Cheryl Sclar was sitting in a meeting when a coughing fit struck.
As someone living with primary ciliary dyskinesia – a genetic disorder that causes chronic, recurrent infections in the lungs and sinuses – Sclar dreads such moments. She tries her best to remain “invisible,” as she puts it, but it’s nearly impossible to keep the coughing at bay once it starts.
Sclar, who works at a local college, started composing a message to her pulmonologist, Bruce Levy, MD, chief of BWH’s Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, while she sat in the meeting and struggled to suppress her coughs.
“Hi, Dr. Levy. I’m at an all-campus meeting with about 100 of my colleagues, who are painfully aware of my existence,” she wrote. Levy quickly responded with words of reassurance.
The interaction, although brief, illustrated the empathy and warmth patients regularly experience at BWH, Sclar said in recounting the story at a recent event honoring patients of BWH’s Lung Center.
“I want to thank you, Dr. Levy, for your compassion and kindness, for always rescuing me and for never minimizing how I feel,” said Sclar, addressing him from the podium before describing her experience living with a lung disease.
The event marked the debut of a photo exhibition, “Positive Exposure: Beyond Diagnosis to Innovation,” by New York-based fashion photographer Rick Guidotti. The exhibit, unveiled at the Lung Center event on Nov. 7, comprises portraits of about a dozen of the center’s patients.
More than 100 patients, families and BWH staffers attended the evening event in Cabot Atrium, and nearly 50 viewers tuned in to the live stream via webcast.
The Lung Center is a medical and surgical collaboration between the Division of Thoracic Surgery and the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, as well as other divisions and departments at BWH, including Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine and, at the Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center, Pathology, Radiation Oncology and Medical Oncology.
Raphael Bueno, MD, chief of the Division of Thoracic Surgery and surgical director of the Lung Center, welcomed attendees to “a celebration of life, patients, health care providers and the promise of a bright future for lung health.”
As the photos were unveiled, emotions swept over the crowd – tears of joy and sadness for those pictured. Ahmet Uluer, DO, director of the Adult Cystic Fibrosis Program and a pulmonary specialist at Boston Children’s Hospital, gave a tribute to two young patients included in the exhibit who had died shortly after being photographed: Antwaughn Moore, 28, and Jay Bernardini, 36.
The photo exhibit will remain in Cabot for several months and then move to the Lung Center’s clinic as its permanent home.
“Medicine is an art and a science,” Levy said. “Tonight, it’s about the art. Tonight, it’s about the humanism in medicine.”