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William Lautzenheiser speaking at Schwartz Center Educational Rounds in Worcester, MA.

Will to Live: William Lautzenheiser, Sepsis Survivor, Speaks at Schwartz Center Educational Rounds

  • When William Lautzenheiser first experienced a sharp pain in his leg, he attributed the discomfort to a muscle strain. His self-diagnosis, however, was wrong — just weeks later, he would find himself in the intensive care unit (ICU) of a Montana hospital, partially comatose and fighting for his life.

    At the Worcester and Manchester campuses’ inaugural Schwartz Center Educational Rounds, Will told a captivated audience of his experience battling the seemingly sudden onset of a group A Staphylococcus infection coupled with sepsis, a condition that ultimately led to the amputation of both his arms and legs.

    Following Will’s surgeries, he made incredible progress both physically and psychologically. Through countless hours of therapies, humor, and the support of his friends, family, and healthcare team, Will grew stronger and eventually became eligible to receive a rare double-arm transplant procedure. The surgery was successful, a feat that Will attributes in part to the expertise of his collaborative medical team.

    “You see me, but what you don’t see is the support I had from my surgeons, my nurses, my friends, and family,” said Will. “The folks that tried to help me find my ‘new normal’ were so important.”

    Will’s story is a testament to the importance of collaborative practice in healthcare. The nurses who hung motivational posters by his hospital bed were just as instrumental in his recovery as the occupational and physical therapists who helped him learn to navigate the world in a wheelchair. The surgeons who completed Will’s double-arm transplant could not have succeeded without the post-operative assistance of pharmacists. And his mental and emotional wellbeing was monitored and maintained with the help of psychologists and social workers.

    “When people talk about medical miracles, they often neglect to mention the work involved,” says Will. “It involves a team.”

    Will’s personal belief in the power of the healthcare team aligns with MCPHS’s commitment to empowering students to take on interprofessional endeavors that expand their knowledge— which, as a university specializing in the health sciences, it’s uniquely positioned to do.

    This year, MCPHS celebrated 10 years of hosting Schwartz Center Educational Rounds on the Boston campus. And, with the addition of the involvement of both the Worcester and Manchester campuses, will continue so that stories like Will’s can educate the next generation of healthcare leaders on what it means to be a collaborative practitioner working to create and sustain cultures of compassion.