Nov 14, 2012
It was the seventh game of the 1998 Johns Hopkins football season, and we were playing Dickinson College at home.
We were up by a couple of points, with minutes left to play and Dickinson had the ball. It was fourth down with two yards to go. My defensive teammates and I had to hold the line, but there was more at stake than a single game. We were shaping up to be the winningest team in our university’s history.
In more than a century, no Hopkins team had ever won more than seven games in a season and certainly never four years in a row. (I’m proud to say that more recently, my alma mater has been ranked 10th nationwide in Division III play.) The only thing between us and the record books was a scrappy Dickinson offense.
My teammates and I lined up, focused and ready. The center hiked the ball and the quarterback tossed a quick pass to the running back. He caught it, put his head down and barreled toward me. I had to stop him.
Even though I knew it was dangerous, I put my head down and ran toward him as hard as I could. We hit each other full force, head-to-head … and the next thing I remember, I was being strapped to a board with dozens of people around me, my stepmother screaming and crying and my dad looking more scared than I had ever seen him. I couldn’t feel my hands or feet. I was paralyzed.
Sirens blaring, an ambulance rushed me to Shock Trauma. This place is world-renowned. Shock Trauma saves many people who would have died in a regular hospital because they have a system that works.
When I arrived, they wheeled me into a large room with curtains between each patient. Next to me were a guy who had been shot three times, and a 90-year-old woman who had fallen down the stairs. Buzzers went off, beepers were paged and suddenly 10 people in scrubs descended upon me, cutting off my uniform and asking questions.
But instead of poking and prodding me, the doctors — several of them — came in and said, “OK, here’s what we’re going to do.” They took the time to educate me and help me think through what was happening. Their bedside manner was beyond excellent. They talked to me about football, and they brought in my parents even though it was probably against the rules.
Their exceptional care calmed me and took me to a totally different place mentally, emotionally and physically. And this was not a slow day for them — remember, there was a guy dying in the next bed.
It was a remarkable contrast to what I had seen in other hospitals, although I could rationalize those experiences by remembering the pressure the doctors and nurses were under to get to the next patient, to deal with the next emergency, to put out the next fire. People’s lives were on the line, after all.
But still, at Shock Trauma they took time to sit down with me and my parents and really relate to us. That’s why today, when someone tries to tell me they are too busy to give their customers a remarkable experience, I have to respectfully disagree. If a hospital handling life-threatening emergencies can find the time, I think everyone can.
Luckily, mine was a case of the bark being much worse than the bite. I was diagnosed with a concussion, a sprained neck and what they call a “stinger.”
I was not paralyzed; I just had pinched my spinal cord, which sent a numb feeling to the rest of my body. It wasn’t long before the feeling came back to my extremities. There are no words to describe my relief when I realized my paralysis was only temporary.
Once the medical team was certain I was going to be OK, they put me in a huge neck brace and began my discharge process. They recommended places for physical therapy and explained how to make sure there was no instability in my neck for the next 30 days. We discussed how often I would return for follow-up visits, and they suggested I get second opinions if I had any doubts about my diagnosis or treatment.
The staff spent an incredible amount of time educating us, going above and beyond the typical hospital discharge experience. I remember thanking them, and their response was, “No, thank you. You’ve been such a great patient. We are so relieved this was only a big scare.”
Yes, they thanked me for giving them the opportunity to treat me. It was a remarkable experience to be given such care, empathy and respect. Without a doubt, Shock Trauma lived up to its reputation as Baltimore’s place for superior emergency medical care.
So, today I challenge you to embrace an attitude of gratitude and apply it to everything you do today and create a remarkable experience for your customers. Remember, if a nationally recognized hospital dealing with life threatening emergencies can find the time to do this, so can we.