From ER Patient to Cancer Survivor

Coordinated Care Guides Six-Month Journey to Living Well

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The pain brought her to her knees. Literally.

"I'd been having some knee pain, but there was no real cause for it," said Annette Girardot. Her family doctor had already ordered scans – but her knee wasn't willing to wait.

While climbing stairs in June 2012, Annette felt a "snap" in her knee, Annette recalled. The pain was intense. "My husband and two daughters tried to help me down, but I couldn't even stand."

Realizing it wasn't possible to drive the mile or so to Aurora West Allis Medical Center, the family decided to call an ambulance.

When Annette arrived at the medical center, the pain in her knee was unbearable. "I remember the doctor told me, ‘I have more pain medication than you have pain,'" Annette said. "I also remember thinking, ‘we're going to put that to the test today.'"

Eventually the pain lessened, and Dr. Jeffery Shovers, orthopedics surgeon, was brought in to assess the situation.

"He told me I shouldn't be experiencing that kind of pain," Annette said. Instead, Dr. Shovers suggested the discomfort might actually be coming from somewhere else. He ordered MRIs for both her knee and back.

"I worried there was something more," Dr. Shovers noted. "Unfortunately for her, ‘something more' was two more problems." The scans showed a couple expected things – a torn meniscus, which explained the knee pain, and spinal stenosis, a form of arthritis that explained the back pain.

Unexpectedly, the MRI of her back also showed something unusual on Annette's kidney.

She was released to the care of her primary doctor, Rachael Weiderhold, DO, who reviewed the results of her kidney scan. That is when Annette learned she had kidney cancer – despite having no symptoms whatsoever.

"I probably reacted the way most people do," Annette admitted. "I was scared, and fearful of what was to come. I had to have some blood work done, but I said I wanted to go home and be with my husband."

"I had no symptoms at all. I could have gone on for weeks, months, and even years without knowing I had cancer. If it hadn't been found when it was, there's no telling what could have happened to me. I don't even want to think about it."

In September 2012, Annette had knee surgery to resolve her ongoing pain and mobility issues. On October 6, 2012, she returned to Aurora West Allis, where Dr. Jon Auger, a urologist, removed the mass on her kidney. "I had a lot of confidence in him," Annette said. "He was pretty amazing."

Annette Girardot

Annette was pleased that she was in the hospital for only a few days, the minimum amount of time needed. She noted the entire hospital staff was very friendly and responsive. "They were so caring; so personal. They gave me a lot of support."

Annette's recovery process continued at home. Recovery was smooth, and she had very little pain.

"She took a pain pill just once," her husband noted.

Now Annette is living a full life again with no restrictions. She is happily home with her husband, dogs Lucy and Maggie, and her 17-year-old box turtle. She is grateful for the coordinated care she received, from emergency room, to pain management, to the cancer care center.

Annette praised all the Aurora caregivers she came in contact with, but she has special respect for Dr. Shovers, who suggested the problem area was not only her knee, but also her back. His drive for deeper answers cured her pain – and saved her life.

"Dr. Shovers was one of the most astute doctors I've ever met. For him to sense that something more was wrong, and then prove himself right, was simply amazing."

As a 55-year resident of West Allis, Annette could not be happier with her experience at her hometown hospital "The care is exceptional at Aurora West Allis Medical Center. I couldn't have had a better experience anywhere."

At Aurora Health Care, we offer you one of the largest, most experienced groups of orthopedic specialists in Wisconsin. Our experts have advanced training in orthopedic services, bringing you world-class care. Learn more about our award-winning programs at our website.