MILWAUKEE -- Perhaps it was a coincidence. Or, maybe it was inevitable. Whatever it was, Diane and Dave Paschke had two entirely different medical emergencies and were each saved by the same surgeon.
Dave Paschke had endured health struggles for years. Diane had been his constant advocate and caregiver throughout those struggles. In the spring of 2015, the Paschkes were at one of Dave’s Fond du Lac doctor’s appointments when a friendly nurse they both knew popped in to say hello.
The exchange consisted of friendly small talk mostly, until the nurse noticed Diane appeared to have a yellow pallor to her skin. Although the appointment was for Dave, not Diane, the nurse suggested Diane mention the discoloration to Dave’s doctor.
“Nancy saved my life,” Diane said of the nurse who made the keen observation. What followed were a series of tests, a trip from Fond du Lac to Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center and a grim diagnosis: pancreatic cancer. The good news, the cancer had been caught early before it could spread throughout Diane’s body.
Skilled surgeon Dr. Ajay Sahajpal was called upon to perform the life-saving operation. He removed roughly half of Diane’s pancreas and all of the cancer. Chemotherapy would be required, but Diane’s prognosis was excellent.
Fast-forward two years. Dave Paschke was in full-blown liver failure. The health problems he had endured earlier were likely the precursor to the threatening diagnosis he faced. He was put on the list for a liver transplant.
Like Diane, Dave’s surgery was to take place at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center. When the couple had their first meeting with Dave’s surgeon, it seemed the stars had aligned in their favor. The transplant surgeon would be Dr. Ajay Sahaipal.
“I was hoping it would be,” Diane said as she recalled the relief that washed over her at that meeting. “You have no idea the comfort that it gave me to be dealing with the same team that I had two years previously.”
Despite Dave’s weakened state, the October surgery went flawlessly. Dr. Sahaipal had been determined that the surgery had to go perfect. He was more than a little invested in the Paschkes.
“I said we gotta make sure this goes well,” Sahajpal recalled telling his partner after that meeting with the Paschkes. “I feel a sense of responsibility to both of them at this point.”
Dave Paschke still isn’t back in his Fond du Lac home. He stays in a facility right across the street from Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center so he can be close to his doctors. He is getting stronger, though, and hopes to be home soon.
His wife, meantime, has high praise for the surgeon who saved her life and her husband’s life as well. The Paschkes have been married for 44 years and hope to see fifty. Thanks to the care they both got at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center, a 50th wedding anniversary celebration seems quite likely.
“I love this man,” Diane says of Sahajpal. “How could I not love him?”