Lake Arrowhead resident, Don Mitchell, praises MCH staff for their excellent care.

Don Mitchell and his wife, Jennifer, love their puppy Birdie, even though she may have been responsible for Don’s visit to Mountains Community Hospital last month.

Don is a retired Sergeant with the Ontario Police Department and has been a full-time Lake Arrowhead resident for the past six years. He started feeling unwell on October 5. “I thought I had COVID-19,” he said. “I had a lot of the symptoms except shortness of breath and I never lost my sense of taste or smell.” He went to the MCH Rural Health Clinic, where he tested negative for COVID-19.

He spoke to his primary care doctor located down the hill. That doctor told him it sounded like COVID-19 and that they had been getting many false negatives. He suggested Don get tested again. On Thursday, October 15, as Don’s fever continued rising and falling, he started shivering uncontrollably. His temperature was 103. “Jennifer said, ‘That’s it. We’re going to the hospital,’” Don said. “We went to MCH because I didn’t know if I could handle the drive to Riverside.”

In the Emergency Department, Don was given another COVID-19 test; the results came back in an hour – negative. Dr. Ludwig Cibelli ordered some blood work and told Don he wanted to do a CT scan to see what was going on intestinally. “I thought I would be transported down the mountain,” Don said. “I didn’t know MCH had a new 80-slice CT machine.”

Within two to three hours, Don was diagnosed with a bacterial infection, which had turned to sepsis in his bloodstream. “That shocked me,” Don said. “I thought I’d be going home, but Dr. Cibelli said that I would be staying for two to three days.” Don was amazed at the speed and accuracy of the diagnosis as well as with the care he received. Don’s diagnosis was enabled through the use of MCH’s highly sophisticated Biofire testing system.

“All the nurses in the ER were amazing. I wish I knew all of their names. While I was in the hospital, I got the best treatment of my life. Everyone – the nurses, the custodians, the people delivering the meals – was outstanding.”

He wanted to share his story, Don said, because he doesn’t think the mountain residents know how good they have it with the hospital. “I didn’t. I had no idea. I always knew it was there but, to me, it was more of a transfer portal. You would go there for immediate care and get transferred to a higher level of care. With the treatment I got and the way I was cared for by everyone, I’m ready to move all of my care up here,” he added.

Don said he was “pumped full of antibiotics” so, by the morning after his admission, he started to feel a bit better. By Friday evening, he felt a lot better. On Saturday, all of his blood work had improved. He was amazed at the extra steps the nurses took. “They knew some of what was ailing me, but they started researching it and explaining the terms to me.”

It turns out what Don had was a Campylobacter infection. A patient usually will get it from eating raw meat or coming in contact with juices from chicken. Don told the doctor they don’t eat out and his wife had eaten the same things he had. Then Don was told you can get the infection from a new puppy. The lightbulb went off. Don and Jennifer had recently brought Birdie – a young German Shepherd – into their family. “That’s the only way I could have gotten it,” Don said. “But I still love her!”

The day he was released from MCH, Don and Jennifer added Augustus, a young male German Shepherd, to the family. Don’s recovery was swift. He went home on a Saturday and by Tuesday was back at work at Pegasus Hobbies in Montclair where he works with the model trains, his hobby.

Four years ago, Don and other members of the Inland Empire Modular Railroaders were able to set up several trains in a vacant shop in Lake Arrowhead Village. Over the eight months they were there, Don said, they had more than 250,000 adults and children come through to marvel at the model trains.

“I’d love to be able to set my trains up again,” Don said. He’s just waiting for the pandemic to be over and to be invited.

Meanwhile, Don said he will be involved with getting the word out about the fantastic care people receive at the hospital “as soon as the Coronavirus is over. I want to enlighten people as to what an asset this place is,” he said. “I’ll be the guy walking door to door, talking about the hospital. I got a complete education about that place.”