Gratitude Stories- May 2020

Gratitude is expressed all across MedStar Health-from our friends,families, caregivers, community, and patients. Thank you for sharing your experience.

Click the photos to view each gratitude story.

  • READ Erik & Sara Collin's Story
    The Priceless Gift of Health
  • Read James Ballowe's Story
    Lifesaving Care Leads to Lasting Commitment
    Grateful for the incredible minds at MedStar Health
  • Watch Anthony Imamura's Story
    Having an attitude for gratitude
    Success is measured by gratitude

Pain Free at Last – and Grateful for It

For years Maureen Simpson suffered with neck and back pain. “I first had neck surgery in 2001,” she says. “Then several years later I started having back pain.” Diagnosed with a herniated disc, she ended up having her first back surgery in 2010 after getting numerous steroid injections, that didn’t work. Unfortunately, neither did the surgery.

“I ended up having back surgery again in 2011, followed by another procedure on my neck in 2012,” she notes. By 2014 her back problems had returned, and she had surgery for the third time. Yet, two years later, she was in the operating room for more back issues. While she felt better for a while, her problems were far from over.

“In 2018 I fell off my bicycle, and the back pain returned. I probably saw nine different doctors, all offering various opinions.” Finally, she scheduled surgery once more. “I had gone through all the presurgical testing and blood work when I heard about Fred Fei Mo, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon and spine specialist with MedStar Orthopaedic Institute at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. I decided to see him for a second opinion.”

From the moment she met Dr. Mo, she was impressed. “He spent a lot of time going over my films and he carefully studied my records. Then he said, ‘I see exactly what your problem is.’ Now, a lot of surgeons didn’t want to deal with me because I had had so many procedures, but he was fabulous. He corrected some problems resulting from previous surgeries and addressed another issue that no other surgeon had ever mentioned.”

Today, at the age of 60, Simpson is pain free and back to doing all the activities she used to do. “I’ve been riding my bike 28 miles about five times a week and when I am not riding, I take spin classes. I also take a five mile walk several times a week. I live in Northern Virginia and had to pass four other hospitals to get to MedStar Georgetown, but it was well worth it. I was so pleased with the staff there and the care I received. I am grateful to be pain free at last.”

The Priceless Gift of Health

Pictured are Sara and Erik Collins

Eight years ago, Erik Collins was referred to MedStar Health & Vascular Institute at MedStar Washington Hospital Center after having a mild heart attack. There, he was diagnosed with a bicuspid aortic valve, a common congenital heart defect in which the aortic valve has only two “flaps” instead of three. Because it can cause the valve to narrow, reducing or even blocking blood flow from the heart to the body, his doctors recommended that his condition be monitored annually.

While many people with bicuspid aortic valve aren’t affected by valve problems, Erik was, despite the fact that as a full-time swim coach, he was extremely fit. By September of 2019, at the age of 50, he was starting to develop some troubling symptoms and again turned to MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute for their expertise.

“I was hoping they could perform a minimally invasive procedure that had just been approved, but due to the extent of my condition that wasn’t an option,“ Erik says. “I needed a double coronary artery bypass and an aortic valve replacement—procedures that, in my case, called for open-heart surgery.”

“Needless to say, we were frightened by the thought of open-heart surgery,” explains Sara Collins, Erik’s wife. “But the team at the hospital said Erik was a great candidate for surgery, would recover quickly, and would be better than ever with the new valve and bypasses.”

Four days after surgery, Erik was home and walking around the neighborhood as part of his cardiac rehab regimen. Nine weeks later, he was running on the treadmill every day and on New Year’s Eve, the couple ran a four-mile road race.

“We are profoundly grateful for the care Erik received at MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute,” Sara says. “There are not enough words to express our thanks for an amazing team of people who changed our lives for the better and did it all with a smile.”

Erik wholeheartedly agrees. “The entire process was awesome. The professionals at MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute are rock stars. Everyone on the team was endlessly reassuring and absolutely stellar at their jobs. We thank all of them for giving our family the priceless gift of health.”

Lifesaving Care Leads to Lasting Commitment

Fifteen years ago, a fire in the kitchen of James Ballowe’s Alexandria home could have claimed his life. Instead, thanks to the dedicated team of providers in the Burn Center at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, the 63-year-old is living such a normal life that most people would never suspect what he went through.

Although emergency responders arrived within minutes, Ballowe sustained second and third degree burns while attempting to contain the flames, and it was clear to the EMTs that Ballowe would need specialized care. He was airlifted to MedStar Washington Hospital Center, home to the only adult burn treatment center in the Washington metropolitan area.

Ballowe was in the ICU and on life support for nearly a week. Once his condition stabilized, he spent several more weeks hospitalized during which he endured numerous painful procedures, including harvesting skin from his legs to graft to his hands and arms where the burns were the most severe. He subsequently had three reconstructive surgeries followed by nearly two years of outpatient rehab therapy.

“Being a burn patient is not easy,” he notes. “But the care I received at the Burn Center throughout the long process was excellent.”

He had just completed rehab when he received a leadership award through his employer. It came with a monetary award that he could donate to the charities of his choice. He chose to give it all to the Burn Center and has been a supporter ever since.

So, when it came time to do his estate planning, he decided to include a significant gift to the Burn Center in his will. “I live a largely normal life today because of the care I received during that critical period,” Ballowe says. “I want to ensure that future burn victims get the specialized care they need too by helping to fund needed facility enhancements as well as the cutting-edge research being done there.”  

We invite you to participate in our culture of gratitude. Share your story.