Date: 10/24/2020 To: Dr. Gregory Argyros, MD, MACP, FCCP From: Janelle Baliko (and brothers Ryan and Eric Baliko) Re: Staff Recognition Dear Dr. Argyros, I will apologize in advance for both how overdue and how lengthy this letter is, but hopefully it will be an easy read as we offer our unwavering compliments to MedStar Washington Hospital Center doctors, staff, and team members. It is important to preface this note with the following: • I have been under the entrusted care of Dr. David Shocket for several years to manage my unpredictable Crohn’s disease. • I was assessed by Dr. Edward Aulisi for a meningioma in 2017 and continue annual post-radiation MRIs under his advisement and care.
Part I: Our Dad, Rudolph (Rudy) Baliko The mid-to-latter part of 2019 had our beloved dad, Rudy Baliko, starting to feel more and more fatigued. He was still working, by choice, as a forester, his chosen career of more than 50 years. He loved the woods, being outdoors, and enjoying nature. Dad’s local physician had waved off his symptoms as “just part of getting older.” Dad turned 80 in November 2019 and was planning on retiring at age 85. He had always been in great shape, never really having more than an occasional cold. Dad continued to press his physician over the next few months to which his physician responded, ordering some bloodwork, ultimately diagnosing dad with Rocky Mountain Spotted fever as the result of a tick bite (though dad hadn’t experienced the most common symptoms). As we approached mid-April 2020, dad’s fatigue had worsened and he was unable to eat much of anything due to extreme pain in his abdomen. On Thursday, April 23rd, I contacted Dr. Shocket who immediately had his staff schedule a tele-video call with Dad for the following Monday, April 27th. After a thorough conversation with dad and receiving confirmation from him to discuss his health with me, Dr. Shocket contacted me immediately and told me we needed to get our dad up to MWHC so he could have the appropriate doctors assess and diagnose him. He was honest in sharing with me that our dad was experiencing something very serious. This allowed us to start mentally preparing for what the MWHC teams might find. On Tuesday, April 28th, I drove our dad from St. Mary’s County MD up to MWHC ED where he was admitted immediately. Not five minutes after he was received, Dr. Shocket called to let me know he saw that my dad had been admitted and that he would provide the ED team enough time to get the basics done, and that he would then go down and visit with our dad a bit. He wanted to make sure our dad saw a friendly and familiar face, especially in these times of Covid when mom and I had to leave dad at the hospital without the means to visit. Dad was admitted, as expected. Dr. Shocket reached out to the appropriate teams to make sure he was seen by the best. In addition, he took time out of his schedule to make daily visits to our dad, not just to check on him, but to ensure dad had the opportunity to see and talk with a familiar face. Not only was Dr. Shocket visiting with our dad, he was staying in close contact with me to keep our family informed. A few days later, Dr. Shocket called me with the news: terminal pancreatic cancer. It was everywhere. He took it upon himself to share the news with dad directly so it wasn’t coming from new and unfamiliar faces. We are forever grateful our dad received this awful news from a physician who is considered by our family as an extended family member himself. Dad was discharged to us on Friday, May 1st. While devastated to be losing our dad so abruptly, we were blessed to have the diagnosis from the MWHC team so that we could spend the next nearly four weeks of dad’s life with him at home. The first week was good as he provided my brothers and me with a crash course in forestry so we could close out his business and complete all current client projects. The following week on Friday, May 8th, Home Hospice Care was initiated. Dad was still able to sit up and communicate with us as we allowed some close family and friends to come say goodbye. Post-discharge, Dr. Shocket called me regularly to inquire about dad. This was of huge comfort, not only to me, but to our entire family. My brothers and other relatives couldn’t get over the amount of concern and communication Dr. Shocket offered (after all my years under his care, I wasn’t as surprised, as this is all truly indicative of how he treats people). We are so grateful for his support during such a difficult time. When we ran into an issue with the Hospice care, I reached out to Dr. Shocket, who, immediately reached out to your Palliative Care Director for guidance which he relayed back to me all within 30 minutes of my initial call. With that guidance, we were able to quickly resolve our issue and focus on dad’s true needs. Our beloved dad died on Wednesday, May 27th. I contacted Dr. Shocket to let him know, and, in addition to expressing his sincere condolences to me and my family, he offered to do anything we needed to help us get through that time. Dr. Shocket, as I’ve been able to say time and time again, is a top-notch human being and physician because, for him, it truly is all about how you treat people. While unfortunate, the diagnosis from your physicians that we weren’t able to get from local doctors afforded our family precious time with our beloved husband and dad. There are no words that can accurately express our extreme gratitude for that. Dad’s sons, my brothers, may not have otherwise known to travel home for dad’s final and precious weeks of life and for this, there are no words strong enough to express all of our gratitude.
Part II: Our Mom, Marguerite (Peg) Baliko On Monday, June 8th, five days after we buried our dad, my younger brother, Ryan, still in town from Colorado, and I found our mom unresponsive in her home at 6:15pm. She was rushed to MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital. Knowing they don’t have capabilities to handle neurological-related issues, as soon as we were informed mom had bleeding on the brain, I reached out to Dr. Shocket who immediately contacted Dr. Aulisi who approved mom’s admission to MWHC via MedStar’s LifeFlight. Dr. Shocket had briefed Dr. Aulisi about the recent course of events our family had been through with our dad. Once mom’s helicopter took off, we went back to our parent’s home to wait for the next call. My older brother Eric would drive back up from South Carolina the next day, after heading home just three days prior. Dr. Matthew Jacobs was the receiving physician and had been provided all the details about mom’s condition and our family’s recent events. It was a bit after midnight when the call came through. It was not a good call. All three doctors had kept in touch with each other and the prognosis was extremely grim: mom had stopped responding and was most likely not going to survive the night. I asked Dr. Jacobs to please just keep mom as comfortable as possible until Ryan and I could come up the next morning, preparing to bring home her body. Miracles happen and our mom somehow made it through the night. At close to 6am on June 9th, Dr. Jacobs called with the amazing news that mom was now responsive which meant they had surgical options. Soon thereafter, Dr. Aulisi called to explain what the surgery would entail. We consented and Dr. Aulisi and his team proceeded. A few hours later, we received the call that mom had made it through and her outlook was much more promising. My brothers and I really weren’t sure how we would have been strong enough to handle the possible tragedy of losing mom now, and through the expertise and sheer humanity of Dr. Auilisi, Dr. Jacobs, and the entire team, they made sure we wouldn’t have to. In addition, all of the doctors pulled the necessary strings to allow my brothers and me the gift of seeing our mom in person that Friday. While heavily sedated, and not alert by any account, we believe she knew we were there: talking to her, holding and squeezing her hands. We just needed that for some comfort in an otherwise very gray time for us; and while visitation was not an option for most during this Covid time, these doctors made sure it was an option for us. While our mom had another setback of testing Covid + while in the ICU, she proved to us once again how determined a fighter she truly is by undergoing the Covid antibody plasma transfusion, ventilation, etc. Minus an obstacle with one physician that was handled immediately by Dr. Shocket and Dr. Ira Rabin, the team continued fighting as hard for mom as mom was fighting for herself. We only wish we had the names of each of these team members to provide them the appropriate recognition. Teamwork makes the dream work. With mom’s improvement came the need to transfer her out of MWHC. We were sad to see her leave the institution that provides insurmountable patient care, but we understood she was no longer in need of their medical care. Still Covid positive and ventilated, the facility options were extremely limited, so she was transferred to Bridgepoint Capitol Hill. As of this writing, 10/24/2020, mom continues to progress and is expected to return to her home in St. Mary’s County next month. We all await her homecoming to treat her like the deserving fighter and special mother and friend she is. Each of the physicians I speak of in this letter stand tall in the pride of their work, not with egos and not for recognition, rather, simply doing what they do best, caring deeply for others. They humbly don’t expect letters of gratitude, but we cannot go without acknowledging and applauding them and will continue referring anyone in need of their services to them. Simply said, thank you. Warm regards, Janelle Baliko, Eric Baliko, and Family, Ryan Baliko and Family