Donnie Howard was just a few miles away from his home when he was involved in a head-on car collision July 2 near Hwy. 370 and Truman Boulevard.
Donnie was rushed by ambulance to SSM St. Joseph Health Center, a place to which his family has deep ties. His grandmother was a 26-year employee there and it was where all his immediate family members were born.
Due to complications stemming from his injuries, his stay at the hospital lasted longer than expected. His visit included stays in the intensive care, telemetry and rehabilitation units and spanned 40 days. Thanks to the care he received, Donnie felt like he was as close to home as he could be without actually being there.
"I felt I was very well taken care of here," Donnie said. "I can’t imagine being at a different hospital."
Hospital staff began connecting with Donnie on a personal level from the moment he entered the emergency department doors. By the time he was discharged, he had made enduring friendships with those who cared for him.
Several of the nurses who cared for Donnie attended his ‘Welcome Home’ party on Aug. 10. He and his family attended a retirement party for ICU nurse Charlene Harris, who made his recovery one of her career’s final priorities. The family even crossed paths with some of their new friends at the Great Forest Park Balloon Race and discussed Donnie’s long road to recovery.
"A patient is so much more than their injuries," said Nicole Piotter, ANP-BC, who helped treat Donnie throughout his stay. "Being there, seeing him every day, I was intent on helping him navigate through his complex hospital course."
And now, whenever they’re in the neighborhood, the Howards stop by SSM St. Joseph Health Center to greet the staff and thank them for the compassion they showed, even during Donnie’s most difficult days of recovery.
"When I got hurt I really grasped the concept of being in God’s hands," Donnie said. "I’ve never felt so wrapped up and held, and that’s a huge testimony to the people who work here."
The experience was especially meaningful to Donnie’s father, Don, who found comfort in the mission statement of SSM Health Care, which is: Through our exceptional health care services, we reveal the healing presence of God.
"That really hit home for me," Don said. "I’ve lost two brothers and both parents but this was by far the worst thing I’d ever gone through. And to get over that with this kind of ending is an incredible miracle."