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Kalispell Regional Healthcare Foundation

Healing Stories

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Kalispell Regional Healthcare has touched the lives of many individuals. Every day, our mission — to improve the health and comfort of the people we serve — is realized through their healing stories.

A Hi-Line heart story

"It’s extremely isolated here. We are 63 miles north of Cutbank, and the ranch straddles the Canadian Border. All at once I started getting a severe pain between my shoulder blades. I didn’t really know what it was, so I promised God that if I survived this, I would quit Copenhagen. I ignored the pain, kept taking nitroglycerine tablets, and kept trying to get my crops planted."

"Marge was in California, and when she called, I did the cowboy thing and told her I was just fine. Marge was on her way home, and when she arrived, one look told her things weren’t fine at all. A quick exam by the family doctor in Cutbank turned into a drive over the divide to Kalispell Regional Medical Center, and a consultation with a cardiologist. Heart surgery was the recommendation. I already had a stent in my coronary artery. I told the Doc that my crops were not planted and I would need some option to allow putting off surgery until that was done. He told me my other option was to die. Kinda got my attention."

“I can’t brag enough on those doctors and nurses at Kalispell Regional. The motto of that place should be friendliness and caring. Since that time, I’ve had no pain or discomfort. I just praise the Kalispell hospital. Next time — and I really hope there isn’t one – I’ll be saving myself a few hours by taking that (A.L.E.R.T.) helicopter. All you have to do is listen to those doctors over there. Don’t try and sit home being a tobacco-chewing cowboy – cause you ain’t going to make it if you do.”

John

Close to home

When Katie Martin was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Disease, a form of cancer, at age 22, she found the treatment she needed right here at home. Just a month before Martin's diagnosis, the Cancer Center at Kalispell Regional Medical Center had installed a new radiation treatment, called Image Guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT), which pinpoints cancer cells with minimal damage to healthy tissue.

After traveling to Seattle for a second opinion, Martin chose to stay in her home town for treatment. Her mother had read about the availability of IGRT in a hospital publication, and her oncologist confirmed that she was a good candidate for the treatment. After two initial rounds of chemotherapy, Martin underwent 17 treatments of IGRT.

"It's absolutely phenomenal that such a small place has this to offer cancer patients. I would never go anywhere that doesn't have IGRT.  And the people that deliver it are genuine -- they are really great. They made me very comfortable, and were never annoyed by any of my questions," Martin said.

Katie and her fiancé, Sam, went ahead with their plans and were married in July 2007, about halfway through her treatment. Today, with her treatment behind her and a positive prognosis, Katie and her husband, Sam Martin, are just like any other newlyweds. They live and work in Missoula and look forward to their future.

I would have been foolish to go elsewhere

When longtime Flathead Valley physician Van Kirke Nelson needed healing himself, he found the advanced care he needed, right here at home.

New cancer treatment technology, called Image-Guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT), allows doctors to better target cancer while avoiding nearby healthy tissue. The equipment, purchased through the Kalispell Regional Healthcare Foundation with private donations, was installed just a few months before Dr. Nelson was diagnosed with throat cancer.

Dr. Nelson recalls what happened next: "There were people who tried to encourage me to travel out of town to a larger medical center for my treatment. But I would have been foolish to go elsewhere. Why would I want to leave my home, my family, my work, and the comfort of my own bed to sleep in at night, when KRMC has comparable, if not better, treatment than other, larger communities? It wasn't a hard decision. But, had KRMC not added IGRT, treatment in my community would not have been an option."

Because of IGRT, Dr. Nelson was successfully treated - without having to leave his home, his family and his work.

Compassion and grace

"Our daughter, Madelyn, recently had to go to the KRMC Emergency Room. The attention we received was exceptional. Every nurse and doctor who examined Maddy or administered tests was professional and very kind. Not only did the ER staff meet Madelyn's needs, but our entire family's distress was handled with compassion and grace. We are so appreciative. Oh, and of course, she's fine!"

Erick, Jami and Madelyn

Right here in the Flathead Valley

"When you are a 43-year-old active coach and marathon runner, colon cancer is the last thing you expect. I learned a lot about it in a hurry and everything I learned told me that we had the best equipment and people right here in the Flathead Valley, at KRMC. They obviously enjoy their jobs, and for a person who has spent his life motivating other people, it sure was nice to have them there, at every turn, motivating me."

Patrick 

Happy Birthday!

"I wanted to celebrate my 57th birthday by making it to the top of The Summit's indoor climbing wall," said Dennis. And he made it. For most anyone, this would be a huge accomplishment. For Dennis, climbing to the top is especially significant given he has cerebral palsy. Thanks to a Summit scholarship, Dennis can access the climbing wall and all of the facilities, other programs and equipment. Five days a week, Dennis can be found at The Summit climbing, exercising and meeting new friends.

Diagnosed with breast cancer

"I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004 during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. My daughter, a nurse in New York City, wanted me to get treatment at Sloan-Kettering Hospital there. After researching it, I found we have all the latest and greatest equipment, and most qualified staff, right here at KRMC. I was treated well, in both senses of the word. The Cancer Center has a four-star hotel-like atmosphere. Everything was there, whatever I needed. I wouldn't hesitate to go right back there again, should I ever need to"

Sue

A transplant is no longer necessary

Joan was shocked to hear the word "transplant" from her doctor. Her heart was not strong enough to pump an adequate amount of oxygen rich blood to her body. Choices were a transplant or to start exercising. The decision was easy. Joan enrolled in The Summit's Heart Failure Action Program and began working out an hour a day, five days a week. Thanks to The Summit and Joan's commitment to exercise, her heart's pumping ability improved from 14 percent to 38 percent. For now, a transplant is no longer necessary.

I knew I was in a lot of trouble

"I was out cutting a Christmas tree in the Swan Range, 35 miles from Kalispell, when I suddenly had shortness of breath and severe chest pain. I'm a trauma nurse, and I knew I was in a lot of trouble. From the initial symptoms —with a call to KRMC by my wife, a drive to a pick up spot, a ride in the A.L.E.R.T. helicopter to the hospital and then to the Cath Lab for the insertion of a stent into my coronary artery — the whole process took less than an hour!"

Jim

Nothing prepares you for that

"My experiences as a teaching cancer doctor at the University of California, Marquette University, and Jefferson Medical College gave me a unique perspective when I became a prostate cancer patient. Nothing prepares you for that. My friend from USC wanted me to come there for treatment, but I already knew that the Cancer Center at KRMC was no less sophisticated than those at Mayo, or big hospitals in New York City and L.A. And, compared to the assembly line treatment there, I received relaxed, compassionate, individual care. To a doctor, that's important. To the doctor as a cancer patient, it was a very big deal."

Walter

I owe my life to The Summit

"I owe my life to The Summit," said LeRoy. Following a serious industrial accident, LeRoy experienced a prolonged period of physical and emotional challenges. Today, thanks to exceptional medical care and access to The Summit's many health and fitness resources and equipment, LeRoy feels like himself again.