Wayne Magazine May 2016 - Page 21

“We have a few hospitals nearby, but I trusted Chilton. That was where I wanted to be.” Christine Calandra John EmErson C hristine Calandra of Little Falls was driving to the shore last June when her left leg suddenly locked and wouldn’t move. Doctors initially suspected sciatica. But Chilton Medical Center’s team of specialists uncovered a far more serious condition. Much to her astonishment, Calandra’s stiff limb was the first sign of a life-threatening infection. Calandra was evaluated by three physicians in five days, all of whom prescribed medication to reduce the inflammation as well as additional testing. Calandra’s condition, however, declined steadily. Over the next few days, she became increasingly immobile and developed a sharp pain that radiated to her right hip, prompting an early morning visit to Chilton’s Emergency Department. “We have a few hospitals nearby, but I trusted Chilton,” notes Calandra. “That was where I wanted to be,” she recalls. Upon arrival, Calandra was examined by hospitalist Ritesh Kumar, MD, who ordered blood work, an MRI and a CT scan. Importantly, he also recruited the expertise of an infectious disease specialist, Richard Krieger, MD, who immediately suspected infection and recommended a needle biopsy to extract fluid from Calandra’s hip. The results revealed a troubling diagnosis: septic arthritis. According to Krieger, septic arthritis is a joint infection caused by harmful bacteria that travel through the bloodstream. The bacteria typically migrate from another area of the body and affect one large joint, causing intense pain, inflammation and loss of joint function accompanied by fever and weakness. In Calandra’s case, the condition was linked to a staph infection that settled in her right hip. “Staph infections can be dangerous,” Krieger warns. “It’s very important to catch them early, as the infection can lead to permanent joint damage and spread to other joints and organs, including the heart,” he explains. Calandra was admitted to Chilton for aggressive treatment. Orthopedic surgeon Gary Drillings, MD, meticulously drained and cleansed the infected hip before six weeks of daily infusion therapy, which delivered antibiotics directly into her bloodstream. “I was scared and overwhelmed,” admits Calandra. “What I thought was sciatica spiraled into a major event. One day I was shopping with my sister, and a few days later I was waking up from surgery,” she says. Calandra’s ordeal included a week in Chilton’s inpatient medical/surgical unit, where she recuperated under the skilled, compassionate care of the nurses and staff. “They were all so patient and kind, and did everything possible to make me comfortable,” she states. “I told them that they must have had little wings tucked under their uniforms, like angels.” An arduous recovery was facilitated by an additional week of inpatient rehabilitation and outpatient physical therapy to help Calandra regain strength and mobility. “I’m still on the mend, both physically and emotionally,” asserts the 69-year-old artist. “For a while, the pain and fear took over, diminishing my creativity and enjoyment of activities, but I