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The Power of Care

OneWorld patient finds courage to fight difficult diagnosis

A group of people standing in a room

Tony and members of his OneWorld care team. From left to right: Ruby Robledo-Sanchez, Tony Salzman, Cody Thorson, Nikki West and Sam Portillo.

When Tony Salzman, OneWorld patient, rolled onto his hip while working on his truck in his driveway, he experienced a burning sensation. Not thinking much about it, he got up and began walking up his driveway. Suddenly, his leg gave out and he fell to the ground. Two hours later, he was finally able to stand up.

After this experience of extreme vulnerability, Tony said he did not know what was going on so he called OneWorld Community Health Centers and scheduled an appointment with Cody Thorson, PA-C, Family Medicine Physician Assistant.

“About a month before this happened, I woke up in the middle of the night because my leg felt like a hard, rubber noodle,” said Tony. “I could stand, but it didn’t feel right. I didn’t go to OneWorld then, but this time was different.”

Cody referred Tony to get an MRI of his back, begin physical therapy and join the Chronic Pain Management Program at Nebraska Medicine.

Dr. Alex Dworak, Family Medicine Physician, and Cody began to reestablish care for Tony’s chronic medical conditions including COPD and diabetes. A few weeks after Tony’s first appointment for his back pain, Tony told Cody he had recently spit up blood. This new symptom and Tony’s history of smoking led Cody to refer Tony for a chest CT.

When Cody received the results of Tony’s chest CT, there were concerning findings for lung cancer. Cody referred Tony to a pulmonologist at Nebraska Medicine for a biopsy.

The biopsy confirmed Tony had lung cancer. Additional testing revealed the cancer had spread to other areas of his body including his brain.

The specialist recommended Tony be hospitalized immediately in order to control the swelling around his brain and discuss treatment plans. Tony was initially hesitant and wanted more time to process his test results.

“I didn’t have clean clothes or anything packed, and I was just scared,” said Tony. “Cody called me after 5 p.m. on a Friday to talk to me about what was going on. I felt like somebody actually cared about me and my health. So I checked myself in that weekend.”

Cody said he reached out to Tony after learning the results of the chest CT because he wanted to give Tony the opportunity to ask questions and talk through the specialist’s recommendations.

“Patients need to know that we care and are willing to go the extra step to help them,” Cody said. “Regardless of what they need, it is our job to use every resource we have available to help our patients because they matter.”

Tony began taking steroids to reduce the swelling in his brain. This treatment also helped alleviate the pain from the pinched nerve in his back.

“I did the first treatment and after four days I was able to lift my leg straight out and hold it,” said Tony. “I felt so much better. I cried the first day I found out about my cancer, but working with Cody and Dr. Dworak, my attitude changed and I told myself I’m going to fight. I’m going to do what I can, no matter what.”

Tony is currently going through chemotherapy and radiation to treat his cancer at Nebraska Medicine.

In addition to medical care for his chronic medical conditions, Tony has been connected to the OneWorld behavioral health and social work teams to coordinate the delivery of medical supplies and medications, apply for disability assistance and discuss his health care goals.

OneWorld Case Management Specialists, including Ruby Robledo-Sanchez, help Tony communicate with his care team over the phone.

Despite everything Tony has had to endure for the past few months, Cody said Tony has demonstrated immense bravery.

“I have been moved by Tony’s courage in light of his very challenging diagnosis,” said Cody. “I’m honored to be a part of his care team.”

While Tony said it is difficult to stay positive, the support from his OneWorld care team has helped encourage him to fight.

“There are so many more services at OneWorld that help people like me go through what I’m going through,” said Tony. “Cody and Dr. Dworak have changed my feelings in regards to medical care. They go above and beyond, they really care and they are very compassionate.”

Tony recently learned his family has a long history of various types of cancer. He hopes this information will help his daughters take preventative measures and stay on top of their health.

“A lot of things change when you get cancer,” Tony said. “Your entire world turns upside down. I don’t want anyone to go what I’m going through, and I want everyone to educate themselves on their family’s health history and other personal health matters. It’s better to take care of yourself and talk about your concerns, especially when it comes to your health.”

At OneWorld We Care for All People.

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