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Health Information How Do Your Patients Inspire You?

Every day, physicians at Rush University Medical Center strive to provide the care patients need to get back to their lives.

But they learn plenty from their patients as well. Seeing their strength and courage often inspires physicians to be more empathetic and work harder to deliver advanced, high-quality care. Here, three physicians at Rush share how their patients have touched them.

Debra Selip, MD, pediatric medicine director of the Rush Fetal and Neonatal Medicine Center:

"I see many families who truly give me pause. They spend weeks, sometimes months, at the bedside of a critically ill infant. And despite their pain and grief, they say thank you. If it were me in that situation, I'm not sure I'd even be able to look up from underneath a blanket, but these families find a way to do it and to show their appreciation. It has humbled me and has helped me stay positive even in the face of something horrific. And I now stop to say thank you no matter what."

Watch Selip discuss her philosophy of care.

Jamile Shammo, MD, a hematologist at Rush specializing in bone marrow disorders:

"When a 28-year-old woman with lupus came to my clinic, I could tell she was very ill. But I certainly did not expect the year-long ordeal that followed. She went into a coma after I admitted her to the hospital. After a bone marrow biopsy, she was diagnosed with a rare, potentially lethal disease called hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH), which also involved her central nervous system. HLH treatment typically includes chemotherapy, massive doses of steroids and immunosuppressive agents.

"She was comatose for about three weeks and a meaningful recovery looked doubtful. But a few days after we started chemotherapy, her mental status began to improve. Still, at the same time, the steroids caused severe muscle weakness.

"I will never forget the day she regained consciousness and became aware of what had happened to her. Imagine waking up basically crippled, dependent on a breathing machine and feeding tube, and learning you have a potentially lethal condition. But one day as I walked into her room, I saw determination on her face. She said she wanted to beat this disease.

"She worked tirelessly through intensive physical therapies and underwent year-long chemotherapy. Getting her back on her feet involved an incredible collaboration among multiple specialists and services at Rush, including hematology, infectious disease, rheumatology, neurology, intensive care, pulmonology, physical therapy and rehabilitation.

"Today she has her life back. She is working as an architect; she is in excellent physical shape; and she is enjoying leading a normal life. Every time I talk about her, I am inspired. This is why I do what I do."

Watch Shammo discuss her philosophy of care.

Steven Gitelis, MD, an orthopedic oncologist at Rush and director of the Rush Limb Preservation Program:

"We've come a long way in developing effective treatments and improving survival rates for kids with bone cancer. But there are significant — sometimes devastating — side effects to these treatments.

"About seven years ago, a boy was referred to me with osteosarcoma in his hip. We treated him with chemotherapy — the standard treatment at the time — and I performed a limb-sparing operation, implanting a metallic hip. However, the chemo that saved his life did extensive damage to his heart, and he suffered heart failure. Fortunately, he was able to have a heart transplant, and today he's doing very well.

"Seeing this boy beat his cancer and then have to endure a heart transplant was devastating. It inspired me to start looking for new ways to treat patients that are equally effective but more targeted and, therefore, far less toxic.

"In cancer biology labs at Rush, we're trying to identify which patients will respond to which chemotherapy drugs. If we know up front that certain patients won't respond to certain drugs, we can try alternatives. We won't expose them to toxicity that isn't going to be effective. It's an approach that will help patients both survive cancer and be healthier down the road."

Watch Gitelis discuss his philosophy of care.

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