My Superheroes: The Doctors Behind the Masks

My Superheroes: The Doctors Behind the Masks
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Last week, the health community celebrated National Doctors’ Day and the beginning of National Donate Life Month. In celebration, I am spotlighting the two doctors who have helped me the most along my health journey.

In a previous column, I wrote about the team of doctors that manages my two autoimmune diseases, primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) and Crohn’s disease. My gastroenterologist, Dr. William Stassen, and transplant hepatologist, Dr. Madhavi Rudraraju (also known as Dr. Raju), played important roles in the liver transplant that gave me a second chance at life.

I first met Stassen in 2006 when I was hospitalized with sepsis. He was the gastroenterologist on call and was the only doctor to suspect I had an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). After performing my first colonoscopy, Stassen confirmed I had Crohn’s.

I hadn’t planned to switch gastroenterologists after I was discharged from the hospital, but several factors played into my decision. At the time, I had been with the gastroenterologist who had diagnosed my PSC almost a decade earlier. I was disappointed that despite regular visits and ongoing health issues, my doctor never discussed my increased probability of having IBD.

Also, on one of the few days that Stassen wasn’t on call at the hospital, the doctor making rounds recommended that I be placed on the national transplant list immediately with no explanation why. When I asked Stassen about it a day or two later, he guffawed at the idea. He reassured me that I was nowhere close to liver failure and couldn’t get on the list even if I wanted to.

I felt I received better care under Stassen because of his bedside manner, his expertise, and the way he weighed all options before making a decision. The fact that his office was a five-minute drive from my house and across the street from the job I had at the time was a selling point as well.

Since then, Stassen has seen me at my sickest and healthiest. He always asks about my family, whom he got to know from my hospital stays and procedures. He’s familiar with my personality and my work ethic, which influences his treatment plan for me. Stassen knows I’m methodical and inquisitive, so when he prescribes medications or orders tests, he thoroughly explains them, along with his expectations.

When my health declined quickly in 2017, Stassen reached out to a liver transplant team in San Antonio, Texas. I scheduled my initial consultation with Raju for Sept. 15, 2017. In the interim, Stassen continued to monitor my bloodwork.

I had my monthly follow-up appointment with Stassen scheduled for Sept. 1, so I had blood drawn on Aug. 28. The next day, Stassen called to say he had received my lab results and had faxed them to the transplant team. He instructed me to wait for Raju to call. When she did, she told me to admit myself to the emergency room at the Methodist Specialty and Transplant Hospital in San Antonio as soon as possible.

I met Raju two weeks before our scheduled consultation while I was in the intensive care unit receiving high doses of antibiotics because I was septic and on dialysis because I had acute renal failure. Although she wasn’t on the surgical team that performed my transplant, she became my hepatologist before and after the surgery.

Although my relationship with Raju is fairly new, our bond is just as strong as the one I have with Stassen. Like him, she has come to know my family after seeing them every day for almost six weeks while I recovered from my transplant. She knows how much of a workaholic I am because the only time she saw me not working on my laptop from my hospital bed was when I was intubated and all the catheters were in the way. She knows I’m a fighter, and that I refuse to give up.

Raju and Stassen are the only two doctors on my team who have seen me at the brink of death and have witnessed me regain my health. They have fought and continue to fight for my life. The best way I can show them my gratitude is by following their instructions and taking care of myself.

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Note: IBD News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of IBD News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to IBD.

Emmeline is a 47-year-old Crohn’s warrior and primary sclerosing cholangitis survivor. Her column encourages patients and caregivers to advocate for better healthcare and educates readers about her rare autoimmune diseases. She also freelances as a communication specialist, offering writing, editing, and graphic design services. Emmeline (an Auburn fan) and her husband Patrick (an Alabama fan) enjoy watching SEC football and spending time with loved ones in Austin, Texas. Thanks to a liver transplant in 2017, Emmeline is training for her third-degree black belt in the Korean martial art Mu Sool Won.
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Emmeline is a 47-year-old Crohn’s warrior and primary sclerosing cholangitis survivor. Her column encourages patients and caregivers to advocate for better healthcare and educates readers about her rare autoimmune diseases. She also freelances as a communication specialist, offering writing, editing, and graphic design services. Emmeline (an Auburn fan) and her husband Patrick (an Alabama fan) enjoy watching SEC football and spending time with loved ones in Austin, Texas. Thanks to a liver transplant in 2017, Emmeline is training for her third-degree black belt in the Korean martial art Mu Sool Won.

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