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Lori Prashker-Thomas was so grateful to the team who helped save her life, she gave her thanks the best way she knew how — by offering free photo sessions.

In May, Lori Prashker-Thomas, co-owner of ShadowCatcher Photography LLC in Kingston, was worried about visiting Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center’s Emergency Department during the COVID-19 pandemic. But when she began experiencing severe pain in her mouth and jaw, combined with a high fever, she knew she couldn’t put off medical care.

Earlier that day, she visited her primary care doctor because of the pain and her doctor sent her to Geisinger South Wilkes-Barre for a CT scan. That night, the pain became unbearable and she decided to head to the emergency room at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center.

When she arrived, she was first screened in the outdoor tent as the staff had concerns about her high fever being linked to COVID-19. But it turned out her condition was something even more concerning.

A severe infection requiring immediate surgery

Ms. Prashker-Thomas’ scan revealed a neck infection but didn’t explain the amount of pain she was in or how sick she had become. Further tests revealed she had Ludwig’s angina, a bacterial infection in the floor of the mouth, under the tongue. It often develops within a tooth or closely surrounding tissues.

Saif Abdulateef, DMD, attending physician of oral and maxillofacial surgery, was planning to take the day off, but stayed on to care for her.

“She was thought to have had COVID-19 because of her high temperature, but it was from the bacterial infection,” says Dr. Abdulateef. “She needed emergent surgery.”

Two weeks in the Intensive Care Unit

Her infection was so severe that Ms. Prashker-Thomas had become septic, a potentially life-threatening condition caused by her body's response to the infection. She was intubated to protect her airway, treated with strong antibiotics to fight the infection and kept comfortable for 14 days in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

During her stay, Dr. Abdulateef took her into the operating room several times to wash out her surgical sites and stay ahead of the infection.

“When I was able to speak and realize what was going on, Dr. Abdulateef and his team did everything to help me understand what happened to me and the ICU nurses made sure that I never felt like I was alone,” she says. 

Safe in the ICU during the COVID-19 pandemic 

Ms. Prashker-Thomas was hospitalized for nearly three weeks. And because of visitation restrictions in place due to the pandemic, she couldn’t see her family and friends. “I felt anxious,” she says. “Being away from my husband for nearly 20 days was hard.”

Extra precautions kept patients protected, including having dedicated staff to care for patients like Ms. Prashker-Thomas who didn’t have COVID-19.

“They made sure I was safe,” she says. “The nurses checked on me frequently and some of them even went out of their way to wash my hair and watch RuPaul's Drag Race with me.”

Giving back to her care team

“The staff was amazing,” says Ms. Prashker-Thomas. To show her appreciation for the care she received, she thanked her care team the best way she knew how — by offering free photo mini-sessions to team members and their families.

“I wanted to say thank you and do something that the doctors and nurses would remember and look back on,” she says. “I wouldn’t be here without the expertise, attention and excellent care from Dr. Abdulateef and his oral surgery staff.”

Dr. Abdulateef says he and his staff are beyond grateful for the gift and says patients like Ms. Prashker-Thomas give him the drive to do his job.

“Our patients are the reason we come to work every day,” he says. “I am always so happy to see Lori for follow-ups and to see the smile on her face.”

Lori Prashker-Thomas, co-owner of ShadowCatcher Photography LLC, holding a camera
Lori Prashker-Thomas, co-owner of ShadowCatcher Photography LLC
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