Coming Home to Friends

December 15, 2019 | Adventist Health | Cherie Plaisted

After spending his entire career serving the Tillamook, Ore., community as an internist and hospitalist, Calvin Hill knows there’s no place like home. That reality took on deeper meaning last spring when this retired doctor became a patient.

After volunteering for a Big Lake Youth Camp building project in central Oregon, Hill headed down a winding mountain highway on his way home. He didn’t realize he was falling asleep.

Suddenly there was a horrendous bang. Bags were hanging all around him, and white powder filled the air. “I looked out of the windshield and saw this very big tree in the hood,” Hill recalls. “I hurt. My chest and my foot hurt terribly.”

Miraculously, a Loma Linda University (LLU) School of Medicine graduate had felt impressed to stop for gas and snacks. His delay caused him to arrive on the scene in time to help Hill, start his IV and give him pain relief. Others stabilized Hill's spine.

Rushed to St. Charles Medical Center in Bend, Ore., Hill was diagnosed with an unstable lumbar spine fracture, 15 fractured ribs, bruised lungs and a foot completely crushed by the car’s engine. After two weeks and spine surgery in Bend by another LLU graduate, Hill was moved to Portland, where his son, Timothy Hill, is an Adventist Health doctor.

Timothy talked with Adventist Health Portland’s chief medical officer, Wes Rippey, and connected Calvin Hill with additional care. After foot reconstruction surgery at Adventist Health Portland’s partner, Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU), Hill was discharged.

But he wasn’t ready to be home, even though his wife is a medical technologist. “There was no way I could go home at that point,” he explains. He couldn’t bear weight on his right foot and could only sit up for short periods.

Hill’s care coordinators made arrangements with Adventist Health Tillamook for skilled transitional nursing care right in his local medical center. Through this special program, patients done with acute hospital care but not ready to be home can get the nursing care they need right on the Oregon coast.

“Getting home to Tillamook was so nice,” Hill says. “I was coming home to my friends.” Adventist Health Tillamook’s skilled nursing program meant Hill could have his physical and occupational therapy provided in-house by providers who knew him personally.

Even when Hill was ready to leave skilled nursing after eight days, the Adventist Health team helped him adjust to recovering at home. They instructed Hill and his wife, Jaimy, how to keep him safe and avoid falls by adding ramps and bars to their home.

“I’m now a very experienced patient,” Hill says. “When you’re flat on your back, too weak to move and can’t even move your arms to feed yourself, you realize how important it is to have very kind, gentle and competent people taking care of you.”

Though Hill is still recovering from his injuries and subsequent months in bed, he now aims to walk at least 10,000 steps each day. He’s able to drive again, and he’s looking forward to a bird-watching trip to Ecuador. Fitted with BiPAP nighttime breathing support, he won’t be falling asleep at the wheel, and he’s more motivated than ever to be an active part of his community.

“Prayer saved my life. Expert care put me back together again,” he says.