of Care at MUSC
Host: Dr. Linda Austin –
Dr. Linda Austin: I’m Dr.
Linda Austin. I’m talking, today, with
Laura Wickman Hipp who has, I think, a very special story to tell. Laura, you’ve lived in Charleston all your life, so the medical
university has been like a neighbor to you, but when you’re daughter, Delia,
was born, it became as very special neighbor.
Can you tell us that story?
Laura Wickman Hipp: Delia
was six months old when we found out she had a heart abnormality. I had been nursing her nonstop. She’s a very determined little girl, and she
was determined not to have anything but breast milk, and she was throwing up
half of this breast milk, and I’m nursing all the time. And then, the pediatrician thinks I must not
be feeding her enough, so I have to go in for weight checks twice a week with
her because she’s just not gaining weight.
So, Malcolm, our pediatrician, sent us over to the medical
university just to start ruling things out.
He said, let’s get an EKG. So, they hooked her up with all of these
wires. And all of these residents came
pooling around and they all seemed amazed that this child was living and
breathing with what they were seeing. We
went into Dr. Ashby Talyor’s waiting room, chalk full of parents and little
children, and then they call our names.
We go in. We try to be as brief
as we can, thinking he’s got a waiting room full of people, and we know he’s a
busy man. He’s got a lot of people to
get back to. He said, oh no, they’ve all been sent home. You take precedence. And he told us what Delia had, which was an
abnormality called single-ventricle.
She had another abnormality which made it silent, so that you
didn’t really hear it, and that had helped her compensate for six months
without it being detected at birth.
Dr. Linda Austin: So, the
heart normally has four chambers, two smaller ones on top, two large muscular
ones on the bottom and she had only one on the bottom, so the blood was not
being oxygenated properly?
Laura Wickman Hipp:
Exactly. Yep. It was mixing, so she was spending every
calorie just trying to oxygenate her blood.
He said the good new is, we can
Dr. Linda Austin: Laura,
what was the experience like for you? I
understand she had three surgeries, three hospitalizations. What was the experience like for you as a
mother, at the hospital, at that time?
Laura Wickman Hipp: Well,
at first, you know, we were just kind of walking around in that fog, that daze,
where you just can’t believe this is us,
here, in this unusual place that feels like another planet. But, when it came right down to the surgery
and being in PCICU and being uplifted by all of our friends and family’s
prayers, I really had a sense of everyone bending over backwards to help this
little baby. Dr. Scott Bradley did the
surgery. And, then, all the nurses are
just completely in attendance. And, I
just thought, this is what it is like
when the angels are ministering to us; I am seeing what is usually unseen. And I felt that MUSC was full of angels at
work, through every single person working here.
It was like each person had an angel and they were working in tandem,
doing God’s work; they were God’s hands, getting into people’s bodies and doing
the miracles that needed to be done, including our little Delia.
Dr. Linda Austin: Little
Delia, who is now a beautiful 13-year-old.
Laura Wickman Hipp: Yes.
Dr. Linda Austin: And
taller than I am, I think.
Laura Wickman Hipp: Yes.
Dr. Linda Austin: So, life
has been very good to you?
Laura Wickman Hipp: Yes.
Dr. Linda Austin: And then,
recently, you’ve had another piece of news that brought you back to the medical
university. Can you talk about that?
Laura Wickman Hipp: My
young husband, in his late forties, the picture of health an vitality, tall,
blonde and handsome, has been diagnosed with high-risk prostate cancer. We have had a wonderful marriage, you know,
just a love affair. And now, at age 49,
having just turned 49, I came home from being away for three weeks, in England,
on a tour I led, and heard, from the bedroom, his weak urine flow. So, he, at my encouragement, went for a
checkup. They said, what are you here for? They
checked the PSA, and then they got very alarmed. So, we quickly got to a urologist and then
they gave the word to my husband that he had high-risk prostate cancer. So, that began this whole new journey at the
He is in the middle of his treatment for radiation and he’s facing
it like a man, plowing through it. And,
I must say, we have seen how people are in position here, not by chance, that
they have a calling, even down to the man who is at the desk in the oncology
radiation waiting room, Don, who is so sensitive to our needs, and then down to
the lady at the ticket booth in the parking lot, the cubicle there. As we were pulling out one of those early
days, I’m in a fog and in tears and deep in thought and she reaches out over
the glass, into the airway between her cubicle and our car, and she simply says
something like, you know, have a great
weekend, you know, that we hear everyday.
But, that visual image of her face reaching out to us for a brief moment
stayed with me all weekend. So, when we
saw her again on Monday, I said, I just
want you to know how much I appreciated you reaching out to us the last time we
were here. And, since then, we have
become friends. She said, I know you all must be going through
something to be coming here everyday.
So, even she understands.
And I feel like people want to meet us eye-to-eye. We pass by them in the hallway. Our doctors want to be there, completely, for
us. Any amount of time we need to talk
or ask questions, they’re there. His
urologist spent so much time on the phone with me while at MUSC, in another
section of the hospital, going through different things, saying, I’m going to Ireland and I’m just really sorry
about that. I said, well, don’t you want to go? You’re from Ireland. He said, yes,
but I really want to be here for you.
And I thought, gosh, he really is
taking us in like part of his family; he wants to be there for us. That sense of family, caring, is what has
really impressed us with the blessing of being here at home, in
Charleston, the Holy City,
where we really do have the gift of hospitality even in our hospital here, at
our point of need, in this moment of crisis in our lives.
Dr. Linda Austin: It’s a
wonderful story. We, at MUSC, think of
ourselves, and speak or ourselves, as a family.
And the family includes those patients who trust us with their lives and
their care. It’s such an honor and such
a privilege to be able to take care of the folks who come here.
Laura Wickman Hipp: I’m
glad you feel that way.
Dr. Linda Austin: Thanks so
much for telling your story, Laura.
Dr. Linda Austin: God bless
you and your work, Linda.
Dr. Linda Austin: Thank
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