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Monica Schneider left her house to run errands at 7:30 a.m.
By 8:15, she received a call from her husband’s phone, but it wasn’t Eldon on the other line.
It was the sheriff.
Eldon had suffered a stroke and had alertly called 911 after identifying the symptoms, which included his hand curling up, fluids gushing from his mouth and his face going limp.
Despite the fact the couple lived outside of town (and all four bridges leading to their home were under repair), multiple first-responders came – the deputy sheriff at Albion, an EMS team from Liscomb and an EMS ambulance from UnityPoint Health – Marshalltown.
Eldon was rushed to the emergency department in Marshalltown, where the team of Dr. Jake Flinkman, Cindy Britson, RN, and Megan Heise, RN, stabilized him with tPA (tissue Plasminogen Activator, an I.V. treatment intended to break down blood clots) before he was transferred to Des Moines for further evaluation.
There, his care team was impressed how well his Marshalltown responders had managed his stroke. There was no need for a thrombectomy (a surgery to remove blood clots from arteries and veins), he was released three days later and is expected to make a full recovery.
Medically speaking, Eldon was a poster child for how to respond to a stroke.
But Eldon and Monica had other needs in the middle of that crisis, and that’s why they’re truly grateful for the care they received at UnityPoint Health – Marshalltown.
With the COVID-19 pandemic restricting visitors, Monica wasn’t allowed in the ER with Eldon. Instead, she was encouraged to stay in her vehicle in the parking lot, and the care team promised to keep her informed.
“When I got there, the staff was very sympathetic and empathetic because they knew I wouldn’t be able to stay in the ER,” Monica said. “They told me what to expect and said that the doctor would come out as quickly as he could.
“And I’m telling you, they kept me informed. I bet it was never more than 15 minutes that I didn’t have some sort of update – either from one of the guys in the ambulance or Dr. Flinkman when he came out. It was just fantastic.”
“This was a particularly life-threatening disease and dangerous treatment,” recalled Dr. Flinkman. “So careful collaboration with the patient and his wife were necessary to determine the appropriate treatment. I was very thankful to hear that his symptoms resolved with this medication alone.”
Still, Monica was anxious and found herself wondering if they would remember her in the parking lot.
“I kept counting because I thought, ‘Maybe after 15 minutes I’ll just go knock on the door,’” she recalled. “But it was always within 15 minutes that somebody was there telling me what they thought was going to happen, giving me options, and if he did go down (to Des Moines) and have a thrombectomy, what it was going to mean and how long he’d have to stay there.
“I mean, these guys … it meant the world because even though I was there by myself, it didn’t feel like I was by myself.”
Once Eldon was stabilized, the team allowed Monica to say goodbye to him before the transfer to Des Moines. They assured the couple everything would be OK, and Monica handed Eldon her rosary beads for the trip.
On the way to Des Moines, paramedic Nathan Massell sensed Eldon was uneasy and spotted his rosary. As Ricky Benson, EMT, drove the ambulance, Nathan took a seat near Eldon and asked him if he wanted to pray.
“I have been doing this for a little over 16 years now, and you can tell when someone is scared or frightened,” said Massell. “Sometimes a smile, holding hands or praying with someone is all it takes to relieve some of this anxiety.”
The offer meant a lot to Eldon, who is a longtime member and volunteer with the Knights of Columbus.
“On this day, Eldon looked like he needed a little help praying,” Massell said. “This is not my first time praying with a patient, nor will it be my last. I’m very happy to hear that his anxiety was eased, and I can only imagine how Eldon and Monica must have felt not being able to be with each other.”
Although he’s struggling with a few day-to-day activities in the wake of the stroke, Monica and Eldon are relieved he’s well on the road to recovery. They’re also grateful for how UnityPoint Health – Marshalltown responded to their crisis.
“I’m telling you, I knew we were going to have a good response,” Monica said. “Every time we’ve used UnityPoint … we’ve always had a good response. But I think maybe even more so now, because they understood what we were struggling with – that you have to wear a mask, you can’t have visitors and things like that. The staff has been well-versed in that, and it meant the world to me because I was outside just waiting. That’s all I could do.”
Photo caption: As a thank you for their response to his stroke, Eldon Schneider, a beekeeper, presented jars of raw honey to Dr. Jake Flinkman and the emergency department.