I can see how dealing with a newly diagnosed patient would be very tough, but they made me feel comfortable during a very difficult time. Dr. Tarsy and his team were always there to explain how things were going and what to expect. You couldn't ask for better people.
Thank you again and please express my gratitude to Dr. Tarsy and his team members who continue to provide wonderful care for me.”
“My wife, Kathleen, was a patient of your hospital for the last 33 months as she battled pancreatic cancer. From our very first day arriving at BIDMC in November 2010 with Kathy and our children to meet Dr. Mark Callery and discuss her Whipple surgery, until she was finally transported to a local hospice house on July 18, 2013, the care that Kathy and I received from each and every one of your employees was phenomenal.
Kathy endured Whipple surgery, radiation, several different chemotherapy regimens, a clinical trial, multiple ICU stays and a few extended hospital stays. Although it would be impossible to capture in this letter all of the people and all of the moments that helped to make these experiences bearable, I can attest to the fact that your campaign of treating patients as "Human First" is a living and breathing part of your organization. Each and every time we were in your hospital, we were treated with respect, dignity, compassion and kindness. We built warm relationships with many of Kathy's caregivers and even those that we saw only a few times were always friendly, knowledgeable and respectful.
We could not have asked for a better caregiving experience for Kathy and myself than that which we received at BIDMC. I would like to specifically thank Chiara Battelli, MD; Michael A. Goldstein, MD; Anand Mahadevan, MD; Mark P. Callery, MD; Charles I. Haffajee, MD; Andrea J. Bullock, MD; Jason P. Moran, MD; Paddy Connelly, BSN; Chantal Paul, RN and Miriam Lucas. Each of these people was directly involved with Kathy's care in a significant way and treated her and my entire family with a tremendous amount of compassion and respect. Kathy thought very highly of each of these individuals and trusted her care to them. She prayed for each of them every night and we all appreciate their efforts and their expertise.
I would also like to express my thanks for the caregivers, attending physicians, residents, interns, nurses, aides, medical transporters and cleaning staff in the Hematology and Oncology Clinic on Shapiro 9, the 11th floor of Reisman and the Finard 4 ICU. Kathy spent a great deal of time with these people and they never failed to provide great care, a friendly touch and a kind, personal interaction. When you are facing all that Kathy had to deal with for the last 33 months, being treated with kindness and compassion was nearly as important as being treated with expert medicine. All of these people consistently smiled, cleaned the floors, answered medical questions, ordered tests and medicine, wheeled her to tests and procedures, brought pillows and ice chips and even helped make difficult decisions. They laughed at Kathy's jokes, indulged her requests for prayers and always made her feel like they were on her side and understood her concerns.
Your hospital is quite a team. You should be very proud of the care they give and the manner in which it is given. One of my favorite experiences with your team was when the woman at the information desk, who greeted me warmly day in and day out during Kathy's hospital stays, brought me a cup of coffee and a warm smile when she saw me looking low.
Even though your hospital is large, highly ranked and world-renowned, it was just as important to Kathy and me that the care was also personal, warm and compassionate. Thank you very much to you and all of your staff.”
"When Arnold P. Gold, MD, a pediatric neurologist at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, established the Arnold P. Gold Foundation with his wife and colleagues in 1988, he had one goal in mind: to ensure the survival of 'the caring physician.'
From there, the Gold Humanism Honor Society was formed. This society became well-established at medical schools across the country as educators and residency program directors expressed the need for a mechanism to identify applicants with outstanding clinical and interpersonal skills.
I’m proud that this year, BIDMC was one of 10 medical centers and the only hospital in Massachusetts chosen to pilot a resident chapter of the society. Twenty-three resident physicians (physicians in training) were inducted at a ceremony on June 12.
Members inducted into this society were first nominated by their peers. We asked the residents a few key questions including ‘who would you want to have as your own doctor?’ From there, nominees were asked to submit a brief essay about their vision of what they might aim to accomplish if inducted.
The 23 residents inducted into BIDMC’s Gold Humanism Honor Society Chapter have proven their abilities as humanistic physicians. The attributes outlined by the society include integrity, excellence, compassion, altruism, respect, empathy and service. It truly exemplifies BIDMC’s Human First campaign. Physicians can be incredibly smart and gifted, but if they don’t have human compassion, they have failed their patients.
Carrie Tibbles, MD
BIDMC Emergency Medicine Physician
"I want to thank my incredible surgeon for all that she did to help me with my debilitating disease and for her incredible skill as a doctor and surgeon in taking care of me and returning me once again to good health. I was so incredibly sick for much of the last year, and always thought that I would be able to tough it out and 'beat this' on my own. That proved to not be the case and I have to credit her for saving me from this awful affliction of diverticulitis.
Because this was elective surgery on my part, I took the time to do some research and felt she and BIDMC was the best choice for me and I’m certainly glad that I chose wisely. For someone who has NEVER been hospitalized in his entire life, it was daunting to say the least. But everyone, from the residents to the nurses to the aids, were all outstanding and made this traumatic experience more than tolerable for me. I am deeply grateful for the outstanding care I received, and was especially relieved that I came through it all with no post-op secondary infections, nor any blood clots (I do have two genetic blood clotting disorders — Factor Five Leiden & Anti-Thrombin 3) ... and I was worried I may end up with a clot, but am very happy that didn’t happen.
The care I received was top rate and I expressed such on the questionnaire/survey that BIDMC sent to me. But more than anything else, I’m glad that BIDMC was able to get me into surgery so quickly, and then given just how bad the state of my sigmoid colon was, getting me out in a timely manner and only having to live with the ostomy for about four weeks ... not bad at all, thank you!
Thank you very much once again for all that you did. My job is a television cameraman, and I also teach boxing classes at a bunch of local gyms. It is VERY physical, and although I'm not back to doing it 100 percent, I know that I am on my way, due in large part to the expertise and great care I received at BIDMC. I am very grateful ... I was very sick indeed and needed this surgery. I am forever in your debt."
“My life turned around and improved when my newest neurology doctor said, 'the first thing we are going to do is get rid of the pain.' I wanted to kiss her. It had been three long years of different tests, different doctors and many disappointments. It was simple to me; I just wanted to know what was wrong with me. Why was I losing feeling in my legs and now my arms? How come I didn’t feel hot and cold like everyone else? Why couldn’t I walk without being in pain? Why was I walking like an 80-year-old woman when I was only 46?
With that one sentence, I knew I had found a provider who believed me, who didn’t try to fluff off my concerns and tell me that it was all in my head, or my favorite, the doctor who told me, 'you seem to be handling this pretty well,' as I stood in his examining room crying hysterically.
From that point on I knew I had a doctor I could trust, one who treated me as a person first. I could stop carrying my entire medical record with me whenever I went to a new doctor, to show which tests I had and which procedures. A doctor who listened to my concerns and let me be a part of my own treatment plan. A doctor who acknowledged my intelligence as a professional woman who could handle and understand the complex world that is Idiopathic sensory peripheral neuropathy.
We discussed the additional tests she wanted me to have and I trusted her. She prescribed Lyrica to manage the pain until the tests were completed. Then we would meet again and figure out a longer term game plan. She believed me.
When we met again about a month later, she told me that I had a very rare form of neuropathy. My form was sensory peripheral neuropathy. According to my doctor, less than two percent of the population has this form. Of course. What causes this? We don’t know in your case. Of course again.
But they were able to come up with a treatment plan for me. They were proposing a new type of medicine for me, somewhat exploratory called IVIg. I was worried that my medical insurance wouldn’t cover this treatment. My doctor said, 'You let ME worry about that, YOU concentrate on your recovery.'
Again, I was able to let go a little more, allow someone else to be my advocate, which was hard because I was my only advocate up to that point.
I had to take a leave of absence from my job as a systems analyst. My first five-day IVIg treatment was just about two years ago. I now go monthly for a five hour treatment once a month for what I call my 'oil changes.' The effect has been profound. I was able to go back to work, be present in my family life, and now, for the first time in two years, able to start walking on a treadmill for an hour three times a week.
The pain is still there, but it is manageable. I’ve begun to live in my 'new normal.' That’s okay. I’m better off than I was before and I’ll take that. My doctor looked at me as a human being suffering and with that one sentence, my life turned around and improved.”
To everyone at Beth Israel: If you could pass this along to the appropriate people and departments, we would appreciate it!
My wife, Kate and I would like to thank you for the tremendous work you did for us in order to bring our son, Jude, into this world. It's been 4 months since Jude was born (please forgive this being late, we have been a little busy :) ) - but we still are amazed and grateful for all that you did.
My wife was the one who had Listeria while pregnant, and I am convinced that if it wasn't for the thoroughness and attentiveness of your staff, we wouldn't have been lucky enough to catch and treat the infection before it affected Jude. From the beginning, people showed their care for Kate and Jude as individual people. There were doctors who insisted she stay, just because they knew something was wrong. There was the doctor on the Infectious disease team who just didn't think the symptoms matched the current diagnosis and checked for listeria. There was the NICU team that cared for Jude (and for us) from the moment he was born and made sure that when he came home, all we had to worry about was the usual first time parent worries. There was the OB team that walked us through every step and put our wishes first, yet also guided us through the onslaught of medical decisions we needed to make. Finally - the nurses - They were n the OB triage unit and calmed our initial fears, they were on the ante partum floor - who were there to keep us comfortable before labor, and who we went back to and showed us how to be parents. They were in Labor and Delivery and were literally the shoulder my wife leaned on when getting ready to deliver Jude 3 weeks early - they were also our guide and moral support. Finally, the nurses in the NICU who cared for Jude like he was their own. While we didn't like having to leave him, the only thing that made it bearable was the fact that such caring and competent nurses were there to care for him.
For all of this, we want to thank you for allowing us to be the family that we are today. While the medical care we received was world class, the personal attention and care for us as individuals was above and beyond what we expected, yet was needed to help us cope with those few weeks.
A little update on Jude - he is now 4 months old and is 15lbs 9oz!! He is doing very well (I have attached some pictures) Here he was in the NICU
“When I was suffering from a painful herniated disc in my back, my doctor at BIDMC went to bat for me, personally calling my PCP and health insurance company to get my MRI approved quickly. He didn't just see me as a name or a number, he saw me as a person in pain … and he helped me to feel SO MUCH BETTER.”
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