Earl Paddy hadn't been sick a day in his life. But in the fall of 2008, at the age of 61, he became noticeably tired, sleeping more than usual. In November, Earl came down with what he thought was a bad stomach virus. Finally after three weeks, the persistent vomiting landed him in the ER.
The news wasn't good. Earl's kidneys were close to shutting down, his gall bladder wasn't functioning and his liver was enlarged. "I looked around thinking there must be some mistake," said Earl. "That couldn't be me they were talking about."
So began a frustrating period of hospital stays, testing, dialysis and drug therapy to control Earl's symptoms. It was after he had gall bladder surgery that Earl and his wife Jennie learned his diagnosis: amyloidosis - a rare disorder related to multiple myeloma, in which proteins abnormally build up in various organs in the body, in his case causing kidney failure, intestinal bleeding and liver problems. While many patients have no explanation for their diagnosis, Earl was exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam, which has been linked to Amyloidosis.
"Dr. Cohen is just an awesome doctor. We're so grateful he was able to take care of me."
Earl's wife Jennie, a passionate advocate for her husband's health, spent hours online, looking for answers and doctor who specialized in treating amyloidosis and multiple myeloma. She found medical oncologist Adam Cohen, MD, at Fox Chase Cancer Center, who specializes in hematologic malignancies with a particular emphasis on multiple myeloma and amyloidosis. "I met with Dr. Cohen and he told me that not only could I be treated, but I could have a productive life," recalled Earl. "A smile just jumped on my face - that was what I was waiting to hear."
Earl's treatment plan included chemotherapy and, if he was a candidate, a stem cell transplant. Robert V. Emmons, MD, a member of the Fox Chase-Temple Bone Marrow Transplant Program, joined Earl's treatment team.
"And those nurses, they're the best I have ever seen."
Earl spent two months working with Dr. Cohen and the team, leading up to a three-week stay at Fox Chase for what Dr. Emmons called a "textbook stem cell transplant" in October 2009. "Dr. Cohen checked on me every single day," he said. "I must have seen every doctor there," he said. "And those nurses, they're the best I have ever seen. They catered and took care of me. If there was anything I needed, I just pushed a button and they were there. They were wonderful."
"Thanks to Fox Chase, I have my life back now."
By May 2010, Earl had regained his strength, along with the 50 pounds he lost during his illness. He sees Dr. Cohen every three months, and despite some lingering complications, he's doing well. "They told me there's no cure for amyloidosis, but that I can live for 20, 25 more years," he said. "That's fine with me. Thanks to Fox Chase, I have my life back now, that's all that matters."