ADA, Okla. - Tom Runnells never expected that a romantic Valentine’s dinner with his wife and friends would end with a trip to the intensive care unit (ICU). Less than half an hour after arriving at a local Ada restaurant, Runnells was leaving in an ambulance.
“I was in a panic,” said Runnells wife, Belinda. “I thought my husband was dying.”
Runnells said the symptoms were sudden.
“Our food had just come to the table and all of a sudden I just didn’t feel right,” said Runnells. “I just had to get away from the table, and the next thing I knew everything started happening. All of a sudden I was surrounded by people and on my way to a hospital.”
Runnells was rushed to Mercy Hospital Ada where doctors immediately assessed him for a stroke. When a stroke was ruled out, Runnells was admitted to the ICU for monitoring.
“I was actually feeling pretty good by the time I got there,” said Runnells. “They administered a few different things and every once in a while someone would pop on the TV to talk to me.”
Runnells is talking about Mercy Hospital Ada’s new SafeWatch program – a revolutionary layer of added protection that allows patients in the emergency room and ICU to be cared for virtually. With SafeWatch, patients are monitored by specially trained, critical care nurses and physicians through computers, in-room cameras and audio connections. This allows around-the-clock remote support.
“It was actually pretty neat,” said Runnells. “Someone would pop in to say ‘hello’ and ask how I was feeling. They always kept me informed and let me know what was happening.”
Those critical care nurses and physicians were able to monitor Runnells blood pressure and vital signs, providing support to physicians and nurses in Ada. It was soon determined that Runnells had a blocked artery stemming from a previous heart bypass. He was transported to Oklahoma Heart Hospital in Oklahoma City for treatment.
SafeWatch doctors, along with doctors and nurses at Mercy Hospital Ada, recommended Runnells be transported to Oklahoma Heart Hospital in Oklahoma City for treatment.
“I was so relieved,” said Belinda Runnells. “Although I trust our ICU staff implicitly, an extra set of eyes in the ICU is always great, and I felt comfortable knowing there was somebody assisting Mercy’s wonderful ICU nurses in monitoring my husband while we figured out what our next steps would be.”
In Oklahoma City, a stent was placed in Runnells artery to help with the blockage. A surgery has also been scheduled. Runnells was home from the hospital less than one week later.
“I’m here, and I’m happy,” said Runnells. “I have friends come over, I cook, and I try to exercise, though probably not as much as I should according to my wife,” he joked.
Runnells also hopes to return to work at the Chickasaw Nation Community Center within the coming months.
“Everybody; from my wife, my friends and family, to my job and the people in the hospital have just been wonderful,” said Runnells. “By gosh we’re on the mend!”
Mercy operates the largest single-hub electronic ICU in the world, employing hundreds of experienced critical care physicians and nurses. Launched in 2006, SafeWatch provides a second set of eyes to bedside caregivers in 30 ICUs across five states.