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Patient manages autoimmune disease while helping families in need

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altIda Martin and her husband, Sid.

When Ida Martin began learning Spanish 20 years ago, she didn’t expect she’d eventually be calling Mexico her second home.

An Oregon native, she and her husband are now “vagabonds by choice” – they sold their home in 2001 and now find shelter by camping or housesitting for friends in Oregon during the summer, and spend winters renting an apartment in Mexico.

Martin retired in 1996 after working for 33 years as a registered nurse for PeaceHealth. Her husband, a sheet-metal worker, also retired that same year. To help them converse with their niece’s Mexican husband, they took Spanish language classes and traveled to Mexico seeking cultural immersion experiences.

At first, their trips were intended for education and leisure. But on one trip, they discovered a refuge for women and children that tugged at their heartstrings. Now they devote their trips to volunteer work, and have developed relationships with people in the shelters, as well as other volunteers. While she’s in the United States, she sews curtains for an organization that builds homes for the poor in Mexico.

“We can’t imagine not volunteering now,” Martin says. “We’ve had so many wonderful experiences and met wonderful people. Whatever we’ve given, we get so much back.

altIda squeezes her godchild.

The Martins had to postpone their trip to Mexico this past winter due to Ida’s health. When they were there in June, she started experiencing back spasms, muscle pain and weakness. She thought she’d hurt her neck in a yoga class and sought help from physicians and a massage therapist.

Her symptoms gradually worsened, and when she returned to Eugene in August, she was too weak to stand up on her own. She was hospitalized for nine days at Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend and was eventually diagnosed with a connective tissue disorder called polymyositis with an overlap syndrome, which causes inflammation of her muscles and connective tissues, as well as abnormalities in her heart, lungs and esophagus, and arthritis in her hands.

While hospitalized, her symptoms included shortness of breath from congestive heart failure and interstitial lung disease, heartburn with some dysphagia (difficulty swallowing), oral thrush and swelling in her hands and feet.

She was evaluated and treated by Dr. Karthik Mahadevan of Sacred Heart Medical Center and Dr. Shehzad Jinnah of Oak Street Medical. She responded well to therapy and began a slow course to recovery. After her stay in the hospital, she started seeing Dr. William Maiers, a rheumatologist, who has since played an integral role in her disease management. Recently, she has made great strides toward recovery and is no longer dependent on oxygen. She is both satisfied and happy with the treatment she has received from her physicians.

“Oak Street Medical lives up to its mission statement to take care of the complete patient,” Martin says. “Dr. Jinnah is a caring person who always takes time to answer my questions, and he uses a practical approach with a sense of humor.”

Martin also appreciates the online patient portal that allows her to schedule appointments, access medical records, renew prescriptions and ask Dr. Jinnah questions, even when she’s traveling.

The Martins plan to return to Mexico by the end of January, while taking precautions. She’s altered her lifestyle by walking more and adopting healthier eating habits. Her goal is to continue doing the things she loves most, but within the limits her body will allow.

Since her diagnosis and treatment, she says she’s become a more positive person with greater empathy for others. “You never really know what’s going on with someone else,” she says. Her hands still bother her, but “that’s something I can live with,” she adds with a smile.

The Martins have no children of their own, but they’ve become the godparents of one of the triplets born to friends who are Mexican physicians. They look forward to returning to the slower pace of life in Mexico, where they enjoy the weather and the friends they’ve made there.

Tagged in: Travel

Independent and progressive, Oak Street Medical provides a unique combination of complementary health care services that includes Primary Care, Diabetes and Mental Health, as well as Allergy, Asthma and Immunology through Oregon Allergy Associates.