To the editor:
On Tuesday morning, Jan. 15, I had a stroke. I live in Bristol and am very fortunate to be located only five or six minutes away from our local hospital, the Miles Campus of LincolnHealth (formerly Miles Memorial).
On arrival at the ER, I was immediately rushed through the halls to get a CAT scan and then wheeled back to find my bed facing a full-size screen. The nurse explained that a doctor from Maine Med would come on the screen and talk with me to explain the “clot-busting” procedure called tPA (or recombinant tissue plasminogen activator) they recommended to attempt to dissolve the clot in my brain.
My ability to speak had been compromised and the ER nursing staff and doctor were warm, supportive, and patient with my difficulty communicating, yet respectful of me as the patient. They wanted me to know that there are substantial risks with this treatment, and although time was of the essence, they worked hard to communicate with me so I could be fully informed, ask questions, and make my decision.
I chose the treatment and both the nurse and doctor who stayed with me were highly focused, yet calm and present. As the treatment continued, my nurse (Nurse P.) explained that when this tPA treatment was completed, they would transport me to Maine Med in an ambulance. I had come to feel quite connected and trusting of Nurse P. and was very touched when she chose to stay with me for the ambulance ride, though she was due to go off shift. By the time the ambulance drove into Portland, I turned to her to say something and joyfully realized I had fully regained my ability to speak.
I am a truly lucky person to be located near a small, local hospital with emergency treatment available to me. Had I been forced to wait until after the long ambulance ride for the tPA treatment, I may well not have recovered.
We not only need the best doctors and the best technology for our health care, we need geographic availability of that care. As I read about so many of our small, local hospitals in Maine and across the country closing because of financial issues, I feel saddened about our priorities and values as a society.
I feel deeply grateful that I happen to live in an area which still has a local hospital and I want to specifically thank Nurse P. and Dr. S. for saving, if not my life, my quality of life. I urge our elected officials to look at ways to save and reopen small, local hospitals.
Jody Telfair-Richards, Ph.D.