A massive tumor was surgically removed from a Newton County woman's stomach area Tuesday after several trips to the emergency room led to a dead end and distant surgery date.
Shalonda Pettaway said Doris Lewis met Dr. Alan Gordon the first time she was admitted to the ER at Emory Healthcare on May 1. The June 10 surgery date was set through Charity Care, which approves medical services to patients who are uninsured or unable to pay.
"As time went by, it started getting bigger and bigger every day," said Pettaway, Lewis's sister-in-law. "The doctors said her blood was feeding the tumor. It was killing her. She needed to get it out as soon as possible."
Since Lewis did not have health insurance - she had not yet covered herself after her husband died a few years ago - she was unable to get the tumor removed sooner during four subsequent ER trips at Emory or Grady Memorial Hospital. Pettaway said Lewis was sent home each time once her vitals returned to normal.
Although non-cancerous, the tumor was beginning to press on other organs. Her pain began to increase. Her legs and feet were swollen. She had trouble breathing. She kept throwing up. She couldn't use the bathroom.
Lewis went into surgery June 10, where Gordon removed the tumor and its 28 pounds of fluid.
"We're just relieved that everything went fine because it was a serious surgery, and a lot of things could have gone wrong," Pettaway said.
Lewis was transferred out of the ICU into her own room Wednesday, and Pettaway said doctors and her family hope she will be released this weekend or early next week.
Pettaway was in the room with Lewis when she spoke with The News but said Lewis was unable to talk as she was in and out of sleep.
"We're just grateful. She's recovering well," Pettaway said.
Pettaway said the initial CAT scan cost $9,000, which Lewis would have had to pay had Charity Care not taken her in. They have not been told how much of the surgery costs will be covered.
Anyone wishing to help with Lewis's medical costs can donate to the Doris Lewis Fund at any Wells Fargo branch.
"We just want to thank everyone for their prayers and well wishes," Pettaway said, "and wish Doris a speedy recovery."