“You have cancer.” Approximately nearly a million and a half people in America heard those words each year. And for most of those Americans, their cancer diagnosis meant a course of treatment that included surgery.
When David Horton learned surgery was to be his first step in beating cancer, he turned to WellStar Kennestone Hospital. And with good reason: WellStar Kennestone has some of the nation’s leading surgeons, backed by state-of-the-art surgical technology.
“Doctors and nurses from all over the country come to WellStar Kennestone to learn from our highly skilled surgeons and surgical teams,” says Sherron Kurtz, executive director of Surgical Services, WellStar Kennestone.
“WellStar has tremendous surgical talent in almost every discipline,” adds William R. Mayfield, M.D., WellStar’s chief surgical officer and a thoracic surgeon. Among that talent: David Horton’s surgeon, David R. Elwood, M.D., with WellStar Surgical Associates of Marietta.
East Cobb resident David Horton, 75, had been “feeling poorly” for some time, so in August 2009, his wife, Sonia, insisted he get checked out. “We went to a primary care center and they discovered my blood sugar was through the roof – 567 mg (normal is between 70 and 150 mg),” says Horton. “The doctor there sent me to the WellStar Kennestone Emergency Department (ED) – she wouldn’t even let me go home and have lunch first.
“By 2 p.m., I had been diagnosed with diabetes, and ended up spending two days at WellStar Kennestone Hospital – and I thought that diagnosis was bad news,” muses Horton.
Two months later came the diagnosis everyone dreads: Cancer. “I was sitting in my first session of a WellStar Diabetes Education class when the instructor noticed I looked yellow. She sent me to Dr. Steven L. Walters, who happened to be at WellStar Kennestone’s ED that afternoon. He examined me and ordered further tests. It turns out I had pancreatic cancer.”
Dr. Walters referred Horton to a fellow surgeon in his practice, Dr. Elwood, who specializes in liver, bile duct and pancreatic surgery. In October 2009, Dr. Elwood performed the Whipple procedure (removal of part of the pancreas, duodenum, common bile duct and gallbladder).
“I spent 10 days in the hospital, and six weeks later, started a six-month chemotherapy regime with direction from my oncologist, Dr. Carmen Klass,” says Horton. Chemotherapy was needed because cancer had spread to seven of Horton’s 19 nearby lymph nodes.
“Dr. Elwood’s reputation preceded him,” says Horton, whose mother died of breast cancer and one brother is a throat cancer survivor. “I knew he was an outstanding surgeon – it turns out he’s also an outstanding person. His thorough and clear explanations and lack of any aloofness gave me every confidence before I lay down on the operating table. Before the surgery, an ERCP (endoscopic retrograde cholangio pancreatography) revealed I had a severe blockage – so severe they couldn’t see what the situation was, but they knew it was a mess. Dr. Elwood explained the surgery could be potentially perilous, because many blood vessels were involved. I wouldn’t want anyone else’s hands in my tummy except Dr. Elwood’s.”
“And I would, without question, recommend WellStar Kennestone Hospital,” says Horton. “The attention was constant and continuous – and the staff is all pros – no beginners – from the floor cleaners to the physicians.”
Horton’s daughters, who both live in Mississippi, were grateful for the level of care he received. “One daughter is an RN, and one a physical therapist, so they know about these things. My advice to anyone with a similar diagnosis: Go to WellStar Kennestone Hospital!”