I have been a patient at the Vanderbilt Autonomic Unit twice. Both times, everyone I came into contact with was incredibly helpful and kind. The entire staff (doctors, nurses, dietary, housekeeping, etc.) were really great! I have been hospitalized many times in the past 15 years at many different hospitals and I can honestly say that Vanderbilt has been the best out of all my hospitalizations. Even when the testing was painful or I felt really bad, the staff did everything possible to make me more comfortable and reassured.
In my early 20’s, I began having episodes where I fainted. Sometimes it would happen once or twice a week, other times it could be as frequent as four or five times a day. I saw many doctors and was told everything from “it was something I would outgrow,” “drink a glass of juice before getting out of bed and I would be fine” to “it was all in my head”. I was fortunate to finally find a PCP that was incredibly thorough, meticulous, and caring. She referred me to a local cardiologist who diagnosed me with neurocardiogenic syncope. I was placed on medications and for a few years was stable and did well. Then for some unknown reason, my condition deteriorated and I was no longer able to drive, work, or do the things I enjoyed. At this point my cardiologist and PCP recommended that I be seen at Vanderbilt. I was told by really great physicians that Vanderbilt was the only place in the country that was knowledgeable and equipped to diagnose and treat me. Through great effort on Bonnie Black at Vanderbilt and my PCP, they were finally able to get me admitted to Vanderbilt. I honestly believe that without all the time and effort Bonnie Black put into dealing with the insurance company, it never would have been approved.
During my two admissions at Vanderbilt, I was treated by Dr. David Robertson, Dr. Rogelio Mosqueda-Garcia, and Dr. John Shannon. While I was there, all three doctors took the time to talk with me and my family. They answered our questions, explained tests and procedures to us, and despite their very busy schedules, always made us feel as though I was the most important patient they were caring for. I fondly remember Dr. Robertson and/or Bonnie stopping by my room on their way home for the evening to say goodnight and make sure I was doing okay. One of the nurses that knew I was missing my dogs arranged to bring her dog in to visit with me one day. On other days, she brought pictures of her dog that made me laugh. During my second admission, Bonnie arranged for a member of my family to take me out in a wheelchair. I remember being wheeled around the campus and seeing how beautiful it was. It was spring and all the flowers and trees were in bloom.
Parts of my admissions were not fun, and some of the testing was difficult, but during it all, I always felt like I was in the best of hands and that it was well worth it be to able to be properly diagnosed and have hope for a treatment plan. One incident that stands out in my memory is a procedure where multiple doctors had attempted to start an arterial line without success. At one point almost in tears, I looked up and saw that the doctor holding my hand had tears in his eyes. He looked at me and said, “I am so sorry.” This exemplifies the staff I encountered during both my admissions at Vanderbilt: People that really cared and really wanted to help their patients.
While at Vanderbilt I was diagnosed with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome or POTS. It is an autonomic disorder that affects blood pressure and heart rate. My syncopal episodes were caused by my blood pressure plummeting. My body attempted to raise my blood pressure by kicking my heart rate into overdrive. Needless to say, I was dizzy, exhausted, and weak all the time. After coming home from Vanderbilt, my PCP and I both stayed in close contact with doctors and staff at Vanderbilt for several years. Staff at Vanderbilt was wonderful about helping battle insurance denials, recommending new or additional treatments, writing letters needed for employment and so much more once I was home. Over the years, I have remained in touch with various staff at Vanderbilt, but mostly Bonnie Black. When I have had a question or one of my local doctors has questions, Bonnie has always been there for us. She answers questions, sends literature to my local doctors, coordinates phone and e-mail between Dr. Robertson and my local doctors. She has been a true blessing. Some times when I am just feeling discouraged or overwhelmed by this crazy illness, I will call or e-mail Bonnie just to hear her reassuring words. She has always been there for me no matter how much time has gone by since we last spoke. Even though it has been almost eleven years since my last admission to Vanderbilt, they have been very helpful in coordinating my care.
I cannot say enough good things about the staff at Vanderbilt and the experiences I had there as a patient. If I have to be hospitalized again, I would want it to be at Vanderbilt. It is truly a place of compassion, caring, healing and expertise.