Last Saturday, my husband Mike and I were coming home from a show in Brea. I admit that I am a terrible "Backseat Driver". So, for the sake of argument (as well as his sanity), I decided to bury my nose in what was going on with Facebook as he drove us home.
All of a sudden, I felt the car swerve. I asked him if he was okay. He told me he wasn’t and said that I should drive. He has NEVER asked me to drive! I didn’t want to panic him, so as we proceeded on our way, I calmly asked what the matter was. He said that he felt as though he had tunnel vision and what he could see was blurry. I told him we should go to the ER. He said no, for his vision was coming back and to just go home. A few minutes later, he said that his vision was fading again. I begged him to let me take him to the ER. Again, he snapped and said to go straight home. He thought it was because he was just overly tired.
When we got home, Mike got out of the car and proceeded to walk up the path to the front door. I saw him almost loose his balance. I asked him again if he was okay. He huffed and said that he just missed stepped was all. He walked in to the house and towards the living room where our youngest son Justin, was watching TV. I turned and clicked the car remote to lock it and that when I heard a crash. Mike had collapsed on the floor!
We both ran and got him up on his feet. I begged him to let me take him to ER. He said he didn’t want to go. I then figured it was the ER co-pay that was stopping us from taking him. I then offered to take him to Urgent Care, which I knew had already closed for the night, and he still said no to going. By this time, we had him in the bright light in our kitchen. Both Justin and I saw that he had no color to his face. Justin then picked up the phone and said to his dad, “Well, okay then Dad. Either you can let us take you or we can call 911. Which do you want us to do?” Mike agreed to let us take him to Urgent care. At this point, Justin and I were thinking Mike was having a stroke and that we had to get him seen right away. As we were driving up Bastanchury towards the hospital, Mike reminded me that I was about to miss our turn to the Urgent Care. I then confessed that they were closed and that we were going to the ER.
When we walked in to the ER, I was asked why we were there. I explained it may be a possible stroke. They asked Mike to then hold his arms out in front of him and then they asked him to smile for them. As Mike stood at the counter filling out the registration forms, I saw him pause. I asked if he was all right, he said his vision was fading again and that he felt dizzy. I sat Mike down and continued to fill out his forms. The triage nurse brought us right in. They took some history while taking his vitals. Mike told them that he had been on high blood pressure medication since May. When they went to look in Mike’s mouth, he told them that he had just been to see our GP, Dr. Mark Davenport, because he had been having headaches, an earache and he cannot open his mouth all the way and therefore he had dropped 15 pounds because of it. That was when our doctor suggested that he see our dentist, for it seemed like a classic case of TMJ. Mike went on to say he had a dental appointment for the following Wednesday. They proceeded to take Mike’s blood pressure and then they took it again. It turned out that Mike’s blood pressure was 70/36! They put him in a wheelchair and into a bed in the ER.
That’s when we met Dr. Nichter. He ordered an MRI, labs and CATsan. All came back normal. He then came back and said he would like to do one more scan, but this time with contrast. This is because of the headaches, earaches, not being able to open his mouth wide and the loss of 15 pounds since last May. Mike went for the final scan and an hour later, Dr. Nichter was giving us the news that they found a mass in the neck/jaw area and the lymph nodes looked inflamed. I felt like I had just hit a wall. I asked him what our next steep should be. He stated that we need to contact our GP to get a referral for a biopsy and to contact the Transitional Medical Team. I then explained to him that I held the insurance on our family and that I was changing jobs as of October 20th. I asked if there was some way to expedite this, we would be most grateful. He asked us to wait for a few minutes and said he wanted to speak with his colleague, Dr. Lee for a moment. When he returned, he said that he would be off on Sunday, but he would look into see about getting the biopsy scheduled, but for us to also reach out to our own doctor as well about getting the process started. I then asked if I could leave him with both Mike’s and my cell phone numbers just in case.
The next morning I left a message for Dr. Davenport about what had happened the night before. By 5:00 pm on Sunday afternoon, we received a call from Ann, with the radiologist exchange stating that Dr. Nichter had refered Mike for a biopsy the next morning at 9:30 with Dr. Jackson. We were so grateful! That night as I was in the shower, Dr. Nichter left a message for us making certain we were aware of the appointment and also to give us some encouraging words. This was going above and beyond, it was a comfort to know that we were not alone in this!
The next morning as Mike was having his procedure at the hospital, I made my way to the chapel. As I was praying, my phone was vibrating in my purse. By the time I fished it out of my purse, it had gone to voicemail. Dr. Davenport had left a message to call him. I called him at his office, but he had already went into a room with a patient. A few minutes later he called me back asking what had happened. I told him what had transpired on Saturday night and that thanks to Dr. Nichter, Mike was having a biopsy preformed at that moment. Dr. Davenport seemed pleased with how quickly Mike was able to have the biopsy. Dr. Davenport said he was going to get Mike into see Dr. Moore, who is an ENT specialist. By the time we had gotten home from the biopsy appointment, our phones were ringing letting us know that Mike had a 2:00 pm appointment with Dr. Moore that afternoon. While we were in the waiting room of Dr. Moore’s office my cell phone began to vibrate. It was Dr. Nichter checking in with us, telling us how happy he was that Mike and I were being proactive in his care and then he again with offering us more words of encouragement. We were bowled over by his genuine concern for his patients!
The truth is as of last Friday, I was employed by Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica. Before the mass layoff of 2012 from+ Kaiser, I had left Saint Jude in 2008 for an opportunity in my chosen field. I had even worked for UCI Medical Center. But through it all, we have always kept our health coverage with Saint Jude. I saw firsthand the care and compassion doctors like Dr. McCoy and Dr. Mutter had for their patients. I know what these patients feel when they are blessed to be treated by such fine physicians. I feel blessed that Mike was in such hands as these last Saturday, especially in the care of Dr. Nichter’s hands and in his compassionate heart. Almost every one of our friends, family and my co-workers from Saint John’s who have heard our story from last Saturday about Dr. Nichter have teared up from our recounting from the care we have received from him. They all say their faith has really been restored in how Mike and we as a family experienced in the care of Dr. Nichter. We are thankful that he decided to do that last scan.
When I was with Saint Jude, one thing that really impressed me was they were all about the My Story and especially the Sacred Encounters. I makes me love Saint Jude even more because of this Sacared Encouter we experienced ourselves with Dr. Nichter. God bless him and all at Saint Jude.