He’s a 38-year-old father of four with an active lifestyle, a passion for volunteerism, and a job he loves as a firefighter/EMT for Grant County Fire District No. 3 in Quincy.
So when a doctor told Quincy’s Nigel McNeill that an on-the-job injury suffered on May 16 would require surgery and a long recovery, McNeill was devastated.
“I was literally in tears,” he says. “This was our busy season, coming up on July and August. I needed be out there with the guys.”
In an occupation where risks are part of the job, the injury caught him by surprise.
“It wasn’t doing anything exciting,” he says. “I wasn’t saving babies or breaking glass. I was just checking the oil on an engine. When I came back out I felt a slow burning sensation in my abdomen.”
McNeill was taken to the emergency room at the hospital in Quincy where Dr. Fernando Dietsch quickly diagnosed a hernia and referred him to a facility he was familiar with in Wenatchee for further care.
The surgeon in that facility told him he needed surgery to repair his hernia but that laparoscopic surgery, which is less invasive than conventional surgery and typically has a much shorter recovery period, wasn’t the right option, McNeill says.
With surgery scheduled for June 12, recovery expected to take six to eight weeks and fire season rapidly approaching, McNeill was desperate to find a way to get back on the job sooner.
Then a friend at Kittitas Valley Healthcare in Ellensburg suggested he get a second opinion and referred him to Dr. Thomas Penoyar of KVH General Surgery.
Penoyar, who is skilled in laparoscopy, saw him immediately.
“He told me it could be done laparoscopically,” McNeill says. “He said it was pretty much a chip shot. He had a great sense of humor but was professional at the same time.”
A week later, on May 31, Penoyar performed the surgery.
At the hospital, “they took me right back. There was great communication,” McNeill says. “The last thing I remember is being wheeled into OR, then I woke up and they were right there with me.”
McNeill went home from the hospital that same day. On June 18 he was released back to full duty.
It isn’t the first time someone in his family has gotten exceptional care at KVH, McNeill says. Nine or ten years ago his mother experienced possible heart attack symptoms while traveling through Ellensburg and ended up in the KVH emergency department.
“They got her right in and treated her. It turned out to be her gallbladder,” he says. “What she told me about her experience sounds a lot like mine. Whatever you’re doing down there, you’re doing it right.”
And that’s a message he’s sharing.
“We don’t have an operating room here in Quincy. Most people, when they need care they have the mindset to go to Wenatchee,” he says. “It’s maybe 40 minutes to Wenatchee, maybe 15 or 20 minutes more to Ellensburg. For me, those extra minutes are worth it.
“I’m telling everybody I know, you probably should check out KVH for your surgical needs before you go to another facility. The word is out. I’m telling everyone.”