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Epilogue | Elizabeth Quick-Koscho

Cancer couldn't sap Dr. Elizabeth Quick-Koscho's dedication

ST. PETERSBURG — Andrew Koscho's mother had been sick from breast cancer most of his young life.

Dr. Elizabeth Quick-Koscho was diagnosed with the disease in 2006. She was often in and out of hospitals. Andrew, 4, sometimes climbed into her hospital bed to snuggle.

On Thursday, Andrew crawled into her bed one last time. The boy kissed his mother and held her hand.

Then he told his father: "Mommy's not sick anymore."

On Sunday, more than 300 people attended a viewing at Brett Funeral Home for Dr. Quick-Koscho, 38. They included many of her former patients at the Johnnie Ruth Clarke Community Health Center, where she had created a program for diabetes awareness.

"(Patients) loved her," said Marty Folsom, a nurse practitioner at the center. "She was their doctor." Some gratefully reported recovering from diabetes they never knew they had until they met Dr. Quick-Koscho.

Four years ago, she was working at Blake Medical Center in Bradenton, a 383-bed hospital. The job paid well and put the former magna cum laude biology student and East Carolina University medical school graduate on a path to success.

But Dr. Quick-Koscho missed the bustle of Bayfront Medical Center, where she had done her residency.

She also missed Bayfront's clients, many of whom did not have insurance. She took a job — and a pay cut — to work at the Johnnie Ruth Clarke center on 22nd Street S.

"With less money, she was way happier, and we did a lot more things because she was not so stressed," said her husband, Chris Koscho, 40.

Patients knew Dr. Quick-Koscho as kind but firm, colleagues say. Patients demanding pain medication had to convince her first. "She was like a strict parent," her husband said.

But patients knew they could approach her any time, even at a local restaurant where she sometimes ran into patients.

Other than entering information into a computer (she was famously cyber-challenged), the health center job seemed suited to Dr. Quick-Koscho, who from the age of 4 had said she wanted to be a doctor.

She grew up in Mars Hill, N.C., the daughter of a biology professor. After school, she hung out in the laboratory at Mars Hill College, where she looked into microscopes and dissected frogs, said her father, Frank Quick.

At Johnnie Ruth Clarke, she started a program aimed at getting diabetics diagnosed and treated. The disease often strikes African-American populations hard. Black deaths due to diabetes are consistently higher per 100,000 residents in Pinellas County than the rest of the state, according to the state's Department of Health.

She practiced what she preached, running and going in for regular checkups. But even those habits weren't enough to prevent breast cancer diagnosed in 2006.

She lost both breasts in an attempt to stop the spread of the disease. In 2008, she gave birth to a second child, Aidan, despite health risks to herself.

She kept the mood light at work, and hid the extent of her illness from colleagues as long as possible.

As her strength failed, Dr. Quick-Koscho continued working until two weeks ago. "She was in severe pain, but she wanted to come to work," said Dr. Julie Cheek-Weiland, medical director of Community Health Centers of Pinellas, which owns the Johnnie Ruth Clarke center.

One challenge eluded Dr. Quick-Koscho: getting tickets to U2. She had been trying online for seven years, but always found herself shut out moments after the seats became available.

Her husband, who finally got some help from TicketMaster, pushed Dr. Quick-Koscho in a wheelchair to her seat for the Oct. 9 U2 concert at Raymond James Stadium. To beat the crowd, he had to talk her into leaving during the encore, With or Without You.

Six days later, Dr. Quick-Koscho was lying in her upstairs bedroom surrounded by family members. Her husband knew the end was near.

"You can go, honey," he told her. "You need to stop fighting now."

Koscho wanted to let 4-year-old Andrew into the bedroom to be with his mother in her final moments. He called a social worker and asked if he should. The social worker told him to go with his gut.

He let the boy in.

>>Biography

Dr. Elizabeth Tyler Quick-Koscho

Born: April 6, 1971.

Died: Oct. 15, 2009.

Survivors: Husband, Christopher; sons, Andrew and Aidan; father, Frank Quick, and his wife, Betty; mother Janet Quick; and two aunts.

Cancer couldn't sap Dr. Elizabeth Quick-Koscho's dedication 10/19/09 [Last modified: Monday, October 19, 2009 11:11pm]
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