Halie Black is thankful she got to wish her students well as they left Calhoun Online Learning Academy to start their summer break a few weeks ago.
The 6th through 12th grade teacher credits AdventHealth’s team members with working together to save her life in February.
“I’m back at work and doing great,” Black said in late April.
Two months prior, however, she felt quite the opposite.
“I thought I had a stomach virus — just that nagging feeling in my gut and nausea,” Black said of how that February morning began.
One of her students got her a soda to try to settle her stomach.
“I just could not get over it,” she said. “It got worse.”
She told another teacher she thought she needed to go home, but by the time he came to her classroom to supervise her students, her symptoms had worsened.
“I was on the floor, miserable and could not sit up,” she said. “My boss wanted to call 911.”
She asked instead to be taken across campus to AdventHealth Medical Group Urgent Care Calhoun City Schools.
“Having that urgent care on campus is amazing,” Black said. “It was a blessing for me that day because I was at the point where we probably would have had to call 911, and that would not have been the way I would have wanted my students to see me leave.”
Ashley Howell, FNP-C, a certified family nurse practitioner at the urgent care clinic, examined Black’s abdomen, which was sensitive to the touch.
Howell quickly decided to send her to AdventHealth Gordon for a CT scan — a decision Black believes likely saved her life. The scan revealed Black had a bowel blockage.
“I’m grateful Ashley was able to say, ‘We need to do a CT scan,’ or I could have possibly tried to ride it out thinking I had a stomach virus, and I hate to think what would have happened,” Black said.
Black’s brother-in-law, who works at the adjacent high school, drove her the three miles to the hospital, where CT technologist Courtney Carroll wasted no time in getting her settled in a room where she could lay down while prepping for the abdominal scan.
“I was in so much pain, I couldn’t even sit up,” she said. “Everything was happening so quickly. People were really on top of things.”
Once Black had finished drinking the contrast dye that allows radiologists to better detect abnormalities on the scans, Carroll brought her to the room for the CT.
“She was with me through the whole procedure,” Black said.
Black, 47 and otherwise in good health, was surprised when the images showed her bowel was blocked.
“I didn’t have any symptoms except waking up that morning feeling nauseous,” she said. “It hit me quick.”
The radiologist told Black, a mother of three, the blockage had been caused by scar tissue left from when she had delivered two of her children by Caesarean section.
“Courtney said, ‘We’re going to get you down to the ER,’ and she took me herself,” Black said. “They were so super nice — just everyone I encountered at Gordon that day was so accommodating and caring.”
Registered Nurse Nick Cochran took over her care in the Emergency Department.
“They put me in with a nurse that I knew,” Black said.
Cochran had previously cared for her during unrelated visits for migraines. When he told her they needed to thread a tube through her nose, down her throat and into her stomach to try to relieve the pressure building in her bowel, Black balked at the procedure.
It wasn’t until he explained her condition was potentially life-threatening that she said she realized how serious things were and agreed to have the tube inserted. Cochran made the procedure easier for her by numbing her throat and giving her a sedative.
“They admitted me, hoping a couple of days would be all it would take for the tube to release some pressure,” she said. “By the next morning, I was in pretty rough shape, and I had to have emergency surgery.”
Will Theus, MD, with AdventHealth Medical Group General Surgery at Calhoun cleared the blockage and checked in on Black every day for the nine days she remained in the hospital following the procedure.
“I can’t say enough great things about Dr. Theus,” Black said. “He was just wonderful, kind, caring and treated us like we were friends. If I asked him a question, he was forthcoming. He didn’t hold anything back from me. He was just so happy when he would come in the room and that makes a huge difference.”
What also made a difference to Black was the way her husband was treated.
“Not only did they care for me, but they went out of their way to help him,” she said. “The nurses were so kind, so sweet. They also treated us like friends.”
A nurse prayed with her one night when she was “having a hard time.” Howell checked in on her, as well. One of the team members even bought her a going-home gift.
“You don’t find that in big hospitals,” she said of the whole-person care she received during her stay.
She also commended the way the staff and physicians from different departments coordinated her care. Following her surgery, for instance, she was referred to Hak Lee, MD, with AdventHealth Medical Group Urology at Calhoun for treatment.
“They were all on the same page with my care,” she said. “Even billing seamlessly coordinated all the insurance.”
Black’s recovery took several weeks, but her follow-up care with Dr. Theus and Dr. Lee progressed as expected, and she was able to return to her teaching job before the school year ended.
“Everybody I encountered was just so kind, and they went out of their way to help,” she said.
For more information on services at AdventHealth Gordon, please call 706-602-7800.