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Dale Long, DO, St. Mary's Hospital, Centralia, IL
2015 SSM Leadership Conference
Dale Long, DO, St. Mary's Hospital, Centralia, IL
Good morning, and thank you for allowing me to be with you today. I am Dale Long, and I am an Emergency Physician at St. Mary's Hospital in Centralia, Illinois.
I want to start today with a quote from the Bible. Romans Chapter 12, verses 6 and 7 say: “In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. If your gift is serving others, serve them well.”
As health care professionals our mission is to serve others, and we should strive to do exactly that with excellence as our goal. Winston Churchill said, "We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”
Let me tell you a story of a patient who lived his life putting others ahead of himself. EMS arrived at St. Mary’s Hospital with an older gentleman who was confused and had no idea where he was. His blood pressure was low, at a shock level, and he would likely die if we did not figure out what was wrong and turn it around quickly. I asked to speak with the family to inquire about his health history. A lovely younger woman came in, and I asked her about her "DAD"….She looked at me directly and calmly said "He is my husband"….Oops..awkward! (like asking a lady when her baby is due and she answers, "I'm not pregnant!")
Turns out my “older gentleman” had been having belly pain for a few days but ignored the pain until he collapsed after the party he was hosting had ended and guests had gone home. Apparently, he did not want to ruin it for everyone. As for his health history, his wife said that he was very healthy, doesn't know his age and runs around like a kid. Even sick, he was the life of the party, making sure everyone else was happy and having a good time.
Our ER team consisting of me, nurses, lab personnel, radiology and other clinicians, went to work. We literally poured several liters of IV fluid into him, cultured him for infection (sepsis) and gave him strong antibiotics. It turned out this gentleman had an infection in his colon wall that had abscessed. He was in shock and too compromised to have surgery that night, so he was admitted to the hospital for immediate life-saving treatment.
A few weeks later, a cheerful, upbeat fellow came up to me as I walked into work and said, "You don't remember me do you?" But I did recognize him. What a rewarding feeling came over me as I realized "the life of the party was back" and grateful for the care he received.
I’m fortunate enough to care for patients of all ages and sizes. What they all have in common is that someone loves them and wants to keep them healthy. I’m always reminded of the night I helped new parents care for their baby during a very stressful and scary situation. The baby started seizing at home, and his parents scooped him up and drove quickly to the ER while he was still seizing. Our team jumped into action. IV lines were put in and fluids hooked up. Medications were given. Blood and urine testing was done. The baby’s seizure was controlled—much to the relief of his very worried and grateful parents. After 90 minutes we discharged him, and he was back to his cooing, happy self. Our care team took time to talk with parents about the seizure and gave them information about febrile seizures. They left satisfied and eager to head home, a bit more prepared for the unexpected with their new little one.
Then there was the lady with "rocks in her head.” This gal was getting ready for a weekend in Chicago to attend her 30th high school reunion. She was excited and had packed her bags in the car, so she could leave first thing the next morning on Amtrak. She went to bed. When she woke to her alarm, she rolled over to turn it off. Immediately she felt like she was spinning and got extremely nauseated then started vomiting and couldn't stop.
She called 911 and was brought to the ER. What she was experiencing was little rocks (otoliths) that sometimes form in the semicircular canals in your skull base. If they move they tickle the nerves, causing the symptoms she had. I treated her by rolling her in such a way that the "rocks" would get stuck in a place that wouldn't bother her anymore. She was immediately fine. After a bit she left the ER and made her Amtrak ride. She came by the ER later to say she had a great weekend at her reunion and was very happy!
That’s what keeps me inspired to come back to the ER day after day. Here was a patient with a disorder that most have never heard of. She was stressed, nervous and wanted what everyone wants: to know that she was going to be okay. Bringing that comfort to the patients and families I serve is a privilege and the best part of my day. It’s so gratifying to have an opportunity to make a difference for our patients and help them to go home happy and healthy.
I want to leave you with one last thought. Brian Tracy, training and development expert, said: "Excellence is not a destination; it is a continuous journey that never ends.” Let us continue on our journey toward excellence in all things.