Emergency Staff at Rancho Springs Saves Grape Grower's Life
Robert Dykhouse wasn't concerned when he developed a case of indigestion after eating spicy food during a dinner out with his wife and an out-of-town relative in April 2010. But when the then 69-year old Robert woke in the middle of the night with severe chest pain, he knew something was wrong. "I got up in the middle of the night and woke my wife," Robert says. "I told her that we'd better go to the hospital."
With that, he and his wife, Kathleen got in their car, and with Kathleen behind the wheel, drove from their ranch in Fallbrook in North San Diego County to Rancho Springs Medical Center, 20 miles away in Murrieta.
Robert doesn't remember much of the trip. "Kathleen says that I was awake and complaining about how much it hurt, and making suggestions on her driving," he says. As Kathleen pulled off the narrow, rural roads that lead from their home and onto the interstate, Robert's heart stopped beating.
"He fell over onto me," Kathleen recalls. "I never expected that to happen. I had to drive the rest of the way with only my left hand." Driving with her husband's body slumped onto hers, Kathleen missed the exit for the hospital. She made a quick U-turn and pulled up outside the Emergency Department at Rancho Springs Medical Center.
Kathleen ran into the emergency department and told the first person she saw that her husband was in the car. "I told a nurse, who ran out and took his pulse," Kathleen says. "She ran back in and came out with a whole team."
When the emergency team got to the car, they immediately began to use life saving techniques to restart Robert's heart. Then, they took him inside the hospital, where they stabilized his condition.
Support From the Staff
The Dykhouses are appreciative of the support the emergency staff gave Kathleen while Robert was being treated. "The nurses were all very supportive," Kathleen says, "even the nurses that were not on his case." While the emergency team worked, Kathleen waited in the lobby. She tried to call friends and relatives but the battery in her cell phone had gone dead. "The staff at the hospital suggested that I go out and make my calls from the car," Kathleen says. "They said they would watch and come get me if I needed to come in."
A religious couple, Robert and Kathleen were pleased with the way the staff accommodated their faith. "Six members of our Bible study group came to the hospital to pray. The hospital allowed them to come in and pray at my side while the doctors and nurses worked," Robert says. "They showed great sensitivity to our family and friends."
When asked why she decided to drive Robert to the hospital herself instead of calling 911, Kathleen explains that because of their rural location near the U.S. Marine Corp.'s Camp Pendleton, and roads that can be difficult to navigate, it could have taken an ambulance 45 minutes or more to reach them.
Since then, Robert reports, members of the local fire department have received emergency medical technician (EMT) training so that they are able to respond to similar emergencies more quickly.
As a result of her experience, Kathleen recommends that everyone make a trial drive to their nearest hospital, just in case they have a similar emergency. "People should visit their local hospital to learn how to get there and where the emergency department is located," she says.
Today, Robert is recovering nicely on his ranch. Though his heart had stopped for five to 10 minutes, the only residual effect of his ordeal is that, "it triggered rheumatoid arthritis," he says. "But we are dealing with that." He has had stents and a defibrillator implanted in his chest. "I like to say that I have an auto-start," Robert jokes.
He's back to working on his ranch, where he grows grapes and raises hay for cows and horses, using a special blend he developed with the University of California, Davis. "I had planned to raise all-natural beef and was growing my own feed," he explains. Along the way, Robert changed his focus and the primary crop on his ranch has changed to grapes used to make red wines, including cabernets, merlots and zinfandels.
Back to Rancho Springs
Several weeks after his heart attack, Robert and Kathleen took a trip back to Rancho Springs Medical Center. At the hospital, the couple talked with Debbie Clark, the nurse manager in the Emergency Department at Rancho Springs Medical Center. Debbie provided a list of all the people who had worked to save Robert's life. "I had the need to go back to Rancho Springs and meet the people who had saved my life," he says. So after getting the list from Debbie, Robert sat down and wrote to each one. The first to respond was Donivee Randall-Jones, RN, a nurse who had taken care of Robert and helped save his life. After Donivee's call, she helped schedule a time for Robert and Kathleen to return to the hospital and meet everyone who had taken care of him.
"The second time back (at Rancho Springs Medical Center) was more emotional for us," Kathleen explains. "I saw the people but remembered one person whose name was not on the list. But then I saw him there and recognized him, so we were able to include him."
That person was Peter Matz, ED Tech. Both Robert and Kathleen were pleased that he was at the hospital during their visit. Other members of the emergency team that took care of Robert were Thomas Bough, DO, Rebecca Ferguson, RN and Scott Mosher, LVN.
"The staff did a lot of tough work to keep me going," Robert says of the emergency staff at Rancho Springs Medical Center. "They didn't give up on me. They told me that if I was willing to fight, they would fight with me."
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