Robert Gregerich


In the moment when a health crisis leaves life in the balance, there's no overestimating the value of quality health care. Just ask Ellensburg's Robert Gregerich. The moment when his life hung in the balance came this past summer.

By the time he saw his doctor on August 4, the 68-year-old hay farmer had been suffering for a week from what he thought were symptoms of stomach flu. Gregerich was immediately admitted to KVH Hospital for tests and treatment.

Two days later, Gregerich was feeling better and demanding to go home. Doctors reluctantly released him. By late that night, he was in trouble. Gregerich's wife Keri was away camping so a relative rushed him to KVH Hospital where doctors determined that a mass in his abdominal area had ruptured and infection was setting in.

After surgery to clean up his abdominal area and place a drain, Gregerich was moved to intensive care in critical condition. "He had 17 lines attached to him not counting the ventilator," Keri says. "He was on the brink of death. At one point his blood pressure went down into the 40s."

For two days Dr. William Waltner, a hospitalist, worked around the clock to save Gregerich. When worried family members suggested Gregerich should be moved to a bigger hospital, Keri refused. Waltner had won her confidence.

"He's not afraid to consult. He was on the phone talking to doctors at Virginia Mason to make sure he wasn't missing anything. Any time they were doing something he would explain what they were doing and why. He kept the family in the loop," a grateful Keri says now. "He literally saved Bob's life."