On Saturday, October 16, one of the last things the host of Marketplace Money on NPR said was something like: “Before you go to the hospital, you should make sure you have a health advocate who can help you through the process and look out for your best interests.” She did not say how to find such an advocate or what his or her qualifications would be.
Dr. Jerry Burke became my health advocate. It happened in an ad hoc way. He heard that I had been to the ER and took a look at my x-rays and such. When he heard that they had read this as cancer, he intervened. He asked the radiologists if they had read my health history. Cancerous tumors on the spine virtually never are primary cancers. They are spin-offs from a cancer someplace else that is not responding well to treatment. He pointed out to them that I had no history of cancer, but did have a history of staph infection. He told them to get me into the hospital and start treating me for infection. They could still take their oncology biopsy if they really wanted to. It just would be a good thing if they didn’t let me die of an infection while they were waiting to do it. He kept pushing, going so far as to call my primary care physician to persuade her. She called me on Saturday, Oct. 23, to tell me to go to the hospital.
I was not aware this was happening behind the scenes. This was just the first time Jerry saved my life.