If you work at the Parkview Corporate Office, you know Dave. Every morning, come rain, shine or frost, David Kelley, security officer, Parkview Health, stands out by the front door, coffee in hand, to greet each co-worker, typically by name. So when his smiling face was missing one morning this past spring, word spread quickly throughout the building.
On April 15, 2017, the day before Easter, Dave was in a serious motorcycle accident.
“I was riding to our new house in Columbia City so I could do some measuring,” Dave said. “I was half a mile away. There was a car backing out of a driveway, and I saw that the person was distracted and not going to stop. I slowed down, but the person ahead of me slammed on their brakes and I slid into the back of their pickup and hit a guardrail at about 30 mph.”
Thankfully, Dave, a seasoned motorcyclist of 40 years, had on a helmet, leather jacket, chaps, leather boots and safety gloves. But the impact knocked him unconscious for some time.
“I woke up, and I remember people trying to take my helmet off. I asked them to wait until EMS got there,” Dave recalled. “I was moving my hands and arms. I felt my pulse and touched my ribs. Right away I knew my left leg was broken because it was numb. The EMS arrived quickly and I told them to take me to Parkview Regional Medical Center, by coach or by air, their choice. I didn’t know what kind of damage I’d done.”
One thing Dave did know, was that he would be greeted by some familiar faces at PRMC. As a security guard with 15 years at Parkview under his holster, he was no stranger to the staff. “They took me by ambulance, and I knew exactly where I was. I knew that route so well,” he said. “And I could predict what was going to happen when I got there, since I worked in Trauma for so many years. I knew a lot of the faces of the people treating me, some by name. They talked to me and told me what they were going to do, and I was ready. It was interesting, you know, for all these years, I’ve been taught how to treat people. I’ve been taught how we handle certain situations as a Parkview team member. But to be on the other end, and to see it in practice, was so interesting. I felt like I was the only person in the room.”
Dave had sustained several serious injuries, including a compound fracture in his left tibia, a broken ankle, a broken leg, and his pelvis was fractured in three places. A titanium rod was used to rebuild his ankle. The following day, they inserted a screw in his back and pins on the sides to repair his pelvis.
During his time in the Intensive Care Unit and on the fourth floor at PRMC, Dave received a visit from a very special guest. “One day, Mike Packnett walked into my room,” he said. The Parkview CEO stopped in to offer well wishes to the security guard and his family. “I almost cried when I saw him. It was emotional because I felt like, even though we’re such a big system, our CEO truly cares about each and every one of us. To be recognized in that way made me … Well, that was the start of me wanting to go back to work. If these people have confidence in me, I’m going to get back to them.”
The PRMC staff kept Dave informed about his condition and progress, and when it came time to plan for the next stage – rehabilitation – they gave him a number of options. “I knew I wanted to stay in the Parkview family. I chose Parkview Hospital Randallia because I’d worked there for years. I figured I’d know the staff and I was familiar with the building,” he said.
This marked the start of the most difficult part of the journey for Dave, recovery. “The pin was hitting my sciatic nerve on the right side. I couldn’t sleep and I couldn’t roll over. The medications weren’t working and I didn’t really want any strong narcotics. I gritted it out for about three days, but it was awful. I was in tears.”
Physical therapy came in and started icing and doing things to offer relief. “They got me out of bed right away so I could try to stand. That was something! They picked up the four corners of the sheet and set me in a wheelchair. I almost passed out it hurt so bad. But they were so encouraging, each one of them, and they had a plan.”
During his 7 ½ weeks at Randallia, Dave had physical and occupational therapy every day. He was determined to exceed their expectations. “At first, when I’d get out of bed, I’d get nauseous. So I had to figure that out,” he said. But it was an honest conversation with his physician that truly accelerated his work ethic.
“In August, my doctor told me I might never go back to work. He was very honest and upfront, which I appreciated, but I knew he was wrong. He didn’t know me.” Dave promised that, next time, he would be walking into the doctor’s office. And with that, he ramped up his efforts. “I set a goal every day. If they asked me to do something 10 times, I’d do it 11. My goal was to walk again, get out of the hospital, go home and to come back to work. It was a self-esteem thing, but also a Parkview thing. Knowing the demands of the job, and knowing that there were 400 people that I care about who were counting on me pushed me. They were always on my mind. I wanted to stand out in front of the building and greet them again.”
He put 4 workout bands on the bed and did 2,400 reps a day. He had a kettlebell and hand weights, and worked up to 50 reps in the morning and 50 in the afternoon. His focus was on strengthening his upper body so he would be strong enough to hold himself up.
His physical efforts were complemented by an outpouring of emotional support, from team mates old and new. In addition to his Parkview family, Dave was a Deputy Sheriff for the Noble County Sheriff’s Department for 22 years. “So many cards and visitors and well wishes! One group of coworkers would come visit on Friday nights. They even wore plastic red noses once. The Public Safety guys came in to see me, too. But the big thing was the house. We were moving and so many people showed up to help my wife, Julie. It was just amazing. I wrote 51 thank you notes afterward. I had a babysitter for a while because they thought I would try to walk in and pitch in myself.”
The support came from those providing his care as well. “The nursing staff, several of whom I knew, were so very helpful. They even let me bring my dog in for visits. The Environmental Services team came in every day and encouraged me. And the physical therapy people were awesome. They were trying to come up with things to challenge me. I was part of the team. We were a team. And I told them I would do whatever they asked of me, and then some. And I did.”
As his time at Randallia came to a close, Dave stood up, walked into his physician’s office and made good on his promise. “The last thing the doctor said to me was, ‘We’re here if you need us!’” the security officer recalls with a chuckle.
On October 24, after a thorough examination, Dave came back to his post at Parkview, very much ahead of schedule. “They made sure I was ready. And I wanted the physical exam to be tough. If I couldn’t help protect people, then I wouldn’t have come back.”
The reception was worth all the work it took to get him there. “That first day back was almost euphoric. I got so many hugs and handshakes. The day went so fast. Everybody’s been so gracious. You know, throughout the whole thing, I felt like I belonged to something really big and special. I still do!”
To talk to Dave these days, is to see a man who isn’t taking anything for granted, particularly his progress. When asked what he would say to someone just starting out on the rehabilitation journey, he said, “That you’re not alone. You learn a lot about yourself going through something like this. We talk about courage, like it’s stopping a bullet or going into a fire, but a lot of times, courage is just simple. It’s just deciding what you’re going to do. It’s deciding you are not going to accept the worst case scenario. That you’re going to fight till the end.”
On these crisp November mornings, you’ll find Dave back to his post, greeting his coworkers and learning the names of those who started in his absence. “Coming back to such an outpouring … you really don’t see that as much in the world today. I was just trying to be part of the team, but I guess somehow I won their hearts, too.”