Cathy: A Second Chance

Cathy: A Second Chance

Cathy S., a 58-year old retiree from Pennsylvania State University, has a radiant smile and is a woman full of life tells as she tells her story about how God and the physicians and staff at Mercy Medical Center gave her a second chance of life.

“It’s a miracle that I am alive,” said Cathy as she sits alongside her husband holding his hand. “I am grateful for Dr. Thomas Swope and Mercy Medical Center.” Dr. Thomas Swope is a surgeon and Medical Director of The Center for Minimally Invasive Surgery at Mercy.

The day after Christmas Cathy suddenly became ill. “In a split second I experienced severe stomach pain, nausea and uncontrollable vomiting,” Cathy said. “I felt so bad I thought I was going to die.”

Cathy’s husband, Robert, hurriedly took her to the Emergency Room at a nearby Maryland hospital. While waiting to be triaged, Cathy’s condition grew worst. She passed out. Cathy was later diagnosed with a pancreatitis flare up, a diagnosis she first faced in her late teen years.

Needing a Christmas Miracle

At age 17, Cathy was diagnosed with pancreatitis. Pancreatitis occurs when the pancreas becomes inflamed. The pancreas produces enzymes that help with digestion and hormones to regulate the processing of sugar. During this process, the enzymes are activated until they reach the small intestines. If the enzymes are instead activated while in the pancreas, they become irritated and prematurely inflamed causing pancreatitis.

Now, nearly four decades later, over a five-day period of watching and waiting, Cathy’s illness became even worse. Her family insisted she be transported to a hospital in Baltimore City that could better manage her condition, such as Mercy Medical Center.

By the time Cathy arrived at Mercy she had contracted sepsis (a severe blood infection that can lead to organ failure), and her heart and lungs were beginning to fail.

Dr. Swope was the surgeon on call. He diagnosed Cathy with acute familial pancreatitis and began putting in place the urgent and necessary steps to get Cathy into surgery.

With Cathy going in and out of consciousness and her condition worsening, Cathy’s husband gathered their family members, close friends and their pastors together and began to pray. The devoted Christian family prayed her doctor would find answers and bring Cathy healing and health…and bring it soon.

Dr. Thomas Swope sat at Cathy’s bedside and explained the details and the risk of her surgery to Cathy and her loved ones.

“From day one at Mercy, we knew God had placed us in the right hospital,” said Cathy. “Dr. Swope’s calm and peaceful demeanor reassured my family that I was in good hands. He spent a lot of time with my family and drew pictures to help them understand the surgery.”

After the removal of 80 percent of her pancreas, gall bladder and spleen, Cathy had a lengthy inpatient stay, followed by a stay in the Transitional Care Unit. During this time, Cathy had gotten to know her care team at Mercy pretty well. The team included Dr. Swope as well as Dr. Errol Rushovich of The Center for Endocrinology at Mercy.

New Year, New Hope

“Without God and the wisdom of the Mercy doctors, their knowledge and excellent surgical skills, I would not be here today,” explained Cathy. “Mercy knows how to do it right. Everyone I encountered during my stay offered encouraging words and a warm smile. Staff even shared gospel songs to brighten my spirits. This gave me hope…I knew that I was going to pull through.”  She continued, “Dr. Swope visited me every morning. His warmth, sincerity and genuine concern made me feel like I was his only patient. He was always honest and no question was too big or small.”

Two and a half years later and one more surgery with Dr. Swope for a massive hernia, Cathy is doing well.  “My family and I love Dr. Swope and the Mercy family,” shared Cathy. “I cannot say enough wonderful things about him. Anytime someone in the family needs medical care, I send them to Dr. Swope or another Mercy physician. I know God truly answers prayers. He answered mine,” she said with a smile.

“It was a strange and complicated set of circumstances that brought me to Mercy and now I trust them with my life. After all, it’s because of Mercy that I’m here to share my story. I’ve been given a second chance – and I live everyday with renewed appreciation for all the good that surrounds me.”

Cathy's Treatment Team