Patricia’s Story

A Grateful Patient and her Son Thank Nurses, Physicians and Staff for their Exceptional Care

Kindness and empathy shown by nurses and other caregivers on UH Elyria Medical Center’s critical care floor prompt letter of gratitude from patient’s son.

Patricia Hartwig and her care team at UH Elyria Medical CenterThere are three words that no one ever wants to hear: “You have cancer.” When 66-year-old Patricia Hartwig of Cleveland heard that phrase from her doctor, she and her family knew she was in for a battle. But, the extraordinary compassion shown to Patricia and her loved ones by nurses and other caregivers at University Hospitals Elyria Medical Center helped make an incredibly difficult time more bearable.

In February 2018, Patricia went to see her primary care physician for her annual routine physical. Since she had been a smoker for several years, her physician ordered a chest X-ray and the results revealed something suspicious. Several additional tests were ordered, eventually leading to a diagnosis of stage 2A lung cancer.

“The news hit us like a ton of bricks,” said Jason Hartwig, Patricia’s son. “Even though she had been a smoker for 40 years, you never want to receive such devastating news.” According to Jason, Patricia experienced overwhelming emotions upon being diagnosed.

“She was angry at herself for smoking, knowing that she did this to herself, she was sad that there was something inside harming her and she was afraid,” said Jason. “There was fear of surgery and possible complications, fear of pain and fear about her quality of life post-operation…many sources of anxiety.&rdquo

However, in April, Patricia quit smoking and never looked back. She said it was one of the hardest things she had ever done in her life.

The first two non-UH surgeons Patricia saw compounded her fears through their overly direct descriptions of her surgical options. After thinking about it for a few days and discussing her diagnosis and surgery options with her family, she sought a third opinion. “I decided to speak to a UH surgeon,” said Patricia. “One of the non-UH surgeons recommended Dr. Robke.”

Patricia was able to get an appointment quickly with UH Seidman Cancer Center thoracic and esophageal surgeon Jason Robke, MD. Dr. Robke is well known for performing minimally invasive video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS).

“After reviewing my records and test results, he told me that he may only have to remove a lobe instead of the entire lung, but he wouldn’t know until he got in there,” said Patricia. “Regardless, it was very comforting to know that either procedure could be done minimally, with less recovery time.”

Jason concurred, saying, “As rough as the visits with the first two surgeons went, Dr. Robke told us exactly what we needed to hear, and we felt confident in him.”

The surgery took place at UH Elyria Medical Center on May 2, 2018. Dr. Robke performed a pneumonectomy to remove Patricia’s left lung. Then she was taken to UH Elyria Medical Center’s critical care floor, 8 Smythe, where she stayed for nine days.

The first 48 hours after surgery were difficult for Patricia. She experienced post-surgical pain as well as atrial fibrillation with a heartbeat as high as 150 beats per minute. “God bless the nurses,” said Jason. “They remained calm through the critical times and were very attentive to my mother’s needs. From placing Lidocaine patches directly on her back, to placing her in different positions so she could sleep, they were wonderful.”

Jason specifically mentioned nurses McLaine, Jennifer, Alex, Heather, Tiara and Jeanette in his letter to Rosily Thaikattil, RN, nurse manager of the 8th floor critical care unit at UH Elyria Medical Center. An excerpt from his letter reads:

“I am not a nurse or medical doctor, but I can appreciate that medicine and drug administration is only one small part of nursing someone back to normalcy. Patients are filled with anxiety. They are filled with fear. But nursing is also about genuine human care, genuine human interaction, and genuine touch. To treat the anxious mind, not just the body. I cannot count how many times your staff exemplified this care. Every question raised was answered in a timely fashion. Every little request, whether it was a cup of water to soothe a dry mouth, or 15 minutes at bedside to share a laugh or uplifting remark; we could feel the love and the genuine support, 24 hours a day.”

Patricia and Jason also recognized other UH Elyria staff members, including Dr. Robke’s nurse practitioners, pulmonologists and environmental services staff, as well as nurses at UH Seidman Cancer Center at UH St. John Medical Center, where she received chemotherapy.

Today, Patricia is doing very well and does not need supportive oxygen to breathe. She joined a local health club and is active in SilverSneakers™, a book club and other active older adult (AOA) activities. She is looking forward to annual gardening as the weather improves.

“My mother is the glue of our family,” said Jason. “Dr. Robke and all of the nursing staff gave us the chance to spend more time with her. They cared for her in a way we couldn’t and we are eternally grateful.”

For an appointment with Dr. Robke, please call 216-844-5003.