Emory Johns Creek Hospital: A lot to sing about

Seham Haddad and Sasi Ponnambalam
Hospitalist Seham Haddad (left) oversaw Smith’s care when the team pulled the 60-year-old back to life. She is consulting here with hospitalist Sasi Ponnambalam.

 

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Always responsible, Beth Smith didn’t show up to clean her regular Tuesday house and then didn’t show up at choir practice that night.

Her sister found her in bed, her body so lifeless she thought she was dead. She called for help, and Beth was rushed, sirens wailing, to Emory Johns Creek Hospital.

The 60-year-old had diabetic ketoacidosis, a condition in which the body can’t get energy from glucose and begins breaking down fat, releasing toxic ketones into the blood. No one, including Smith, had realized she had diabetes. The ketoacidosis left behind numerous medical problems, requiring a host of medical specialists: an endocrinologist for diabetes, a urologist for acute kidney failure from dehydration during her coma, a hematologist for abnormal blood values, an infectious disease physician for fever, a pulmonologist for pneumonia, and hospitalists to coordinate this care.

Smith had no insurance. She was an independent laborer, too young for Medicare, outside Medicaid’s categories, and had not applied for coverage.

At first, when social worker Cathy Crumrine offered to help Smith apply for disability and Medicaid, she was reluctant. “I’ll be back working soon,” she said.

The medical team knew she had a long way to go. Once she was medically stable, the hospital’s physical, occupational, and speech therapists began their work. As Smith progressed, the therapists argued that she needed rehabilitation services beyond those available in a general hospital. Without insurance, no facility would take her. Emory Johns Creek transferred her to Emory’s Budd Terrace skilled nursing facility for rehab, with her care continuing to be covered by Emory.

Eventually, the paperwork may go through to get Smith on Medicaid to cover ongoing (but not past) care. In the meantime, Crumrine is working on Smith’s transition back into the community, making sure she gets the care, medicines, and help she needs. At this writing, Emory Johns Creek already had covered substantial costs for her hospitalization and four weeks of rehabilitation as well as a cane, glucometer, and medication.

It’s slow going, but Smith expects to get back to the choir soon. She has a lot to sing about. Her sister tells everyone at the hospital, “You performed a miracle.” 

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