At only 5 years old, Baldwin Park resident Patricia Raval knew she wanted to be head nurse when she grew up.
However, it wasn’t until she took an aptitude test in college that she decided to take official steps toward her lifelong dream.
Raval has been in the medical field for more than 20 years. She served as a registered nurse and as a physician assistant and has cared for patients in intensive care units, with specialties in Medical ICU, Surgical/Trauma ICU and Neuro ICU. The bulk of her career has been in Cardiac Surgery ICU, working with patients on life support, mechanical support and transplants.
Her passion is caring for patients and their families — putting all the pieces of the health care puzzle together to arrive at the best outcome.
“When you’re going through a health care crisis, you remember every moment,” she says of her patients. “It’s humbling to sit back and realize that you’re making a difference in someone’s life that they’re going to remember forever. That’s a tall order, but when you’re in that crisis you’re scared, you’re vulnerable, and you’re looking for health and safety and reassurance. I want to provide that.”
To that end, Raval started her business, One Life Healthcare Advocates, in June. One Life is a private, independent patient health care advocacy company that assists patients and their families facing hospitalization and/or treatment for complex medical diagnoses.
The company provides education on medical diagnosis and available options; supports patients through meetings with medical teams, office visits and hospitalizations; demystifies medical reports and treatment plans; utilizes medical contacts and resources throughout the country; creates clear strategies to address medical conditions and desires; and helps patients to avoid costly mistakes to ensure they have the best possible care available.
When explaining the concept to new patients, Raval says just as one wouldn’t enter a courtroom without a lawyer, one shouldn’t have to face the medical world alone.
“As your advocate, our mission is to ensure that your wants, needs and rights are clearly communicated to your treatment team, that you fully understand your treatment options and possible outcomes, and that no stone is left unturned in finding the best care available to you,” Raval says. “Patient advocacy does not require a medical background or training. Representing yourself in court does not require a law degree, but it’s not advisable. Wouldn’t you feel more comfortable knowing that your advocate has the training, experience and expertise to help you in any situation?”
Raval was diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2020 and underwent a bilateral mastectomy.
The diagnosis was an enlightening moment in her life.
Raval remembers being in the hospital from 4 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. for 16 to 20 days a month. Her kids were young, so she couldn’t see them, and if she was home, she was sleeping, because she was exhausted. She knew she needed to make a change and prioritize her life and her family’s life.
She resigned from her position at AdventHealth. Almost immediately after, her aunt was diagnosed with mesothelioma, an aggressive and deadly form of cancer, in March 2021.
Her aunt, who was in Alabama, was told she would have to have chemo for the rest of her life and she wasn’t a surgical candidate.
Raval brought her aunt to Orlando to see a mesothelioma expert. The aunt underwent three months of chemo and had surgery. A year later, she was cancer free.
In that same year, Raval also intervened when her cousin, who had been dealing with ovarian cancer for 18 months, needed an advocate. Doctors insisted she was cancer free, but her cousin had gained about 10 pounds of fluid in her abdomen in just three days. Raval recommended her cousin go to the ER, where doctors discovered a 10-and-one-half-centimeter mass.
Raval was confused. After all, doctors had told her cousin she was cancer free.
“It was horrible,” she says. “She had cancer everywhere. Her chemo was delayed by nine months from her original diagnosis for reasons that are unclear. She had surgery … and believed she was cancer free when she wasn’t, and they didn’t do a second round of chemo.”
Raval scheduled a Zoom meeting with an oncologist in Orlando for her cousin, who then traveled to Orlando for a third round of chemo. But it was too late. She died last August.
“I look at what happened to her, and I’m like, ‘How do patients navigate their health care?’” Raval says. “People don’t know what they don’t know.”
After these experiences, Raval completed a three-month course at The Bridge Healthcare Advocates and then launched her business
Raval fought in the corner of one of her longtime patients and friends Rick Stone and his wife, Dyan Bram.
The couple met Raval in January 2019, when Stone was airlifted to AdventHealth after a massive heart attack. After a series of cardiac events, Stone was left with no other option other than a heart transplant and was given almost no chance of survival.
Throughout his journey, Stone was shocked back into arrhythmia more than 150 times, suffered from multiple comas, went into cardiac arrest and had three different life support machines break on him.
He says Raval was the only constant for him and his wife.
“She fought like she was fighting for her own life,” Stone says. “When she wasn’t with me, she was with Dyan. What she did for us … I would never be here if it wasn’t for her. She fought for me. When you’re in a place that’s so dark … where everyone’s telling you that you’re going to die … I asked her to let me die a couple of times, and she and Dyan wouldn’t do it.”
Stone asked Raval why she had been with him so much when she had multiple patients.
Her answer: “Because I knew you weren’t going to quit, and I wasn’t going to quit if you weren’t.”