‘I Got My Life Back’: Pen Medicine Solves Women’s Medical Mysteries

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A medical mystery has been solved at Penn Medicine, where doctors have devised new treatments for potentially life-threatening conditions.

Patients are also Pen employees. She had been suffering from debilitating symptoms for months and her worried colleagues were working hard to figure out what was wrong.

“Thank you very much, Dr. Itkin,” said Ronnie Elena. “You saved my life.”

Elena thanks the team at Penn Medicine for solving her medical mystery.

“They refused to give up and told me I was fine,” she said.

The doctor was also her friend. Elena works as a secretary in cardiac intensive care at Penn. Seven months ago she started having severe gastrointestinal problems and she lost 80 pounds while her belly was filling with fluids.

“I started passing out for no reason,” Elena said. “No one could understand it.”

She was able to do as much work as she could. Finally, after months of testing, her diagnosis was made.

“She had this condition called protein-losing enteropathy, in which protein is lost in the intestines and nutrients cannot be absorbed,” said Dr. Todd Hecht, a hospitalist at Penn Medicine.

Dr. Hecht says it’s a rare and potentially life-threatening condition.

“Personally, I’ve never seen one before,” Hecht said.

Elena had a blockage in her chest duct, causing fluid to reflux into her stomach. to reveal that she had her chest tube bypass surgery. It’s the first time it’s been used to treat her illness.

“This is a new technology, a new approach, a new disease, a new imaging that we will understand for you and we will understand for others,” said Dr. Max Itkin. It was amazing that it actually worked.”

“I got my life back,” Elena said.

Her symptoms are gone, her weight is back on and she’s starting to feel like herself again.

“Now I’m on my way to recovery,” Elena said. “I’m so happy they saved my life.”

Penn’s team will present Elena’s case at a medical conference Monday.

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