UW Today

October 26, 2011

Why I Chose UW Medicine: ‘It gave me my life back

UW Health Sciences/UW Medicine

Dr. Ed Lazowska, UW chair and professor of computer sciences, describes his experience as a UW Medicine patient:

 

Chair of computer sciences Dr. Ed Lazowska returned to bike riding after his recovery from a spine infection.

Chair of computer sciences Dr. Ed Lazowska returned to bike riding after his recovery from a spine infection.Clare McLean

In August 2007, I went from “riding my bicycle to work” to “cant stand up without assistance” in the space of a few days.  When my wife convinced me that it wasnt a random backache that would cure itself with bed rest and ice packs and aspirin, I contacted Rick Matsen, the long-time chair of UW Orthopaedics.  Rick had been a friend for many years – originally because our kids went to school together, and later because we worked together on an educational technology initiative at UW.

Rick immediately suspected an infection, told me to get myself to UW Medicine ASAP, and directed me to Jens Chapman, a world-class spine surgeon.  Ricks guess had been right:  I had a massive infection in my spine that had eaten away several vertebrae.  In two operations several weeks apart, Jens first cleared the infected area, and then performed a spinal fusion.  After a few months of rehab I was back on my bike.  UW Medicine gave me my life back.

Prof. Lazowska and his UW colleague and surgeon Dr. Jens Chapman during his treatment at Harborview Medical Center.

Prof. Lazowska and his UW colleague and surgeon Dr. Jens Chapman during his treatment at Harborview Medical Center.Clare McLean

From top to bottom, the entire staff at Harborview knows that they are all there for the same purpose. Space precludes me from talking about my many friends who have had similar experiences.

I learned many things from my own experience.  I learned how fortunate I am that my wife chose to marry me. She has given me far more than I deserve.  I learned how fortunate I am to be a member of the University of Washington community, with extraordinary people like Rick and Jens in so many fields.

And I learned the wisdom of a quip I had heard many times:  “If your midlife crisis includes a tattoo, it should read ‘If found down, take me to Harborview.”