Daniel D'Amico was an 82-year-old retired welder and foreman who was
diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma in the Fall of 1998 in Worcester,
Massachusetts. When they got the bad news, the D'Amico family was
proactive -- they respectfully listened to their doctors, but sought more
knowledge from the Internet.
Daniel's daughter Sherri "took the bull by the horns" and
diligently began surfing the net for mesothelioma treatment options. She
found our website and learned about interleukin and photodynamic therapy.
When she tried to discuss these treatments with Daniel's oncologist,
the oncologist dismissed these options as irrelevant.
Sherri, undaunted by the cavalier attitude of her father's doctors,
continued her research. She read Sandy Holland's (link) story and
was encouraged by Ms. Holland's progress under the care of Dr. Robert
B. Cameron (link).
In Sherri's words, "I was very encouraged by the attitudes of
those on this web site, an encouragement even for the older ones with
this disease. Statements like 'think in terms of years, not months,'
even to someone in their 80's. I get so discouraged by these doctors
who have the attitude that if you're over 65, 'what do you expect,
you have to die of something, go home and get ready'."
Daniel underwent a pleurectomy in September. His doctors did not offer
any treatment after the surgery. He was on oxygen twenty-four hours a
day. Sherri was worried: "My father was walking eight to ten miles
a week just before he got sick, he was working and very active. A month
later the scar from his surgery looked about ten years old. He always
healed very quickly. Strong immune system. Unfortunately he was surrounded
by negative-thinking and he started to believe it; since then he began
giving up and going downhill. I knew that this was a terminal illness.
I wasn't trying to fool myself, but I felt with the right treatments
we could have prolonged the quality of his life significantly."
Frustrated with the naysayers, Sherri contacted us, and we directed her
to Dr. David Sugarbaker.
On May 4, 1999, Daniel and his family traveled to Boston to meet with Dr.
Sugarbaker. Dr. Sugarbaker felt that the pleurectomy in September was
the proper treatment. Sherri's poignant summary of their meeting follows:
Dr. Sugarbaker didn't have any new medical procedures to try, he felt
the surgery [Daniel] had already had [from his local doctors] was what
he would have done, and he thought going by the x-rays, it had been done
well. What he did offer was encouragement, and a better outlook. Dr. Sugarbaker
gave my father back his fighting spirit, which unfortunately his primary
care doctor had stripped him of. Dr. Sugarbaker prescribed medication
to help my father gain his appetite back. Dr. Sugarbaker saw that my father
was battling an infection in the lungs, so he prescribed an antibiotic
and sherry every afternoon for appetite, and changed his pain medication
to one that would be easier on the stomach.
As tired as my father was from a whole day in Boston, his attitude was
about 500 steps up from what it was before we went.
Over the next two days he was really trying to eat. He was actually asking
for food. He did start having a lot of trouble with phlegm as the antibiotic
started clearing things out, and that was really wiping him out. Unfortunately,
he received a letter from his primary care doctor explaining why he wasn't
going to give the referral to Dr. Sugarbaker. That letter stated that
the doctors he had gone to already hadn't been able to help him and
neither would Dr. Sugarbaker, and that once he accepted this, he would
set up hospice.
That one letter ruined everything our trip to Boston had accomplished.
My father hadn't eaten in five days since the letter, so we got him
into the hospital. His primary immediately discharged him when he came
back the next day, saying that it wasn't necessary. This doctor was
not working the day my father was admitted. Another doctor admitted my
father because he was dehydrated. I would have thought that dehydration
would make hospitalization necessary, but this primary "doctor"
just wants my father dead. We are trying to get another doctor. We do
have hospice in now because my father is getting so weak he can hardly
walk. I did contact Dr. Sugarbaker again and let him know the primary
doctor's opinion of his help and the refusal to give us the referral.
Just to show the difference in a true doctor, Dr. Sugarbaker wrote back
and said to send Daniel without the referral. Obviously, Dr. Sugarbaker
is a man that truly cares. He sees my father again the first of June.
On May 24, 1999, Danny D'Amico passed away. Sherry's last letter
finishes his story:
We talked to Dr. Sugarbaker on Sunday [May 23, 1999] and he said to bring
Danny in on Monday. He was very weak from fighting the infection, but
we did get him in there. Dr. Sugarbaker was very encouraging as usual,
gave him some meds, said that his x-rays showed no increase in the disease
since his surgery. Danny was beaming when we left. We had a great ride
home, joking around, laughing, and making all these plans on how we would
get his weight back up. He walked into the house, next thing I knew, his
dearest friend and I were doing CPR on him. It all happened so fast, I
still can't believe it. But we lost him Monday.
I want to thank you for all your help and encouragement during this really
hard time. If it wasn't for you we would never have gotten him to
see Dr. Sugarbaker, and even though it was too late, because his poor
body had already gone through too much. He died with peace of mind, a
good attitude and some hope, and for his family and closest friends, we
wanted to thank Dr. Sugarbaker and you also, for what you have already
done for us.
We extend our profound condolences to the D'Amico family. Doctors everywhere
need to understand this very simple but profound point:
"BEDSIDE MANNER COUNTS!" While every doctor may not have the stuff to GIVE hope, at the very least
a doctor should never display an attitude that TAKES AWAY hope.
*** POSTED JUNE 24, 1999 ***