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The Importance of Research

Susan Letendre

“Research absolutely saves lives.”

This issue with my dad has been a year and a half in the making. He went into the hospital to have a knee replacement a year and a half ago. Six surgeries later… infection for well over a year and a half now. When he finally came home, he developed [Clostridium difficile], and as a result of that he lost a lot of weight: thirty-some-odd pounds.

My brothers, myself, my children, my husband: we were all responsible for having to take care of him. And with the C. diff, it completely grounded him to his home. He couldn’t go out. He was stuck at home. So it was debilitating. It further debilitated him more than what he already was.

At this point, I mean, the choices were that we continue going down this road and could eventually result in maybe loss of life for him. At the time I didn’t have very much information about what trials were and how they worked. And Dr. Kao explained everything. She put it in terms that not only myself and my family understood, but terms that my dad understood. She’d mentioned it was a trial procedure. So we got in to see Dr. Kao relatively quickly based on the severity of his C. diff, and she approved him right away for the fecal transplant process.

“At the time he was under the care of an infectious disease specialist,” says Dr. Dina Kao. “And so that’s when he got referred to me and we sort of started looking into whether fecal transplant could be a good option for him. And so we had a very long discussion, and we sort of discussed about some of the potential long-term implications and so on. And we went ahead with it and, not surprisingly, after the first treatment it didn’t really work. And we had to go back on the antibiotic. And then we had to go into a second treatment, and then, very interestingly, after the second treatment he started to get better.”

Just the difference was immediate. Just seeing him bounce back and have some energy and able to do things and able to go over and spend time with his grandchildren and do things and watch them do their activities. From having been shut into his house, it was just… I mean, there’s no words to explain how important that was to him.

I think that there’s a very important place for trial research within our medical field. It’s part of what everybody should be involved in, and not just specifically with relation to fecal transplant, but all research that’s out there. Because it could be one of your loved ones that could be sick and need one of these new ways of doing new medical research or new medical ways of handling things. And if we don’t have people out there that are willing to participate, then we’re not going to find these new ways of helping.

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