As a retired Presbyterian parish visitor, Dan Barackman selflessly worked to bring spiritual healing to hospital patients during difficult moments in their life–often providing people with inspiration and encouragement. Tables turned for Dan when his health had taken a critical hit, causing him to be in the bed rather than helping at the bedside.
In May 2007, Dan suffered a severe blockage in his arteries that required a double bypass surgery performed by Rex J. Winters, M.D., medical director of invasive cardiology at the MemorialCare Heart and Vascular Institute at Long Beach Memorial. Under the guidance of Dr. Winters and the care team, Dan's blood flow was rerouted around the blockage to provide a clearer pathway to his heart.
Two years post cardiac surgery, Dan's health began to take another turn.
"I instinctively knew something was wrong with me. I couldn't breathe regularly and I had a strange feeling that fluid was building in my abdomen," says Dan.
With his previous health conditions in mind he immediately sought medical attention from his family physician and learned that his condition was Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is a type of cancer found within lymphocyte cells of the immune system. White blood cells transform and multiply at an alarming rate forming a mass, which could ultimately interfere with the normal function of surrounding tissues and organs.
"Learning about my diagnosis was overwhelming for me and my family, and I knew that the only place that could provide us with quality expertise and reassurance would be Long Beach Memorial," says Dan.
Dan was cared for by Jonathan B. Blitzer, M.D., and the Internal Medicine Oncology and Hematology care team at Long Beach Memorial, where he initially underwent six series of chemotherapy treatments. While the chemotherapy treatments often left him feeling frail and fatigued, the treatment needed to continue as a reoccurrence of lymphoma appeared.
"Chemotherapy was a truly testing experience for me and my family," says Dan. "There were times where my body would react negatively to it, my heart rate and blood pressure would dramatically drop, and I had to be admitted as an inpatient to build up a tolerance."
Having being diagnosed with leukemia and having gone through chemotherapy herself, Angeline Olson, R.N., internal medicine oncology and hematology care team, Long Beach Memorial, was able to help relieve stress for Dan and his family through her journey of becoming cancer-free.
"As a member of Mr. Barackman's care team, I can honestly say that he was a wonderful patient," says Angeline. He was never hesitant to ask questions or for advice, and having gone through this process before I was more than willing to answer all that I could."
Though his experience of having a heart attack and a diagnosis of lymphoma within two years is frightful, Dan is grateful to Long Beach Memorial for saving his life.
"I've always had a connection to Long Beach Memorial," says Dan. "I was born at Seaside Hospital in 1938, and as a parish visitor of Long Beach Memorial I was very familiar with the staff. I can't praise Dr. Blitzer and the oncology care team enough, for providing my family with such knowledge and support, their patient concern is beyond amazing. They gave my family and I the comfort of knowing we were in good hands and that we weren't going to be alone on this battle."
Overcoming both life changing conditions has been a challenging but progressive process for Dan. Despite ending chemotherapy treatment in May, he is scheduled for a bone biopsy to check for additional growths. Aside from the slight obstacles, Dan has high aspirations of training others to someday take his place as a parish visitor, and returning to everyday activities with friends and family.
"I'm not as worried about my upcoming biopsy," says Dan. "I'm much more at ease this time around because I know that I have a great support team at Long Beach Memorial. My care team helped me every step of the way—even know that I'm cancer-free. Looking back on everything I've been through—the bypass surgery, the cancer—I feel blessed to be alive."