What are you grateful for? Was it the compassion of a nurse when your child or loved one was hurt or scared in the emergency department? Or the life-saving skill of a surgeon? Maybe it was the words of encouragement and understanding from a caregiver on your floor?
We all have moments that we are grateful for and though we may not remember exactly what someone did or said, chances are we will remember how they made us feel.
We invite you to share your story. You may also wish to express your appreciation to the special person by making a gift in their honor to Cape Cod Healthcare. Each gift we receive from a patient or family member reaffirms our value within the community.
Peggie Griffin-Bretz's Story
Three activities Peggie Griffin-Bretz of Yarmouth loves to do are travel with friends, walk her dog, Maggie, and indulge in her creative side by designing and hand-sewing beautiful quilts.
She retired from psychiatric nursing a few years ago, after working for the Veterans Administration for 30 years, and was looking forward to more time doing her favorite things. But the increasing pain in her left hip was holding her back.
“My hip had been bothering me for years,” said Griffin-Bretz.
An MRI showed no structural damage, so she kept thinking it was bursitis and that she would have to manage it by treating the pain with Tylenol and exercise.
Continuing to do her physical activities became increasingly difficult and walking Maggie was more challenging. The final straw was a trip to France a couple of years ago with some relatives.
“I couldn’t keep up with the group and one day I had to remain behind because the pain was too much,” said Griffin-Bretz. “That really got my attention.”
She talked with a couple of friends and they both recommended that she see Paul Dimond, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at Falmouth Hospital. She had total hip replacement last January, spent three days in the hospital and about 1 ½ weeks at JML Care Center in Falmouth.
She credits her successful recovery to two Visiting Nurse Association of Cape Cod staff, Mary Mahan, RN and Esther Hottentot, PT, who provided home services upon her discharge from JML.
“I could not have been happier with the care I received from these two professional women,” Griffin-Bretz wrote in a letter to the VNA of Cape Cod. “Mary, a very kind and upbeat person, solved an ongoing health issue I had when all the healthcare professionals I’d seen were unable to address it successfully. Esther was kind and gentle as she motivated me to exercise. She never made me feel bad if I couldn’t do everything I was supposed to do and so I found I did more.”
The ongoing health issue was severe gastrointestinal symptoms that weren’t able to be diagnosed or treated successfully. During Mahan’s last visit with Griffin-Bretz, they talked about the magnesium she had been taking for a long time to ease leg cramps, at the recommendation of an exercise instructor. Mary suggested that Griffin-Bretz stop taking the supplement to see if that was a contributing factor. The symptoms finally stopped.
“She was the only one who knew and she was right, which was amazing,” said Griffin-Bretz.
What she liked about Hottentot was the realistic goals she set for her and the support she gave her for her physical therapy.
“She never made me feel guilty if I couldn’t accomplish my goals, and I looked forward to her visits because she made it fun,” said Griffin-Bretz.
Hottentot also incorporated exercises into her daily activities. “For example, she showed me how to do exercises while I was brushing my teeth,” she said.
Bob Maloney and Joan Felahi's Story
Bob Maloney and his wife, Joan Felahi, of Harwich can’t say enough good things about Cape Cod Hospital and the care they have received over the past few years.
“You walk in the front door and the door hasn’t even closed when two or three people are asking if they can help you,” said Maloney. “When you ask directions, they tell you exactly where to go,” said Felahi.
The couple, who married in 2003 at the ages of 67 and 69, say the care they’ve received during their combination of five surgeries, inpatient stays and other procedures is bar none.
“I don’t understand why people go to Boston when we have the finest facilities here,” said Felahi.
She recalls her first meaningful encounter with Cape Cod Hospital in 1999 when she moved to the Cape. At the time, H. Walter Kaess, M.D., now retired, was her surgeon. Maloney also had surgery by Dr. Kaess in the 1990’s. “I hated to see him retire, he was so good to us,” said Felahi.
What really inspired Felahi to donate to Cape Cod Healthcare were her stays on Mugar 6 following hip and knee replacement surgeries in June 2015 and February 2016. “I didn’t feel like a patient, I felt like family,” said Felahi. “When I rang my bell, they were right there and we could joke and laugh with one another. It was just a wonderful experience.”
So much so she remembers the names of all who took care of her. They were Debbie Merrifield, RN; Dee Fazio, RN; Suzanne Baker, Brenda Hathaway, Selina Pearson and Patrick Leahey.
Felahi appreciated the concern and care they all provided. One example that stands out to her is the nurse who went above and beyond the call of duty.
“Debbie offered me a pneumonia shot the night before my discharge to Liberty Commons Rehabilitation & Skilled Care Center in Chatham after my knee replacement,” said Fehali. She told Debbie she was unsure if she wanted the vaccine. “Debbie came in the next morning before her shift started and offered again. I decided to do it.”
Maloney shares the same appreciation for compassion and concern as his wife. He spent 23 years in military in service to his country from 1951-1972 as a Navy Seal and has a deep-rooted understanding of dedication and service. “I don’t have to worry, I know I am in good hands at Cape Cod Hospital,” said Mahoney.
Felahi said even though her donations are modest, she considers them important contributions to Cape Cod Healthcare. “I just want them to know I appreciate everything they have done for us and the care they have given us ─ from physicians and specialists to the hospital staff.”
And she knows how much her gift is appreciated when she receives her thank you note in the mail from the Cape Cod Healthcare Foundation. “The note always makes me feel good and the acknowledgement is another reason I continue to contribute,” said Felahi.
Tom Gorton's Story
Tom Gorton literally travels from one end of the earth to the other to get the healthcare he knows is best for him.
He takes three airplane flights over a day and half to get from his home in Nanning, China, to his former hometown of Falmouth for check-ups with Clark Cancer Center radiation oncologist Basia McAnaw, MD. Dr. McAnaw treated his aggressive stage IV head cancer in 2014.
“My level of comfort here over the years is 150 percent,” Gorton said.
Doctors in China discovered a tumor on his tongue two years ago. He came back to the Cape because he had been treated at Cape Cod Hospital’s Davenport-Mugar Cancer Center for persistent prostate cancer in 2000, and knew he would be in good hands again. Cape Cod Healthcare opened Clark Cancer Center opened in 2011, and Gorton now receives his care there.
“When I was diagnosed in China, I was on an airplane to Boston a week later,” he said. “I was never really scared about it. I was worried and concerned, but the healthcare I’ve had here filled me with extreme confidence, so maybe that’s why.”
Gorton, 66, began radiation and chemotherapy treatments on March 27, 2014, and it continued for three months. His medical oncologist is Victor Aviles, MD of Falmouth. The tumor is now gone and he is checked every three months in China, and continues to come back every year for a check-up with Dr. McAnaw.
“What’s so amazing about Tom is that he wanted to be home with his family in China, so he went home right after his radiation treatment. For most people, the weeks after (treatment) are even harder,” she said.
Gorton admits he was quite sick after he returned to Nanking, where he lives with his wife, Meizhu.
“I arrived home at the end of June and had nausea and fatigue that lasted through July and August. But by the second week in September, it got better very fast and I have felt terrific ever since,’ he said. “It was like a re-emergence into life.”
A Deep Appreciation
Gorton’s treatment consisted of a technique known as External Bean IMRT, whereby the radiation was targeted precisely to the tumor on his tongue and the nearby lymph nodes. The dosage is delivered from multiple directions, ensuring maximum coverage and protection of normal tissues, according to Dr. McAnaw.
“We try to use the safest, highest dose possible,” she said. “It’s a balancing act.”
Gorton said he was comfortable with the risks.
“It was explained to me very clearly, and I knew everything going into it,” he said.
Although Gorton has a stiff neck and temporarily lost the taste buds on his tongue, as a result of the radiation, he is fortunate that he had cancer today, when treatment is so much better, said Dr. McAnaw.
“Most people (with his stage and type of cancer), 25 years ago, would have died,” she said.
Still, even today in many places, the treatment for Gorton’s tumor consists of removing the tongue and side of the neck, leaving patients unable to talk or eat without the aid of a tube, she added.
Nine years ago, Dr. McAnaw and other radiation oncologists at Cape Cod Healthcare reviewed their own data, and learned that they could spare patients’ tongues and neck area and still have a high success rate. While still not perfect, it does a much better job of preserving patients’ quality of life, Dr. McAnaw said.
“My cancer was good it arrived when it did, and I’m glad I had the doctors I did,” Gorton said. “You need to look at it as a good experience; that I was the recipient of somebody’s hard work, education and skills.”
With six grandchildren in his life, Gorton said he is grateful to the doctors, technicians, nurses and other medical personnel who treated him.
“I have a deep appreciation that I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life,” he said. “I had stage IV cancer, but, because of quality care, I beat it.”