Peggy: Healing with History

Patient receives treatment at Mercy's Center for Digestive Health and Liver Disease

Liver Disease

Peggy W. has a rich and remarkable history. She is the daughter of the first Korean ambassador to the Court of St. James’s, has a degree in French, studied at the Sorbonne in Paris, worked a long and effective career with the federal government, and helped raise two greatly successful children.

But one Christmas Eve several years ago, the only history that mattered to Peggy was the experience she’d had with a certain doctor at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. Peggy’s chief focus then was Dr. Paul J. Thuluvath, the Chief of Gastroenterology at Mercy, and the hospital’s Medical Director of The Institute for Digestive Health & Liver Disease.

On that particular morning, Peggy was having what she called a “bad moment.” A very bad moment.  And with her history, she knew exactly who to call.

A History with a Trusted Doctor

Peggy is no stranger to health issues. In 1998 she had received a liver transplant at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.  Nine years later, as a result of damage caused by post-transplant medication, Peggy also had a kidney transplant, receiving a kidney donated by her husband.

When she’d had the liver transplant, attending that surgery was then-Medical Director of Liver Transplantation for Hopkins, Dr. Paul Thuluvath.  When Dr. Thuluvath moved to Mercy Medical Center several years later, he brought with him immense knowledge and experience, and at least one patient – Peggy.

“There was no question that I would follow Dr. Thuluvath to Mercy,” according to Peggy. “He had been indispensable to me in terms of being the vital person to get me well.”

On that Christmas Eve morning Peggy needed someone to get her well. She was suffering from a digestive disorder that was causing her non-stop diarrhea and stomach pain. She was weak, she felt helpless.

Initially she went to her local county hospital, which then contacted her go-to guy, Dr. Thuluvath, who happened to be on vacation. No matter. He took the call, told Peggy to get to the emergency room at Mercy as soon as possible. She did.

Care Needed in the Present

“Mercy took such good care of me, both the doctors and the nurses,” Peggy said. “I get teary-eyed when I talk about how selfless they were.

“It was humiliating,” she added. “I was at the point where I had to wear diapers and yet they acted as though it were nothing. I’ll never forget it. The staff at Mercy treated me with such dignity.”

They also treated her illness, a digestive issue which at first had the staff mystified. “Of course my immune system is depressed because of the transplants, so I’m a little unique,” Peggy noted.  “They gave me several medications and none of them worked. Whatever I had wasn’t any of the usual suspects. Eventually they gave me a potent anti-viral and it worked. I was home in time for New Year’s.”

Peggy said the Christmas Eve scare was the first time she’d been treated at Mercy and she was impressed. “I felt really cared for,” she said. “What I value most about Dr. Thuluvath is that he’s personable, and he really listens. I found that was pretty much the case across the entire hospital.

“You can tell a lot about a hospital by the way their emergency room works. I was pleasantly surprised at Mercy. Here it was Christmas Eve and when I got there they were all prepared for me. It was impressive.”

Continuing to Make Her Own History

Nowadays, Peggy, a self-described workaholic, is retired from the federal government for a second time. But that doesn’t mean she’s resting on her history. In fact she’s probably busier than she’s ever been. She’s the sole caregiver to her elder sister, is in two book clubs, and takes exercise classes and t'ai chi with sword. She also serves as the chair of the diversity committee of the American Association of University Women, and when she can, she visits her children – her daughter, an accomplished journalist, and her son, a high school English teacher. And every chance she gets, she dotes on her three grandchildren.

And since that difficult Christmas Eve morning Peggy has visited Mercy often. She’s now a part of a “wonderful” liver support group that meets monthly at the hospital. The group brings together transplant patients who share their experiences and support one another.

It is all just another piece of Peggy, a woman with great experience and awareness, and a sense that perhaps the greatest part of her own history is a knowledge that she is still here to appreciate it.

“I’ve met so many caring and selfless people in the medical field that it’s beyond words,” she said. “It certainly makes you appreciate what you have and what’s been done for you.  When I’m at Mercy, I find myself hugging a lot of people.”

Peggy's Treatment Team