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New City Grandmother Shows Strength, Inside And Out

Harriet Leitner, 69, of New City, N.Y.
Harriet Leitner, 69, of New City, N.Y. Photo Credit: Advancing Care in the Hudson Valley

An active and energetic grandmother, Harriet Leitner was used to a life on the go. Even in retirement, the 69-year-old New City resident filled her days with everything from long walks to babysitting duties. That's why, when a lower abdomen pain developed one winter, she took notice.

"The pain was always there,” said Leitner, a former college professor. A gastroenterologist diagnosed her with diverticulitis, a digestive disease that causes inflammation of the colon. Her white-blood-cell count was high, as well, so she was admitted to Good Samaritan Hospital in Suffern. After a four-day stay, she improved enough to return home, but she still needed blood tests and colonoscopies to assess her condition.

The snow melted; flowers bloomed. But just as the weather became ideal for one of Leitner’s beloved strolls, the pain returned. In June 2016, she found herself back at Good Samaritan. The news was bad: Her diverticulitis had intensified and her white-blood-cell count was elevated again. In addition, a section of her colon had developed an abscess.

But there was good news, too: Dr. Peter Kaye, Good Samaritan’s director of colorectal surgery, was standing by to help. He was determined to see his feisty new patient get her active life back. “We gave Harriet antibiotics and watched her for a little while, but she wasn’t getting any better,” said Kaye. “We decided we would need to operate to remove the infected portion of her colon.” It was up to him to tell her.

To continue reading Harriet's story via Advancing Care in the Hudson Valley, click here.

Good Samaritan Hospital is a member of the WMCHealth Network.