A Lehigh Acres physician is working hard to come up with a diagnosis that other doctors for the past several years in Lee County have been unable to do for a Cape Coral young woman who was a patient at Lehigh Regional Medical Center a week ago.
It was her first time as a patient at LRMC. She has been a patient at other hospitals in Lee County, but claims neither the hospitals nor their doctors have been able to help her.
The woman is Jennifer Dube, 28, who says she has had serious medical problems since she was in the fifth grade.
"I have been very ill with a yet to be entirely diagnosed condition. In fact, my illness has been around since I was in the fifth grade, however it really reached its highest point when I became an adults or close to being 16 and for the last 13 years mainly I have been fighting for my health and for a true diagnosis, being bounced around from hospitals to hospital in Lee County.
"I have been through ever ER, been taken care of by every nurse, general doctor, seen every (GI specialist) for gastrointestinal disorders as it is mainly a GI issue as well as several other specialists from cardiologists to neurologists and more. I have spent just about every holiday aside from Christmas at one hospital or another, many nights away from my incredible husband and gorgeous daughter, lost several jobs, and as have a very poor quality of life as a result," Dube said in an interview and in a letter she wrote while in the hospital.
Dr. Alexander Sherzer of Lehigh said he plans to find a specialist somewhere who can try to resolve his patient's problems.
"Now I have GI issue symptoms every day of my life and also these severe 'flare-ups' as we now call them which require hospitalization have landed me in Lehigh Regional Medical Center," she said from her bedside.
"When I am in the midst of a flare-up, it comes with a complete inability to keep down anything even water for days to weeks at a time. During this most recent flare-up, I was on day six with nothing to eat or drink and I was still dry heaving foam which caused severe weakness and dehydration, severe vomiting and diarrhea often times with blood in both, severe abdominal pain always in my lower left abdominal quadrant which is sore to even the touch, and often times severe migraines can come along with these other symptoms."
Dube said that about four years ago she found through her old childhood doctor, the physician from Lehigh, Dr. Alexander Sherzer, who she says was the first doctor in years to look at her with a fresh set of eyes and a determination to really "figure me out."
"He was the first doctor in a very long time to show me compassion and care and kindness and for four years now he has been my primary care physician and we have been diligently working together to finally figure out what is wrong with me once and for all," she said.
While a permanent diagnosis hasn't been reached yet which Dube says is due to the limited resources available at other area hospitals, her doctor continues to fight to give her quality of life back and take care of her when she is ill.
"We are doing everything possible to get me connected with the right specialists at the right major hospitals that have the proper technology finally get me diagnosed once and for all.
"When Dr. Scherzer left Fort Myers a couple of years ago and came to Lehigh Acres to start his own practice, I happily followed even with my home being 45 minutes away, and this is how I began being treated at Lehigh Regional for my flare-ups instead of the other hospital which were much closer to home.
"I cannot begin to explain how good of a move this was on my part. The many horror stories I can tell you would shock you. I cannot begin to explain to you just how horribly I feel I was treated at other community hospitals, with the exception of a few angel nurses who did as they could to help, but whose hands were tied by employers.
Dube said she would show up at a hospital and they would run the same few tests, find the same results and always find something some inflammation some ulcers, maybe some bleeding, etc., just never enough to make a firm diagnosis. They would shrug and tell me there was nothing they could do. The more years that went on, the worse and worse I feel I was treated and they began to look at me and accuse me of making it all up, sometimes being a drug seeker, just being depressed, etc. I would go for days without even seeing a doctor or receiving treatment of any kind as I would like in the bed writhing in pain, vomiting in buckets, bawling my eyes out and literally begging for help to be met by cold eyes and cold hears."
Finally, Dube said she was told not to come back to any of those hospitals when she was sick again, "that I needed to go to a major university hospital such as Tampa."
She said she agrees with that assessment as does her current doctor.
She said he is the only physician who has taken the time to find the best GI specialists in the state while other doctors never gave her any names of anyone, no direction, "just literally said that if I was sick, I needed to leave my family and job that I have since lost and drive up to Tampa General's ER good luck and God Bless," Dube wrote in her letter to The Citizen.
But more problems have come about now, she said, because she and her husband's insurance company won't cover any more.
"My insurance has told us they would not have approved it and we would have been denied admission and payment. During my current stay with Lehigh Regional, Dr. Sherzer worked incredibly hard to arrange the transfer for me to get to Orlando to finally get to see the GI specialist I've been trying to get in with for about a year now. He had everything lined up, an admitted doctor on board, the specialist ready to go and excited to figure me out, the transport company ready, a bed available and I was just waiting for my ride and the insurance company stepped in hours before I was to go and denied everything, refusing to pay and insisting there was a doctor inside the Lee Memorial group that could take care of me, causing the entire hospital transfer and specialist care to fall though," she said.
Dube wrote a long letter describing her medical problems and repeated much of what she said in an interview.
In it, she said that the insurance company told her personally that they would refuse to pay for her to see the GI specialist "even as an outpatient once I get well enough to leave the hospital after this current flare-up."
In her letter she said her stay at LRMS "was far and always the best experiences I have ever had in the last 13 years of being chronically ill and needing multiple hospitalizations."
"Yes, LRMC is a smaller hospital but for the most part the staff is incredible and make me feel so well taken care of an genuinely care about, as do the physicians. She said in her letter from her bedside, that the staff and doctors take time to talk to her and listen to her concerns and needs.
"For the most part, I've been treated with respect and not judged. I have been treated as a legitimate patient with a legitimate issue and the fact that it hasn't been figured out yet has been met not with an attitude of 'oh, well there must be something else wrong with you - what are you trying to gain from this,' but rather genuine sympathy as they can see my pain when I have to say goodbye to my husband and gorgeous five-year-old daughter every day and I don't get to walk out with them.
"The staff here at Lehigh Regional has become like family to me and it is so refreshing after so many years of flat out abuse from other hospitals," she said before she was discharged last week after several days there.