An Extraordinary Healer essay honoring Pat Brown, RN [ Clearview Cancer Institute in Huntsville, Alabama ]
I was the home caregiver for my husband, Kenneth Whigham. We live in a small rural town in northeastern Alabama, an area with limited medical facilities. In January 2010, my husband went to our local family doctor with back pain. Tests were run, and he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. He was referred to Dr. Castillo for treatment in the city of Gadsden, Alabama, 40 miles from where we live. This was a one-doctor office, and Dr. Castillo took the treatment to a certain level and then referred us to Dr. John Waples at Clearview Cancer Institute (CCI) in Huntsville for further treatment and a stem cell transplant.
In April 2010, we made our first trip to CCI. My husband was under care there from that time until he lost his battle in November 2015. That’s where we met Pat Brown, RN, Dr. Waples’ nurse. My husband had his first stem cell transplant in July 2010 and the second one in November 2012. He underwent several different types of treatments from the beginning until he lost his battle, except for a period of about a year following the first stem cell transplant.
As I mentioned earlier, we live in a small rural area, and it is 96 miles from our home to CCI. Multiple myeloma and the resulting treatment would leave my husband’s immune system very weak. Therefore, he was very susceptible and usually got every illness that was going around. Pat was our telephone link to Dr. Waples from the very beginning. She knew our situation and that we were a two-hour drive from CCI. I would call her and describe my husband’s symptoms, and Pat would always know exactly what was wrong and send a prescription to our local pharmacy. And, sure enough, it would fix the problem.
During this past year, my husband was almost constantly sick with one thing after another, and Pat was our lifeline. I wish I had kept a log of the many, many times I called her in a panic, and she would be so calm and reassuring and talk me through what to do. We had home health nurses from time to time, but none knew Kenneth like Pat did. She is such a caring and knowledgeable person. I believe she could actually be the oncologist, she is that knowledgeable. We’d see her in the halls at CCI, and she was always on the run to do something. However, she always took the time to stop and ask how he was doing. Not just this past year, but for five-and-a-half years, she was our home link to the doctor and to my husband feeling better without the long drive.
She not only helped him, but helped me through the rough times. One particular day this past year, my husband was very sick with breathing problems. I called Pat, explained the situation, and she told me to take him to the closest ER. I did take him to our very small local hospital, and then they transferred him to the hospital in Gadsden. He was there overnight in the ICU. When I got there the following morning, he was much worse. Of course, I called Pat and told her what was happening and described everything to her. I really was afraid that it was the end for him. She reassured me that it was not the end. She then made all of the arrangements to have him transferred to Huntsville Hospital, via a critical care ambulance so he could be under the care of Dr. Waples. There is no doubt in my mind that Pat saved his life that day.
He got better and went home within about a week. Those are the kinds of things that Pat did for us. Of course I know that my husband was not her only patient. And, I also know that she treats everyone the same, doing the same for others that she does for us. CCI, Dr. Waples, and his patients are very fortunate to have such an extraordinary person on their staff.