Patient Stories

Years-long mystery illness comes to light

David Ray

David Ray’s remarkable journey

David Ray’s life changed the day the dog bit him.

“It was Christmas Eve. I was playing with my brother’s dog, and I unthinkingly put my hand in his mouth. He bit down, and it was a bad bite,” says Ray.

Ray cleaned up the wound and didn’t think much of it. Weeks later, it began to swell until his finger was nearly unusable. An x-ray revealed it was full of fluid, and Ray was put on a heavy course of antibiotics that lasted months. The infection cleared up, and again he thought he was fine.

“I was fine for six or seven months. Then my whole body shut down.”

Ray suffered strep throat, double ear infections and conjunctivitis. He experienced brain fog. His physical appearance began to change as his face swelled beneath his eyes and mouth.

“I didn’t feel right. I didn’t look right. I was not acting myself.”

Plagued with a range of physical and neurological symptoms, Ray sought medical help. To his dismay, his doctor did not believe anything was wrong, attributing his symptoms to the course of antibiotics he had finished months before.

“I know my own body, and I knew something was not right,” says Ray. “I began to advocate for myself in the medical system, searching for a doctor who could tell me what was wrong.”

Ray’s journey of self-advocacy was a long one. For four years, he saw doctor after doctor, and received numerous misdiagnoses. He even tried private clinics and consulted with physicians from the United States. Ray suspected he might have a parasite, but few of the medical professionals he saw agreed with him.

“So many doctors just did not listen,” says Ray. “I was emotionally spent.”

Then, Ray met parasitic disease expert Dr. Momar Ndao and the team at the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) Tropical Disease Clinic.

“The first conversation we had, we talked in general about parasites. He told me all about this studies and his home country, Senegal. He spoke about his mother, who passed away of river blindness. We immediately built rapport through talking about parasites.”

After meeting Dr. Ndao, Ray knew he was in good hands, and that he would finally receive the help he had been desperately seeking. With the help of Dr. Ndao and colleagues Dr. Sapha Barkadi, Dr. Salim Rashed and Dr. Donald Vinh, Ray received the tests that confirmed what he has suspected all along: he had a parasitic infection.

Ray was elated. Not only did he have a diagnosis and could now receive treatment, but someone had believed him. His years of advocating for his own health finally led to answers, and he knew he had been right to listen to his body.

“What struck me about Dr. Ndao was his passion,” says Ray. “He spoke to me like I was a human being, and he truly listened when I spoke.”

Today, David Ray is on the mend. Though he continues to undergo treatment, he ha a positive outlook on life that was long absent.

“I am confident that the end of this story will be a positive one,” he says.

Throughout his illness, Ray could not work. Now, he is ready to reinvent himself and find a way to care for others the way his MUHC doctors are caring for him. His first project is about giving back to the team at the Tropical Disease Clinic. Ray is launching a personal fundraising campaign through the MUHC Foundation to help purchase equipment and fund research that will ensure no one else goes through what he did.

“This could happen to anyone,” says Ray. “Most general practitioners are not aware of and do not test for parasitic diseases. I met a team of doctors who listened to me. I want to do whatever I can to help Dr. Ndao and his team to raise money to continue helping people.”

Grateful for his diagnosis and ongoing care, Ray is raising $80,000 to support Dr. Ndao’s work.

“I want to thank Dr. Ndao, Dr. Barkadi, Dr. Rashed, Dr. Vinh, and Nadia, the receptionist, for their wonderful care,” says Ray. “What better way than to help them help more people?”

Dr. Momar Ndao is a world-renowned parasitic disease expert. Originally from Senegal, he became passionate about helping those afflicted by parasitic diseases after his mother died of river blindness. Today, in his lab at the MUHC, he diagnoses patients from around the world. Like David Ray, many are desperately seeking answers for their unexplained illness.

David Ray’s fundraising efforts will help Dr. Ndao purchase state-of-the-art equipment that will assist him with diagnosis and patient care, as well as help him conduct research on parasitic diseases from Lyme to Chagas to toxoplasmosis.

 Support David Ray in his efforts to raise funds for the important work of Dr. Momar Ndao.

 

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Let’s do this, Montreal—we’re more than halfway through Giving Tuesday and we need every one of you to help us reach our $70,000 goal. 🙌 Support Dr. Gilbert, Joanne, Lawrie and the entire The DOVEE Project's Giving Tuesday dream of stopping ovarian and endometrial cancers. Combined, more than 3,000 Canadian women die each year from these cancers—but it doesn’t have to be this way. Let’s stop these deadly killers, once and for all.

✨ Donate now: bit.ly/3nREEEz

Plus de 3 000 Canadiennes succombent chaque année à ces deux cancers, mais nous pouvons les sauver. Arrêtons ces tueurs silencieux, une fois pour toutes.

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À l’occasion de « Mardi je donne », votre contribution sera égalée jusqu’à concurrence de 50 000 $ grâce à la générosité d’un grand donateur anonyme! La Dre Gilbert et ses collègues Centre universitaire de santé McGill - McGill University Health Centre ont mis au point un test sécuritaire et moins invasif qui permet de dépister les cancers de l’ovaire et de l’endomètre de façon plus précoce que jamais auparavant.

✨ Faites un don: bit.ly/38UHcgN
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It's Giving Tuesday, and your donation today will be doubled up to $50,000 thanks to a generous anonymous donor. Dr. Gilbert and her colleagues @ The DOVEE Project have developed a test that offers a safe, less invasive way to detect ovarian and endometrial cancers earlier than ever before. The answer for moving this test into clinical implementation? Generous Giving Tuesday supporters like you. ❤️

✨ Donate now: bit.ly/2UEAgvY

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Demain, c’est la journée « Mardi je donne ». Voici un message important de Lawrie Shahbazian, une coordonnatrice du projet DOvEEgene The DOVEE Project

« Les femmes qui reçoivent un diagnostic de cancer de l’ovaire ou de l’endomètre se posent souvent cette question : ‘ J’ai pris soin de ma santé. J’ai passé les examens, les tests Pap et les mammographies. Qu’est-ce que j’aurais pu faire de plus?’ La réponse, c’est DOvEEgene. Notre test minimalement invasif fonctionne, ici et maintenant. Nous en sommes à la dernière étape de notre marathon, le passage aux essais cliniques de stade trois. En tant que jeune femme, je compte bien voir les résultats et les bienfaits de notre travail acharné de mon vivant. Avec votre aide, nous sauverons des vies.”

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Ahead of #GivingTuesday tomorrow, we’re sharing an important message Lawrie Shahbazian, a project coordinator The DOVEE Project :

“The question women diagnosed with ovarian or endometrial cancer often ask is: 'I took care of my health. I did my screenings, my pap tests, and my mammograms. What else could I have done?' DOvEEgene is the answer. Our minimally invasive test will work here and now. This is the last leg of our marathon, getting it to a stage three clinical trial. As a young woman, I plan to see the results and benefits of all this hard work in my lifetime. We will save lives.” 🙌❤️

Help make the DOvEEgene test the standard of care.
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On this week’s Health Matters: It’s dubbed the silent killer, learn how Dr. Lucy Gilbert, the Centre universitaire de santé McGill - McGill University Health Centre’s Director of the Gynecologic Oncology Division, is working to eliminate ovarian and endometrial cancers through early detection with the The DOVEE Project. Plus, Joanne Photiades, an ovarian cancer survivor, shares her personal mission to ensure every woman has the chance to be diagnosed early enough to survive the disease. Learn more about how you can help this #GivingTuesday: bit.ly/3nTjtl9

You can listen to the full episode on our website, Spotify, and Apple! 🎧
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