AGANA HEIGHTS, GUAM (Nov. 17, 2014) – On November 17th, Lt. Andrew McDermott, a Family Practice Physician at U.S. Naval Hospital Guam, received an unexpected surprise from one of his patients. Joseph SanNicolas, a local Chamorro and a retired Army veteran, presented McDermott with a handcrafted plaque to thank him for removing a piece medal fragment from his abdomen that had been there for more than 44 years.
SanNicolas served during the Vietnam War from 1967 to 1969 where he suffered an injury that caused several pieces of medal to be lodged inside of him. At the time, he was taken to an overseas hospital where the majority of the medal was believed to have been removed. However, over the years SanNicolas often experienced unexplained pain that he said would make things difficult for him including finishing a meal. He would often take aspirin to help relieve the pain.
He often suspected that the pain may be fragments of medal still lodged inside of him but he never had it checked by a doctor until one day when he had a scare. “I was showering and I noticed blood. I checked myself to see what could have caused it but couldn’t find anything so I called to my wife and she couldn’t find any reason for me to be bleeding either,” explained SanNicolas. “So I decided I better get to the doctor to see what was going on.”
According to McDermott, when he received the news, he was concerned there may be a cyst, however SanNicolas told him he thought it might be a retained fragments of medal. “Sure enough, we got an x-ray that showed a fragment. It was superficial enough for us to remove it in clinic and we took it out the next day,” he said. He also explained that anyone with retained fragments can experience a variety of affects from no complications at all, but some people may experience pain and injury to surrounding structures.
According to SanNicolas, after 44 years of suffering, the removal of the fragment brought relief from the pain and has made him a new man. “People say to me, ‘you are 68 years old why are you acting that way?’ and I say ‘it is because my pain is gone’,” he said with a smile. He also said for the first time in a long time he is able to eat a full meal and really enjoy the spicy Guam food.
McDermott said he is happy to know that “just another day at the office” could impact someone’s life so much. “It's awesome,” he exclaimed, “It's another great example of the kindness of our patients and their families here on Guam. The providers at the hospital continue to be amazed by how grateful our patients are for the care we give,” he said.
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