Judy knew she could count on me, and that simple knowledge saved her life recently. Judy had been getting maintenance therapy for breast cancer, not the kind of treatments that typically weaken the immune system. So, when she went to the ER at my hospital one Saturday night when I wasn’t on call, the ER doctor took care of her himself.

He saw that her blood counts were okay, and she seemed only to have a mild infection on her year-old mastectomy scar. So he gave her some antibiotics and told her she would be fine. Unfortunately, 36 hours later, she was not fine. The seemingly mild skin infection had now blown up into a massive chest wall abscess, indicating that the offending microbe was the virulent germ we call MRSA. So, Judy called me first thing Monday and I saw her ahead of my regularly scheduled patients.

Good thing, too. Her infection was now digging into her chest wall and she needed immediate surgery!

She went to the OR that same morning and the wound was cleaned and drained. After 10 days of antiobiotics, she made a full recovery. The surgeon, who himself had seen her just a few weeks prior, couldn’t believe how fast her infection had hit her. “It’s a darn good thing you saw her when you did and that you called me right away,” he told me. “Another 12 or 24 hours and we might not have saved her!”

Being there. When it matters most. At times you can never know. That’s what it takes…to save a life.