“Like a bolt of lightning through my head…”
Neurosurgical ICU patient Ken Hood shares his Flight For Life Colorado/St. Anthony Hospital experience
Garden of the Gods. Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. Seven Falls.
Ken Hood and wife Judy.
Ken and Judy Hood of Buffalo, New York, were enjoying all the venues that make Colorado Springs a world-class vacation spot. The April 2012 trip was their first to see their recently relocated daughter Jennifer and her husband Joshua Green, and every day was filled with something remarkable.
It was during their Seven Falls visit that Ken experienced "an awful sensation" that changed everything. "It was like a bolt of lightning through my head," recalls the 62-year-old University at Buffalo Libraries administrator.
"I hadn't had migraine headaches for 20 years," Ken continues, "but that and altitude sickness was the diagnosis I received at an urgent care center. They released me with instructions to go to an ER if the pain contined. It did continue with atrocious intensity, so we went to the Emergency Room at St. Francis Medical Center, where they continued treatment and diagnostic work-up, including a CT scan."
When the attending physician saw Ken and his scan, he told the family "...he didn't like the look of things and that it looked like a bleed into the brain," Ken continues. "My wife Judy has been a registered nurse for 39 years, and when I saw the expression on her face, I knew we had big problems."
Fortunately for Ken, the family also had a big solution: the Centura Health Trauma System.
"Suddenly, nine people were in the room taking care of me, wrapping me up, telling me, 'We're flying you to Denver...to St. Anthony Hospital.' Even though there was all this commotion and I was confused, I remember feeling so reassured. The staff was excellent...calming me down and explaining what was happening. And that continued when they carried me onto the Flight For Life helicopter.
"The flight was so smooth and quick, and I was amazed when I saw the lights of Denver appear on the horizon."
Ken underwent three additional CT scans, an MRI and two angiograms. His condition required 15 days of care in St. Anthony Hospital's highly specialized neurosurgical ICU and two more days of specialized care in the ICU step-down unit before returning to his daughter's home in Colorado Springs.
"I can't describe how good it was to be at St. Anthony," Ken adds. "It was a nasty, nasty situation for me and my health...and a beautiful experience, all the same." And then he begins listing the critical care specialists, neurologists and neurointerventionalists to whom he feels he owes his life: Joe Heit, MD; John Nichols, MD; Ted Larson, MD; Charles Yarnell, MD; Alan Rosenberg, MD.
"But that same level of attention came from everyone at St. Anthony," he emphasizes. "Every individual was so kind and caring—the nurses, the respiratory therapy staff, the people who performed the procedures, the custodial personnel, the mail deliverers, the meal services staff."
Ken's list of thanks definitely encompasses St. Anthony Hospital's Integrative Healing team. He specifically recalls the music of harpists Barbara and Phyllis that brought healing tears, and of the relaxation afforded through massage therapy. And he'll not soon forget the visits of the hospital's dog-therapy duos. "Walking the hospital halls and petting the dogs was part of my exercise routine as I started to recover."
During the two weeks-plus he was hospitalized, Ken's wife and daughter made the daily drive, round-trip from Colorado Springs, to be with him. On two occasions, Judy did stay in the TownPlace Suites through the reduced-cost housing program offered by the St. Anthony Health Foundation for family and friends from outside Denver. "What a wonderful service that is," Ken comments. "The shuttle made it so convenient for Judy. And when you're here as long as we were, that convenience means a great deal."
Today, Ken is back at work in Buffalo—1600 miles from where a neuro incident nearly claimed his life. "People here say I look absolutely great...like nothing ever happened.
"I'm just so very grateful it happened the way it did."