Published on September 09, 2019

Grateful patient Gerard Austin: "MaineGeneral saved my life!"

Gerard Austin, MaineGeneral employee and patient

Gerard Austin is no stranger to MaineGeneral. Employed by the organization in many roles since 1980 including adult and pediatric acute and critical care, he has spent the last 15 years at MaineGeneral’s Sleep Diagnostics Center in Waterville.

But until late March, he rarely experienced the health care world from a patient’s perspective. That changed quickly and dramatically when an injury during a home project led to a catastrophic series of events that nearly cost him his life.

Thanks to the expert medical care and support he received, the Solon resident was able to return to work in mid-May with a much deeper appreciation for the high-quality services MaineGeneral provides to its patients and their families.

“When I came to the emergency department, I was as close to death as one can get without actually dying,” he said. “I was in septic shock and became one of those patients I used to dread seeing when I worked in acute care because of how serious their condition was.”

Before his injury, Austin said he was “in about as fine a condition as a 60-year-old guy can be.” He had spent the previous 18 months focusing on his health – losing weight and greatly increasing his activity level to include hiking, biking and other activities. In fact, he and his grandson were in full training mode for the Trek Across Maine when his injury occurred.

While the initial injury wasn’t overly serious, an infection that developed afterward quickly made it so. Austin’s wound required an initial surgery to treat his infection. Next came six days in the intensive care unit (ICU) when he was placed on a ventilator and remained on life support due to being extremely medically unstable.

Throughout the next week, he spent several days in ICU before he was transferred to one of the medical/surgical units at the Alfond Center for Health, where he stayed for five more days before he was discharged. A week later, he returned for a second surgery before going home to recover, where he received home health care and other services.

Austin said he has learned a great deal from the perspective of someone who needed to use a wide variety of MaineGeneral services.

“I never fully appreciated the level of care we provide. From start to finish, I got excellent care and, equally important, so did my family,” he said. “MaineGeneral saved my life.”

“I’ve never been as proud of being part of such a quality organization as I am now,” he added. “One may think because I’ve been here for so long that it influenced the care we received but that couldn’t be further from the truth because most of the folks who took care of us didn’t know me. It was simply the high-quality care they provide. They were all so amazing and I’m so grateful and feel so blessed.”

Gerard’s wife Kim, also a long-time MaineGeneral employee, witnessed the exemplary care he received.

“Everyone included me in any decisions and clearly were concerned for our well-being and comfort,” she said. “I can’t say enough wonderful things about everyone who was involved in his care or helped support him and us. Drs. Stephanie Joyce and Anita Praba-Egge were there during some of his most critical times. They took excellent care of him and were very empathetic and caring to us.  Alicia Mello, PA-C, who works with Dr. Joshua Gillis, also was outstanding during Gerard’s weekly visits with her for post-operative care, and Dr. David Preston, Gerard’s primary care provider, kept close tabs on him after discharge and was always available for follow ups, questions and reassurance.”

An equally important lesson that Gerard Austin learned from his ordeal that he now readily shares: be keenly aware of changes in your health and seek appropriate treatment immediately.

“I missed the signs and symptoms until things got out of control,” he said, “so my advice to others is to never ignore a boo boo, no matter how insignificant you may think it is."