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Phil DeRuiter doesn’t remember much after being rushed into the emergency room at UnityPoint Health – Marshalltown.
Really, it's just a series of images and brief instances. A room full of providers and nurses. A lot of activity. Reassuring words. And pain – severe pain.
"At one point, I recall saying, 'Just let me die,' and I remember the nurse saying that wasn't an option," recalls Phil.
Phil, a 55-year-old Marshalltown resident who works at Sika Corporation, was suffering from a bleeding ulcer, and it was a severe, life-threatening situation. His condition arose quickly one weekend in March, when he started to feel ill on a Saturday. By Sunday, things were worse, and his wife, Kellie, returned home from shopping to find him in the bathroom, very weak, sweating profusely and nearly unconscious.
"I was very scared at that point," says Phil. "I thought I was leaving this Earth."
Somehow, Kellie got Phil into the car and to the ER at UnityPoint Health – Marshalltown. A team, including Dr. Blaine Westemeyer, RNs Jeff Gilchrist and Jamie Kadner, rushed out to get him into a wheelchair and took him inside.
"He rolled into our department looking awfully sick and worrisome for shock due to massive blood loss," recalled Dr. Westemeyer. "He was pale as a ghost, sweaty and clammy with thready pulses (indicating decreased pulse pressure). Our team quickly identified the life-threatening nature of the situation and orchestrated stabilizing this patient."
Phil had a central line catheter placed and was given blood products in the emergency department to help stabilize his blood flow. He was experiencing severe bleeding in his digestive tract and hypovolemic shock (a life-threatening condition when your body loses more than 20 percent of its blood). With his vital signs especially unstable, it took significant time for his care team to get him stabilized.
"This group steps up to the plate every day, and they quickly triage and prioritize every patient’s needs," said Sheila Brown, manager of the emergency department. "Jamie, Jeff, and Dr. Westemeyer immediately recognized Phil's acuity and intervened with life-saving measures."
"Everyone was very reassuring that they were doing everything they could to help him," Kellie said. "I was scared, too, and concerned for his life, but Phil received excellent care."
However, Phil wasn't out of the woods yet. Paramedic Brynn Oliver and EMT Stephan Burk transferred Phil by ambulance to Iowa Methodist Medical Center, where he underwent emergency surgery by gastroenterologist Dr. Archana Verma. Phil was quickly on the road to recovery, yet he remained at Methodist for a week and took another week to rest at home before returning to full strength.
"Dr. Verma did say I was lucky," Phil recalled.
Once Phil’s health was in the clear, his son, Austen, expressed his gratitude on Facebook, and Kellie gratefully shared it with friends. And to show his thanks for the ER team in Marshalltown, Phil has taken them lunch twice – Taylor's Maid Rites on one occasion and Domino's pizza and breadsticks on the other.
"It's amazing to see patients, after being transferred from our ED in critical condition, walk back in weeks later with a happy story to share," said Brown. "Phil and Kellie's kindness and generosity was appreciated by our team, but it's not necessary."
"I love them and owe them my life, and I believe that is due to the people of the Marshalltown ER," Phil said. "They need to keep doing what they're doing because they are appreciated."
Photo: Phil (far left) and his wife, Kellie (far right), with their son, Austen, and his wife, Alicia.