COLUMBUS — It’s not often that patients get to meet – and thank – the team of doctors and nurses who saved their life, especially if the life-saving care took place in an ICU. But at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, there’s a new program reuniting patients and the care team who helped them survive.
One of the first patients to take part is 65-year-old Ken Henning of Clayton. Henning works for a company that delivers medical supplies. In early May after delivering a hospital bed to one of his clients in Dayton, he started feeling bad. Turns out he was having a heart attack. Doctors say he saved his own life because he immediately recognized his symptoms and sought care.
Not long later, he underwent emergency quadruple bypass surgery. It went well, but the next day he coded and doctors shocked him 50 times to keep him alive. He was lifeflighted to the ICU where he underwent a few weeks of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation. Miraculously he survived and after a few weeks of recovery met the doctors and nurses who saved his life for the first time during what we call a victory lap.
Henning walked into the ICU to cheers and tears from the staff. He shook hands and hugged the people who saved his life. The chance to say thank you was emotional for Henning and his family. It was touching to his care team, too. They often don’t get to see a patient after their discharged from the ICU. And, in Henning’s case, he was unconscious during his stint in the ICU. So he never met the care team.
“When I was treated here I didn’t know where I was or how long I’d been here, so there’s a lot of people I really didn’t meet,” said Henning. “24/7, they were there. And to be where I am now and see their faces, I think it gives them hope.”
While this is incredibly powerful experience for the patient, it is also an enormous inspiration for the staff to see a patient they saved and care for come back looking so much better. In a career path with so much burnout and stress, this is a way to help alleviate that.
“There are rough days in nursing; there are very rough days,” said Stacey Daughenbaugh, an ICU nurse at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center who treated Henning. “So days like this make it worthwhile. It makes you remember why you’re doing this.”