Memorial Regional Health: Patient grateful to receive high-quality care close to home
Melissa Doubrava needed to know what was wrong. In 2018, Doubrava, who lives in Craig with her husband, Justin, got sick. Then things got weird.
A kidney infection caused sepsis and, it was eventually discovered, brain damage. The brain lesions signal phantom injuries throughout her body, and the brain, in turn, sends signals that cause very real muscle spasms throughout her body. Doubrava’s brain operates like this to protect her body, but it’s tearing it apart.
Among the symptoms are inverted feet, constantly spasming and impossible to flatten, as well as an occasional stutter, jaw spasms, diaphragm cramps, clawed hands. It’s non-stop, every day, all day. It’s extraordinarily painful.
Doubrava, it turned out, suffers from a rare disorder called Dystonia that was caused by the brian damage. It took years for medical professionals to figure this out, but, finally, she’s begun the long and winding road of getting treatment. For brain surgery, which includes installing a pacemaker-like neurostimulator device in her head that will be programmed over the course of years to counteract the misinformed signals being sent from brain to body, Doubrava goes to Denver. For some other specialty care, she travels to Grand Junction. But for most of her regular day-to-day care, she stays right at home in Craig.
“Traveling is hard,” Doubrava said. “It’s hard for me to sit, to travel in a vehicle. After long periods of time, I get exhausted. To have providers here locally, to see Dr. (Netana) Machacek, to have Dr. (Aaron) Stewart, Dr. (Elise) Sullivan, to have the physical therapy team here — to not have to travel farther just to put my body through more, it’s huge. If I need an ambulance, I know the team can take care of me and the doctors here know what to do and what’s going on.”
It’s at Memorial Regional Health that Doubrava’s life was saved the first time. After her faithful dog discovered Doubrava wasn’t breathing in the middle of the night and alerted Justin, who is himself an MRH paramedic, it was in the MRH Emergency Department, to which she was delivered by MRH EMS, that Melissa was brought back. But that was just the beginning.
“It’s hard with multiple chronic illnesses,” Doubrava said. “People say go to Denver, but being able to be here takes the stress away. I went from working full-time to being disabled, though I’m not able to be on disability. And it was chaos. But it is so nice having doctors here that say, ‘Let’s figure it out.’”
Doubrava’s parents live in Maybell. She’s made a home here in Craig. Of course it’s an option to move to the big city, closer to more specialized care. But this is where she wants to be, and MRH makes that possible.
“I love Moffat County,” Doubrava said. “I love the scenery, I love the people, I love that we’re close enough to a big city if we need it, but we’re a small town. I don’t like big cities. Traffic gives me anxiety. I don’t like the lack of compassion. Big cities, everyone’s in a rush, everyone’s mean. I don’t like that. I like that we’ve built roots here. This is our home.”
She doesn’t take for granted that it’s here that her 1-in-200,000 diagnosis was finally suggested. And, perhaps even more significantly, she loves that she can get regular, ongoing care right in her backyard.
“It’s huge. It takes some stress away from trying to find a doctor who can help,” Doubrava said. “It’s nice to know I can have great care locally. Any time I have a flare-up or need anything, they’re a phone call away. I can be in Denver getting surgeries and then be messaging my primary care, ‘This is what’s going on,’ so they have a plan without needing to be physically there. It takes so much stress away, knowing, whatever happens, I have people here.
“And I have a huge team here. Pain management with Keith (Prescott), Ortho; a lot of my providers are here. They communicate with each other, get everyone on the same page. They all know what’s going on. It takes so much stress away knowing I’m safe. That’s the biggest thing. I’m safe.”
The road to health is just beginning. The neurostimulator, connected with wires and reels to spots on her brain, has been placed and connected, but programming tweaks can take up to 5 years. Doubrava must charge her device before leaving the house, and in 15 years will need to have her brain opened back up to replace it. Eventually, once the spasms get under control, doctors will need to reconstruct her feet, heavily damaged by this whole ordeal.
But through it all, though some surgeries and procedures must be performed in larger cities, Doubrava will continue to receive regular care at home, at MRH.
“The hospital saved me. They can handle the hard things, the crazy things, and they’re willing to look into things more,” she said. “ Being able to have a conversation with a doctor, like I can at MRH, is great. I’ve never felt pushed off. They’re super compassionate. They’re awesome.”
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