PMC doc’s diligence help save local man

Barry Estep and his wife Lisa cross the finish line at the recent Colors of Courage 5K held in Pikeville recently. Barry Estep was the recipient of a liver transplant, which saved his life.

In October  2016, Barry Estep of Pikeville, was told he was suffering from a rare condition caused by his liver. His medical treatment took him to Durham, North Carolina, where physicians at Duke University Hospital informed him he needed a liver transplant. His life expectancy was only 24 months.

Estep’s family and friends knew the seriousness of his situation and stood by his side with prayer and support. It seemed as if he was running out of time as the 23rd month approached when Estep finally received the call informing him of a donor match.

After several days on life support, he miraculously overcame the odds and survived the transplant surgery. Estep and his wife, Lisa, were able to return home just before Christmas.

Estep continued to recover and was feeling good until eight months after his surgery. He found himself at Pikeville Medical Center’s (PMC) Emergency Department fighting a fever.

Fever is a big deal, but for him, it meant the possibility of losing his new organ.

For transplant patients, the body’s immune system is suppressed, so the organ is not rejected. This immuno-suppression leaves the patient unable to fight any contracted infections, bacteria or viruses.

Hours passed, and PMC’s team started preparing Estep to be airlifted to Durham, so his transplant team could care for him. However, nature interfered. Severe storms grounded any helicopter transportation and for Estep, being transported by ambulance was not an option.

At that point, the hospitalist called PMC Infectious Disease Specialist, Fadi Al Akhrass, MD, FACP (Dr. Fadi).

“In the past, we shipped sick transplant patients outside the hospital. Since we have added new specialists here, we are able to treat them at PMC,” said Dr. Fadi. “Our patients receive the same care here in our hospital as they would receive in a much larger institution.”

“Dr. Fadi was great,” said Estep. “He was like the player sitting on the bench waiting to be put in the game and was the team player who would win the game.”

Dr. Fadi took control of the treatment plan with open communication to Estep’s transplant team in Durham. Estep’s treatment at PMC continued under Dr. Fadi’s care for six days.

His family was relieved that he would be staying close to home.

“I knew PMC had specialty doctors, but I had no idea they had a doctor who was a specialist and experienced in immune suppression and organ transplant patients,” said Barry. “Dr. Fadi was very knowledgeable. Even my transplant doctor at Duke complimented Dr. Fadi on his knowledge, his treatment plan, and his willingness to work with them.”

Estep says he knew Dr. Fadi was not going to let him lose his new liver.

“I was confident he would do everything in his power for me,” said Estep. “I tell everyone, we are blessed to have PMC providing top-notch care for our families.”

“We work hand-in-hand with the transplant team, and we achieved the goal, and that is what is important. My goal is to not only take care of the patient, but to take patient care to a different level,” said Dr. Fadi.

Estep says he will forever be indebted to Dr. Fadi and his new friends, PMC Gastroenterologist and Chief of Staff Phillip Leipprandt, DO, and Pulmonologist Yousof Elgaried, MD, for their care and for recognizing his rare condition.

“I call them my friends because they make you feel like you are a friend of the family,” said Estep. “I am so blessed to have these doctors who continue caring for me. They are my team.”

His, Celebration of Life, one year anniversary, will be in September.

“I thank God daily for my donor for giving me my gift of life. I know it was God’s plan to keep me here because he is not finished with me yet,” chuckled Estep.

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