Memorial Hospital in Carthage praised for transitional care program

Terry and Sue Newell discuss Sue's experience with Memorial Hospital's Transitional Care program Tuesday at their home in Carthage. The program allowed Sue to recover from brain surgery at a hospital closer to home. | H-W Photo/Jake Shane
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Mar. 1, 2017 8:40 am Updated: Mar. 1, 2017 9:03 am

CARTHAGE, Ill. -- Three months ago, Sue Newell couldn't walk or breathe on her own, and her chances of pulling through seemed dim at best.

Her husband, Terry, can remember exactly what he was doing when it all started.

"Oct. 15, Saturday evening, I'm in the other room watching the news. Sue came in, and I could see her eye was black. ... Fifteen minutes later, she said she thought she was going to be sick," Terry Newell said.

He jumped into action, assuming his wife had a concussion and had subsequently fallen down and injured her eye.

"I ran her to the hospital. They took Sue in for a CT scan and came right back out," Terry Newell said. "(The doctor) said she had a bleed in the brain. Two centimeters on her brain was all blood."

Sue Newell was immediately life-flighted to St. John's Hospital in Springfield, Ill. She is thankful she doesn't remember the beginning of her ordeal.

The surgeon was standing by, and upon arrival, Sue Newell was immediately rushed into brain surgery.

"Then she got pneumonia and some kind of bug they couldn't identify," Terry Newell said. "I had to wear a hazmat suit to go in and out of the room. Scary time. Every day, there was something else that scared me."

Sue Newell spent 10 weeks in the intensive care unit, relearning how to use her muscles. Because she was on a ventilator, she couldn't speak to anyone two and a half months. Terry Newell learned to read lips and played music he knew she enjoyed from his cellphone.

"That's been the hardest part for me, gaining the muscle strength back," Sue Newell said. "I had no idea you could lose that so quickly. My thighs were just nonexistent. It was hard for me to walk or do anything like that."

Once she was fully able to get out of bed, Sue Newell began the arduous process of walking again. She used a walker and would make it three steps at a time before having to stop.

"Part of my fear was just the fear of the unknown. At that point, I was still kind of out of it and didn't really understand what had happened," Sue Newell said. "It made it really difficult for me."

After the ventilator was removed, the Newells wanted to relocate closer to home. Despite hesitation from the caseworker in Springfield, the Newells moved to Memorial Hospital and back to Carthage.

"They did a wonderful job. She spent 21 days in recovery at Carthage," Terry Newell said. "Sue was very anxious because she couldn't breathe on her own. She didn't want me to leave her side."

Familiar surroundings made the recovery process easier for Sue Newell. Terry Newell, who had put his life on hold, was able to readjust, as well.

Sitting by a crackling fireplace recently in her living room next to her husband of 53 years, Sue Newell showed few indicators of how close to dying she came only months before. Terry Newell fondly recalled a St. John's doctor who referred to his wife as a "medical miracle."

"I feel very lucky to be alive," Sue Newell said. "Everything had to fall in place as it needed to."

The Newells' return to Carthage was made possible by Memorial Hospital's Transitional Care program. The program is a partnership with Allevant Solutions -- a joint venture between Mayo Clinic and Select Medical. It is modeled on Mayo Clinic's similar efforts in Wisconsin and Minnesota by Mayo pulmonologist and Allevant Medical Director Mark Lindsay. The program is designed to provide access to high-quality. post-acute services to rural America, the most persistently underserved area of modern health care.

Memorial Hospital CEO Ada Bair said the partnership is "extremely important for our region" because it helps patients to "reintroduce more of their regular life."

"Family members can sleep in their own bed instead of a chair," Bair said, "and it gives (the patient) the feeling that they are really going to get home."

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