It started with a sore throat. In 2000, Mr. Joe Ryzhik, then 23-years-old, had strep throat. Easy solution: take antibiotics for 10 days and bang, you’re as good as new! But Joe developed a rare kidney disorder and both of his kidneys failed.

This was just the start of a dizzying array of serious, even critical, medical ailments. Over the last 16 years, Joe has been in four life-or-death situations. He has endured years of dialysis, two kidney transplants and open-heart surgery. He also beat a life-threatening case of pneumonia that left him in a coma for two and a half months. Oh, and he swallows about 48 pills a day.


Because of his cornucopia of health problems, whenever Joe runs a fever, he headed right to the emergency department. That is until a chance encounter changed his life.

One day in 2014, he was in the ER with a mild case of pneumonia and the specialist on-call was Dr. Kevin Schwartzman, Director of the McGill Respiratory Division and head of the Montreal Chest Institute (MCI) of the MUHC.

Dr. Schwartzman recognized that an ER was no place for a patient prone to lung infections. He immediately took over the management of Joe’s lung problems. Now instead of going to the ER, whenever he spikes a fever, Joe goes to the drop-in clinic at the MCI.


Dr. Schwartzman helps monitor Joe’s overall health and then confers with his cardiologist and nephrologist, keeping everyone in the loop and trying to balance treatment for his different conditions. In particular, transplant patients like Joe require complex medications to prevent rejection of their new organs: in Joe’s case, his kidney. He benefits from having all his specialists together at the new MUHC Glen site.

Today, Joe isn’t 100 percent, but thanks to Dr. Schwartzman, he has renewed confidence in his health care team and knows they are actively looking for solutions and better treatment options.

“It is a relief to know Dr. Schwartzman is staying on top of everything,” says Joe. “There is nothing similar to the MCI in my experience. The staff is super friendly. They know me and understand all of my health issues. They have easy access to my medical files and my prescriptions. It feels like home when I go there. I truly appreciate everything they have done for me.”