Path to recoveryEx-Durangoan chronicles son’s difficult diagnosisBy Dale Rodebaugh Herald staff writer Article Last Updated: Sunday, January 15, 2012 6:33pmPatients must not allow themselves to be put off when they hurt, and medical practitioners mustlearn to listen to their complaints.The foregoing message comes from a former Durango resident and her teenage son who chronicled histortuous journey to find the cause for and treatment for excruciating abdominal pain that confoundeddoctors for 18 months.Vicki Whiting and her son Kevin, who turns 18 years old today, tell their story with In Pain We Trust,published by Blooming Twig Books.Kevin was the victim of a rare, congenital affliction, Wilkes Syndrome, which occurs when the superiormesenteric artery lies on top of the small intestine instead of behind it. The results can be a flatteningof the intestine and the blockage of food and bodily liquids.Vicki Whiting, a business professor at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, was reared in Durangoand is a graduate of Durango High School. She is the daughter of Reg and Bev Graham of Durangoand the sister of former City Councilor Scott Graham.“Doctors are well-intentioned, but they’re trapped in a system that doesn’t allow them to take time withpatients,” said Vicki Whiting last week from Utah in a telephone interview. “On one occasion, aspecialist spent six minutes with Kevin.”In early 2007, Kevin, then 13, began to exhibit symptoms that were written off as the flu. But bySeptember he was in pain, which at times was unmanageable, his mother said.“They didn’t believe me,” Kevin said in a telephone call. “I knew my body and they didn’t.”A feeding tube was inserted into Kevin’s abdomen beyond the blockage to keep him alive. But hecontinued to lose weight, and over time dropped from 90 to 63 pounds.Rodebaugh, Dale. "Path to Recovery." Durango Herald. Durango Herald, 15 Jan. 2012. Web. 22Mar. 2013.
The family physician, Dr. Brian Rush, sent Kevin to specialists who diagnosed anorexia and put Kevinon antidepressents and antianxiety medication, which pushed him to the brink of suicide.“We went to Australia at the end of the year because we’d heard about medicines that might helpKevin,” Whiting said. “The trip also was to get away from the predetermined notion that he wassuffering from anorexia.”Back in the United States, Kevin attended school irregularly and was hospitalized three times with painso severe that morphine didn’t totally override it, Vicki Whiting said.A re-examination led to a correct diagnosis of Kevin’s ailment, and he had an operation in September2008 in which surgeons severed an intestine and put it in front of the mesenteric artery.Intestinal damage, however, required Kevin to be fed by a catheter for seven months although he beganto take food by mouth. In the ensuing months he grew nine inches and put 40 pounds on his frame.In spite of sporadic seat time at school over two years, tutoring and summer classes will allow Kevin tograduate this year with his peers at Park City (Utah) High School. He wants to study at PepperdineCollege and become a pediatric surgeon.Shelly Braun, who teaches medical anthropology at Westminster College, participates in the UtahHealth Policy Project, a nonprofit that tackles problems of rising health-care costs and the uninsured.The delivery of medical treatment must be patient-oriented, she said in a telephone conversation.“We need to improve clinical medical care,” Braun said. “Doctors don’t put listening to patients at thetop of the list. One side effect of electronic systems is that doctors will be looking at a computer formedical records while talking to a patient.”Patients become identified by an impersonal medical condition rather than as a person, Braun said.The extra work doctors must do in this computer age results in errors, less care for patients and highercosts.Vicki Whiting recalled that in Australia, a gastroenterologist spent 45 minutes with Kevin and then ranthe case before a board of six colleagues. The total cost: $40.Rush, the Whiting family doctor, agrees that changes are needed in the delivery of health care inRodebaugh, Dale. "Path to Recovery." Durango Herald. Durango Herald, 15 Jan. 2012. Web. 22Mar. 2013.