Enthusiasm. The key to success

Dr. Dorota Sands has been treating people with cystic fibrosis (CF) for more than 20 years in her native country of Poland. También en español.

As a pediatrician whose specialization is pulmonology, she has been working in her field for some time at the Mother and Child Institute in Warsaw. There, she has conducted research projects, sees patients and — one of the activities most important to her — leads a group of people with CF.

“Enthusiasm” is the word that Dr. Sands repeated the most during our interview with her. “The Polish healthcare system does not have an official hospital center for treating cystic fibrosis. We treat over 300 individuals with this pathology. We have dieticians, psychologists, physical therapists...so, with a lot of effort and enthusiasm on the part of everyone, we have created a support group, and we have turned the Mother and Child Institute into a point of reference for treating the disease.”

Dorota Sands

“Our need for a formal structure and organization to guide and help us is ongoing. Although Poland today has made all the scientific progress needed to treat cystic fibrosis just like any other European country, we do not have the administrative tools to do so.”

A solid administrative structure may not seem so important at first glance, but its absence makes the road to follow in the treatment of CF more difficult. “Our experts need to continue their training, learn to use the new instruments we receive, and continue to conduct research. Enthusiasm and perseverance are what lead us to find alternatives so that we can offer our patients the best treatment within our reach.”

When Dr. Sands speaks of patient associations, she again repeats the word “enthusiasm” several times. “Thanks to Cystic Fibrosisi Europe Federation, for example, we have had the latest techniques for diagnosing the disease in newborn babies in place for some time now; thanks to local associations in Europe and the Polish Society of Patients, we are able to have ongoing training. Thanks to this exchange and the enthusiasm of everyone, we are adapting the action protocols we learn abroad to the reality of our country.”

And Dr. Sands knows her environment and those with the largest roles in it very well, given the time she has spent at the side of the mothers and fathers going through the difficult situation of discovering that their child has the disease.

“Obviously, it is a very emotional scene,” she tells us. “The first thing we do is explain all their options so that they can see that there is hope. We also inform them about the financial options they have. Treatment is not covered in full by the State in Poland. Moreover, if both parents work, one of them surely will have to give up his or her career, which means that their household income will decrease. The lack of administrative aid on the part of the State complicates the process terribly.”

Technically speaking, things have changed a lot in recent years. The doctor’s team has at its disposal the new technology needed, for example, to make a prenatal diagnosis that a mother may be a carrier and thus adapt treatment during the pregnancy to the needs of the mother and child. “We want their lives to be as normal as possible, as they do, and that is why we have a team that is entirely devoted to their care.” Recently, they have also begun to perform transplants. “We do not do pediatric transplants yet, although that is our ultimate goal.”

As we wrapped up our interview, Dr. Sands said goodbye and insisted that ANY condition is treatable, but such must be done with passion and enthusiasm. “I am proud to see how the patient associations are increasingly stronger and better. Thanks to their work, their help and enthusiasm, I have been able give my patients my best.”

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