June 21, 2018
Conversations with Maine Latest News | Poll Questions | Family Separations | Boston TV | LePage Troops

From airlift to flight home, Mainers support stroke victim and family

Robin Clifford Wood | BDN
Robin Clifford Wood | BDN
Dick and Barbie Willis take in some well-needed relaxation after Dick's four days in Eastern Maine Medical Center's ICU, after a stroke on a roadless island and a LifeFlight rescue.
By Robin Clifford Wood, Special to the BDN

A couple of weeks ago, my household went into crisis management mode. While vacationing on an island off the coast of Mount Desert, my husband’s erstwhile healthy uncle was airlifted to Eastern Maine Medical Center. Uncle Dick had woken up feeling a bit “off” one morning on that roadless little island. When Aunt Barbie woke up, she found her husband confused and unable to coordinate the left side of his body. She and her sister (my mother-in-law) called 911, saw Uncle Dick fly off in a helicopter, then hurried by boat (lent by an island neighbor) and car to the hospital in Bangor. For the next nine days, we were headquarters for three 70- 80-year-olds coping with disruption, displacement and distress. Thanks to a lot of compassionate, no-nonsense Mainers, we all weathered the storm with no small degree of gratitude.

For starters, hats off to the local emergency responders from the Cranberry Isles who showed up with astonishing speed to calm and care for Uncle Dick and Aunt Barbie. LifeFlight of Maine, the critical care transport service, was equally prompt and flexible in finding a safe landing site for their helicopter on a small island where they had never landed before. It is a testament to their professionalism and warmth that the stroke patient’s remark about his helicopter journey focused only on his spectacular view of the Penobscot River.

After that, the team of caregivers at Eastern Maine Medical Center won lifetime supporters in our relatives from Maryland.

“I’ll never forget Richard and Marie and Nick,” Aunt Barbie said. “They were great nurses, but beyond that, they were just lovely people.”

She was amazed at the openness and friendly atmosphere in the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit, where she spent several anxious days, uncertain about her husband’s future, sitting in a chair by his bedside.

But there were even more people worthy of our gratitude, people who had no reason to put themselves out other than simple human kindness.

In her hurry to leave the island, my mother-in-law had left several prescriptions behind. In some distraction, she went to Rite Aid to get what she needed. She chatted with a very friendly, though overworked, Rite Aid pharmacist, working alone. In the course of their conversation, she mentioned that she was used to using CVS in her home state of New Hampshire. He said he would try his best to get her prescriptions done by the next morning.

Early the next day, there was a message on our machine. My mother-in-law had left the wrong insurance cards at Rite Aid. The pharmacist, however, remembered that she mentioned CVS. He called CVS stores in the town listed as her address, found the CVS with her information, and was able to complete all of her prescriptions. They were ready for pickup.

In another errand fraught with obstacles, Aunt Barbie went to get a new charger for her phone so she could keep in touch with friends and family about Uncle Dick’s condition. It turns out that her phone is several years old and discontinued — no charger exists to fit it. We tried to call her phone server to make alterations in their service plan, but we learned that only Uncle Dick was authorized to do so. Uncle Dick was in no position to be calling phone service providers.

Having heard Aunt Barbie’s predicament, the cell phone salesman spent an hour brainstorming options, speaking to relatives on the phone, and even telling us, in confidence, some unofficial shortcuts that could get a working phone back in Aunt Barbie’s pocket. We purchased nothing in the end, but got invaluable service from someone willing to help, just for the sake of being helpful.

Four days after his discharge from EMMC, Uncle Dick and Aunt Barbie flew from Bangor International Airport back home to Maryland, weary but OK. It was not the vacation they had planned. Nevertheless, they left with hearts filled with gratitude and admiration — thanks not only to their own innate optimism (which is profound), but also to a whole lot of good people in Maine.

Robin Clifford Wood welcomes feedback and story ideas. Contact her at robin.everyday@gmail.com.


Have feedback? Want to know more? Send us ideas for follow-up stories.

You may also like