Cook: Hospital was good for what ailed her

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 1, 2011

Betty Fleming had to tell me her story. She couldnít hold it in.
She and husband Jimmy were headed south on Interstate 85 the Thursday before last, traveling from their home in Creedmoor to visit their granddaughter in Rock Hill, S.C.
Betty, 61, had recently been sick with her chronic asthma, but she thought she was well enough for the trip.
As the Flemings traveled late that morning, Betty began to feel sick again. And then sicker. And told her husband she was in trouble.
ěIf you donít pull over, youíre going to lose me,î she recalls telling him.
ěI saw the angels.î
And heavenly help was on the way, in Bettyís opinion.
ěThe Lord just popped up a sign: Rowan Regional.î

Jimmy was afraid Betty wouldnít make it. As soon as he got off the highway, he pulled into a service station. Betty doesnít remember which exit or station.
ěThe lady at the service station called 911,î Betty says.
Betty was so short of breath she could barely answer the first respondersí questions.
The last thing she remembers of that day is being in the back of an ambulance with a guy who said, ěWeíre going to go over a few bumps….î

ěI remember waking up in ICU in critical condition on a ventilator. … It was late Friday afternoon when I knew where I was.î
Sounds like a scary situation, but Betty has only good things to say about Rowan Regional Medical Center ó and she has experience with hospitals and doctors. With asthma, diabetes, and Parkinsonís, she has spent more than her share of time in hospitals.
Sometimes she gets the feeling sheís a troublesome patient, she says. But the people at Rowan Regional made her feel like a special person in a special place.
ěThe employees work so well together, I did not hear one cross word.
ěI said if I had to die and go to heaven, that was the place to be.î

Betty praises everyone from the woman at the gas station to the nurses, physicians and case manager at the hospital.
Character and caring ó thatís what Betty says she experienced in Salisbury.
ěThey not only looked after me, but looked after my husband, too.î Jimmy stayed by her side throughout her stay which ran from Thursday to Monday.
She rattles off names of the people who touched her life that long weekend ó Dr. Wenn, Dr. Li, Krista, Jessie, Connie, Michelle, Judi, John. I hope Iím not leaving anyone out.
She even got to meet a person she thought was the ěhead guy,î Rick Parker, actually senior director of professional and support services. That made her feel important.
The hospitalís head guy is a woman, Dari Caldwell. The care Betty received is the kind Caldwell preaches to her staff every day ó remarkable.

ěThereís no doubt I would not be here today,î Betty says, without the care of Rowan Regionalís staff.
She picked up a copy of the Post at the hospital. She says she canít send bouquets of flowers to every person who helped her, ěbut I have a very big mouth.î
So she called the Post as soon as she got home from the hospital and asked that I please share her story.
She had heard that we would not print a letter to the editor about the hospital, and thatís partially right. Through the years, we have occasionally received letters from patients who had a beef with the hospital. Every business has its unhappy customers, so we decline to publish letters like that. Thatís between them and the hospital. We do the same with other businesses.
Likewise, when people write to praise the hospital or some other business, we steer away from publishing those too, in general.
That has caused some heartburn at Rowan Regional, and I can understand why. Iíd be interested in hearing your opinion. Is the hospital different from other businesses when it comes to letters to the editor? If you were editor, would you publish letters about peopleís hospital experiences, positive and negative ó or only the positive ones?

Betty had a story to tell ó as much about herself as about the hospital.
She may have been too sick to try to go to Rock Hill that Thursday, but she and Jimmy wanted to see their granddaughter so much.
Their only child, John, died in 2007 when his pickup wrecked on a rain-slick road in Charlotte. He was 35.
ěThey say the Lord has a reason for it all,î Betty says. ěSo far I havenít found the reason.î
But she finds inspiration in many places, and not just the hospital. John left behind a wife and a 22-month-old daughter ó Jessica, now almost 6 and truly the light of Bettyís and Jimmyís lives. ěShe keeps me going,î Betty says.
Johnís wife remarried and moved to Rock Hill. The Flemings jump at any invitation to visit and see Jessica.
So, Lord willing, theyíll be passing through Salisbury again some day. If they go to Rowan Regional again, letís hope itís just to say hi.

Elizabeth Cook is editor of the Salisbury Post.