By Judi Markowitz
She walked into the room wearing stiletto heels adorned with decorative studs. Her dress was fashionable, too. I admired her style. She had a smile that was endearing, and she exuded confidence. I immediately recalled how I had liked this woman the moment we met in her office a decade ago. Then, just as now, Felicia Ivascu had made us feel at ease, and this was due to her upbeat personality. We knew she cared, as this was evidenced in her approach. These are important qualities in an individual, but they are especially important for a surgeon.
We first met Dr. Ivascu in 2012, right before our daughter Lindsay had her first hip replacement surgery. Lindsay had an infected cyst on the leg where she was having surgery. Intervention was needed. Marty Levinson, Lindsay’s doctor in Detroit and close family friend, called Dr. Ivascu and asked if she could see Lindsay as soon as possible. He explained that Lindsay has a rare genetic condition, Marshall-Smith syndrome, and was having surgery in two weeks.
Luckily, we were able to meet with Dr. Ivascu the next morning. She excised the cyst, and Lindsay was ready for the next medical procedure. Dr. Ivascu was kind and accommodating. We had found a gem.
Fast forward ten years — we made another appointment in July to see Dr. Ivascu. This time Lindsay had a giant cyst below her elbow, and it became infected. It had been growing for years but was not problematic — until now. We told Dr. Ivascu that we had recently been to Beaumont’s Emergency Room and waited for six hours without ever seeing a doctor. When informed by the hospital’s medical staff that the time frame to be examined was unknown, we had decided to leave after consulting with Dr. Levinson by phone. We were disappointed that nothing could be done.
Dr. Ivascu then examined Lindsay’s cyst and reviewed the ultrasound that was taken months earlier. She said that she would remove it and then a discussion ensued concerning Lindsay and anesthesia. I explained that Lindsay has a narrow airway and high pallet. An ENT (ear, nose, and throat) physician is always on board for intubation prior to any surgery. However, we did not want to go this route for a procedure that would last only some 30 minutes.
Dr. Ivascu listened to our concerns about general anesthesia, felt our anxiety, and heard us when we said that Lindsay could tolerate this procedure with a local anesthetic to freeze the area. We told her that Lindsay would be a tough customer and a cooperative patient — even without general anesthesia. Dr. Ivascu agreed to our request.
Such kindness and consideration have not always been on the menu for us. When Lindsay had doctor appointments as a young child, I never knew what to expect. We had our fair share of hard knocks from the medical community— it was a struggle. There were doctors who did not intervene on Lindsay’s behalf and made no recommendations for care. They followed the sparse information written about Marshall-Smith syndrome and the predicted outcome for these children was an early death. They were following the literature —a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Then there were the page-flipping doctors who pulled out books on human malformations, in order to look at photographs of children to find similarities with Lindsay. They acted like investigative reporters — at our expense. Looking at those photos, it was as if I was staring at a lineup in a police station, but instead I was at the pediatrician’s office.
Other doctors would look me in the eyes and bluntly say that Lindsay was never going to make it. I know now, even though they exhibited crude behavior, they were trying to help. Still, all of these doctor’s appointment were a total failure. These physicians were in desperate need of etiquette lessons and compassion.
As time marched forward, we carved out a group of stellar physicians whose desire to support Lindsay was paramount. Their main concern was to provide Lindsay with the best medical advice and treatment. And now Dr. Ivascu and her staff were doing the same.
So, on the morning of October 3rd, we drove back to Beaumont Hospital. Dr. Ivascu arranged for Lindsay to have the procedure in the Pediatric OR even though Lindsay is 43. She told us the staff would be more amenable to have a parent onboard —I was going in!! Dr. Ivascu also commented that the staff in pediatrics is flexible and attentive because they treat children daily. This was the perfect spot for us.
After she greeted us in the surgical pre-op room, Dr. Ivascu inquired about Lindsay’s music preferences. I told her that Lindsay enjoyed listening to oldies— the ’70s and ‘80s. Dr. Ivascu was thrilled since those decades were her favorites as well. We were ready to rock and roll to the OR. But first, I had to put on “bunny suit” — a huge, white jumpsuit that zipped up the front. It was the epitome of fashion. If helium were available, I would have floated away.
Once in the OR, introductions were made all around. Then Dr. Ivascu gave Lindsay several injections to freeze the site. I gently held Lindsay’s right arm in place, while Dr. Jacob Mesiti held her other hand. Lindsay immediately smiled at him — she was happy this good-looking doctor was being so attentive.
The music began to play, an incision was made, and I watched as Dr. Ivascu removed the cyst. It was fascinating! I felt like I was in a scene from a movie. But this wasn’t art imitating life, it wasn’t actors, it was simply medical professionals doing their job because they were dedicated and focused on improving the human condition. This scene was life at its best and I was lucky to be a witness.
As we were leaving the OR, I thanked Dr. Ivascu and gave her a hug. I told her I was appreciative of her being flexible and creating a special plan for Lindsay. She commented that when there are no alternatives set in place, you move forward and create an alternative plan of action. We were certainly glad she did!
Judi Markowitz is a retired high school English teacher of 34 years. She primarily taught 12th grade and had the pleasure of her three sons gracing her classes. In addition, she taught debate, forensics, and Detroit film. Judi has four adult children and seven wonderful grandchildren. She is married to Jeffrey Markowitz, whom she met in high school.
Judi grew up in Oak Park, Mich. which had a stellar school district, with excellent teachers. The city provided activities for all–and there were even sidewalks. Judi moved to Huntington Woods as an adult, which is a half mile from her childhood home. She wanted the same experience for her children as she had growing up, and Huntington Woods provided that. The View from Four Foot Two is Judi’s first book.