In July, Dr. LeFranc, a radiologist at St. Elizabeth Breast Center, called us to refer a patient who needed our assistance. Adriana, our patient navigator, phoned the patient and noticed she sounded winded. The patient said she had been diagnosed with pneumonia. She told Adriana she had gone to an emergency room three times and to the doctor twice complaining of a breast rash and a cough. The doctors had given her antibiotics for her pneumonia and told her the rash was fungal from taking so many antibiotics.
In fact, the patient had inflammatory breast cancer that had metastasized to her lungs, not pneumonia. She had coughing attacks that lasted for up to 20 minutes and problems breathing. Adriana worked with the patient to question the doctor regarding the plan for her to go under anesthesia with her cough. In the end, she did not have surgery as the scans showed the cancer had spread to other organs in addition to her lungs. Adriana was able to help the patient by interpreting at various appointments and supported the family while they were in the hospital caring for her. The hospital also provided a suite that allowed for the family to stay there in an adjacent room. The patient was only was 36 years old, married to her teenage sweetheart, with six children ages 2-21 and tragically she died less than two weeks later. But our job wasn't over - Adriana continued to help them by finding a funeral home that could transport the body back to Mexico for burial. This story is sad, but we were happy to have been able to help this family.