M. Douglas Wray

White Coat Cadre

This is an open letter to the staff at Long’s Peak Hospital.

Please feel free to share, repost, or quote without attribution.

All of the people below (in no order because it’s all a blur) participated in my care while I was hospitalized for a myasthenia gravis crisis during the PEAK of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is as many as I could capture, I’m certain I’ve missed a few. Please feel free to leave comments below, I’d love to stay in touch with all of you!! What a fantastic team. Without the help of all these people, I would not be here to write this and my beloved Tammi would be a widow twice over. Thank you all for your yeoman’s work, dedication, and towering spirits.

May the Light always shine on you and yours.

May Love always find you and Joy be close behind.​

Angelica Rotherham
RN LPH Med Unit


Angelica is aptly-named. She’s taken care of both my wife Tammi and myself. We owe her big time.

Her unfailingly upbeat spirit was like a beam of light every time she came into my room.

Never once did she express frustration with my speech issues, listened to all my jabbering, and stuck more needles into my fat carcass than anyone else. (with love)

Thank you, Angelica. Without your skill and dedication, I would be gone from this world. You made the time so much more tolerable with all the laughter and listening.

The Light is brighter because of you.

Amanda
Intensive Care Unit


Really really mean!!!* Tortured me endlessly*, made fun* of me, left my gown open in the back on purpose*, etc. etc.

I love you dearly Amanda, you were right there when things went sideways. It was your hand on my back when I was literally millimeters from death, then afterward helping me recover.

Your care made all the difference and I cannot express how much it means to me.

Thank you for being a friend.

(* fibs, MDW)

Sarah Sherwin
Clinical Nurse RN


Sarah was Joy incarnate. From the first moment we met, I could feel her caring like a warm fire. Comforting beyond words. I’m not sure who gave me a shoulder rub after I almost checked out choking, but I think it was her.

Always pleasant, never rushed. I felt like I was the only patient in the ward, despite the ‘house being full’ – this is what quiet competence looks like.

So humble too. Almost every person I asked to photograph was abashed and cute as could be when I asked but she was clearly amused to be seen so clearly.

Your work matters Sarah. It saved my life.

Don’t you ever forget it – I sure won’t.

(badge image redacted for security reasons) Bree (Last name redacted on request)
RN


Thank you Bree, there were literally so many of you I can’t remember all the details. You took care of me in the ICU a couple of times. I could tell you were working hard, but still took the time to stand and be recognized.

Thousands of young women like her save lives daily, without fanfare or reward besides a paycheck.

Her service honors us all.

Debbie Martinez
Respiratory Therapist


Laughter. That’s the first thing I remember about Debbie.

When I asked her why she chose to be a Respiratory Therapist she told me how she’d studied Mathematics in college and then had a roommate who was an RT, thought it was a good mix of her interests and skills. Nailed it.

Brilliant person, funny, witty, informed, and an instant friend.

I can still remember her encouragement during the lung capacity tests I took several times a day:

“BLOW!BLOW!!BLOWW!!!BLOWBLOWBLOWBLOOOW!”

Half the time I was laughing so hard I had to repeat the test.

Thank you Debbie for the sweetest medicine – LAUGHTER.

(badge image redacted for security reasons) Crystal House
Respiratory Therapist


Crystal was very quiet but careful, efficient, and clearly very skilled. She answered all of my geeky questions about the spirometer and negative pressure gauge without hesitation and was totally respectful of me at all times.

She kept calling me ‘sir’ which I found uproariously funny,

Thank you for your quiet competence.

(badge image redacted for security reasons) Jenna Crane
Speech/Language Pathology


When I began to mend from the IVIG treatment, Jenna helped me understand what the hell had gone wrong with my mouth* and also did the swallow study that verified I wouldn’t try and choke myself to death on a Cheeto at home. Spent the time waiting for the transport folks explaining the study to me and showing me the fluoroscopic videos of it. The hyoid bone, pharynx, and trachea never looked so good to me.
(* I mean, who hasn’t…)

Ellen Grabau
Respiratory Therapist


Ellen gave me lung capacity tests.

Sweet as apple pie and twice as warming to my heart. Never rushed me once while I was gasping and hiccuping trying to do the tests.

She was obviously very busy so we only chatted briefly.

May you always breathe freely, angel of mercy.

Thank you for using your skill to heal me.

(badge image redacted for security reasons) Melissa Mathias
RN


My maternal grandmother was a registered nurse. This young woman reminded me strongly of her. Quiet but very much in charge. No nonsense or chatter, just her duty and on to the next patient.

Bless you Melissa for standing in the gap between Life and Death every day. Laying down your own life one day at a time to hold the line against the Darkness. Love and Light to you.

Maya
CNA


Look at those eyes! The Light is very bright in this young woman. She was always happy. Every shift she had with me was effortless (as it was with all) and I felt attended like a King.

A living embodiment of Tagore’s poem: “…I woke, and behold, Service was Joy.”

Maya, may Joy hold your hand all the days of your life, your Service honors me.

Thank you.

Dr. Robert Janata


Our visits were always brief but productive and immensely reassuring.

Answered every one of my questions in the agonizing detail I insist on and never seemed put out or inconvenienced by it.

Thank you for respecting my humanity and my wits. It made me feel so valued and safe.

Exquisite care and attention to detail are what save lives.

Without doctors like this, rare conditions like MG would take many more victims.

There are no greater Warriors of the Light.

Dr. Vincent Ciampa
DO


Dr. Vinnie was wonderful. I think he was the primary doctor on my case. Always listened to everything I had to say and we clearly heard each other. His calm confidence was like an adamantine shield against the Dark. With him leading the way, I knew I would make it through this terrifying tunnel.

He even laughed when I joked about his name reminding me of Rodney Dangerfield’s apocryphal doctor. Again, Joy.

Thank you, sir.

Casey
Physical Therapist


Infectious enthusiasm, that was Casey.

Cute and shy but filled with such good nature and light it was like a warm breeze every time he came to see me.

I asked him if he was married and he quickly said “No, but dating…” – may you find your soulmate soon my young friend, you deserve to be cherished like the blazing gem you are.

Every step I take on the rest of my Road starts here.

Thank you, Casey.

Brenda Jonhson
Cardiac Sono-Tech


Directly after my brush with death, my heart was examined by this clever lady.

Watching her use the echocardiogram ultrasound workstation was like watching a concert pianist expertly playing Mozart.

She took dozens of measurements of my beating heart, all the while discussing what she was doing with me. Awesome skill.

Rather than feeling like a specimen in a petri dish, she made me feel like a magical piece of art being restored.

May you only hear lovely sounds, Brenda.

Thank you.

Bruce Rippe
Chaplin/Pastoral care


This is a true Man of God.

Understanding, experienced, kind, and gentle.

We had wonderful conversations about all manner of spiritual subjects and everywhere I went, he knew the way. Beowulf, Campbell, Castenada, and on. I’ve always styled myself a guru or dispeller of shadows – but this soft-spoken soldier has walked calmly through shadows that would have frozen my soul. His gentle strength was as a strong arm around my shoulders.

There is no greater Light than the Divine – when Bruce was with me I felt the Darkness take two steps back and experienced a brief and lovely time of calm and relief.

Truly an incarnation of
“…a lamp unto my feet and a light for my path.”

Thank you Bruce for bringing the Big Light just when I needed it most in my dark wilderness of fear.

I am ever in your debt my friend and we will surely meet in the Great Vale beyond when this mortal coil falls away.

Jenifer Sullivan
Respiratory Therapist


Jenifer was always a hoot, laughed at my stupid dad-jokes in my slurred voice, and gave me nothing but encouragement.

She, too, was always quick and efficient, having a ton of patients to see every single day – several times.

Eyes that shone with such kindness even a surgical mask couldn’t hold it back.

Thank you, Jennifer, you made a boring test fun!

James Ingham
Food Service Tech / Food Nutrition


These folks do some true yeoman’s work! Hauling literally tons of food around, making damn certain that the right meal goes to the right person (it matters, let me tell ya) and fast.

Every single meal he brought me was like manna from heaven. Potato soup never tasted so good.

His wide smile and laughing eyes were icing on the cake (which I wasn’t allowed to have yet… wah).

Thanks, James for putting the hustle on every day and feeding patients with such dispatch and accuracy.

Lunch is on me when we meet again!

Michelle Larson
RN


Cool, efficient, and effective, that was Michelle.

Always polite, gentle, and patient when examining me.

We didn’t speak a great deal because I usually couldn’t because of my tongue being paralyzed, but she patiently waited while I scribbled questions and comments on a pad.

Untold numbers of families owe their loved ones to this angel.

Thank you, Michelle.

Geoff
RN


There are few male nurses, for good reason – it’s brutally hard work that most men won’t or can’t do.

Geoff was toe to toe with the female nurses and their respect for him was obvious.

Happy as a clam with a smile twice as wide.

Ever supportive and understanding.

I knew I was completely safe when he was near.

Immeasurably comforting.

Thank you, Geoff!

Sorrel Sudtelgte
Phlebotomist


I saw Sorrel regularly for blood draws.

I’ve known only two phlebotomists who had such a perfect way with the needle.

Barely felt it going in or coming out – and I’m a total weenie about being stuck.

I had not a qualm about giving this lovely angel my lifeblood – for I saw the results of tests come online shortly after she left and knew it was being treated with the utmost respect.

A river of red has flowed through this young woman’s hands and left her clean – only the blessed can pull off that trick every day.

Thank you, Sorrel.

Zeph Fernandez
Pulmonary


Another pair of smiling eyes!

I asked if ‘Zeph’ was a diminutive of ‘Zephyr’ and she told me, “No, Zephaniah!” Clearly I was in a mystical place of prophets and revelations (no duh!!)

Moments of a cold stethoscope on my back, careful listening to the breath of life whistling in and out of me.

Talk about the wind beneath my wings, more like every breath I took!

Thank you Zephaniah!

Name not captured
Food Service Tech / Food Nutrition


Another of my food servers. We only met a few times and I think I was mostly asleep or not doing well since I don’t recall much about her, Worse yet, I didn’t notice her badge was turned over so I don’t have her name. Help me out kids, who is this?

Credit where credit is due.

Thank you miss…. (cups ear)

Jody DaStigter
Educator


I only met this lady for a minute (if that) – she stuck her head in looking for someone and when I asked who she was, she chirped: “Oh, I’m just the educator” and tried to duck out again – I insisted she come back for a photo!

“JUST the Educator”??! Thank GOD for educators, they hone the sharpest spear of Light that vanquishes all Darkness!

Bless you, Jody for being the custodian of centuries of learning that has saved innumerable lives, now mine as well.

Never minimize the power of Knowledge – it is the only true legacy of Humanity. Thank you a thousand times over!

January
Environmental Services


Since I was awake pretty much round the clock the first few nights I got to meet most of the folks that clean and maintain the patient rooms – and there is a legion.

Very efficient and methodical. Cleaned up, hauled off all the linens and other debris.

We chatted about her name while she worked. I’m always fascinated by names.

Again, one of the yeomen that most people never see but are so critical to keeping everything going, safe, and clean.

The men and women that do this work and are, frankly, essential. Never doubt that. They deserve more.

Thank you, January for your tireless work, especially now during this pandemic!

(badge image redacted for security reasons) Chelsey
Respiratory Therapy Team Lead


After I met more than four Respiratory Therapists, I began to finally grok just how bad my condition was!

It was sobering but reassuring to know how much effort was being expended to keep me breathing!

Thank you Chelsey for my breath of Life!!

(badge image redacted for security reasons) Baron Ling
Patient Transporter


The staff member that took me down for the swallow study.

These folks physically move patients around the hospital – do some basic math and you’ll see it’s a very physical job that takes strength and  delicacy.

Pleasant, hard-working gentleman made me feel like a celebrity, rolling down the halls at a rapid clip.

Thank you Baron!

Tony Brown
Patient Transporter


The staff member that took me back to my room after my swallow study.

Very quiet but friendly, I asked him his name, saw it was ‘Brown’ and had to ask ‘Any Relation?’ ( to the Godfather of Soul). He smiled and said no but the way he draped the blanket over my shoulders like a cape still made me feel good.

Thanks for the ride Tony, smooth as silk.

 

Tricia Muncy
RN


The nurse that started Friday morning with me.

Friendly and polite, she checked my vitals, listened to my lungs and we had a short chat.

How many RNs does it take to keep America alive?

A LOT.

Thank you, Tricia!

(badge image redacted for security reasons) Jevany
Nutrition


Brought me my first ‘real’ food – potato soup and a side of mashed taters.

I could have kissed him on both cheeks but he was wearing a mask.

Thank you Jevany for all of your hard work – food is everything!!

7 thoughts on “White Coat Cadre

  1. Doug Wray–THANK YOU so much for taking the time to pay close attention to all of the care providers, food and nutrition staff and environmental services staff at UCHealth Longs Peak Hospital. I hope you are doing well.

    Your documentation of the people you met touched my heart. You noticed that it takes many, many people to make a high-quality hospital run well. Most importantly, it’s not about running. It’s about good diagnosis, fast action, patience, thorough care and instruction.

    Our world is better with your wit, observation, commentary and inspiration. Cheers to continued good health.

    Sincerely,

    Ashley Kasprzak
    UCHealth Longs Peak Hospital Foundaton

  2. Thanks folks! I’m so glad to have you in the River of my life. I hope our paths cross in happier places! Debbie, you are unforgettable. :-D

  3. Wow, thank you for this letter! It’s great to know that we do make a difference ❤️!! You and your wife were great patients and am so greatful I had the opportunity to meet the both of you!

  4. This is beautiful, and funny, and heart warming on so many levels! Thank you Doug for sharing so many details about your stay and our wonderful staff! We appreciate knowing how we make a difference. This brought tears to my eyes and I’m not a crier. :-) I am so proud to practice with our amazing staff, they inspire me!

    We are fortunate to know you. Thank you for sharing your story.

    Noreen Bernard, EdD, RN, NEABC, FAAN
    Chief Nursing Officer

  5. Thank you. I can’t say enough good about this team. I’m glad to live in a country that has such a health system available to people like me. With so much bad happening, this was a beacon of hope and I felt it incumbent upon me to broadcast it FAR. Bless you and all you do.

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