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Rants from the Relic - A Fast Ending

Recently fellow Northwoods curmudgeon, former Ely mayor Joe Baltich, wrote about his visit to the Ely Bloomenson Community Hospital. Joe writes unfiltered commentary in his inimitable, unambiguous style in frequent Facebook posts. A few weeks ago, Baltich described a pleasant experience at EBCH in one of those posts.

With Joe’s favorable review in mind, I approached the hospital last month expecting a good experience -- and the staff there exceeded my expectations.

Now without violating any propriety, I’ll omit most details and just report two personal things about this visit: 1. It was a routine pentannual examination to which I arrived famished (more on that later), and 2. It was not my first experience as a medical patient.

Regarding Point 2, I have not had one bad experience with any of the dozens of medical personnel with whom I have had contact in a score of providers’ facilities. The workers in that industry are as professional and adept as that industry is awkward with its administrative systems and communications.

Regarding Point 1, I plodded through the hospital entrance on a 36 hour fast and in a predictable mood as a result. After a 10 yard trek, I arrived at the greeting desk where I met Rona. She read my weary and wary face and within a few syllables raised my spirits with her genuine greeting and offer: “Good morning. May I help you?” She guided me to the admitting desk where a young, engaging worker efficiently checked me in. Rona then returned to escort me down the hall, into the elevator, down to the lower level where she handed me off to Karen. During that trip I learned that Rona (she gently corrected my pronunciation -- it’s “Rahn-uh”) was from The Cities but had become Range-ized by bartending in Babbitt for three years. I should have seen the progression as I am almost as learned about bartenders as I am about medical professionals.

In the comfortable prep room I was delighted by the care and courtesy of several staffers. Besides the traditional pampering one gets in those rooms, I was treated to many minutes of conversation -- questions and answers in both directions -- with the pros who were about to take a look at this time-compromised body. They were more than generous with their time and thoroughly answered my questions. And I’m known as an annoying inquisitor.

Quick ride to the procedure room, a brisk trip to a timeless dreamland, and I awoke in the recovery room some indeterminable minutes later. I asked if, since I was a good patient, I would be rewarded with a lollipop. An effervescent “no, but you deserve something better.” After dining on cellophane-wrapped gourmet cracker/cheese sandwiches and apple juice provided by the post-op nurse, Doc came in with diagrams and photos of the results. I was as pleased with his indulgence as I was with the results he cheerfully reported.

Back in my street clothes, I was out the Conan Street door again accompanied by staffers Rona and Karen who just had to visit Rigby, our Cavalier King Charles Spaniel who suffers from attention deprivation disorder if not admired every hour.

The next day I answered a call from EBCH to check on my well-being. My being was well.

A few days later, I received a mailing from EBCH. Expecting it to be a survey, a de rigeur, institutional practice from providers these days, I was instead delighted to find it was a thank-you card signed by Karen, Becky, Nancy, Emily, Traci, Samantha and a seventh member of the team who wrote in prescriptionese.

The call and the card made me understand why the experience felt the way it did. I was treated as a customer, not merely as a patient.

Medical visits are rarely, in my case never, pleasant despite the universal professionalism by the caring people who have treated me. The visits (even the term “appointments” is a bit ominous) are tedious, accompanied by anxiety, sometimes painful, and disruptive. The staff at EBCH mitigated those negatives by their genuine, courteous, and professional behavior.

The experience really felt like a visit not an appointment. I thank them.

PS I apologize to my friend Joe if this recount borders on plagiarism. Take it more as a seconding of yours.

Doug Luthanen grew up in Ely and graduated from Memorial High School in 1967. He wrote a weekly viewpoint column for the Northwest Arkansas Times for four years and is an occasional contributor to The Ely Echo.

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