In 1993 David V. Feliciano received a phone call in the middle of the night from a surgical resident at Grady Memorial Hospital about a patient who had been stabbed in a robbery. The resident sewed up a hole in the heart, but called Feliciano again when the liver began bleeding uncontrollably. The patient was dying.
Childhood cancer is like a journey that starts when you meet a new family, a new patient. Nobody expects children to have cancer. It’s literally unbelievable. So there’s this big element of shock and fear and grief. These truly are diseases that threaten the life of their beautiful child.
If things are not going well and you don’t know what to do next, my job is to figure out how we go about figuring out what’s wrong. Is this vasculitis? An autoimmune disease like lupus? Sometimes it’s just a drug allergy. You keep going back to the history, you keep going back to the physical [exam] until you get the clue that leads you to the right diagnosis.
The patient lost both legs and her left hand when she was a year old due to Kawasaki disease, a rare childhood condition of inflamed blood vessels. She emailed Cendales soon after her twenty-first birthday, and a short time later, she was evaluated and approved as a transplant candidate.