A spinoff article in the Martinsville Bulletin created, as a result of a letter to the editor, from a James Sherlock, who describes himself as a retired Navy captain from Virginia Beach, has taken aim at the quality of care at local hospitals in Portsmouth, Petersburg, Danville, and Martinsville. Paul Collins reports Sherlock having written state officials back in March about the “dangerous hospitals and poor public health.” The article claims Sherlock has spent “thousands of hours and thousands of dollars studying Virginia’s health care system.” There is no mention of Sherlock’s motive or interest for conducting the research, or his qualifications or credentials regarding the subject.

The research centers around a study by Medicare-Medicaid Services that give the four community hospitals 1 out of 5 stars. Collins credits Sherlock with stating the 1-star rating “could indicate that patients are infected, injured, suffer or die…” The article goes on to describe mismanagement and predatory behavior by nonprofit health-care corporations, without naming them.

The article included a response by Michael Ehrat, who is the CEO of Sovah Health in Martinsville and Danville. He is quoted as saying the “1-star rating doesn’t tell the stories of the lives that have been saved at Sovah Health, or adequately represent the safe high-quality care we regularly provide…”

I am one of their most recent patients, and as such, I’d like to share my experience.

For details of my particular issue please read “Ticks are Serious Business.” For the intended purposes here, I’d like to share specifically, the medical care I received.

On Sunday, May 19th, 2019, I began to get sick as I was headed out of town for a short vacation. I stayed in the bed with a high fever, severe headache, weakness, muscle and joint pain, chills, and nausea.

On Wednesday, May 22, 2019 I returned home and went to my doctor on Thursday, May 23rd, 2019. Blood tests revealed my white blood cell count and platelet counts were critically low. My liver enzymes were elevated. My doctor didn’t want to risk personal transport to the Martinsville Emergency Room, so the Martinsville Fire and Rescue transported me to the Hospital.

I was given a battery of tests that all came back inclusive or negative. The emergency room physician classifed me as “suspected menengitis.” Due to my extremely low blood counts, a spinal tap, the test that could confirm menengitis, was too risky. He recommended medical transport immediately to Lewis Gale Hospital in Roanoke where infectious disease specialists practice and could hopefully unravel the mystery surrounding my diagnosis. My condition was rapidly deteriorating. My heartrate had accelearated to an abnormally fast rate, and my blood pressure had dropped to an unsafe level, evidence I was beginning to go into shock.

As I was being made ready for the trip to Roanoke, the Martinsville Emergency Room physician told me he had made a decision to begin treatment for menengitis without a conclusive diagnosis. Like playing the odds, he concluded no treatment would do nothing, possibly treating the suspected disease, could be a lifesaver. By the time I arrived at the Lewis Gale Emergency Room, my symptoms had begun to subside. The IV was working.

I went through more tests at Lewis Gale Hospital in the next 36 hours. Eventually, they diagnosed my condition as HME or Human Monocytic Ehrlichiosis, a type of bactera transmitted to humans by the bite of the lone star tick. Only about 200 people in Virginia are reported as contracting Ehrlichiosis every year. A minority of cases produce severe symptoms “requiring immediate antibiotic treatment” according to the American Lyme Disease Foundation (ADLF). They report “these cases can be life-threatening and even fatal…”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions (CDC), “patients suspected of having ehrlichiosis should be treated immediately. Treatment should not be delayed until laboratory test results come back. Doxycycline is the drug of choice of ehrlichiosis patients.” The IV drop the Martinsville Emergency Room physcician put me on was doxycycline.” I remained on this drug for my stay at Lewis Gale Hospital, and will remain on it for another week.

There were five specialists that attended to me while I was at Lewis Gale Hospital. One of them told me the “longshot decision by the doctor at the Martinsville ER likely saved my life.”

If my story is an example of what earns a 1-star, I’ll take it. It’s all I need. 5-stars might have killed me.