Pullman Regional Hospital Guardian Angel Program
When Virginia Gelczis and Mitchell Diamond decided to make a philanthropic gift to the tiny hospital amid wheat fields, they did so because doctors had spared their daughter from the “Forgotten Disease.”
“I thought, why don't we give to the hospital that saved Molly's life,” Virginia said. So they recently wrote a check to the Pullman Regional Hospital Foundation's Guardian Angel program.
Molly, now a 20-year-old junior at Washington State University, was a freshman when she was ultimately diagnosed with Lemierre's Syndrome.
“Some people die within days,” Molly said of the disease. “Fluid was in my lungs, but luckily they caught it before it progressed to other organs.”
The disease, named in 1936 after Dr. Andre Lemierre who discovered it, manifests itself in advanced stages by creating an abscess or blood clot filled with bacteria in the jugular vein. If not treated, the clot can break apart, get in the bloodstream and travel to the lungs and other organs.
Molly's ordeal began when she tested positive for mononucleosis at the WSU student health center. Despite treatment, her condition spiraled downward to the point where she lacked the energy to walk. She was referred to the hospital.
“We had no idea what was going on,” Molly said.
Meanwhile, her mother made a frantic trip from the family home in Sunnyvale, Calif., to be at her daughter's side.
“I got there (to Pullman Regional) and I couldn't believe the size of it. It was tiny,” Virginia said, explaining that her family lives in the shadow of several big hospitals and the Stanford University School of Medicine.
“'Get her out of there,' friends told me,” Virginia recalled. But she happened to know a physician in Spokane who assured her that Molly was receiving expert care in Pullman. “And it turned out to be pretty amazing,” Virginia said, “for such a small hospital.”
Upon admission, Molly said her condition worsened. Doctors recognized her symptoms – severe sore throat, extreme lethargy, fever, neck pain and the onset of pneumonia – as possibly linked to Lemierre's. The disease was dubbed “forgotten” after penicillin initially kept it at bay. It is not contagious and remains extremely rare today.
“They started giving me the antibiotic for it before they actually confirmed it,” Molly said, “and that was a good thing because the infection was progressing quickly and it could have been a lot worse if they had waited.” Molly spent more than a week in the hospital, including three days in intensive care. “The nurses were so good to me.”
Virginia said she quickly embraced the doctors and hospital staff as not only professional, but caring. “The thing that was so touching is that it seemed everybody had time,” Virginia said. “They tried to make us so comfortable and they helped with everything.”
Molly finished her recovery back home in California before returning to resume classes at WSU.
“I've been very healthy since then,” said Molly. She's scheduled to graduate in 2016 with a bachelor's degree in zoology.
The Guardian Angel program gives grateful patients an opportunity to honor a physician or hospital staff member while supporting Pullman Regional Hospital Foundation. Guardian Angel gifts support the Foundation's Unrestricted Fund which supports the hospital's highest needs. Learn more.