Elton highly recommends Dr. Emergency

Writer impressed by care received from Bartlett Regional Hospital

Posted: Friday, July 15, 2005

On the WaterfrontBy Elton Engstrom

My doctor is Dr. Emergency. He is one of the finest doctors in Juneau. I've been seeing him regularly for at least the last six or seven years.

One of my first visits was because of a slight early morning pain in my jaw and discomfort in my back. I took a shower and went for a walk, but my daughter insisted that I go to the hospital.

The doctor didn't find any trouble to start with, but, when the tests came in, he said with a hint of excitement that I was having a heart attack. So I spent the next five days in mandatory confinement.

It seemed that way, since they wouldn't let me go home until the doctor released me. But I was really impressed with the care at the emergency room and at the critical care unit at Bartlett Regional Hospital. What a marvelous staff. The nurses were terrific. Many have a long background of experience. Some come to Juneau for three to six months at a time on a special travel program.

On a later visit to the emergency room - I had a deep puncture wound in my hand - I was impressed with how the staff reacted to real "emergencies." A call came about a 1-month-old baby having a difficult time breathing. I thought, as they ministered to the little fellow, of the miracles of modern medicine, of how the nurses could put a tiny needle in the tiniest of veins to stabilize and nourish a very weak child.

When I was growing up in Juneau there was no emergency room, and I believe a small baby like that would have probably died.

I talked to Sheryl Washburn, the patient care administrator at the hospital. She said that at various times 21 nurses work at the emergency room and 15 at the critical care unit. Of course there is some overlapping. There are six regular doctors for the emergency room with seven additional doctors pitching in to help.

The summer is a busy time. Washburn said that ship passengers often come in for treatment of heart attack, stroke, pneumonia and other serious illnesses.

About five years after my first heart attack, I fainted during a local church service. Away I went again, this time in the ambulance. Believe it or not, even with a staff of many doctors, the same individual diagnosed me, and in I went for another five days.

Besides Dr. Emergency, I also have a fine local heart specialist that I visit. His name is Dr. Richard Welling.

• Elton Engstrom is a lifelong Alaskan, retired fish-buyer, lawyer and legislator (1964-70) who lives in Juneau.

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