Frightening infection turns father of three into believer

Robert Jeffries with his children while in Carle Foundation HospitalRobert Jeffries did not have a good 2016. The St. Joseph father of three spent 36 days at Carle Foundation Hospital after a left leg infection turned into necrotizing fasciitis—or flesh-eating bacteria.

“My kids tell me it looks like a shark bit me,” Jeffries said, adding doctors still aren’t certain how his infection became so severe. “I had several surgeries and saw several specialists while I was in the hospital.”

After that, he needed a primary care physician to coordinate his follow-up care.

“They suggested I try the Family Medicine Residency Clinic. So, I had Dr. Stephen Clark take care of me,” Jeffries said. “He was a straight shooter, told me exactly what was going on, and I felt secure and confident with him.”

Patients often can get in to see a resident more quickly than an established doctor who sees thousands of patients per year.

“Residents are doctors who have their degree and practice medicine in a hospital or clinic under direct supervision of an attending physician,” said Robert Healy, MD, chief medical quality officer.

“It’s an opportunity for them to practice medicine, yet have a veteran doctor monitoring their progress.” 

For Jeffries and others, seeing a resident is like a two-for-one.

“Patients who see a medical resident get high-quality care because two physicians are caring for them—the resident and the attending physician,” Dr. Healy said.

The extra experts in the mix worked well for Jeffries.

“Dr. Clark knew all the specialists, and he did a great job communicating with them about me and what I needed. It was a smooth process,” Jeffries said, about follow-up care, including ongoing physical therapy.

Now, almost a year after his life-threatening illness, Jeffries continues to rehab his left leg and is back at work at Health Alliance.

His only regret is Dr. Clark will finish his residency at Carle soon.

“But I had such a good experience with Dr. Clark, I’m going to have another resident continue to see me. They give high quality-care, and it’s easy to get appointments with them,” Jeffries said.