Quality of Care at MUSC

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Quality of Care at MUSC





Host:  Dr. Linda Austin – Psychiatry


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 fix this.


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 medical university. 


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 you.


Many thanks to the doctors, patients, and healthcare providers of the MUSC family who contribute to the podcast library.  Please, join those who support the production of this series by clicking on the donation at the bottom of the podcast webpage.

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