Tammy Hooper was only supposed to be in Franklin for a two-day business trip before heading back seven hours to Greenville, S.C., to marry the man of her dreams.
Her plans and dreams quickly changed, however, when she was suddenly rushed to Williamson Medical Center where she wound up in the care of our critical care nurses for seven days. Fortunately for Tammy and her husband, Bryan, their story has a very happy ending.
“The staff in your CCU were so kind and caring, but also very proficient at what they do. Thanks to them, I made it home 2 days before my wedding,” she wrote in an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. “My life could have been completely different had it not been for them. I am so grateful for them.”
Bryan and Tammy wrote a heartfelt blog post about their experience at Williamson Medical Center and the friendship they formed with one of our nurses, Phillip Vaughan, during the most critical moments in their lives together. Thank you to the Hoopers for allowing us to share their story.
Dear Friends and Family,
During the whirlwind of the aftermath of Tammy’s illness, our wedding, the holidays, and Clemson’s road to the National Championship, we have received lots of love and many questions about how Tammy is doing, and what in the world happened to her so close to our wedding day. We have also received a lot of questions about when and where are we going for our honeymoon. We are surprised to learn that there are still so many prayers out there for us. We expected that by now the world would have presented a more worthy cause for your precious prayers. What we now know is that we have a tremendous amount of love surrounding us, and we must do better at returning the love. All of your questions tell us that we have not done the best job of easing your concerns and sharing the story of what really happened with Tammy. With that, we want to share our bittersweet story in the hopes that it will ignite a spirit of love among you all as we approach Valentines Day.
First the honeymoon question: Yes, as most of you know, we had to cancel our honeymoon because Tammy was not able to fly after our wedding. We were fortunate that she was able to walk down the aisle! The saddest part of this whole story is that we lost every penny we spent on our honeymoon. We were required to pay 100% in advance for our vacation package and did not get any part of it refunded. Even though we had trip insurance from two different sources, both of our claims were denied. After many e-mails, faxed documents, and phone calls, we have had to accept that we mean very little to Delta and Sandals Resorts. Unlike Williamson Medical Center, the company’s we chose to do business with for our honeymoon travel do only see dollar signs when they see us instead of real people who need a break. As sickened as we are at the idea of paying for a second honeymoon, only one of which we will get to enjoy, it will probably be our last vacation before we become parents. YES!! That’s right! We have been cleared to start planning our family. Stay tuned for more info on the honeymoon, which we plan to take in March, and that other thing!
Now the big question: What happened to Tammy? Those of you who know Tammy are well aware of what a great planner she is. She planned for a year to get us to our wedding day. She had our wedding all planned out so that she could spend the last few days before the wedding getting pampered at the local spa. Vacation from work had been submitted, and she had a nice list of a few last minute tasks that would need to be completed just before the wedding. Tammy had one final work trip to Nashville, TN on August 10th. It was intended to be a few days visiting with her team and then back home to start her vacation the following week, with our wedding taking place that weekend on August 22. 10 days away from work, getting married, and honeymooning were in her near future, or so she thought.
Tammy had decided to drive to Nashville just in case some of her meetings got cancelled and she had the chance to come home early. Again, always planning ahead! She made the 6 hour trip with no trouble. She made it to the office on the 10th, 11th, and 12th without a single issue. One more day and she would be on her way home! Later that night Tammy started feeling dizzy and having severe stomach pains. She decided to lay down and relax for a few minutes and make a call to Bryan, as she does every night when she is away from home. We had a nice call and Tammy considered not telling Bryan she wasn’t feeling well, so as not to worry him. Her practicality got the best of her and she told him that she may have to go to the hospital if her stomach did not start feeling better. Not long after her call ended on a worried “I Love You” from Bryan, Tammy fainted. When she woke up on the floor of her hotel room she was confused about how she got there, but in too much pain to think logically. The pain was so excruciating, and her medical condition was so serious, that she was unable to immediately get to a phone to call for help.
What many of you don’t know about Tammy is that she has never had a fear of death. Not to be misunderstood, death was not on her bucket list, but a fear of what comes after death has never been a part of her life. She believes that God is good, God created her, God loves her as he loves all of his children, and he would not ever let any harm come to her after death, being that death is the ultimate price. She has a healthy fear of pain, but not so much death. When death seemed to be so close, and fainting again was seconds away, Tammy decided that she is afraid of death. Being dead meant missing out on the rest of the life she had planned with her wonderful husband. She despises the fact that she had to live 42 years before she could finally marry the man of her dreams, and that she had missed out on spending all of that time with him. She was to be damned before she would let a little blood loss stand between her and her man.
Somehow, Tammy managed to get to her phone. With phone in hand, she realized she could not think well enough to remember her phone’s unlock password. She then realized that her brain would not allow her to remember what hotel she was in, or her room number. Dialing 911 would be fruitless in the short run. After a few minutes she remembered her password for her phone and was able to call the last person she spoke to. It happened to be one of her team members who was also in town working, and knew where Tammy was staying. Amanda and Sarah, both Tammy’s team members, were having dinner together and rushed to her rescue. They drove Tammy to the emergency room and waited there with her for much of the night. When it became obvious around 2 am that Tammy would not be going home that night, they finally went home to rest as they had to go to work early the next morning. These two are certainly on our Valentine list! We hope that you all have friends in your work family who would go this far to help when needed.
After a few hours in the emergency room at Williamson Medical Center in Franklin, TN, Tammy improved greatly. It was not the spa she had been looking forward to, but Tammy was happy that she was feeling better. She was, however, preparing to be extremely embarrassed to tell her team members that she went home after being diagnosed with a severe case of gas. It was perplexing to the ER staff why Tammy, as healthy as she is, would be having any kind of serious issue. They ran many tests, and thanks to the good sense of the ER doctor, with no help from Tammy, it became apparent that sending her back to a hotel room alone was not the right thing to do, regardless of the issue. Tammy was admitted and placed in a room. Feeling much better, Tammy was able to call Bryan to let him know that she was going to stay the night, but it didn’t seem like a major issue. No need for him to drive the 6 hours when she may be released before he got there. Tammy was still clinging to the idea that she was going home and getting married the following weekend.
During the rest of the night and the next morning, the nurses on the 6th floor at Williamson Medical Center continued to monitor Tammy. Unfortunately, she started feeling ill again. Her blood pressure started dropping and she started feeling faint and dizzy again. By this time, Tammy was no longer being allowed to get out of bed, for fear that she may faint again and injure herself. After some testing, the doctor’s discovered Tammy was experiencing some sort of blood loss, but it was a mystery as to where the problem was. Tammy then decided to call Bryan and let him know he needed to come to the hospital. Bryan immediately dropped what he was doing and drove to be by her side. Not long after Bryan arrived, Tammy fainted, from loss of blood. Bryan happened to be by her side and held her in his arms until the nurses arrived. Tammy was unconscious and Bryan was frantically pressing the call button. The room immediately filled with at least 6 nurses and other team members. They were able to bring Tammy back and get her straight to ICU. As you can imagine, this was a traumatic experience for Tammy, but mostly for Bryan. When Tammy opened her eyes, she could see the fear on Bryan’s pale white face. She has never seen anyone this concerned for her. She was so happy that he had asked her to be his Valentine! The other face she saw was Jenny.
Nurse Jenny on the 6th floor regularly checked in on Tammy during our first day. During this incident, Tammy could see the concern on Jenny’s face and then the relief when she saw Tammy make eye contact with her. Jenny appeared to be close to shedding tears of joy to see that Tammy was still hanging in there. After this incident, Tammy needed to be transferred to ICU. Jenny walked with Tammy as the ICU staff wheeled her bed all the way to ICU. She stayed with her for a short period to make sure she transitioned well to her new room before going back to her other patients. This meant so much because we had grown to trust Jenny over the two days we were with her, and now we had to start over with a new set of strangers. The reassurance we received from Jenny that we were in a good place went a long way when we were already terrified of what was to come. Jenny deserves to receive many valentine cards this Valentines Day!
Over a 5 day period, Doctors at Williamson Medical Center ran many tests to try to find where the blood loss was ocurring. Tammy, the rule folllower that she is, was staying in her bed and concentrating on getting better. For God sake, she had a wedding to go to the next week! Because she was so good, the blood would clot, and the internal bleeding would stop. This prevented the doctors from finding the problem area as quickly as they would have liked. Eventually the bleeding would start again, Tammy would become even weaker, and her blood pressure would drop even lower. It was on again and off again for several days. Tammy received several pints of blood to replace the blood she had lost, without which she would not have made it out of the hospital. All of those blood drives collecting blood suddenly had a new meaning to us. She was moved to the Intensive Care Unit on the 6th floor after a day or two, indicating that her problem was continuing to worsen. After many sticks, pricks, probes, etc. Dr. Pulliam, a Vascular Surgeon, found the issue and fixed it. Tammy had 2 arteries in her colon which had sprung leaks. Tammy began feeling much better immediately after the procedure Dr. Pulliam completed to seal off the arteries. Within a few days after the procedure, Tammy and Bryan were on their way home! 7 days in the hospital, some convincing Dr. Pulliam Bryan would carefully drive Tammy home, and a commitment Tammy would see a doctor as soon as we got home got us where we wanted to be two days before we were to get married. Thank goodness Tammy kept the faith and did not cancel a single vendor, although Dr. Pulliam made it clear we would be cancelling our honeymoon.
Many of you have questions about how this happened to Tammy. She has always been so healthy. We still do not know what caused this to happen to Tammy. We do know that the two culprit arteries are sealed forever and will not be a problem again. We do not have any guarrantee that Tammy will never have this happen to her again. There were no signs that Tammy was about to have a major medical emergency before this happened. It happened suddenly and became a life threatening issue very quickly. It was hell for both of us and each day before Dr. Pulliam completed his procedure, we worried that we would not have another day together. Not understanding much about anything that was happening to Tammy, we were extremely fearful of what each hour would bring. Amongst all the pain, sickness, and sleepless nights, the fear was the worst. Being 6 hours from home, there was a fear of not seeing family for the last time if something were to happen. Tammy had asked her family not to make the trip because every day she was sure she was going to get better and go home, but every night she would be so sick that she was sure she would not make it through the night. We did not know anything about the hospital we were at other than it was the closest to Tammy’s hotel. We did not have a local physician to offer some familiarity or to give us the boost of confidence we needed from someone we had already built a trusting relationship with. We had each other and the staff at the hospital.
We passed the time thinking of what could have happened had Tammy decided to fly to Nashville and the emergency had occurred on the plane. What would have happened had Tammy fainted while driving to Nashville? Thank goodness Tammy made it to her hotel before fainting. What would it had been like had this happened while Tammy was driving back home. Worse, what if we had been on our honeymoon in a foreign country and had this emergency? Although the timing was not ideal…what an inconvenience…every other scenario we thought of was much worse. Besides, we never would have had the opportunity to meet some of the great people at Williamson Medical Center!
Now we will tell you how love did its part to heal, thus our homage to Valentines Day. Bryan stayed by Tammy’s side for the entire week. He slept in a recliner by her bed. He stayed present during the fainting, vomiting, blood transfusions, and all the other stuff no one wants to see. He missed work, and his bachelor party. He ate hospital food, had very few showers, slept very little, and had no private time to himself for a week. Not at the fault of the hospital, but just because he did not want to leave Tammy alone for fear she would need him. He never complained once. He was definately a man for Tammy to keep fighting for and a true Valentine! Cupid had really done a number on Bryan.
Tammy reminded all of the hospital staff daily that she had a wedding just a few days away. She was determined to make it down the aisle, regardless of how sick she was. Everyone at Williamson Medical Center pulled together to get us to our wedding, they even gave us a wedding gift before we left the hospital. We met so many special people while we were there like the nurse in the Emergency room who held Tammy’s hand and reassured her everything would be okay when Tammy experienced a moment of panic. This nurse realized Tammy was alone and away from home. Sometimes the difference between fear and hope is just a small gesture of kindness. Over the next several days we had so many wonderful ICU nurses care for us that in most cases we would not be able to remember them. We remembered nearly every one of them. Tammy had a bit of a crying spell when she entered ICU to be greeted by Nurse Angel. An Angel was who Tammy needed, and an Angel she was. Not only were all of the 6th floor nurses very competent at their jobs, but they were all very compassionate and sincerely interested in Tammy’s well being. Take a look at the blog Tammy wrote about her nurse Phillip and what a difference he has made in our lives (click on the link in his name). You will also find more kind words about all the staff at Williamson Medical Center in the post accessed at the “staff” link. We cannot say enough kind words about the treatment we received from the the 6th floor ICU staff. We expect good medical care at a hospital. We were blown away by the empathy, connecting, and attention to our emotional needs we received.
Dr. Pulliam saved Tammy’s life with the procedure he performed. The nurses at the hospital kept her alive until the problem could be identified. For this, we are extremely grateful. Much less important, but the icing on the wedding cake, they got us to our wedding! Tammy had to skip on the open bar, the dancing, and the outdoor garden ceremony, but everything went off as planned and we had a awesome day. Tammy is still recovering but well on her way to getting back to normal. After 8 pints of transfused blood, it takes a while to get back to normal. Tammy still tires easily, is still having issues with her vision, cognition, and skin, but with a continued recovery plan will be back to her young self in no time. We have flown a few times and now feel good about heading out for our honeymoon in March. We can’t wait to tell you all about it!
Bryan and Tammy
‘Having a nurse like Phillip makes all the difference’
Bryan and Tammy also wrote a blog post about the special bond they formed with one of our nurses, Phillip Vaughan, who never once treated them like just another patient number and was always there for them no matter what. In just the few days they spent in our CCU, the newlywed couple said they “had learned more about Phillip than we know about some people we have known for 10 years.”
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Dear Friends and Family,
The Hooper’s have had a lot to be thankful for this past year! With Thanksgiving right around the corner, we wanted to take the time to relive a few of our most thankful moments. Mostly, we would like to spotlight a few friends who have forever left an unforgettable imprint on our lives. Today Tammy learned that the oil change her body received a few months back took well, and her levels are in the lower end of the normal range. Normal being a good thing in this case! We are certainly thankful for that. When we got the news, we immediately thought of our friend, Phillip Vaughan.
We met Phillip for the first time at Williamson Medical Center nearly three months ago. Phillip is a Nurse there in the Critical Care Unit. We wish that no one ever have the misfortune of having to spend one minute in a critical care unit, but having a nurse like Phillip makes all the difference. Thank God Phillip paid attention in school and learned how to keep Tammy alive, because Tammy obviously didn’t learn a thing in that first-aid class she attended. I guess she must have been texting when the instructor said, “If you feel faint, lie down and get your feet above your heart.” Tammy has now learned that all cell phone communication will not fail if she misses a few days of work. Now, if Phillip doesn’t show up for work, the world definitely skips a few beats.
The first few days Tammy was in the hospital, she was not sick enough to warrant a bed in Phillips office. This meant that she had just about enough energy to worry about every negative thing that could happen while she was there. Having a male tech offer to give her a bath was apparently the most terrifying thing she could think of while she was laying there strapped to an IV, heart, and blood pressure monitor. Go figure! By the time Tammy made it up to Phillip’s floor, she didn’t have the energy to obsess over the small stuff anymore. The nurses in the Critical Care Unit got Tammy stable and comfortable to the point she was starting to pay attention to the details again. When the shifts changed and Tammy saw the name “Phillip” written on the board in her room, she quietly let out a sigh of disappointment. She said, “All of these lady nurses, and I get the man. @#$%, It’s probably bath time too!”. Not that Tammy has anything against male nurses, but she is extremely modest and shy around anyone she doesn’t know. In case you don’t know, in the CCU, you don’t often do anything without the help of your “Phillip”, for safety reasons. Modesty is a stranger to the CCU.
You would think as old as we are, we would have already learned not to judge a book by it’s cover. Phillip checked in on Tammy over and over again throughout the nights. When she was sleeping, he took care not to wake her if he could help it. He never once flipped the lights on in our eyes. Believe it or not, he worked in the dark with a small flashlight when needed. Phillip talked with us as if we were old friends sharing a beer at a Clemson game. He was so friendly and never once made us feel like we were bothering him if we needed anything. We asked a lot of Phillip, and he never once showed an inkling of distaste for us or his responsibilities. By the time we left the hospital, we had learned more about Phillip than we know about some people we have known for 10 years. Guess what? His good friend from college can be found down at the ESSO Club on a regular basis. For many of y’all I guess that makes him an alright guy. Phillip’s willingness to treat the person and not the case number put us both at ease. Before long Tammy had stopped caring about how much of her rear was sticking out the back of her gown and she was thanking her lucky stars when she opened her eyes to see Phillip’s name still on the board in her room.
Phillip obviously brought a lot of knowledge of his field to the table during our stay in lovely Tennessee. Years of education, training, and experience account for the reason Tammy is with us today. For that we are thankful! Not everyone is willing to dedicate so much of their life to helping the sick. Let’s face it, not all sick people are as nice as we are! It takes a lot of guts, courage, and determination to do what it takes to heal the sick. Phillip definitely has all of that in spades. We have learned that jerk’s treat illness too, but it’s Nurses like Phillip who save people!
Thank you Phillip! Please come join us for a Clemson game soon!
Bryan and Tammy Hooper