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For over 30 years, Bruce Gustafson supported people during their most vulnerable moments. As a paramedic, he was drawn to a career dedicated to helping people get the immediate care they needed.
“Being a paramedic made me realize how much our community depends on us,” he said. “It changed me as a person, and I very much enjoyed taking care of people.”
But on July 8, it was Bruce who found himself needing emergency assistance when he was suddenly struck with a seizure. He has no recollection of it happening.
“When I finally came out of my postictal fog – a state of confusion caused by the seizure – I found myself in the Emergency Department wondering why I was there,” Bruce said. “Not such a nice feeling.”
Ironically, Bruce was treated on the scene by his former EMS partner, Tomy Flynn, along with the Marquette Fire Department. After such a shocking and harrowing experience, Bruce felt overwhelmed with questions. He turned to the UPHS staff to piece together what happened.
“I shared with one of the nurses that it is one thing to be on the EMS side of [medical emergencies], but when you’re the patient, it’s a whole different experience because you’re the vulnerable one,” Bruce said. “But they took that anxiety away from me; they extinguished it. I knew I was being taken care of and felt confident in their abilities to take care of me.”
Even while in a weakened state, Bruce maintained the same caring demeanor he is known for – the same empathy towards others that inspired his EMS career. He recognized the emergency calls coming through the hospital’s intercom and insisted that his nurses leave him to help other patients.
“The nurses kept reassuring me that I was important,” he said. “I was concerned about the other calls coming in on higher levels of care, but they told me to just be concerned about my care and focus on me. They made what could have been a negative experience into a positive one.”
Two days after his emergency room visit, Bruce returned to UPHS – Marquette to address rib pain, later diagnosed as a probable fracture that occurred during the seizure. Once again, he came away impressed by the staff’s tender attitude and attentive care.
“[The emergency department] staff was incredibly kind, compassionate, and professional. They are fantastic, and I will be forever grateful,” Bruce said.
While the exact cause of his seizure is still unclear, Bruce is working with his doctors and other experts towards an answer. Those doctors are researching whether this incident could be connected to a previous illness.
In 2005, Bruce was diagnosed with meningitis after he was brought into the emergency room with a high fever.
“The neurologists started to connect the seizure activity with meningitis,” Bruce said. “It’s still an unknown, but they’re doing research and starting to wonder if people who contract meningitis are more prone to experience seizure activity. It’s one of those unknown things where they’re just not sure yet.”
After these emergency room visits, Bruce was reminded of the importance of having quality, local medical staff, from those first responding to those providing outpatient treatment – especially during an emergency.
“When I think of other people that have to call EMS or go to the ER, I have faith that they’re going to have a great experience, and I feel the same way about the UPHS – Marquette staff, EMS, and Fire,” Bruce said.
“They will be in good hands and you can trust them to do everything they can to help others. You’re going to be treated well mentally and they will be there for you.”
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