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An Unexpected Blessing: “Vacationing” at LeConte Medical Center

Posted on October 1, 2018

“My family feels truly blessed that this situation happened at the time they were with me, “ says Michigan resident Eva Whitmore. After speaking with her for a while, you may be surprised to learn she is talking about a hospital stay, one that happened while Whitmore and her family were vacationing in Gatlinburg this past July.

“We were staying in one of the big cabins up in the mountains,” remembers Whitmore. On this family trip, she brought along her three adult sons and their families, thirteen people in all. “On the first day we arrived, a bear came lumbering down the road,” Whitmore recalls. “In fact, we saw a bear every day we were there. It was fun to watch!”

A change of plans

Their trip began in the typical ways, with family rides through the mountains and walks around downtown Gatlinburg. However, things took a turn by the middle of the week. Early Thursday morning, Whitmore abruptly awoke while experiencing severe pain in her stomach. Thinking it was just a bad tummy ache, she tried to self-medicate. When that didn’t work, and her stomach pain changed to sharp back pain followed by dry heaves, Whitmore knew she needed help.

Eva and Tom“I woke up my son, Tom, at 5 am and said ‘you have to take me somewhere,’” she recalls. Not knowing the area, her son began looking up urgent care clinics nearby on his phone, but Whitmore had a feeling this would need more than a clinic could provide.

“I need a hospital,” she insisted. But being on vacation up in the mountains, they weren’t quite sure what to expect. Guided by Google, the two took off toward LeConte Medical Center in Sevierville. “It was a beautiful hospital,” she remembers, “much nicer even than some of the ones back home.”

While external beauty is nice, Whitmore hoped the internal quality of care would match. She had a whole lot of pain that she needed to get under control. “They gave me morphine, but it didn’t help at all,” she says. “So, the doctor ordered a CT scan, and he noticed a dark spot on my scan.”

That spot highly concerned her doctor. He decided Whitmore and her son need to speak with a surgeon, specifically Dr. William Ngo, DO, with LeConte Surgical Associates.

Surgery while on vacation  

Dr. Ngo immediately knew it was a twisted intestine,” Whitmore remembers. Within an hour, she was whisked away for laparoscopic surgery. “To me, that’s pretty fast,” Whitmore says. She had arrived at the emergency room early that morning, and soon after was diagnosed and getting treatment.

Dr. Ngo removed a six-inch section of her intestine and resectioned it. “No one likes to come to the hospital, especially when on vacation,” says Dr. Ngo. “But it was good that she came into the hospital when she did. The ER staff helped identify the issue relatively quickly, and the OR staff was able to get her in for emergency surgery within the hour.” 

After her surgery, Whitmore remained at LeConte Medical Center for several more days, missing the back half of her vacation. “On Thursday and Friday, we were planning on taking my grand-daughters horseback riding and zip lining, which I wasn’t planning on doing myself anyway. So, I was really alright with it.” She was thankful to be alive, and for the quick and quality care she received at LeConte.

After arriving back home in Michigan, Whitemore was pleasantly surprised that her relationship with LeConte Medical Center didn’t end there. “Four people, including Dr. Ngo, called me at home to follow up! I was so impressed by that.”

Home, Sweet, Home

Within a few days, Whitmore saw her primary care physician in Michigan. After assuring her everything looked well, Whitmore was referred to a specialist who confirmed what she already knew – Eva’s care at LeConte Medical Center was excellent.

“The specialist said if this had not been taken care of within five days, I would have been dead,” she recalls. “It was fortunate that my family was there and able to care of me and help make the decisions.”

Although her vacation didn’t go exactly as planned, Whitmore does recommend Gatlinburg, and LeConte Medical Center, to her family and friends. “It is a beautiful hospital, and the doctor and the surgeon knew right away what was wrong. They didn’t run me through a whole bunch of tests that would have taken a day and a half.”

While she didn’t get to do everything she wanted to do while on vacation in Sevier County, Whitmore is thankful for her health. She knows it was a close call, and she is happy to be able to go on many more memorable, and hopefully healthier, vacations in the future.

“Looking back, I am so thankful for the care, the diagnosis, the quickness of it, and the quality of it,” she says. “I’m feeling great! I canned 32 pints of dill pickles last week.”

Leconte Medical Center offers an array of outpatient and inpatient surgical procedures. Find out more by visiting LeConteMedicalCenter.com/SurgicalServices