Last March, when Beth Katz came down with an ear infection and fever, she did not let it get the best of her. Her wedding, scheduled for April 22, was more than a month away; she believed it was nothing serious; and she had plenty of the usual last-minute wedding details to spend her energy worrying about.
But when the symptoms intensified, and the big day was nearly upon her, she headed to the Emergency Department at Princeton Medical Center. A chest x-ray and blood work revealed the East Windsor resident had severe left-side pneumonia and empyema — a condition where the fluid filling the lungs is also accumulating in the chest cavity — and needed immediate medical intervention.
“They admitted me that night, which was a Wednesday, and my wedding was on Sunday,” recalls Beth, 35, “and a team of doctors worked on getting me well enough to be released in time for the wedding.”
A Life-Threatening Condition
Aggressive treatment was needed to fight the infection, clear the congestion in her lungs and chest cavity and rebuild her strength, according to John Heim, MD(pictured left), a board certified thoracic surgeon and Chair of Surgery at Princeton Health, who oversaw Beth’s time in the hospital. Treatment included inserting tubes to drain the fluid and rounds of antibiotics, steroids and a clot-busting drug to promote fluid drainage.
“We had to take a very aggressive approach to her treatment, and that required a team of doctors and medical support staff who were absolutely committed to getting her down that aisle,” says Dr. Heim. “Someone in her condition usually would spend 10 to 12 days in the hospital, so we had our work cut out for us.”
In the end, under the care of Dr. Heim; David Herman, MD (pictured left), board certified in infectious disease and internal medicine; hospitalist Sapan Majmundar, DO, board certified in internal medicine; and the Department of Interventional Radiology, she was able to leave the hospital on Saturday, walk down the aisle and even squeeze in a slow dance with her father and her new husband, David Iandolo.
“It’s funny,” says David, recalling those pre-wedding days in the hospital, “when they said in sickness and in health I assumed that was after the wedding, not before!”
Beth credits her healthcare team with saving her life and, of course, her wedding day. At the end of September, following continued treatment and monitoring under the care of Dr. Herman, she was declared pneumonia-free and is feeling healthy and fit. “If appetite is any indicator, I’m great,” she says. Looking back on the ordeal now, she focuses more on the upside of being so sick just before her wedding than the downside — “I lost 17 pounds before the wedding, and the antibiotics did make my skin look great!”