Rhea Miller believes there’s no cure like home.
Rhea and her husband Dave were at their cabin in western Wisconsin when Rhea got sick. “I was so miserable and thought, ‘If I can just get home I’ll feel better,’” Rhea says. “But I knew I couldn’t just go home; I needed some care.”
It was a two-hour drive home to Northfield. They went directly to the Emergency Department at Northfield Hospital.
“It was the middle of the day, and the waiting room was full,” Rhea recalls. “We were told it would be a while. I was so weak and sick I couldn’t sit up in the chair in waiting room. My husband told the receptionist I’d wait in the car, and they could call me when ready to see me.”
Instead, a nurse brought Rhea into the department, where there were no exam rooms open but there was a gurney where Rhea could lie down. Dr. Jennifer Fischer checked on Rhea there; she was dehydrated. The team started an IV.
Rhea was in the ED for seven hours. She was far from alone: It was the busiest day on record for Northfield Hospital’s ED. And the hospital was full, too. “Dr. Fischer said she wanted to admit me, but they had no bed available,” Rhea says.
It was November; respiratory illness was widespread, staffing was tight, and hospitals across Minnesota were stretched thin.
But the care never wavered.
“The care was just exceptional,” Rhea says. “As busy as they were, I never felt like I was a bother or I was rushed, or they didn’t have time to give me proper care.”
Dr. Fischer “was amazing,” Rhea adds. After consulting with metro-area physicians, Dr. Fischer crafted a plan for Rhea to recuperate at home – and return to the ED if her symptoms got worse.
They did. Two days later, Rhea came back. Dr. David Ries “was intent on figuring out what was going on with me, and how he could help me,” Rhea says. “He and Dr. Fischer both did a lot of testing to figure it out. They dealt with my immediate symptoms and also wanted to get to the root of the problem and help me get better. That dedication to my wellness was really impressive.”
That second visit took another seven hours: CAT scans, x-rays, blood tests, consults. “The attitude of everyone from CT technician and lab tech to doctors and nurses – everyone was so caring and so understanding,” Rhea says. “They were always so patient with me, and made me feel like my care was important.”
Carol Schrader, RN was Rhea’s nurse. “It was comforting to see a familiar face, to be cared for by someone I know.”
The team “tried different things, and we made a plan. My husband was always included in the plan and decision-making,” Rhea adds. “He was treated with just as much respect and care as I was. Sometimes when medical people are focused on the patient they don’t think about the family. Here, they really did include him.”
In the end, Rhea recovered without needing to be hospitalized.
Her advice for neighbors and friends: “Sometimes we think we need to be in a big metro hospital, but we’re so fortunate to have such good care right here at home. They made me feel better, and then get better. I have no reservation about going back to Northfield Hospital.”
No matter how long the drive.
Learn more: Emergency Department