His limbs hung limp at his sides. His legs were wobbly things. One eyelid curtained shut. His mother didn’t know what was wrong with her 12-year-old son, but she knew his life was in danger.
The scene unfolded at Broward General Medical Center a decade ago, but Dr. Patricia Rowe-King – who was elected chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Broward Health Chris Evert Children’s Hospital in May – recalls the event with clarity.
The child had Myasthenia Gravis, a deadly neurological illness that causes the muscles to weaken, and later causes an inability to walk and breathe. The family did not have health insurance.
“Had someone not taken him on, he would have been dead,” said Rowe-King, who volunteered to be the boy’s pediatrician. “We worked with him. All the care he got was given to him pro bono. We were able to work with drug companies to donate medication because the family could not afford it.”
“He still comes to visit us several times a year,” she said of the young man now in his twenties.
Her cheeks pep up with joy as she recalls her role in changing the course of a child’s life.
“Children are rarely responsible for their illness,” said the married mother of three teenagers. “They need people who can advocate on their behalf. I consider myself a children advocate before
Rowe-King, 46, of Plantation, succeeds Dr. Rudolph Roskos as chair of the department of pediatrics.
“Dr. Rowe-King is an experienced and skilled pediatrician,” Roskos said in a prepared statement. “I am confident that her leadership skills and dedication to quality medical care will help her fulfill her duties as chair of the department of pediatrics in an outstanding way.”
After receiving her undergraduate degree from Boston University, Rowe-King earned her medical degree at the University of Miami School of Medicine. She completed her clinical training and residency at the University of Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital.
Rowe-King has been on staff at the hospital since 1997. Now as chair, she said she’d like to see the hospital play a more significant role in the community.
As part of her initiatives for the coming year, she said she is looking forward to improving certain aspects of the hospital. She points out how the pediatric units are currently scattered on different floors, and with plans to build a new pediatric hospital in the near future, she’d like to see the units grouped together.
“I would like community leaders to become involved in the development of our hospital,” she said.
Financial donations are just one aspect, she said, but anyone can “give of their time, or their talent.”
She cited volunteers who come to share joyful smiles with the kids, and chefs who cook during special holidays.
Rowe-King said she can list several reasons why people should be excited to have Broward General Medical Center in their back yard.
She lists the hospital’s achievements of having a level-one-rated trauma center, a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), a pediatric intensive care unit (PICU), a pediatric hematology and oncology center, and a sickle cell day treatment and wellness center.
Sickle Cell Anemia is a chronic blood disease that causes blood cells to form irregularly. The problem, disproportionately represented in African-American males, leads to painful clotting and death if left untreated.
The transitional sickle-cell program opened January 2008 and is one of many that Rowe- King said she is very proud to have. Children treated for sickle cell had difficulty finding proper treatment after the age of 18 before the center opened.
“There were a limited amount of adult providers taking on patients with sickle cell,” she said, adding that with this program, young adults between the ages of 18 and into their high 20s can get treatment.
While immediate care is imperative, having physicians highly specialized in niche areas is also important.
Rowe-King said that right now, the hospital is recruiting sub-specialists in pediatric orthopedics, urology and dermatology.
“I’m the chair of this department, but my strength is in my physicians,” she said. “The biggest strength of the hospital is our staff.”
Photo: Dr. Patricia Rowe-King