Recognition from a patient’s perspective

March 20, 2019  //  FOUND IN: Our Employees,

Throughout March, faculty and staff have been recognized by their colleagues for the exceptional work they perform daily.

But recognition isn’t only important among coworkers. Individuals often reach out to thank their caregivers for making an impact on their lives. Out of the 17,000+ Making a Difference awards received every year, 40 percent of those come from patients and their families.

In honor of National Recognition Month, here are two examples of patients and family members who were blown away by their service at Michigan Medicine — and wanted to personally thank those responsible.

Finding ‘champions’ at their bedside

Mike and Patricia Champion with their children at Michigan Medicine.

In December 2017, Mike Champion went to his local doctor in Kalamazoo, Michigan because he wasn’t feeling well. At that point, he was a self-described “regular, active 65-year-old guy” who had very few health concerns.

“I underwent a blood test and was immediately sent to the emergency room,” Mike said. Doctors performed more tests over the next five days before eventually transferring him to Michigan Medicine, where his diagnosis of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia was confirmed. He spent the entire first month after diagnosis as an inpatient on 8A — the acute care oncology unit — receiving chemotherapy, blood transfusions and a variety of specialized care.

“It’s really unsettling to think you’re healthy and then you’re diagnosed with cancer,” Mike said. “But from the moment I walked in the door at Michigan Medicine, I was in good hands.”

Doctors, nurses, social workers, techs and more would stop by and check in with him.

“Everyone would have a smile on their face,” Mike said. “I called my nurses the ‘angels in the room.’”

Eventually, he was discharged and began the next intense phase of treatment, a combination of hospital and home-administered chemotherapy.

“I’d be in and out of the hospital a number of times from January through May for side effects as well as for treatment. I then spent the entire month of June hospitalized again on 8A due to serious complications. But no matter how critical things became, the various teams acted quickly, effectively and with compassion; always working to keep me and my family positive,” Mike said.

His wife, Patricia, agreed.

“Our family was shaken and in shock in December, but on the first morning on 8A, when Mike’s bed was surrounded by a team of oncology specialists on one side and our entire family on the other, it was the first moment I felt a glimmer of hope,” Patricia said. “It was clear that Mike was under the care of a medical team possessing a high level of knowledge and expertise with a clear plan in place. The team of physicians, nurses, techs and staff on 8A administered specialized treatment with empathy. I knew they were there for our entire family.”

Today, Mike is gaining back strength. He has now entered the two-year “maintenance” phase of his treatment, taking daily home chemotherapy and coming to Michigan Medicine for monthly infusion chemotherapy, scheduled lumbar punctures and other treatment. In fact, he was just able to travel for the first time since his diagnosis, heading to Florida for rest, relaxation and time in a more conducive climate. He is looking forward to becoming strong enough to take his granddaughters to Disney World.

“When I was weak and could barely roll over in bed, I told the nurses on 8A that I’d come back to see them when I was walking again,” Mike said. And that he did. “I needed for them to see how far I have come and to know that their work is meaningful. I wanted them to see how I’m now able to carry on thanks to them; I’m still here because of the care I got at Michigan Medicine.”

Care beyond the clinic

Every Friday, Kristine (who chose not to share her last name) brings her daughter to the feeding and behavioral clinic at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.

“We’ve gotten to know everyone, from the valet drivers to the check-in assistants to the incredible doctors and nurses,” Kristine said.

There’s one such doctor who has stood out, not just for the care she provides but the compassion she shows.

“I don’t know what I’d do without Dr. Drayton,” Kristine said, referring to Amy Drayton, Ph.D., assistant professor of clinical psychology. “She’s there when my daughter gets off the elevator, sometimes giving her a piggy-back ride just to get a smile on her face and make her feel more comfortable. And then she walks us to sensory processing and other areas once our appointment is over.”

But it’s the care outside of the clinic that Kristine said shines the brightest.

“She’s gone to my daughter’s school to advocate for special accommodations and connected me with U-M law students when I needed legal advice,” Kristine said. “She — and everyone I’ve encountered at Michigan Medicine — truly care about every aspect of our lives.”

It’s what spurred her to reach out and recognize Drayton and the entire care team.

“Saying ‘thank you’ isn’t enough and I know that,” Kristine said. “But when people truly impact your lives and make everything complete, saying ‘thank you’ is the least you can do.”

Kristine and the Champions both took the time to call the Michigan Medicine Recognition Program office. But they were just two of hundreds of calls fielded by the office every year. Thank you to all faculty and staff for everything you do to impact the lives of patients and families each day.