A gift of time

Dan Sorescu and Jamesyne Duff
Cardiologist Dan Sorescu and social worker Jamesyne Duff were two of many at Emory Midtown who did everything possible to rescue the man from the condition that had claimed many of his family members before age 45.


 

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Darrell thought if he could make it another 10 years he would have escaped the Brown family curse. His father, grandmother, two uncles, and several cousins, were all dead before 45.

He took care of himself, kept himself trim, and didn’t use alcohol or drugs. When the first heart palpitations began, the first shortness of breath, he blamed it on work—bricklaying takes it out of you, that’s for sure—and tried not to think about his late father’s sudden fatigue and breathlessness. The foreman called emergency medical services when Darrell collapsed, clutching his chest. After being stabilized at a nearby community hospital, he was airlifted to Emory University Hospital Midtown.

At Midtown, cardiologist Dan Sorescu took over. Darrell was in acute systolic congestive heart failure, his heart muscle no longer able to pump blood to his organs. Not a curse, Sorescu reassured the distraught young man, but a genetic condition for which we’ll do everything we can. For almost two months Darrell moved between the cardiac unit and intensive care unit. He took medicines to thin his blood and prevent clots, relax his blood vessels so his heart didn’t have to work so hard, and release fluids that constantly built up in his legs. Monitors tracked his vital signs and shrieked when his heart went into life-threatening arrhythmia, bringing nurses with crash carts racing to his bedside. He was placed on the waiting list for a new heart. 

All good medicine and good care, and nobody to pay for it. Darrell had worked hard all his life, never missed a child support payment, helped with his mother’s bills since he was 15, but health insurance had never been a possibility. Social worker Jamie Duff helped him apply for Medicaid and disability. In the meantime, Emory Midtown wrote off the costs of his treatment and medications. The single most expensive item on the list was the defibrillator vest he wore as he left the hospital: $3,200 a month. But without it he could never have gotten his wish to go home. The vest monitored his heart rhythms and automatically applied electroshock when needed. Darrell didn’t live long enough to receive a donor heart or to get Medicaid or disability. After he spent three months with his family, watching one son graduate and another win a basketball tournament, his failing heart gave out. His family tried to comfort the Midtown team: you gave him three more months, with no worries about medical bills we could not pay.    

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Community Benefits Report Cover 2012