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RENEWED HOPE: GBMC's Lymphedema & Rehabilitation Center Provides Answers, Gives Second Chances

January 11, 2011
In August 2011, Rose Gauza celebrated a special milestone in her life. “I went back to teaching fourth grade after spending one year out of work due to complications of lymphedema,” explains Ms. Gauza. Lymphedema causes fluid to build up in the arms or legs, triggering severe swelling. “I was deathly ill with swelling, open wounds and morbid obesity,” she says. “My legs were filled with lymphatic fluid. Mobility was painful, nearly impossible. I felt hopeless.”

Rose Gauza is back in the classroom teaching fourth grade after suffering life-threatening complications from lymphedema.
Ms. Gauza’s life began to turn around after she sought treatment at GBMC. She worked for months with Virginia Moratz, oTR, CHT, CLT, Director of the Greater Baltimore Lymphedema & Rehabilitation Center, and Medical Director Alan Kimmel, MD, to control her swelling. Brent Birely, MD, of the Wound Care Center, performed surgery to help heal her infected leg wounds. Although lymphedema is not curable, it can be managed through Complete Decongestive Therapy, which may include manual lymphatic drainage, bandaging, exercise therapy, proper diet and wearing compression garments on a daily basis.

“This experience helped me become independent again. My goals were to regain my health and return to teaching — my passion. The phenomenal staff at the Lymphedema and Wound Care centers gave me a second chance to live,” says Ms. Gauza.

As she celebrated her progress and prepared for her return to the classroom, another patient was just learning about her own diagnosis. For Lori Lautenbach of Traverse, Michigan, painful swelling in her legs was just something she lived with. “I’ve dealt with leg swelling my entire life. My doctors never suggested that there was a medical cause for it,” she explains. That all changed after meeting Dawn Roelofs, RN, a nurse at the Lymphedema & Rehabilitation Center, online. Ms. Roelofs noticed Ms. Lautenbach’s leg swelling in a Facebook photo, and recommended a lymphedema assessment.

Ms. Lautenbach traveled to GBMC in August 2011 for a consultation with Dr. Kimmel, who confirmed the diagnosis. “Comprehensive lymphedema care is not available in some states,” explains Dr. Kimmel. Patients like Ms. Lautenbach often come to GBMC from other states and countries for assessment or treatment of lymphedema. With new hope, Ms. Lautenbach has initiated treatment as prescribed by Dr. Kimmel. “It is a great relief to finally have answers and know that I can control this condition.”

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