Mike and Connie Rarden know that when life's journey gets tough, caring and kindness help smooth the way.
When they walked into KVH Family Medicine - Cle Elum recently bearing chocolates and flowers for Dr. Elizabeth Wise, Connie's personal physician, the Rardens weren't looking for public attention. They were simply expressing gratitude for the way Wise has gone "above and beyond" in tucking them under her protective wing.
The Rardens realized a dream when they moved from the west side to the Upper County in 2005. For years, it was where they came to play. Now, it was home.
Then health issues that had plagued Connie - diabetes, anemia and kidney problems - began to escalate. On a trip to California in 2009, Connie landed in the emergency room. A few days later, Wise called, her tone unmistakably urgent. She'd received test results from the California hospital and spotted something the doctors there hadn't seen: Connie had hypercalcemia - too much calcium in her blood.
"She said, 'Get her back to the hospital now. This is life-threatening'," Mike says. "So Dr. Wise was kicking it into gear."
Two years ago, Connie learned she had Stage 5 kidney disease. Without dialysis, the diagnosis is a death sentence. Each night now, Mike hooks her up to the dialysis machine parked beside their bed. Three times a week, he also injects her with epogen, an artificial hormone that spurs production of red blood cells.
Last fall, Connie's health worsened prompting a battery of tests, some at KVH Hospital, some at Wenatchee Valley Hospital where Connie was seeing a specialist. When an ultrasound in Wenatchee showed "something suspicious" on her right kidney, doctors ordered a CT scan. On October 29, she learned she had cancer.
Surgery was scheduled for November 14. Then Connie developed a bladder infection. Doctors couldn't operate until it was gone. Quelling it would mean traveling to Wenatchee three days in a row so antibiotics could be administered intravenously.
Enter Wise, who contacted the Wenatchee hospital and arranged to have the treatments done at KVH Family Medicine - Cle Elum. "So instead of a three hour round trip every day we had a 20 minute round trip," says Connie whose surgery took place as scheduled. Four days later, she and Mike celebrated their 49th wedding anniversary in the hospital.
Mike says Wise, who put Connie on antibiotics again when a post-op checkup revealed her infection was back, "has been on top of things all along the way. She's been wonderful."
The Rardens laud the quality of care - and caring - they've found since moving to Kittitas County. Wise and the staff at KVH Family Medicine - Cle Elum "are professional and pleasant and just go out of their way," Mike says.
And then there's KVH Hospital.
"To me, they're the community hospital you want to go to," Mike says. "Every time we go there for whatever they take good care of her and they treat me good. We go in with smiles - and we're always met with smiles in return.