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St. Luke’s CEO: Heartfelt Thanks for my Wife’s Care

By Dr. David C. Pate, News and Community
July 7, 2015

I have often said that we must build the healthcare system we want for our own care and that of our friends and family, because sooner or later, if not already, chances are we will need our services.

My family and I have received services in the past from St. Luke’s Boise, St. Luke’s Meridian, St. Luke’s Magic Valley, and St. Luke’s McCall, and each time we have had a superior patient experience.

Our experience last month was exceptional. My wife was having significant surgery, surgery that she kept trying to talk herself out of due to the fact that there were no guarantees that the two surgeries to be performed concurrently would fix the two separate problems that predisposed her to falls and accounted for past traumatic brain injuries, nor that she would avoid potentially serious complications.

Many a late night we had talked of her concerns about proceeding with surgery, and each time, I talked her into moving forward. At the same time, I wondered to myself, “What if the surgery doesn’t work? What if she develops a complication, or worse? Will I blame myself for convincing her to proceed with the surgery?”

Lynette is a registered nurse, and knew the risks she was taking. This September, we will have been married 35 years. I married my best friend and someone with whom I have always been able to have open, frank discussions about anything.

Many times, we have discussed our own wishes in various situations that we have seen play out in real life. We knew the importance of having these discussions with each other, and we had done that, but neither one of us had completed our advanced directives. We sat down and filled them out together, bringing the additional clarity to our wishes that results from putting them down in writing.

The visits to the neurosurgeon and the neurologist were over. Our many questions were answered. The numerous tests that had to be completed pre-op were done. The surgery was scheduled.

It was the same week that St. Luke’s Boise and Meridian were undergoing their Magnet® site visit and Lynette’s surgery was to be at St. Luke’s Boise. I remember sharing the video about Magnet® and St. Luke’s nurses with my wife, and pointing out that there are no better nurses than St. Luke’s nurses. With great pride, I told her about Project Zero and the great work that has been done to reduce post-operative infections.

The day of surgery finally came. To minimize my own anxiety, I convinced myself of the great opportunity to see how the hospital runs from the perspective of a patient’s family member and I focused on observing – observing everything: Did the physician/nurse/technician wash their hands? Did they use AIDET (our communication framework of acknowledging the patient, introducing ourselves, talking about the duration and explaining procedures, and thanking the patient for the chance to help them)? Did they always check for two identifiers? Were they kind and caring? Did they explain things well? Did they always place safety first? Were they professional? Did they model St. Luke’s values?

Many, many people were involved in Lynette’s care – from pre-op (Indira) to anesthesia (Nelson and Dr. Louis Voulelis) to 9 East (Roman, Kyndall, Marissa, Mark, Megan, Katie, Hannah) to case management (Chantell), PT (Julie and Sally), OT (Margo), and pastoral care (Kari, Karla, and Alex) – and I am pleased to say that everyone was great. I am certain that I have missed a few people.

The other group of people I know I missed, because I never met them, were all those in surgery. We don’t get to observe their skills and expertise and we don’t get to personally thank them, but they did critically important work caring for my wife. Thank you! And a special thanks to Dr. Thomas Manning, the surgeon.

On the third day following surgery, Lynette was able to be discharged. It was wonderful to be home, but I soon realized just how hard it is on family members when their loved one gets home from the hospital.  I have a new appreciation for how difficult it is to keep track of and current with all the medications. I had to admit to Lynette that I made a medication error and missed one of her doses of antibiotic.

Two days later, Lynette developed pain in the left side of her chest, shoulder, back, and neck pain, diaphoresis (sweating), and tachycardia (fast heart rate). I was scared. I thought she might be having a heart attack, or a blood clot to the lungs.

We were soon back at the hospital, now in the emergency room. I don’t remember all the names, other than Dr. Jaime Martin, but they were all working together, quickly and efficiently.

That was something that I observed over and over again, in the ER as well as during our stay – people worked together well. It was very reassuring, and pretty soon initial tests were coming back, also reassuring. But given her risk factors, Dr. Nathan Green admitted her for monitoring and further testing, and I had the opportunity to observe another unit of the hospital: 3 Tele.

Again, we had the same great experience. Many thanks to Camey, Azemina, Stephanie, Melanie, Jaggar, and Micah, and RT Doug. The next day, after a cardiac stress test, we got the green light from Dr. Murali Bathina. Dr. Manning returned to reevaluate Lynette and to make sure there was no complication from the surgery. We returned home and Lynette has made significant improvement each day.

We are so grateful for the outstanding care Lynette received. It is wonderful to have the incredible professionals and facilities that we have here at St. Luke’s. And, our Magnet excellence showed – Lynette was very impressed that each nurse went to lengths to teach her every time they came into the room.

Another thing struck us: diversity. I was truly impressed with the diversity we saw in the staff and caregivers involved in Lynette’s care. It was wonderful, and made our experience even better.

Before I conclude, I must go back to the beginning. One of the greatest debts of gratitude we owe is to Dr. Nancy Greenwald of Idaho Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Lynette previously had fallen several times and had a traumatic brain injury as the result. How fortunate are we that St. Luke’s has a concussion program and St. Luke’s Rehab (formerly Elks) has a brain injury program.

We didn’t know why Lynette was falling, and while no one else picked up on it (including me), Dr. Greenwald noticed something was not right about Lynette’s gait. This key observation led to the testing that identified the problems contributing to her falls. And though it is a bit early to tell for sure, it appears that her gait and the associated problems are already better.

Throughout this experience, I have never been prouder of St. Luke’s and to be a part of supporting outstanding care for our communities. What we do does make a difference. It is worthwhile work, and we excel at what we do: caring for patients.

Thank you to everyone at St. Luke’s for all you do, each and every day.

About The Author

David C. Pate, M.D., J.D., is president and CEO of St. Luke's Health System, based in Boise, Idaho. Dr. Pate joined the System in 2009. He received his medical degree from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and his law degree from the University of Houston Law Center.