Jim Pappas

From minor injuries to the most painful day of his life, retired Central Washington University administrator and professor Jim Pappas has relied on KVH Hospital for quality care and outstanding compassion.

He's seen both up close and personal. Case in point: what happened when Pappas's wife Denise fell critically ill.

The love of his life and the heart of her family, Denise was also afraid of doctors – so fearful that for several years she ignored symptoms of potential heart problems, repeatedly refusing pleas from her family to see a doctor.

Flash back to May 19, 2006. Unable to shake persistent shoulder and back pain that eventually spread to her chest and legs, and with her husband begging her to go to the hospital, Denise refused -- right up until 11:30 p.m. when Pappas called 911. "I know now," he says, "that she was dying before my eyes."

Paramedics put her in the medic unit. Alarmed when he saw them struggling to get a heartbeat, Pappas walked circles in the front yard until the ambulance pulled away, then drove himself to KVH. Relief mingled with fear, he says. "I was so scared. But I thought she would finally get the help she needed."

At the hospital, Pappas sat beside his unresponsive wife, holding her hand and talking to her as medical staff tried to restart her heart with defibrillation multiple times. The effort failed. "They did everything they could. They were just outstanding but Denise passed away in ER," he says.

She was 67. They had been married 42 years. Stunned and numb with grief on what he calls "the worst day of my life," Pappas sat beside her waiting for family to arrive, a nurse and doctor at his side until a pastor came in. "They didn't leave me alone," he says.

It's not the only time Pappas has witnessed a level of care – and caring – that he finds unforgettable.

When a longtime friend dying of cancer was hospitalized, Pappas was a regular visitor – so regular, he says with a smile, that some staff assumed he was a son.  The 97-year-old patient and his 94-year-old wife had been married 73 years. "What I saw was that everybody who came in, the guys as well as the gals, took time to talk to her," says Pappas who at 77 is a walking testimonial to a hospital he believes in.

There's good reason. Since arriving in Ellensburg from Chicago in 1980, he's turned to KVH for care on multiple occasions. There was treatment for diverticulitis, emergency room visits for a fish hook that got stuck in his hand and a nosebleed that wouldn't stop, treatment for a stomach ulcer and bacterial infection, endoscopies, colonoscopies, MRIs and X-rays, rotator cuff surgery and surgeries on his fingers and both knees.

"Dr. Dan Hiersche (an orthopedic specialist) repaired me so many times," says Pappas who lauds a host of other providers. Among them: his longtime primary care physician Dr. Don Solberg whom he calls "cerebral and a straightforward professional with good bedside manners."

Nurses consistently have been "absolutely professional and caring, showing interest in me, explaining what they were doing but most importantly answering my questions," he adds.

While some people may think they'll find better care at a bigger hospital, Pappas says, he's found everything he's needed in a comforting high quality setting close to home. "This hospital has served me well," he says. "They identify what the problem is, address it, operate if they need to and you get it fixed. I've been very pleased."

ab