[As of publication, Sharon passed away surrounded by family and friends at Palmer Lutheran Health Center]
Sharon Schroyer, West Union, understands the importance of having a first-rate hospital in West Union and isn’t afraid to tell everyone she meets.
“We are fortunate to have Palmer Lutheran so close to us. I just wish that everyone knew everything that is offered close to home!”
Unfortunately, Sharon is no stranger to all that is offered at Palmer. With type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, heart issues and now struggling with a form of COPD, Sharon admits that her second home is Palmer.
“And, my second family,” Sharon laughs. “After my husband, kids, grandkids and friends, I would have to say that Palmer is my second family. I sure do visit them enough!”
Having heart surgery in 2000 and 2003, Sharon’s biggest obstacle came in 2011 when she became short of breath found herself gasping for air. Coming into Palmer Lutheran’s Emergency Room, Sharon was put on oxygen and felt better instantly. With her oxygen level (O2) at 80%, the providers knew something was drastically wrong and transferred her to La Crosse for further monitoring and tests. After an overnight stay with her oxygen levels barely increasing, Sharon was sent home with a continuous-use oxygen tank until Dr. Pratt, the pulmonologist, confirmed suspicions that she had pulmonary hypertension.
Pulmonary hypertension is a type of high blood pressure that affects the arteries in the lungs and the right side of the heart. Pulmonary hypertension begins when tiny arteries in the lungs, called pulmonary arteries, and capillaries become narrowed, blocked or destroyed. This makes it harder for blood to flow through the lungs and raises pressure within the lungs' arteries. As the pressure builds, the heart's lower right chamber (right ventricle) must work harder to pump blood through the lungs, eventually causing the heart muscle to weaken and eventually fail.
“Even though the disease affected my lungs, I was referred to Dr. Alliani, a cardiologist, and to Palmer Lutheran’s Pulmonary Rehab department.”
Failing a Pulmonary Function Test (PFT), a group of tests that measure how well the lungs take in and release air and how well they move oxygen into the blood, Sharon began Pulmonary Rehab immediately to enhance Sharon’s quality of life as the shortness of breath was affecting her life dramatically.
“The gals in Pulmonary Rehab told me I would have to slow down quite a bit,” Sharon laughs. “When I told Mike, my husband, he told me I already go like a snail these days! And, he was right. I was fine when sitting down, but the second I would get up to move, I would hit an imaginary wall that slowed me down.”
And, with Sharon’s interests, this slowing down was not acceptable, and she knew she would do everything in her power to improve her health. Starting Palmer’s Pulmonary Rehab program, Sharon began a new life that included carrying oxygen with her everywhere. The respiratory therapists (RTs) would work with Sharon weekly when she came to Palmer. They would check her vitals; assist her with exercises such as treadmills, stairs, and weights; answer questions; and, most importantly, teach Sharon that she couldn’t “do it all” anymore.
“I think that was the hardest part for me. Learning that I couldn’t do it all anymore. The girls at Palmer were amazing. At each session, we would do so much more than therapy. They really cared about me and my life and MY goals.”
From the get-go, the RTs worked on Sharon’s own goals set for her life, such as doing laundry and going out with her friends.
“Anyone that knows Sharon knows that she is a go-getter,” Palmer Respiratory Therapist Deb Schmidt states. “And, that was our goal. To get her back to what is important to her, life with her family, friends and community.”
“I know I will never be back to where I was, and I have had to make adjustments to my life,” Sharon explains. “I plan ahead to do anything since it takes me 45 minutes to leave the house instead of just throwing clothes on and walking out the door. I also plan ahead with my oxygen tanks as I can’t be somewhere and have them run out.”
In addition to Palmer’s Pulmonary Rehab department, Sharon praises Palmer Home Medical Supply. “When I was in La Crosse, they made one phone call to Home Medical Supply and the guys were waiting for me when I returned home with all the supplies I needed. They have taken care of me from the get-go.”
While Palmer has taken care of Sharon, she cannot forget about the person who really takes care of her.
“Mike has been super during all of this. He has taken over everything that I can’t do anymore,” Sharon smiles. “People keep telling me ‘don’t get rid of this one!’ and I think I will take their advice. He notices when I need to rest or when I need my oxygen and makes me do it. If I’ve had a hard day and am really tired, I know exactly what I will hear when I get home, ‘I don’t want you coming home like this again!’”
Upon completion of her therapy, Sharon knew she would miss those she had come to call friends at Palmer. However, she found out she didn’t have to miss them for long as she had the option to join the Phase 3 Pulmonary Rehab program, an on-your-own program that allows Sharon to come in and utilize the exercise machines, have her vitals and oxygen levels checked and meet with staff to answer any questions she may have.
“The staff at Palmer is awesome. If you go into the hospital in a bad or upset mood, they pump you up right away, and you leave happy. They care about me and my family. They really pay attention to my life and what is going on. If I went shopping, they remember and ask me how my trip was and how it affected my health. We talk and laugh. They are knowledgeable and honest at the same time. I always look forward to going and seeing the rehab girls, Dr. Rasool, and my cardiologist.”
Even though Sharon’s cardiologist is from La Crosse, she doesn’t have to travel to visit with him as Palmer utilizes telemedicine. Clinical telemedicine uses interactive video and audio links to connect patients and healthcare professionals at Palmer Lutheran with professionals in La Crosse. During the session, a nurse sits with Sharon at Palmer Lutheran and the doctor can talk to and see Sharon via video. The nurse will perform vitals and anything else that is asked by the provider. The camera can be moved to show the doctor various necessities, such as swollen ankles.
“I have never minded driving to La Crosse. With Mike and my friends, I have never had a problem getting there; but, since I don’t have to, why bother? It is nice to be able to have all my exams done right here in West Union, especially in bad weather.”
Continuing, Sharon stresses the importance of having state-of-the-art facilities right here close to home, “I don’t think people know how fortunate we are in West Union. Pretty much everything can be done at Palmer, people just need to ask. We have always known to ask to have services done at Palmer, but I don’t think others do. Since Palmer is connected to Gundersen, it is so reassuring knowing my doctor is a phone call away and can run over to see me right away if something is wrong, which Dr. Rasool has done. How nice is it to have staff here that we know or have grown up with. Heck, maybe even related to?”
While Sharon’s current rehab is over, she knows that there is always a place at Palmer for her. “I will continue to do Phase 3 for the rest of my life,” Sharon laughs. “So, they might as well get used to seeing me on a regular basis!”