Here’s why, like many people across our country, I like and trust Dr. Fauci.
In 1992, my mom called at 6:00 am one morning and said: “your dad is in the hospital at the Brigham; get here when you can.” (I was living just outside of Amherst MA at the time, it took me under an hour to get there).
It was one of those calls you never want to receive.
Mom and dad were sailing and had arrived in Cuttyhunk, a small island off the coast of Massachusetts. They had just put the boat on a mooring in the harbor and were getting organized when dad suddenly fell flat on the deck and briefly lost consciousness. When he regained consciousness a few minutes later, mom was so concerned that she radioed for the seaplane to come and pick them up so they could fly back to the mainland for medical care.
Mom was a retired Emergency Department, Registered Nurse. Dad had been feeling “sluggish” for several months (initially they had thought he had asthma), but he felt well enough to go sailing. As mom remained more conscious of his symptoms, she decided to call for the seaplane right away.
Things Get Worse:
They flew back to New Bedford and then went to a hospital that, because of their small size and limited resources, could not fully assess what was going on, so he was subsequently transferred to the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Within minutes after entering the Emergency Department, Dad had six seizures, followed by a brainstem stroke, which left him in a coma. By the time I arrived, he had been admitted to the oncology pod, still in a coma, while they continued to evaluate him. Because of Brigham’s affiliation with medical schools in Boston, — many teams subsequently arrived to assess his symptoms.
After days of obtaining a thorough history, tests, labs, he was subsequently diagnosed with Wegener’s Granulomatosis syndrome — (which was confirmed when his Brigham team consulted with Dr. Anthony Fauci at the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases).
After a few more days, mom and I were scheduled to meet with the neurology team to discuss whether he would ever come out of this coma and what our best next steps should be in caring for him (i.e., “do we bring him home?”, “does he need surgery?”, “what is his overall prognosis?”). From his team at the Brigham, we learned that multi-organ failure was a symptom of Wegener’s and that there were less than 500 people in the United States who had been diagnosed with it. It was referred to as an “orphan illness.”
Dad’s Wake Up Call
A few days before our scheduled meeting, one night after dinner, the phone rang. It was my Aunt (dad’s sister) asking Mom if she could bring a priest into the hospital to pray for dad. So late Thursday night before our Friday morning meeting with the neurology team, my Aunt and my cousin were with the priest who was praying over dad. At one point, he reached for my dad’s hand to hold it, and he (my dad) jerked his hand away, which caught everyone off guard as it was a sudden jerky movement from a guy that (up until that time) had been in a coma.
Fast forward to early the next morning (6:00 am Friday): I was the first to arrive and was walking into the department when the primary Doc asked me, “is the rest of your family here?”. “No, not yet,” I told her, at precisely the same time Mom and my brother came around the corner and walked down the hall to where we were standing. The Doc looked at my mom and said, “I can’t explain what happened, but your husband is awake and conscious. They have the news on so he can be more oriented to time — we’re all glad to see him awake and talking to us”.
Because his illness had affected his organs, Dad needed to stay a few weeks longer and then also (subsequently) have cardiac double bypass surgery.
All this to say — while Dr. Fauci was not his Doctor, the fact that dad’s team at Brigham and Women’s consulted with him was inspiring because of the information, recommendations for treatment, and quality of care they provided and the years added to his life.
Let’s Just Think About This
Now, whenever I see Dr. Fauci standing behind the President or speaking at a press conference, I feel relieved because of how knowledgeable he is considering the complexity and evolution of the Covid-19 virus. And then I remember my dad and the battle he fought. Because of the care and recommendations he received, he lived another 22 years (and celebrated his 60th wedding anniversary with mom).
Having experienced the autoimmune illnesses that we have in our family, we learned that Dr. Fauci is a Physician you would want to have on your team because of his knowledge, tact, compassion, and the length of time he has been at the NIAID. It’s 2020 — he’s worked at the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases since the mid-1980s; let’s just think about that. In my opinion, a 40-year career at the same organization isn’t just a “job,” it’s an honorable life mission.
I’m proud to live in a country where you have experts and highly skilled healthcare and medical research professionals like Dr. Fauci and Dad’s team at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital. To have a healthcare team that you can ask (or consult with) who can make recommendations and broaden your insight and scope of knowledge, helped our family when coping with (and navigating) dad’s worst moments. And yes, where healthcare teams also support each other in hospitals and healthcare organizations across the country who continue to provide compassionate care for the patients and families they serve. While I have never met Dr. Fauci, I will always be grateful for him and our Brigham and Women’s team for their excellent care, recommendations, and follow-up.
Wearing a mask to protect you and your family as well as people with risk factors like my dad had, is a recommendation that will help save lives.