By Ms. Brandy C Ostanik (Regional Health Command Pacific)February 28, 2019
FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska -- There is never a convenient time to get sick, however, some times are worse than others.
Nichole Potter, wife of Sgt. Sean Potter, a medic with 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry Division, Medical Platoon, knows firsthand that getting sick with two little girls at home while her husband is at the National Training Center is one of the least convenient times. However, on Feb. 19, the staff at Bassett Army Community Hospital helped make the best of a bad situation for Potter and her daughters.
That morning, Potter took her young daughters, ages 3 and 5, to their head start program and went to work, where she began feeling sick.
"I started getting really bad pains in my stomach," said Potter.
The pain grew more intense. She vomited and then the pain migrated to her right abdomen.
"I called the appointment line to see if they could get me in for a same-day appointment," said Potter. "But they directed me to the ER."
Potter picked up her daughters and, worried she was overreacting, started driving home. That plan changed when her car hit a bump and she could no longer ignore the pain.
"Right from the beginning I let the ER know that I had my daughters because my husband was at NTC and all my friends were either at work or school, so I didn't have anyone to come get them," said Potter.
According to Potter, the emergency room staff never missed a beat.
"The nurse (Registered Nurse Capt. Rachel Smith) who came in started joking with me and my kids, really making me feel comfortable from the start," said Potter.
That interaction set the tone for her entire stay.
Next into the room was physician's assistant John Walters.
"Every experience I've had with him has been phenomenal; he's so family oriented," said Potter. "This time was no different, he saw I had my cute little entourage with me and that I was in so much pain, he stepped in as a guidance for my kids when I was in no position to take care of them," said Potter.
"He even went to the cafeteria and brought them both back lunch, got them coloring pages and spent time with them," she added.
Potter and her girls spent about four hours in the emergency room while tests were being run, before the girls were picked up, and she was told she would need surgery to remove her appendix.
"I became very emotional," said Potter. "I felt so alone with my husband being gone, and Walters just sat there and let me cry and he reassured me because I was so stressed out. Everyone was just so supportive. There was not one staff member that looked at me as just another patient. They looked at me like a person."
The staff members who were on shift that day caring for Potter said they felt they did nothing special, that it was just taking care of a family in need, which goes beyond a diagnosis and medical care.
"It was a team effort to provide a mother with two small kids with what they needed at the time," said Dr. Susan Tate, chief of the Bassett ACH emergency department. "It was nothing out of the ordinary."
Walters echoed Tate, "Honestly, it was just the right thing to do."
Potter said she feels their response goes beyond just doing a job.
"I was blown away by how supportive everyone has been and the compassion shown to me," said Potter. "Last night I felt like I had family in strangers."