'I just wanted everyone to know what a fabulous hospital we have here'

By Kristy Bleizeffer Apr 4, 2018

Gail Kennah is pictured with the cart her father made for Wyoming Medical Center after his open-heart surgery. (Photo provided by the family)

Gail Kennah had something to say about Wyoming Medical Center: “From the young man in valet, to the kitchen staff, to the housekeepers, to the respiratory therapists, I have never, ever, ever had the kind of service I’ve had here.”

And another thing: “My CNAs, my RNs, my physicians have all been top of the line. I mean top of the line. You can tell they’re here because they want to be here. It’s not just a job.”

And one thing more: “I know a lot of people in Casper, but honey, we’ve got the best dadgum hospital in the state of Wyoming, and I won’t let anybody tell me different. Mind you, I can be a critical old broad because I’ve been a nurse for 36 years. But I’m telling you, the care has been so good, I had to call the CEO.”

Not every call from a patient’s room to administration is so upbeat. While we strive to provide excellent care and service to all who come through our doors, there are times we fall short. We do whatever we can to correct those times. Still, happy people don’t always take the time to  share their experience.

I was excited to hear about Ms. Kennah’s call, so I visited her room in person.

“The girl who picks up the phone in the morning to take my breakfast order, she recognized my voice! She said, ‘Is this Ms. Kennah?’ and she was the friendliest little thing,” she told me from her hospital bed, surrounded by family who’d come to see her.

“The people who know me know that I call it like I see it: How blessed we are to have this hospital. How blessed we are for the people who work here.”

Don’t misunderstand: Ms. Kennah would rather not be in the hospital. She was very sick when she came to us, and she is fighting still.

It started on Thursday when she went to see Dr. Joseph Mickelson because she knew she didn’t feel right. He took one look and told her to get herself to Wyoming Medical Center.  Then, he took her by the arm, walked her to elevator and down to the lobby, and he waited with her until her granddaughter came to pick her up. Then he tucked her into the front seat of the car.

“How many doctors would do that?” she asked. “We’ve got them right here in Casper.”

When Ms. Kennah arrived at the hospital, she wasn’t doing well at all. She was going into septic shock, a condition in which an infection inside the body causes a series of cascading symptoms including low blood pressure and eventual organ failure. It’s a medical emergency that requires immediate care.

Doctors discovered she had a perforated ulcer in her stomach that was leaking fluids into her abdomen, which required surgery. But she had atrial fibrillation, a quivering irregular heartbeat, and her blood pressure was shooting up and down delaying the operation.

“Those cardiologists had their hands full with me,” she said, smiling. “But Dr. (Oleg) Ivanov came in with that big ole grin of his, and he gave me a lot of confidence that I was going to make it.”

Ms. Kennah told me she herself used to work at Wyoming Medical Center, so she knows what kind of care to demand for her friends, family and patients. She was an oncology nurse specialist here and later worked as a Director of Oncology at a cancer center. For a time, she taught nursing at Central Wyoming College in Riverton. She tutored a nursing student from Africa who needed some help in English, and he passed his boards on his first try. She has five children and 18 grandchildren (one granddaughter who is a nurse at Wyoming Medical Center) and 18 great-grandchildren.

Her family sent me this photo of her smiling next to an oxygen cart. Then she told me why it meant so much to her: “My daddy had open heart surgery, and he has since passed. But he made it as a thank you to the hospital for the good care they gave him. His name was Earl Garner, and he loved everybody here too.”

Ms. Kennah isn’t out of the woods yet. She was moved to ICU on Tuesday so that she could get a specialized medication drip that couldn’t be administered on the surgical floor. She  is now recovering on our Progressive Care Unit. But she is confident that she is getting the best shot at recovery.

“Guess who is head of the team?” she asked smiling, even as she grew visibly more tired.

“God.”

And then, surrounded by her children and grandchildren, she finished what she had to say: ”I just wanted everyone to know what a fabulous place we have here. I don’t need to go to Denver; I don’t need to go to Timbuktu. I’m safe right here.

“And coming from an old nurse who has been around, surely that can count for something.”

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