We owe much to a Greene County gem
Kathy and I last week experienced one of Greene County’s gems once again.
The gem is the Greene County Medical Center (GCMC).
For about two years Kathy has been having difficulty with her left Achilles tendon. That’s the tendon that connects the heel to the calf muscles. Kathy’s particular problem was a growing bone spur where the tendon connected to her heel. The development of the spur put pressure on the nerves in that area, causing her pain that she couldn’t shake off.
Wednesday morning, June 26, the tendon snapped off her heel, taking bits of the bone spur with it. The pain was sharp and immediate, and we went to the clinic at GCMC to discuss it with a professional.
The professional, a nurse practitioner, confirmed in Kathy’s records that she had been seeing a podiatrist on the GCMC staff about her Achilles tendon, and contacted the podiatrist, who was at the medical center. He came right over to the clinic, visited with Kathy about what she could expect, and recommended a course of action.
His recommendation was the reattachment of the tendon to the heel through surgery. The bone spur would first be shaved down, then the tendon, which had sprung upward like a broken rubber band after it snapped off the heel, would be restretched down into place and anchored back into the heel.
It would take at least two weeks for the surgical wound and the tendon reattachment to heal enough for Kathy to put weight on her foot once again, so she would be “non-weight-bearing” for that period.
Then she would start wearing an orthopedic boot which would allow her to carefully walk once again. She would wear the boot for several more weeks, perhaps eight or ten, and would undergo physical therapy to strengthen her calf and ankle muscles, which would have weakened during the non-weight-bearing period.
It’s the standard procedure for a torn Achilles tendon, and it’s routine. But if you’re the recipient, it’s definitely not part of your routine.
A complication for us was that a week following the tear, we were to go to the family reunion in Lamoni about which I wrote two weeks ago. Then we were scheduled to head north to the Duluth and Lake Superior North Shore area with my cousin and her husband, about which I wrote last week.
The podiatrist decided it would be OK for Kathy to follow that schedule if she wore the aforementioned orthopedic boot and took care of herself. Then when we returned to Jefferson he would perform the operation on Wednesday, July 17.
We did, and he did.
It’s the care provided by all the GCMC staff members who had a part in the affair that I’m writing this column about.
The surgeon, the nurse anesthetist, the primary care nurses, the dietary staff, the housekeepers, the admitting personnel, and everyone else involved – we couldn’t have been more pleased and grateful for the care and concern they provided at all times.
A few examples:
— Kathy’s nurse anesthetist came to check on her eight or nine times in her hospital room during the 30 hours following her surgery.
— Her surgical nurse anticipated her every need, and found answers for Kathy’s questions if she didn’t immediately know them. Kathy had known her since the nurse was in high school. The other nurses were equally outstanding, Kathy says.
— The personable housekeeping staff always respected Kathy’s privacy and recovery needs, asking when cleaning would be convenient for her. The room was immaculate.
— The dietary personnel accommodated her meal wishes to a T. She was somewhat “off her feed” because of the surgery and the anesthetic medication, and the dietary folks provided what she wanted, like chicken noodle soup and watermelon, even if those items weren’t on the menu.
— The podiatrist surgeon put Kathy at ease immediately with his professional knowledge, his compassion, and his sense of humor. His reassuring manner went a long way toward putting her at ease through the whole event.
— And everyone was friendly. No frowns, no short responses, no ignoring.
Kathy retired from GCMC in 2008 after 21 years as a medical social worker there. She knew some of the staff who cared for her during her stay last week, and was not familiar with others. But there was no difference in care or attitude between the “friends” and the “strangers” – everyone was uniformly attentive.
Rural hospitals, especially those in states with older populations, like Iowa, don’t have an easy time these days because they rely so heavily on Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement. Much has been written about the relatively low level of that reimbursement to rural providers.
And Iowa’s shift from state-managed Medicaid to private managed-care companies, as health care providers know all too well, makes it even more difficult to keep the doors open for rural hospitals in the state.
On several occasions in the past 20-plus years I’ve had to rely on Greene County Medical Center to restore me to health: a fall off my roof, hernia repair, recovery from a hip replacement, cardiac rehabilitation, various therapies.
Never was I disappointed in my treatment at GCMC. Kathy and I are both enormously grateful to the staff for their care over the years for both of us.
We join everyone else in the Greene County area who relies on GCMC for health care. And we urge lawmakers and administrators at both the federal and state levels to care equally as much about the financial health of rural hospitals like Greene County Medical Center.