Intervention Saves Critically Ill Woman

By the time her family got Dorothy Whitteaker to the emergency room at NorthBay Medical Center, she was in dire condition. Dorothy had developed a large hole in her esophagus, following a fairly common procedure to help with swallowing difficulties, done by a doctor outside of the NorthBay Healthcare system. Fluids filled her lungs and chest cavity and emergency medical staff had to place her on life support. They didn’t offer much hope for her husband and daughter, and her condition was too fragile for an invasive surgery she would never survive, her family was told.

ABOVE: Nazia Hasan, M.D., shares a laugh with a much healthier Dorothy Whitteaker.

That was December of 2015. In June of this year, Dorothy celebrated both her 85th birthday and 63rd wedding anniversary thanks, she and her family agree, to the work of NorthBay gastroenterologist Nazia Hasan, M.D., a specialist in minimally invasive interventional endoscopy.

“By the time she ended up in our emergency room, the consequences of the perforation had progressed to such a critical state that she was put on comfort care,” explained Dr. Hasan.

Dr. Hasan was able to examine Dorothy’s esophagus from the inside using an endoscope, and she came up with a plan. “I offered her family a minimally invasive option that may give her a chance to survive although the odds were not in our favor,” said Dr. Hasan. “Given the extent of the esophageal defect and Dorothy’s critical condition, I proceeded with cautious optimism.”

“At that point, we were willing to try anything,” recalled Dorothy’s daughter, Denise Whitteaker. “I was going through what anyone would feel when you’re told your mother is probably going to die after a simple procedure. I believe that without Dr. Hasan my mother would have died.”

Dr. Hasan’s intervention involved inserting a fully covered metal stent into Dorothy’s esophagus to cover the large perforation. The stent could then block additional fluid from going into the chest and allow for the hole to heal. In the following months, Dr. Hassan repeatedly removed the stent, re-evaluated the perforation and replaced the stent until it was small enough for her to completely repair it with endoscopic clips.

“Dr. Hasan sat with us and explained everything. She was awesome,” said Denise. “For 22 days in the ICU and later in the floor unit, she was constantly checking on Mom. She is definitely hands-on and I have nothing but respect for her.”

Dorothy agrees. “Like my husband says, her coming along was kind of like a miracle. If it wasn’t for her I’d be in the ground,” she said. “I tell everyone she’s just wonderful!”

NorthBay Gastroenterology’s team of board- certified experts employs a variety of advanced treatments, from medications to minimally invasive endoscopic procedures and complex digestive endoscopy.

Patients with complex conditions benefit from education and case management provided by specialized nurses. Located at 4520 Business Center Drive, Suite 180, in Fairfield. For more information, call (707) 646-3555.

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