Best Doctors: Memorable Moments

We asked 12 doctors to share with readers a memorable day or experience in their medical careers.

Dr. Carlos Alemany 
Oncologist, Cancer Institute of Florida
Florida Hospital Medical Group

Each of my patients is special, but there is a particular patient who holds a distinction in my clinic. She first came to see me because she wanted a third opinion. She has a rare type of genitourinary malignancy and had been told by physicians in other states that she should prepare to enter hospice care, as there were no options left to treat her. She was seeking hope. I told her that even though we could not cure her disease, I would be honored to try to help her. With the help of a molecular profiling analysis, she was found to have several potential targets that appeared to be important in treating her cancer. The patient had been told the disease would kill her within six months. Six years have since passed, and she has been blessed during this time to see three grandchildren born and continues to fight her cancer with courage and determination.

Dr. Lawrence D. Spack
Director, Pediatric Critical Care, Chief Quality Officer, Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children
Last year, I cared for a young girl with a life-threatening infection. She arrived gravely ill. I remained at her bedside throughout the night adjusting therapy. I saw the concern in her parents’ eyes. They knew just how sick she was and feared she would not survive. The following morning I knew she WAS going to survive. Lexy went home just before Thanksgiving. What a gift. I received a note from Lexy’s mother: “I searched for the right words to say, but all I can say is that you saved a young girl who has such a sweet soul and great determination to succeed in life. I thank God daily for giving you the wisdom and resources to allow Lexy to be here on earth with us. Our lives have been forever changed.” This is MY thanks. This is what makes it all worthwhile. How fortunate I am to be able to impact families in such a positive way.

Dr. Marnique Jones 
Obstetrician/Gynecologist, Women’s Care Florida—OB & GYN Specialists
In our everyday lives, it is easy to miss the miracles that God provides us. As an obstetrician/gynecologist, I am witness to them every day. One that will live with me forever is caring for a couple who lost their child at 38 weeks. In finding no answer or reason for their loss, we prayed and grieved together. It took her a while to recover and even consider getting pregnant again. When she did, I had her come in immediately for an ultrasound. As I was waiting, her husband ran out and shouted, “There are two!” I rushed into the ultrasound room, and through tears she said, “God gave us two babies!” The following fall, I had the privilege of delivering two healthy baby girls. They send photos and videos often, which always brightens my day. In my line of work, miracles happen every day and being a part of them is humbling and a true blessing.

Dr. Jorge Garcia 
Pediatric Cardiologist, Pediatric Cardiology Consultants, Florida Hospital Medical Group
I had a 10-year-old patient whose pediatrician referred him for a suspected heart murmur. He had no symptoms and a negative family history. His EKG showed very high voltages on the left side of his heart, so we ordered an echocardiogram, which showed a familial condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. This disease has a high risk for sudden cardiac death, and is the condition you hear about sometimes when a young athlete dies suddenly on the field. Because we caught it, we were able to implant a defibrillator and put him on medications. The family was stunned, as they were unaware of any family history of the condition. After the boy was diagnosed, his father was checked, and he too discovered he has the same condition. He had no idea. Now, both are being followed closely. 

Dr. Mauri Carakushansky 
Division Chief, Endocrinology, Nemours Children’s Hospital 
My most fulfilling work as a physician is when I am able to help a child reach his or her full potential. It was certainly gratifying to work with a significantly short patient who dreamed of being a football star. His coaches said he was really talented but he lacked the height needed to get a lot of playing time. As a pediatric endocrinologist, I performed a hormonal evaluation that revealed he was growth hormone deficient. Through a series of treatments, he not only grew but saw his athletic performance improve as well. Every visit to my office he would share his excitement as he recalled his most memorable games. On a recent office visit he was even more excited than usual. He had just been accepted into college, where he would be playing on the football team. 

Dr. Barbara Gans 
Pediatrician, Pediatric Associates of Orlando
In 2011, Holden Flynn came into this world born with a congenital heart defect. He took on the nickname Tin Man, because the Tin Man needed a heart. Holden was a courageous boy who warmed the hearts of those around him, even though his own heart was failing him. He underwent numerous surgeries, was placed on the heart transplant list, but unfortunately, a heart did not become available and Holden passed away at the age of 2. Holden’s parents, Nicole and Trey, have made sure that his legend as Tin Man lives on through Yellow Brick Road—the Holden Flynn Foundation, which they began in his honor to help other families facing this deadly birth defect. Every day I’m inspired by Holden and his wonderful, dedicated parents and the impact he continues to have on his family and this community. As a pediatrician, I feel so blessed that I get to meet children like Holden who make such a difference in the world around them.

Dr. Kavita Pattani
Surgical Oncologist, UF Health Cancer Center, Orlando Health
Part of becoming a physician is about learning to handle, stressful, chaotic situations. I got a crash course in this type of reality not once, but twice. On September 11, 2001, I had begun my rounds as a third-year medical student at Brooklyn Hospital when someone yelled, “We are under attack!” We ran to the window and saw the second plane fly into the Twin Towers, then watched in horror as the first building fell. We were the closest trauma center outside Manhattan, and I spent the next 24 hours treating victims. I never imagined that just four years later I would experience another disaster. I was a second-year resident at LSU, based out of Shreveport, when Hurricane Katrina hit. We were the only operating Level 1 Trauma Center in Louisiana after the ones in New Orleans were destroyed. We were treating cancer patients brought to us with no medical records, and difficult decisions had to be made in the following days and weeks. Both experiences put life and medicine into perspective for me, redefining the role that physicians and surgeons play in the lives of those who need us the most. 

Dr. Julie Wei
Division Chief, Otolaryngology, Nemours Children’s Hospital 
Once I became a mother, I fully appreciated the gift and privilege of my career helping children and their families as a pediatric otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat). I remember a teenage patient who always came in last when running cross-country. After I removed his enlarged tonsils, eliminating his obstructive sleep apnea, and counseled him and his family on healthier eating and sleeping habits, he returned later to tell me how great he felt and that now he was leading races. The smile and confidence on his face was incredible. To meet a child and family in need, explain and offer solutions that I would want for my own child, and then find out that he is healthy, happy, even reducing the need for medications—that is an incredible feeling. Helping a child live day to day, free from symptoms, and experience the best quality of life is what inspires me every day.

Dr. Jeffrey D. Brady
Florida Urology Associates, Florida Hospital Medical Group
As a urologist, I am fortunate to see the impact we have on the lives of our patients and their families. Last year, a 4-year-old boy and his grandfather, both patients of mine who’d recently had surgery to correct urologic issues, were in my office at the same time. Preoperatively, both were in diapers and despondent; the child from a congenital abnormality and his grandfather from side effects related to prostate cancer. After successful surgeries, it was amazing to see the results and improvement in their quality of life and self-esteem once they were diaper-free. They were genuinely happy to be healthy and to share that relief with each other. For a moment I forgot I was in an exam room. I was watching a grandfather and his grandson share a heartfelt moment. It was a special day for me, and a touching reminder why I decided to pursue a career in medicine.

Dr. Francis Fahey
Cardiologist, Florida Heart Group 
Florida Hospital Medical Group

A patient in his 50s recently came in to see me, but only because his wife pressured him to visit. He was defensive at first, denying he had a heart problem, noting that he worked outside as a tree surgeon every day, and was probably just run down. Finally, he reluctantly admitted to having a “hollow” sensation in his chest. I wanted to perform a heart catheterization to see what was really going on, but he adamantly refused. A few days later, his wife called and said he came home from work early and did not look well. I talked him into going to the cath lab, where we found a high-grade blockage in his left coronary artery—what we call “The Widowmaker”—that was about 99 percent closed off. We put in a stent, and he was back at work the next week. 

Dr. Maria L. Cannarozzi
Internal Medicine, UCF Health 
One reason I became a primary care physician is because I value the close relationships I form with my patients. I recall a 93-year-old woman under my care who was rushed to the emergency room one day with severe chest pain. The ER physician determined she was in active cardiac arrest and needed cardiac catheterization immediately to save her heart. However, she would not consent for the procedure until she spoke to me. At the time I could not believe she took those precious minutes to get my advice and hear my voice. Now I understand that she fully trusted me with her care and wanted me involved in every decision that impacted her health. Of course I recommended she undergo the procedure and her outcome was very good. That instance will forever remind me of the important role I play in the lives of my patients every day.

Dr. Vijay Kasi
Interventional Cardiologist, Orlando Health Heart Institute, Director, Cardiovascular Research and Interventional Fellowship Training Program
Healing hearts is but a small part of life. Months after treating a charming elderly lady with complex cardiac surgery, we treated her husband. During his hospitalization, unfortunately she was admitted again. While making rounds, I discovered he had left his room to visit her. As it turned out, they had what would be their last conversation. He unexpectedly passed away that night. We helped plan a memorial with his wife, and it was very touching to be part of the family’s ceremony. We learned more about him as a decorated war hero and the life they shared. A few months later we received the sad news that she too had passed on to join her husband in a better place. As I reflected on the coincidences—heart conditions and the timing of their hospitalizations and last moments together—I was reminded that God’s plans prevail over all the advanced technology and medical care that doctors can offer. I also saw the human element of family bonds and love that trump all else.

Categories: Doctors, People