WVU Medicine urologist Adam Luchey, MD, was on vacation with his family in South Carolina when he began to experience symptoms of a rare brain inflammation called acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM). He was diagnosed with vertigo at the ER, and didn’t think much more about it as he was able to play with his children on the beach and enjoy golf. But the next day, the situation took a turn for the worse as his vertigo intensified to the point of severe nausea and vomiting.
ADEM is a brief but powerful rush of inflammation or swelling in the brain and spinal cord that occurs when the body’s immune system mistakenly strikes at healthy cells and tissue as if they were foreign bacteria or viruses. The cause of ADEM is not clear, but in some cases, it may develop after a bacterial or viral infection.
“As a urologic oncologist, I was clueless about ADEM, but within two to three days, I was unable to walk without falling over, I couldn’t feel my face, and I began to have trouble breathing,” Dr. Luchey said. “When we realized it was serious, my wife and I decided to bypass medical centers in North and South Carolina and make the 12 hour drive back to West Virginia for treatment at WVU Medicine.”
Dr. Luchey was sleeping and almost unresponsive as he and his wife, WVU Medicine infectious diseases physician Kristina Alaan, MD, made the long drive home. Dr. Luchey’s parents, who were also on vacation with them, drove back with the couple to take care of their two young children, three-year-old son Abrahm and one-year-old daughter Emerson.
On the way to West Virginia, they called WVU Medicine and spoke to physician Hugo Carducci, DO, about Dr. Luchey’s symptoms; he was directly admitted to J.W. Ruby Memorial Hospital when they reached Morgantown. “When I arrived at the hospital with my wife, after kissing my two, little children goodbye, I was scared and fearful,” Dr. Luchey said. “I lost hope because I knew my brain was shutting down.”
Dr. Luchey was started on high dose IV steroids to decrease inflammation in the brain, and he underwent various tests, including a spinal tap, a brain and spine MRI, and a full body CT scan. Being a physician, Dr. Luchey was well aware of how serious the situation was when he saw the MRI with lesions on his brain. “I knew it was much worse than just vertigo, but when Dr. Pawar said we would get to the bottom of it, I trusted her.”
WVU Medicine neurologist Gauri Pawar, MD, evaluated Dr. Luchey to rule out infectious diseases, immune system disorders, and other conditions before a diagnosis of ADEM could be made. “Some physicians just have the ‘it’ factor,” Dr. Luchey said. “I believe this is a combination of knowledge, compassion, bedside manner, relaying information to family, and offering hope. Dr. Pawar was able to relate to me that it was a difficult situation, but not to give up.”
Dr. Luchey spent five days in the hospital, and throughout the course, Dr. Pawar was very encouraging. “When I was able to start walking with improved neurological function, she had positive remarks to make us want to keep going,” Dr. Luchey said.
He credits Dr. Pawar and WVU School of Medicine residents Eric Seachrist, MD, and Tamra Ranasinghe, MD, with saving his life on July 15, 2017. “I’m glad we could help Dr. Luchey regain his quality of life as soon as possible,” Dr. Pawar said. “Every person deserves high quality care, which we strive to provide at WVU Medicine. It’s a team effort, and I’m grateful to work with compassionate and talented team members. Together, we were able to provide a positive outcome for Dr. Luchey.”
Now, Dr. Luchey is back to his regular urology clinic and operative schedule – something he once thought unthinkable after his ADEM diagnosis. He continues to have follow-up care and MRI scans with Dr. Pawar.
“Dr. Pawar is, without a doubt, the one physician I will be inspired by and look up to for the remainder of my career,” Dr. Luchey said. “WVU Medicine, Morgantown, and for that matter, the state, are significantly better off with her caring for patients at Ruby Memorial.”
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