Longtime mountain residents, Douglas and Lani Long, celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on Monday, September 11th. This anniversary has a very special meaning, as Douglas almost wasn’t around to enjoy it!

On September 8, 2013, Douglas fell and sustained a cut above his eye. His wife, Lani, drove him to Mountains Community Hospital’s ER. At the time Douglas arrived, his heartrate was very low. Although he presented with a simple cut above his eyebrow, his dizziness and dehydration indicated something more serious. The ER nurse, Janel Poole, decided to check further. She hooked him up to a cardiac monitor and immediately noticed that Douglas’s heartrate became very irregular. For this reason, he was stabilized and put in an ambulance, to be taken to a hospital down the hill for further monitoring.  However, 10 minutes into that journey, his heart stopped, a condition known as asystole. Asystole is the most serious form of cardiac arrest and is usually irreversible. The ambulance driver immediately returned to MCH, where Douglas was stabilized again. This time he was flown by helicopter to Riverside Hospital, where he again experienced asystole. During his stay at Riverside Hospital, a pacemaker was inserted to regulate his heartbeat.

“It is always important to look at the big picture when a patient first arrives in the ER. Many times the initial complaint is not what it first appears to be,” said Janel, one of Douglas’s ER nurses. Janel’s experience taught her that she needed to look further to determine what had initially caused him to fall. It was the reading on the cardiac monitor that alerted her to a more serious situation.

During Douglas’s brief stay in Mountains Community Hospital’s ER, he recalls receiving tremendous comfort from some familiar faces. Kevin Horan, Garrett West and Ashley Altmeyer, were all former students of Douglas, during his years as a teacher at MPH. The familiar faces provided comfort and reassurance to both Douglas and Lani. Ashley Altmeyer, the nurse on duty at the time of his arrival, immediately recognized her former teacher. Ashley recalls, “I had known Douglas and Lani for many years on a personal level from church, school and our community. I was born at MCH, now work at MCH, and have lived here my whole life. As a nurse, it gives me great pride to care for people in their time of need. You hope that they can later reflect on the fact that they were truly cared for, not just as another patient in a bed, but as a person. For me the community could be any loved one or friend.”

Douglas recovered and is alive and well today. Both he and Lani believe that were it not for the quick actions of the ER staff at Mountains Community Hospital, and the access to the helicopter transport that is available to our patients, he would not be alive today. They agree that we are so fortunate to have a hospital on our mountain that’s available at all times, because you never know when an emergency or urgent healthcare crisis will strike.