Judy Krafcik, of Southington, hadn’t been feeling well for a few weeks, she was coughing and had difficulty breathing. The day before Thanksgiving, November 24, 2021, her friend, Molly Welch, APRN at UConn Health, happened to stop by to drop something off for one of their volunteer projects. Welch was concerned, she reached out to Krafcik’s daughter, Patty Newman, a clinical social worker at UConn Health, working primarily in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), to let her know she was concerned that Krafcik didn’t look well and was slurring her words.
Krafcik’s family immediately brought her to the Emergency Department at UConn John Dempsey Hospital.
“I was sure she had COVID, I was wrong,” says Newman.
Krafcik was diagnosed with a 9 cm abscess in her lower right lung and acute respiratory distress syndrome. She was moved to the ICU and treated with antibiotics, the standard of care for this diagnosis, but things turned for the worse when the abscess ruptured. A rapid response was called and she was placed on a ventilator for two weeks. The ruptured abscess caused bilateral necrotizing pneumonia.
Since Newman often works in the ICU, she knows many of the doctors and knows them well enough to know what their actions and words mean. So when Dr. Mario Perez, associate professor of medicine at UConn Health came in the room and stood looking at her mom the way he did, Newman knew it wasn’t good.
“I will never forget the look on his face and remember saying ‘I know how sick she is, I see it in your face,’” says Newman. “We had some hard conversations those first few days and I know it was hard for Dr. Perez who worked so hard trying not to tell me that my mom was dying.”
Krafcik’s other daughters and sister came to her bedside. One of her daughters is a registered nurse here in Connecticut and her other daughter and sister came from out of state, thinking they were saying goodbye to their mother and sister for the last time when they had to leave.
Lyndsay Escajeda, one of her bedside nurses in the ICU, would get her out of bed and sit her up in a chair. “When Lyndsay got her up in the chair, those were her best days,” says Newman.
Dr. Omar Ibrahim, associate professor of medicine and director, Interventional Pulmonary, UConn Health, Dr. Dan Condit, fellow, UConn Health, and Dr. Stefan Kachala, thoracic surgeon, Trinity Health cared for her in those few weeks and Newman credits them for saving her mother’s life. Condit even followed her care outside of the ICU because he was so concerned about her.
The ventilator was removed after two weeks and there was a discussion of a trachea tube, but after Kachala made a few tweaks to the water seal in the chest tube, she started getting better.
Krafcik developed complications of deep vein thrombosis and a pressure wound on her tailbone. She was unable to walk or care for herself and was sent for rehabilitation services at the Hospital for Special Care.
At the Hospital for Special Care, she developed further complications and was unable to swallow her food. She was sent back to JDH after an endoscopy showed she had achalasia, a rare disorder that makes it difficult for food and liquid to pass from the esophagus into the stomach.
She had a feeding tube inserted and as soon as that happened she was perky and cracking jokes.
“When she was at UConn Health, everything she needed came at just the right time,” says Newman.
After more recovery at the Hospital for Special Care where the wound healed and she was able to walk again, Krafcik went home. Dr. Yu Liang, assistant professor performed achalasia surgery this past July.
“I don’t remember anything from December and January of last year, but I know I am alive because of the care I received at UConn Health,” says Krafcik. “I recently saw Dr. Ibrahim for a follow-up and he was so surprised and happy to see me, he said ‘you look so good.’”
“There are not enough words of gratitude for everyone who helped my mom, starting with Molly who was the conduit in getting my mother to the Emergency Department which saved her life,” says Newman. “I have been told if she had stayed home another day or two we would have a different ending to this story.”
“After months of recuperation, I am back to my old self,” says Krafcik who is enjoying life to the fullest and is looking forward to Thanksgiving this year with a grateful heart. She is in charge of cooking this years’ turkey.
“I want to thank all of the doctors, nurses and nursing aides who helped my mother however there are too many to name,” says Newman. “Those who stand out most to my mother and me include Dr. Omar Ibrahim, Dr. Dan Condit, Dr. Mario Perez, Dr. Jennifer Baldwin, and Dr. Jaclyn Cox. The wound care nurses Sarah and Tanya were also extremely important to my mother’s recovery as were the speech therapist Shana, and the physical therapists Scott, Kate, and Katherine. Bedside nurses in ICU Lyndsay Escajeda, Kristal Rivera, Cameron Kurkul, Michelle Silva, and Carleen Tan were amazingly patient and kind to my mother and to me and my sisters.”
“There are no words to thank this incredible group of clinicians for all they have done to help my mother recover from all she has endured,” says Newman. “We are forever grateful.”