Published on July 17, 2019

Elwood Woman goes from being the Patient to becoming a Caregiver at Silver Cross Hospital

On her 17th birthday, what should have been a day of celebration and fun, Autumn Lawson of Elwood woke up to severe stomach pain. In the weeks following, she began losing weight rapidly, and the stomach pain persisted.

autumn and dr. gamagami

Autumn made appointments with her doctor, who recommended she have a colonoscopy with Dr. Reza Gamagami and see several other specialists to try and determine what was making her so sick. After a year of tests and appointments, she finally had a diagnosis: Crohn’s Disease.

Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory condition of the gastrointestinal tract and belongs to a group of conditions known as inflammatory bowel diseases, or IBD.

“The disease can occur at any age, but Crohn’s disease is most often diagnosed in adolescents and adults between the ages of 20 and 30,” Dr. Gamagami explained. “Treatment for Crohn’s can include the use of medication, alterations in diet and nutrition, and sometimes surgical procedures to repair or remove affected portions of the GI tract.”

Over the next three years, Autumn tried several different medicines to control the symptoms of Crohn’s, but when nothing seemed to help, her only other option was surgery. 

When picking a surgeon, Autumn had some very specific requirements: She wanted to make sure she could have the procedure close to home, and she wanted as little scarring as possible. Autumn chose to see Dr. Gamagami again, but this time as her surgeon.  Not only was he located conveniently close to home, he was personally recommended by her dad, who had been a patient of Dr. Gamagami’s prior to this.

Speedy Recovery after Surgery

With nervous yet excited anticipation, Autumn had a small bowel resection using the minimally invasive da Vinci Robot at the Midwest Institute for Robotic Surgery at Silver Cross Hospital in January of 2017.  The results of the procedure astounded Autumn. 

“I woke up from the surgery and felt better instantly,” she explained. “My first meal after surgery was an omelet and hash browns. This was such a big deal because eating anything prior to my surgery resulted in instant pain.”

Even better, Autumn spent only one night at the hospital and returned to school only a week and a half after the surgery. Best of all, her tiny scars are barely visible.

Trading her Hospital Gown for Surgical Scrubs

After her life-changing and highly successful surgery, Autumn knew she wanted to work in the medical field.

“Being a patient for so long and learning as much as I did to deal with my own illness, I wanted to be someone who could help others and make them feel better,” she added.

Autumn is currently a surgical technician at Silver Cross Hospital and occasionally works side-by-side with Dr. Gamagami, who is now her mentor.  “He’s so happy and excited for me that I’ve been able to finally have relief from all the pain, but also now to be doing what I love and help others. I can go to him with any questions I have.” Autumn, who’s an avid racecar driver, says Dr. Gamagami’s nickname for her is “Speed Racer.”

Looking back, Autumn is happy with her decision. “The thought of surgery was very scary, but I am so glad that I did it,” she said. She’s even happier she found a healthcare career she loves!

Physicians on Silver Cross Hospital’s Medical Staff have expertise in their areas of practice to meet the needs of patients seeking their care. These physicians are independent practitioners on the Medical Staff and are not the agents or employees of Silver Cross Hospital. They treat patients based upon their independent medical judgment and they bill patients separately for their services.