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Grateful Patient Stories: Patricia Dillenback

Pulmonary & Critical Care Medicine

November 1st, 2011 was the day all my health problems began.  I had awful pain in my neck and down my arm and it was hard to breathe.  At that point my local doctor thought I was just dealing with a pinched nerve.  Still in pain a week later, the doctor changed the diagnosis to pneumonia and put me on antibiotics.  The pain continued to worsen and medications were changed yet again, but I continued to deteriorate.

I was referred to another area doctor that specialized in pulmonology where a biopsy confirmed that I had Dermatomyositis and Interstitial Lung Disease.  I was then told that I needed a rheumatologist and I was referred to yet another doctor in a neighboring town. 

Finally!  I was so pleased to think I was going to a doctor that would know about this disease and could give me some answers!  But my joy was short-lived.  We arrived at the office and were greeted an unfriendly staff.  The nurse was quick to inform me that only one person could go in the room with me when I met with the doctor.  My husband and I went to meet with the doctor and we were not impressed by what again felt like a cold reception.  We tried to explain all that we had been going through and were met by a less than compassionate response.  The doctor explained to me that what I had was life threatening and she would provide medications and basically we would see what happened.  My husband responded, “You say it is life threatening. What do you mean?”  She looked at him and then at me and said, “Well, she is here today and she could be gone tomorrow.”  I thought to myself, “I must be hearing this wrong.”  I held back tears until the doctor left the room and told my husband, “I better get my affairs in order and set up my funeral arrangements.”

We went home and informed my family of all that happened and the news we had been told.  My sister quickly relayed the news to my nephew who happens to live in Maryland.  His business puts him in contact with many professionals in the greater Baltimore area, including many doctors.  He quickly contacted one of his doctor associates and was told, “Your aunt needs to see Dr. Nirav Shah, he is the one for her.” I was able to get an appointment and a week later I was making the eight hour trip to Maryland to visit Dr. Shah for the first time.

The day of the appointment came and I was accompanied by my brother, his wife, and my husband.  When we arrived at the office, everyone was so kind and pleasant.  They even helped me complete the paperwork.  We were told to take a seat and someone would be out to get me within a few minutes.  To my surprise a nurse came out to get me in less than five minutes.  I asked her, “Is it alright for my husband to come with me?”  She responded, “You can bring your whole family.”

Dr. Shah listened patiently to my story.  He was warm and understanding and explained all the details of my disease. He was pleased that I did not have high-blood pressure or diabetes, and that I exercised.  He was the first doctor to take the time to explain in detail what I was dealing with.   Additionally, his knowledge of Dermatomyositis and Interstitial Lung Disease was impressive. He did not scare me and I felt so encouraged when he said that with the right medications, I could improve.

I needed to ask so many question that day, and Dr. Shah was very understanding.  Never once did I feel as if I were putting him out. When we spoke, Dr. Shah looked right at me, I felt so important, there were no interruptions, and it was all about me.  I no longer felt like another number.  His complete focus was on me and managing this disease.  He informed me of all the testing he wanted to complete and that he would work hard to make me feel better.  Dr. Shah told me, “Anytime that you do not feel well, just pick up the phone and I will speak with you.”  Where I am from, when you call and ask to speak with a doctor you might get a call from the nurse the next day, but never from the doctor.  I finally had some hope that I might be able to manage this disease.  I left the appointment with my family and we felt that we were finally in the hands of the right medical team.

Since this initial meeting I have had nothing but continued excellent care and attention.  I never have a problem speaking with Dr. Shah or his associates.  If I have a problem, I really do get to speak with a doctor directly.  Also, when I call, I actually speak to a live person not an answering machine or answering service.  My questions are answered now and if the answer is not immediately known, the answer will be found and relayed as quickly as possible.

When you come to Dr. Shah’s office, the staff is so pleasant and friendly.  I have met so many wonderful people at this office, people that I now call friends.  You are greeted with a smile and a willingness to listen. The journey that led me to Dr. Shah’s office was not one of joy, but I am so grateful that I have arrived.  Because of Dr. Shah and his staff I am back on my feet, with a renewed zest for life, and doing well.

Patricia Dillenback 

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