My name is Bobbie Jo DeHaven. I am 24 years old and currently live in Georgetown Delaware. I was born with a disability and have a birth defect called Spina Bifida along with a Neurogenic Bowel and Bladder Disorder and also a Seizure Disorder. For the first 21 years of my life I received health care services from A.I. DuPont Hospital. It might surprise you but I have been in the hospital over 100 times and had about 70+ major surgeries. As the result of numerous infections, I have required over 20 shunt revisions on the shunt that is in my head and have had numerous surgeries on my bladder. I have also had ankle and knee surgeries. Also, I have had revisions done on my Mitrophonoff which is where I catheterize myself and revisions on my Bladder Augmentation. I also have a Cecostomy which is where I give myself enemas.
When I knew I was going to be treated by adult doctors I was scared and angry, because all I ever knew when I became ill was being treated in a Children’s Hospital. The world of adult medicine scared me. I was so afraid that because of my complicated medical history that there would be no doctors able to take care of me. I had a terrible experience with an adult urologist in Dover, Delaware. … When the doctor walked into the room he immediately informed my mom and I that “your medical history is too complicated for us to treat.” … My worst fears were confirmed at this visit-or so I thought … I felt helpless because I didn’t know of any doctor who could or would take care of me when I got sick. To my knowledge there was no one, and I didn’t know what to do.
For a good portion of my life I had difficulty finding the right treatment until…
In August of 2009 I was admitted to A.I. DuPont for the last time before I was turning 21. Into my room walked Dr. Allen Friedland. He was beginning a transition practice at Wilmington Hospital for patients with special needs entering the world of adult medicine. I did not know what to expect. Dr. Friedland told me that he had read all of my medical records and would be able to take me as his patient. He told me not to worry that if he was unable to treat me for a problem I was having he could refer me to the right sources. I know he was sent from God. Meeting Dr. Friedland was an answer to prayer for me and my family.
It has been four years since I have been with the Transition Practice. The doctors and staff have been amazing to me. They have helped me through many ups and downs in the past four years. The staff focuses on your mind, body and spirit. The staff of The Transition Practice has helped me through many issues with My Physical Health and Emotional and Mental Health. I’ve learned “being healthy” involves each of those three parts in harmony with each other. When these things are going well so is your health. I could not ask for a better team of Doctors and Nurses helping me.
I have been asked to speak to patients regarding my transition process. Transitioning to new medical care is a scary time of change. Because of my experiences, I hope that I am able to take away some of the anxiety and fears new patients will have. I hope as time goes on I can play a bigger role in transition for patients going from the world of children’s medicine to the world of adult medicine. Because of what has happened to me, I would like to advocate, volunteer or get a job in this field.
I had eclampsia and had to be admitted when I was 34 weeks pregnant. The staff at maternity floor showed excellent care. On the night that my blood pressure was escalating, I was scared for my baby because I was only on my 35th week. I was praying for my pressure to go back to normal. The nurse was quick to call the doctor and before I knew it, I was on my way to OR for stat c-section. My blood pressure was in the 200s, which could have resulted to a stroke. The surgery went well and my baby stayed in Neonatal ICU where staff care was again excellent. I was discharged a few days later then my baby as well and to this day, I will always be grateful for this hospital.—L.A.
About a year ago, I had a serious struggle with major depression and PTSD, and after having a couple awful years and days, tried committing suicide by overdosing of Tylenol and a bunch of other medicines. I was incredibly satisfied with the patience, calm demeanor, dignity and compassion I was treated with here, and now have finally been able to beat my demons I’d faced with both diagnoses. I really feel like I’d been given a second chance at life, and being surrounded by such wonderful staff who kept fighting for me after I’d given up on myself really helped me put things into perspective and work toward finally healing.— S.Y.
When a stroke interrupts a road trip, Connecticut family finds home away from home at Christiana Hospital
George and Gertrude Dingwell of Harwinton, Conn., have been making road trips with motorhomes since 1977. This March, they snuck away to Florida in their Winnebago.
But passing through Delaware on their way home, Gertrude had a stroke. The couple ended up having an unplanned, monthlong stay at Christiana Hospital.
From the time of Gertrude’s arrival until her discharge May 24, Christiana Care provided electricity and water for the RV, which served as home for George and their poodle Tobias as Gertrude recovered. This year, Mother’s Day fell on Gertrude’s birthday, and four generations of their family gathered in her hospital room, bringing a banner and cards.
George is effusive about the respect and compassion the staff has shown, embodiments of The Christiana Care Way. A nurse, for example, took time to explain to him why they were going to give his wife a certain medication and how it might affect her. The same was true of every procedure the staff undertook.
One afternoon, Rick Gerard, a security constable, knocked on the door of the RV and asked George if he’d like to join him and his family for a home-cooked meal. George was happy to oblige. They spent four hours sharing good food and conversation.
“It just made an adverse situation of my wife’s health into a pleasant situation for me,” George said.
Diane C. Bohner, M.D., FACP, medical director of Patient and Family Centered Care and Resource Management at Christiana Care, called the staff’s flurry of assistance “extraordinary.”
"And," she added, "it is exactly what you would want to have done if it was your family member. The Christiana Care Way is not only taking care of the patient, but also taking care of the patient’s family. And they treated him, even though he was from Connecticut, as if he was one of their neighbors. They figured a creative way to assist him while he and his wife were going through this particular traumatic period of their life. They did what they thought they needed to do for him without having a second thought about it.”
Teresa Celano, assistant to Christiana Care’s chief operating officer Gary Ferguson, got involved when two members of the X-ray staff asked for the administration’s help. Celano provided meal vouchers and ensured the public safety and maintenance departments were aware of the RV so they could share their water supply.
“When something like this happens,” Celano said, “it is difficult enough, but when you are hundreds of miles from home with no family support, it can be overwhelming.”
On Gertrude’s birthday, Chanel Etty, the charge nurse, ordered a birthday cake. Gertrude wasn’t able to eat cake – she had been without solid food for 24 days – but Etty gave her icing “so she could have a little taste of sweetness.”
During Gertrude’s fourth week of recovery, she began eating soft foods. Soon thereafter, doctors removed her tracheostomy tube. Five weeks after the Dingwells made their unscheduled stop, Gertrude no longer needed a feeding tube.
Meanwhile, she reached milestones essential to returning to her usual way of life, such as walking up and down stairs.
Jill D. Aaron, a radiologic technologist, said that even on days when Gertrude’s condition was touch-and-go, her husband would be walking the hallways, smiling, asking staffers how they were doing.
Though the Dingwells aren’t sure when they’ll embark on their next road trip, they intend to stop at Christiana Care when they pass through Delaware.
“I came into town a stranger, passing through,” he said. “I have met so many people here, that when I leave, I feel like I’m going to leave a lot of friends behind.”
Deborah Ligor woke up in the middle of the night in June 2011, vomiting and suffering from the worst headache of her life.
Initially, her doctor thought she had a virus. But when she didn’t get better, it was clear the 50-year-old banker had a much more serious problem, most likely a ruptured aneurysm in her brain.
The expert care and advanced technology required to save her life were not available at the community hospital near her home in Ocean Pines, Md.
“So my husband asked the doctor where he would send his own mother,” Ligor recalls. “Forty-five minutes later, I was on a helicopter to Christiana Care.”
Doctors there quickly confirmed that she was, indeed, suffering from a ruptured aneurysm, essentially a bulging blood vessel that was leaking. The situation was especially perilous because Ligor’s aneurysm was located deep within her brain, a position not accessible through open surgery.
“If you drew a line between your two eyes, it would be dead set in the middle of your head,” says Sudhakar Satti, M.D., the neuro-interventional surgeon on the case.
In such dire circumstances, half of patients die, Dr. Satti notes, and about 70 percent of those who survive have some sort of permanent neurological disability.
“Christiana Care is the only place in Delaware that is equipped to handle these cases,” he says.
With a state-of-the-art interventional neuroangiography surgical suite, Christiana Care Neuro-Interventional Surgery provides minimally invasive services and treatments 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for a variety of conditions, including strokes and vascular and brain malformations.
Because the aneurysm was inaccessible from Ligor’s skull, Dr. Satti used endovascular techniques to reach the site in her brain, guiding a catheter through an incision in her groin, no larger than the tip of a No. 2 pencil. Through the catheter, Dr. Satti packed the aneurysm with soft metal coils, stopping the bleeding.
In addition to providing quick, effective treatment, the technique also results in less pain and a faster recovery. Two weeks after her surgery, Ligor was home with her husband and two children. Several weeks after that, she returned to her job at a bank in Millsboro.
“She has made a complete recovery,” Dr. Satti says. “These kinds of happy outcomes are the reasons doctors go to work every day.”
Ligor says her healthy, productive life is a direct result of the expert and compassionate treatment she received at Christiana Care.
“I am glad for the techonology they have but it goes far beyond that,” she says. “Every person I encountered at Christiana Care was friendly and kind — and the nurses were wonderful. They really want to help you.”
She now returns to Christiana Care for regular checkups with Dr. Satti.
“I would never go anywhere else,” she says.
For four long years, Wayne Johnson suffered with severe back pain, the result of a badly deteriorated disc.
He gave up golf and scuba diving, activities he once enjoyed. He quit gardening. He avoided driving. And because he couldn’t exercise, he started putting on pounds.
“I needed painkillers just to get through the day,” recalls Johnson, 45, of Wilmington. “Even with my medication, I seldom slept for more than a few hours at a time at night.”
Spinal injections of cortisone helped for a while. But the pain always returned. Johnson leads a groundskeeping team at the University of Delaware and it was increasingly difficult for him to do his job.
In 2012, Johnson and his wife were expecting a baby and he wondered if his back problems would impact his ability to be an active dad.
“Would I be able to get down on the floor and wrestle with my son?” he asked. “Would I be able to give him a piggyback ride?”
His orthopedic surgeon, J. Rush Fisher, M.D., recommended a Total Disc Replacement or TDR, in which the damaged disc is removed and replaced with an artificial disc.
“It looks like two Oreo cookies stacked on top of one another,” Johnson says.
A newer treatment, TDR helps patients to regain their range of motion and get relief from pain.
“It is a good option for someone like me, who is in his 40s,” he says. “I feel very fortunate that Christiana Care offers this kind of advanced treatment.”
Within a day of surgery, Johnson was out of bed and taking his first steps on the road to recovery. Within two days, he was home and walking with a cane.
He was an active partner in his care, giving up smoking to help speed the healing process. He learned to rely on the muscles in his legs to lift objects to avoid another injury to his back. He started shedding the weight he had gained, going from 208 pounds to 180.
“I feel like I’m back in my 30s,” he says. “I’m in the gym four days a week, doing 225-pound squats.”
Johnson is on the job at UD, maintaining landscaping on campus. He also is enjoying family life with his wife and baby. The pain is completely gone.
“In the past six months, I have taken two Advil — and that was for a headache,” he says. “I used to live in constant pain — and now I am happier than I have ever been in my whole life.”