By Volunteer Dr. Apple
Afternoon clinic was winding down on the quiet Saturday afternoon, when a young woman was wheeled into Dr. Badyana’s office. “Oh, this is not good,” was my immediate thought. The patient before us had extreme swelling of her face, neck and upper chest and was not able to swallow anything, including her own saliva. The patient’s mother quickly provided a history of her daughter starting with dental pain and some swelling three weeks prior. She had received antibiotics from two other hospitals, but her condition progressively worsened. The patient had a history of diabetes, controlled by her diet, but there had been no recent testing.
Our examination and a bedside ultrasound performed by Dr. Badyana confirmed a diagnosis of an extensive oral infection spread to the tissues of the face, neck and upper chest, a rather rare condition called Ludwig’s Angina. A very serious and potentially lethal condition, the patient needed immediate surgical drainage of the infected area, monitoring for swelling closing the airway producing inability to breath, intravenous antibiotics and treatment of her diabetes, which was found to be uncontrolled. The young woman was seriously ill.
Our patient was immediately taken to the procedure area where a surgery to open the infected area was performed. That afternoon began our FAME team’s long journey with this patient, with the team working tirelessly to treat her infection and manage several life-threatening complications that arose during her treatment.
And yes, it took a team to bring this patient safely through her illness. From the FAME staff doctors caring for the patient around the clock, to the volunteer doctors with expertise in diabetes care, infection treatment, surgical wound management and skin grafting, to Dr. Frank working with the anesthetists to find the best procedural sedation for this complicated patient, to our nurse/architect Nancy who suggested and acquired a high protein tube feeding supplement made from ground legumes used to improve wound healing, to the nurses who monitored and cared for the patient 24/7, to all the FAME support staffs, etc., etc.
Five weeks after her arrival at FAME the young woman returned home, having survived an illness to which she likely would have succumbed had she not arrived at FAME on that Saturday afternoon and had the FAME team not been there with the facilities, equipment and expertise to save another life.