From the OR to the Altar in Less Than 10 Days
Sherry Virella was ready to get married. She and her then-fiancé were preparing to travel from Texas to Atlanta, Georgia, to celebrate their nuptials on March 17, 2023, with 200 family and friends.
An unexpected (literal) bump in the journey
Sherry Virella was ready to get married. She and her then-fiancé were preparing to travel from Texas to Atlanta, Georgia, to celebrate their nuptials on March 17, 2023, with 200 family and friends. Months of planning were about to pay off – guests were scheduled to fly in from out of town, and everyone was looking forward to a special celebration; some had even rented formal gowns and tuxedos.
So, when Sherry felt a nagging pain in her left groin area on March 7, just 10 days before her wedding, she shrugged it off.
“I didn’t think much of it, as I’m over 40,” she laughed. “I am just thinking, this is just another one of those ‘over 40’ pains, and in my mind, I said, ‘Oh, it will go away.’”
The next day, the pain was still there and had gotten a little worse. Still not thinking much of it, Sherry took a pain reliever. She noticed a knot in the area where she was feeling pain. As she continued through her workday, the pain intensified and the knot seemed bigger. She started to think something might be wrong.
By the next day, Sherry was in major pain. She took more pain relievers and managed to make it through her work shift, but the pain was intensifying and the knot was increasing. She went to urgent care right after work. Suspecting a potentially serious infection, the urgent care physician sent Sherry to the emergency department (ED) at Medical City McKinney (MCM).
“I walk into MCM 15 minutes after leaving urgent care, and I’m immediately taken to the back. Doctors and nurses are coming in drawing blood, and things are happening very fast. I am hooked up to an IV. My fiancé looks at me and says, ‘This is not good,’ and I’m like, ‘No it is not.’”
In the ED, Sherry was evaluated for cellulitis and an abscess in her left groin, and the team was concerned she may have had a deeper, necrotizing tissue infection. She was admitted to the hospital and was told she needed surgery.
“My response was, ‘No, absolutely not,’” she said. “The mission was to get out of MCM to make my wedding.”
Sherry opted to try antibiotics in lieu of surgery, hoping for a faster recovery. Two days later, on March 11, she was still in the hospital and feeling heartbroken.
“I was stressed, in disbelief, doubtful and sad. I was thinking, ‘I’m not going to make it to my wedding. How do I make this up to my guests? How do I tell them there is not going to be a wedding? How can I lose thousands of dollars I’ve already paid into my wedding?’ I kept questioning, why me?”
She sat up in bed and felt a sudden sense of relief from where the pain had been. The abscess had ruptured.
Thirty minutes later, the room was filled with nurses and on-duty Envision trauma surgeon Dr. Elizabeth Kim.
“Sherry had tried everything she could to avoid surgery, which is completely understandable,” Dr. Kim said. “I told her, ‘I know you want to get to your wedding; I want to get you to your wedding too, and the best way to do that is for us to get into surgery so we can start the healing process.’ I think she realized that, too. Her body was telling her she needed surgery because the abscess had started draining through the skin.”
“There was something about the calmness in Dr. Kim’s voice that moved me,” Sherry recalled. Although she felt very sad, she agreed to have the surgery that same evening.
The surgery went smoothly. Luckily, there was no tissue infection. Dr. Kim drained the abscess cavity of fluid and dressed the wound to begin healing. “I was extremely happy with what I found. I told Sherry it was as good as we could have hoped for.”
On the road to recovery – and Atlanta
With six days before the wedding, the only thing on Sherry’s mind was her recovery. Dr. Kim came by every day to check on her progress. Although Dr. Kim couldn’t guarantee Sherry would leave MCM on a certain day, Sherry said, “She always left me with a sense of hope that I would make my wedding.”
The road to recovery wouldn’t be easy. Sherry needed antibiotics to protect against infection, and had a drain in her leg. While she was in the hospital, it was discovered that she had Type 2 diabetes. But Sherry was determined, and so was her care team.
Envision hospitalists Dr. Roopesh Nahar, Dr. Atif Afzal and Dr. Nausheen Gowani coordinated Sherry’s care from the time she was admitted. They also brought in specialists from endocrinology and infectious disease to ensure her treatment was comprehensive.
On March 15, two days before her wedding, Sherry was discharged. She embarked on the 14-hour drive to Atlanta with strict instructions to take frequent stops to prevent blood clots in her healing leg. She was willing to do whatever it took.
On March 17, 2023, Sherry married her best friend with close family members and friends as witnesses. “I made it!” she says.
Now, Sherry is healing well, the drain in her leg is out and she is visiting the clinic regularly to continue her recovery.
“Sherry fully understood all the barriers that she needed to overcome, and she played her part as a patient and participated in her care,” said Envision nurse practitioner Michelle Alexandre who cares for Sherry in the clinic. “I know how good our team is about educating patients. There’s a big push in healthcare to include the patient in the plan of care and make them a part of the team, and I think we did that.”
Sherry and Dr. Kim also credit the efforts of the whole team with getting her to the altar.
“None of us could have done this by ourselves. Sherry needed the whole team, and the hospitalists really made it happen by bringing in all the other specialties and coordinating her care,” Dr. Kim added.
“The most special part of this all is that I conquered and overcame what was about to set me back, and the most rewarding part is that there are people like Dr. Kim and the whole care team who still genuinely care for their community and its well-being,” Sherry expressed. “I am a warrior, and I can conquer anything through my Lord and Savior. I am forever grateful.”