Jefferson Health

Lawrence: From Asia to Jefferson for Treatment

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"Through the skill and ongoing research of Dr. Yeo and his team, I have a new lease on life"

Traveling the world is commonplace for Lawrence Russo. However, while leading a training program in Southeast Asia in early 2006, he suddenly became ill. He experienced severe cramping but finished the program, eager to fly home the next day. When he awoke jaundiced and weak, he was fearful that—given the bird flu outbreak in Asia—the authorities would consider him a contagious health risk and retain him for treatment. He wasn't going to let that happen.

"I was scared and wanted to get home more than anything," said Larry. "So I donned a disguise to hide the jaundice: sunglasses—the whole works, because I wanted to be treated at home." He endured the sixteen-hour flight, got through customs, and immediately went to the emergency room at St. Mary Medical Center in Langhorne, PA. He was promptly referred to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, where Charles J. Yeo, MD, the Samuel D. Gross Professor and Chair of Surgery, performed a mini-Whipple procedure. This modified pancreas resection is an improvement upon the classic Whipple procedure, which preserves the entire stomach, the pylorus, and several centimeters of the upper duodenum. The mini-Whipple is a far less-radical procedure which often results in a shorter hospital stay with fewer possible complications. In Larry's case, he was home in seven days. "When I awoke from the surgery, my entire family and pastor were at my bedside, and I was still in denial, asking, 'what happened?'"

A fairly private person, Larry later found out that his friends and family took matters into their own hands. "My pastor, for instance, announced my illness and recovery at Sunday service, so I had the entire congregation praying for me and helping my family," he says. "There's no doubt about it: Dr. Yeo saved my life and my pastor, church family, and friends everywhere kept it going. The power of that kind of prayer and compassion is unbelievable." Recently, Larry joined other patients at a reunion at Jefferson Hospital. "It really was awe-inspiring to connect with other patients who understood the experience, shared the same fears," he recalls. "Together we could now look forward to a brighter future. Through the skill and ongoing research of Dr. Yeo and his team, I have a new lease on life."