Judy Krafcik, of Southington, had not been feeling well for a few weeks, coughing and having difficulty breathing. The day before Thanksgiving, November 24, 2021, her friend, Molly Welch, APRN, stopped at UConn Health to drop off something for one of her volunteer projects. Welch was concerned, she reached out to Krafcik’s daughter, Patty Newman, a clinical social worker at UConn Health who was working primarily in the intensive care unit (ICU), to tell her that she Worried that Krafcik was not looking well and was slowing down. his words.
Krafcik’s family immediately brought him to the emergency department of UConn John Dempsey Hospital.
“I was sure she had COVID, I was wrong,” Newman says.
Krafcik was diagnosed with a 9 cm abscess in his lower right lung and acute respiratory distress syndrome. She was taken to the ICU and treated with antibiotics, the standard of care for this diagnosis, but things took a turn for the worse when an abscess ruptured. Rapid response was called and he 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 very well what they mean by their actions and words. So when Dr. Mario Perez, associate professor of medicine at UConn Health, came into the room and started looking at her mom the same way he used to, Newman knew it wasn’t good.
“I’ll never forget the look on her face and remember saying ‘I know how sick she is, I see it on your face,'” Newman says. “We had some difficult conversations those first few days and I know it was hard for Dr. Perez, who tried so hard not to tell me that my mother was dying.”
Krafcik’s other daughters and sisters came to his 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 mom and sister for the last time when they had to leave.
Lindsay Escajeda, one of the bedside nurses in the ICU, would get him out of bed and put him in a chair. “When Lindsey put her in the chair, those were her best days,” Newman says.
Dr. Omar Ibrahim, Associate Professor of Medicine and Director, Interventional Pulmonary, UConn Health, Dr. Dan Conditt, Fellow, UConn Health, and Dr. Stephen Kachla, Thoracic Surgeon, Trinity Health, cared for her during those few weeks, and Newman Credited him for saving his mother’s life. Condit also took care of her outside the ICU because he was very worried about her.
The ventilator was removed after two weeks and a tracheal tube was inserted, but after Kachla made some changes to the water seal in the chest tube, she began to get better.
Krafcik developed complications of deep vein thrombosis and a pressure sore on his tailbone. She was unable to walk or care for herself and was referred to rehabilitative services at a hospital for specialized 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 revealed she had achalasia, a rare disorder that makes it difficult for food and liquids to pass through the esophagus into the stomach.
She had a feeding tube inserted and as soon as that happened she was lithe and cracking jokes.
“When she was at UConn Health, everything she needed came at exactly the right time,” Newman says.
After further 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, had achalasia surgery last July.
“I don’t remember anything from December and January of last year, but I know I’m alive because of the care I received at UConn Health,” Krafcik says. “I recently saw Dr. Ibrahim for a follow-up and he was so surprised and happy to see me, he said ‘You look great.'”
Newman says, “There are not enough words to thank everyone who helped my mom, starting with Molly, who was instrumental in getting my mom to the emergency department, which saved her life.” “I’m told that if she had stayed home a day or two, we would have had a different ending to this story.”
“After months of recovery, I’m back to my old self, who is enjoying life to the fullest and looking forward to Thanksgiving this year,” says Krafcik. She’s in charge of cooking this year’s turkey.
Newman says, “I want to thank all the doctors, nurses and nursing assistants who helped my mother, although there are too many to be named.” “The people who mean the most to my mother and me include Dr. Omar Ibrahim, Dr. Dan Conditt, Dr. Mario Perez, Dr. Jennifer Baldwin, and Dr. Jacqueline Cox. Wound care nurses Sarah and Tanya were also hugely important to my mom’s recovery, as were speech therapists Shana and physical therapists Scott, Kate and Katherine. The bedside nurses in the ICU, Lindsey Escajeda, Crystal Rivera, Cameron Kurkul, Michelle Silva and Carlene 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 physicians for all they have done to help my mother overcome the suffering she went through,” says Newman. “We are forever grateful.”