Tom and Pat Banks
RMC: A recipe for great care
Tom and Pat Banks of Spring City have had more than their share of trips to the Rhea Medical Center Emergency Department this year. While they don't want to return any time soon, the Bankses are confident that if they do, based on their past experiences, they will receive excellent treatment.
"In spite of the things we had heard years ago, we couldn't have had better care," Tom said in summing up their experiences.
Tom and Pat came to Rhea County by way of Miami 45 years ago. Tom Banks began dating Pat Salyer while she was still in nursing school at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami in the late '50s. Back then women couldn't be married and train to be a nurse, Pat said, so before they married, she had to leave nursing school. Tom managed a grocery store in North Palm Beach and Pat worked in a pediatrician's office before moving to Spring City in November of 1964.
The couple built a home on property owned by Pat's parents on Mars Hill Road north of Spring City. Tom leased and operated Guy's Drive-in, then worked for the old Southern Silk Mill and Vaughn Funeral Home, all in Spring City. He now works as a customer service manager at Wal-Mart Supercenter in Dayton. Tom is a well-known figure in Spring City and served as a member of the Rhea County School Board in the '70s while the county was planning and constructing Rhea County High School.
Pat has worked in several doctors' offices over the years, doing a variety of bookkeeping and clerical jobs. She retired a few years ago as the business manager of a nursing home in Decatur, Tenn., and now operates a catering business in her spare time.
The couple celebrated their 51st anniversary this year and have three children, five grandchildren and one great-granddaughter.
Neither Tom nor Pat had been to the Rhea Medical Center ER in many years, although they had been to other emergency departments. That all changed this past spring. Colds and flu were rampant in March, and early blooming was wreaking havoc with allergy sufferers.
"I generally kind of think of myself as invincible," Tom said. "I just don't get sick very often. I went to work at Wal-Mart Saturday morning and just felt terrible all day. I was due to get off at 3, but about 2 I told the manager I had to go home early, something I never do."
Tom drove home and collapsed into his recliner. The couple's dog, Abby, came over to comfort him.
"I knew something was wrong when he came home early," Pat said. "I went over to talk to him, and I could just feel the heat radiating off of him. I knew he had a real high temperature. I said, ‘let's go to the ER," but he tried to put me off. I said, ‘Let's go now. I don't want to be driving in the dark and worrying with you at midnight.' This time I didn't take no for an answer."
Pat drove Tom to Rhea Medical Center that afternoon. The couple expected they might have to wait several hours at the ER since it was flu season. Instead, they were taken back to an examination room just a few minutes after filling out his paperwork.
Pat Roberson, an emergency medical technician in the ER, drew some blood and started an IV of fluids immediately to treat Tom's severe dehydration.
Roberson also began a conversation with the Bankses to keep their minds off the situation. He told them about his family in Pikeville, where he lives, about teaching Sunday school at his church, and he even gave Pat Banks his grandmother's pickle recipe.
"He was very entertaining," Tom said. "He really lifted our spirits."
Tom was visited in quick succession by a nurse, a respiratory therapist who gave him a breathing treatment, and Dr. Matt Tinney, the ER physician, who ordered a chest x-ray.
Dr. Tinney came back a little while later and told Tom he had pneumonia. He gave him a shot of antibiotics and prescribed more antibiotics and breathing treatments for Tom.
"He was just a super nice fellow," Tom said of Tinney.
Instead of having to wait three hours to see the doctor as they had expected, Tom was in and out and on his way home in three hours.
"I know they have to take care of their most critical patients first, so I never expected to get in so soon," Tom said. "Everyone worked so hard to make us comfortable and take care of us. If a visit to the ER can be called pleasant, then this was a pleasant visit."
Tom followed Tinney's advice to the letter and was back on his feet in a couple of days. It was a good thing, because a month later he was going to have to return Pat's favor and drive her to the ER.
Pat has diabetes, high blood pressure and problems with blood clots in her lungs but is able to successfully manage all of her symptoms with medication. On Tuesday, April 28, she took a newly prescribed blood pressure medication for the first time.
She was baking a cake in her custom kitchen where she prepares the food for her catering jobs. Suddenly, Pat was lying on the kitchen floor, semiconscious and unable to get up.
Tom had been doing some volunteer work at Tennessee Valley Theatre in Spring City and came in at about 11 a.m. to hear the oven timer ringing but no sign of Pat. Then he saw her lying on the floor.
"It really frightened me," he said.
He immediately went to Pat's side, not sure what he would find.
"I asked her what was wrong, and she replied, "Can't you hear the timer? Take the cake out of the oven." It was as if she was saying, ‘I can lay her a little longer; save the cake.' That's when I knew everything would be okay."
Tom got her up and into a chair and called Dr. Michael Mitchell, her internal medicine and pulmonology specialist in Knoxville. His office told Tom to take her to the ER at Parkwest Medical Center in Knoxville where they had gone in the past. This time Tom asked if he couldn't take her to Rhea Medical Center since it was so much closer. Dr. Mitchell's staff reluctantly agreed if Tom felt comfortable taking her to such a small hospital.
Tom drove Pat to Rhea Medical Center, and the staff there was ready for them. Dr. Mitchell's office had already notified the ER that Pat was on her way, what medications she was taking and their concern that she might be bleeding into her brain.
The ER staff sent Pat almost immediately to Radiology for x-rays and a CT scan. After the radiologist on duty read the scans, the hospital staff relayed that information and the results of her blood work to Dr. Mitchell, who determined that the dosage of her new blood pressure medicine was too high, giving her extremely low blood pressure. There was no internal bleeding.
"When I went to see Dr. Mitchell the next week, he told me he was very comfortable with the way that Rhea Medical Center handled things," Pat said. "And I certainly agreed with him."
Tom and Pat believe that two trips to the ER in two months is plenty and say they definitely don't want to make another ER visit any time soon. But if they do, they are confident of the treatment they will receive at Rhea Medical Center.