Doctors Ease Patient’s Fears Following Diagnosis of Diverticulitis
Warren Bryant is a planner. Before each of two scheduled surgeries in 2011, he meticulously put his personal and professional affairs in order. But the Alexandria resident who is a human resources director was totally unprepared for the events that began unfolding on his 56th birthday in February. “At first I attributed feeling ill to my having eaten red meat, which I do rarely,” he says, recalling that evening. “But when the vomiting and diarrhea persisted, I realized something serious was going on.”
A visit to the Emergency Department at Inova Mount Vernon Hospital led to a prompt diagnosis: diverticulitis (an inflammation in small pouches that can form in the lining of the colon). Immediately, Bryant was admitted to the hospital to fight the severe infection. Two days later, he learned he needed surgery. “All of a sudden I was in critical condition,” he says. “I was in a state of panic because things were happening so quickly.”
Bryant remembers the look of concern from Enoch M. Sanders, Jr., MD, a general surgeon who practices with Virginia Surgery Associates, when he introduced himself.
“Dr. Sanders took the time to explain the anatomy of the gastrointestinal system,” Bryant says. “And while he did his best to allay my fears, he definitely informed me about the severity of the situation.”
Dr. Sanders recognizes the challenges that accompany meeting a patient for the first time after he or she is already hospitalized. “The patient hasn’t had the opportunity to research you on the Internet or ask a physician, friends or family for recommendations,” he says. “It is my job to empathize with the patient, explain the disease process in lay terms, emphasize the need for the procedure and assure the patient that I have the necessary credentials, expertise and experience.”
15-day hospital stay, Dr. Sanders and his colleague, Timothy Shaver, MD, a general surgeon who also practices at Virginia Surgery Associates, took time to answer questions about his surgery, which involved removing approximately six inches of his large intestine. Sherrie Walker, MD, an infectious disease specialist who practices with Infectious Disease Associates, also treated Bryant in the hospital. “Dr. Walker’s telling me about her own experience with an abdominal wound humanized my situation,” he says. “We had such a good connection that I could say or ask her anything.”
Bryant calls his recent experience at Inova Mount Vernon Hospital “the best case of physician involvement."
In April, Bryant had his final follow-up visit with an enthusiastic Dr. Sanders. “He was as excited to release me as I was to be released,” Bryant recalls.