South Florida man saved by Jackson North critical care and rehabilitation teams after suffering from foot abscess that went septic
By: Krysten Brenlla
After overcoming kidney cancer in 1996 and living with obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) because of his time volunteering at Ground Zero post-September 11, David Passman, now 69, vowed to live his life to the fullest. Since moving to South Florida just seven years ago, Passman enjoys spending time with his family, catching live music shows, and going to the beach.
However, despite all he had survived, Passman never would have guessed the ocean would be what would almost take his life.
“Because of my COPD, I take inhaler steroids, and as a result, I’m a bleeder,” he said. “We were on a cruise in 2022 for New Year’s, and I had some open wounds in my legs. I was so excited to be in the Caribbean, I went in the ocean water with open wounds. That’s when everything went wrong.”
Passman ended up developing a bacterial infection that turned into an abscess on his left foot.
“My feet swelled to the size of footballs due to cellulitis,” he said. “As soon as we came home from the cruise, I went to my local hospital and waited 36 hours on a gurney in the emergency room before I was treated.”
Passman went home after that initial hospital visit and became septic. However, thanks to his daughter, Jennifer Stanimirovic, a speech-language pathologist at Jackson North Medical Center, he turned to Jackson North for help.
“Jennifer and her husband saw me ‘melting into my couch,’ as they told me, and rushed me to Jackson North,” he said.
“Without them, I don’t know where I’d be.”
The hospital’s critical care team determined Passman’s abscess was affecting his bone. They also found he was suffering from hypertension, reduced blood flow to his left leg, cellulitis in both feet, a COPD flare up, kidney failure, and the flu. Ultimately, his body was shutting down.
Passman required several emergency surgeries and a graft to save his left foot.
“I spent almost three months in the hospital,” he said. “I had no strength and couldn’t walk at all – I never understood what a gift being able to walk was. At one point, I thought I was going to die.”
After Passman recovered from the surgeries, before discharge, he required physical, occupational, and speech therapies to work on his mobility, transferring in and out of bed, eating and dressing on his own, and using the bathroom.
“When we first saw David, he was extremely deconditioned,” said Baltany Michel, an occupational therapist at Jackson North. “He had poor activity tolerance, and required major assistance for everything. He was really down in the dumps.”
When Passman began his inpatient occupational therapy, his goal was to perform day-to-day activities independently. With physical therapy, Passman also focused on slowly putting weight on his left leg while gaining as much mobility as possible.
“We focused on making sure that David gained his strength back to do everything he was doing before independently – he wanted to be able to leave his house alone, go to the bathroom to complete bathing, brush his teeth, get dressed, and grab something to eat,” Michel said. “His goals centered on all the things we typically take for granted.”
By the time he was discharged in March 2023, Passman went from not being able to move, to walking 150 feet without help. He only required a rolling walker with some supervision. He also reached his goal of performing daily tasks on his own.
“He did great the entire time he was with us,” Michel said. “When we did his home evaluation, David was nervous, but when he got home, he saw that it was doable. It gave him another jumpstart to keep pushing.”
Passman credits rehabilitation therapy at Jackson North, along with participating in the hospital’s Coping with Change patient support group and working with Harmony, Jackson’s facility assistance dog, for significantly aiding in his recovery.
Today, Passman has gained all mobility back, and the abscess on his leg has completely healed. He recently celebrated the birth of his first grandson, Banks Wilder Stanimirovic, in December 2023.
He is eternally grateful to the teams at Jackson North for not only saving his life, but for pushing him to be his best.
“Jackson North is truly made up of amazing, caring, and loving people,” Passman said.
“They nurtured me and kept me from freaking out. They saved my life.”