AUSTIN, Texas - (June 26, 2012) - John Conley, renowned within Central Texas' running community as race director for the Livestrong Austin Marathon, knows how to plan a travel route and get there in a timely manner.
Except on May 21, after his doctor told him to immediately go to the hospital.
"I accidentally ended up with Seton. I was told to go to St. David's by my physician, but I was in such a fuzzy mental state that when I told my wife where to go, I gave her directions to Brack," Conley said.
"It took me about 30 minutes to realize where I was - and once I realized where I was, I was actually more comforted," he said.
His fuzzy state was due to a subdural hematoma, the result of a ruptured vein alongside his brain. Though he never gets headaches, "I suddenly had this unbelievable, get your attention headache right above my right eye. It just pretty much incapacitated me, brought me to a complete stop," Conley recalled.
After another day and worsening pain, Conley went to see his doctor. After he ended up at University Medical Center Brackenridge, he was hospitalized for the next nine days.
Conley's is an educated and experienced eye. For nearly 24 years, Conley, 54, was a registered nurse. Before that, he worked 10 years as a U.S. Army medic.
So what did he think of his experience at UMCB?
"Thank God for Brack. I don't even know where to start. It was crisp in the ER. As crowded as your ER is at Brack, I was identified clearly as having something that needed to be looked at quickly. They took me in for a CT scan within minutes of arrival, which is very gratifying.
"The physician said I have bad news for you: you have a bleed - which I thought was actually good news because a tumor would have been bad news. So they identified what the problem was, I was admitted and taken to the ICU," he recalled.
"The nursing staff - I wish I could remember everybody's name, but oh my God for four or five days I wanted for nothing. Everything was taken care of. Lots of really good explanations provided.
"When something like this happens, trying to figure out what just happened, what the next step is - and you realize your immediate recall is gone. So somebody would come in and tell me something and I'd go, 'OK, I'm going to remember that' and two minutes later I couldn't remember what they said. And for that person to come back in and repeat what is happening and what I need to do was very, very helpful," Conley said.
His experience was as splendid after being transferred to a room on UMCB's ninth floor.
"Just the repeated follow through on the part of the nursing staff. Never once did I feel talked down to, never once did I feel patronized. All worries were gone," he said.
Conley also commended his doctors, led by Dr. James E. Rose, neurosurgeon with the Seton Brain & Spine Institute. "I just had lots and lots of support and information and, most importantly, my wife did. It's the family that needs the information and support. She got lots of that," Conley said.
"And my kids also felt that. The information sharing was crucial, especially since this just came out of the blue. It wasn't something that we were anticipating or studying up on. Thank God for a world-class health center and access to it," he said.
He talked running with several UMCB associates who recognized him. Conley isn't running yet, but he's walking. "One day, on the ninth floor at Brack, a nurse told me it's 500 feet to do a lap. I probably screwed up the math, but I think I ended up going a mile in 21 minutes, which is pretty ridiculous," said Conley, who has run in 17 marathons in his life.
The next Livestrong Austin Marathon is Feb. 17, 2013. Conley said his experience as a UMCB patient reassures him, should he have to direct an injured runner there to seek medical attention.
"I'd drive them myself. I know where to take them," he said, smiling.
Dr. Rose noted that everyone can learn from Conley's experience: "If you get any headache that feels different from headaches you've had before, you should immediately see your doctor or go to the emergency room. This is especially important if you're on blood-thinning medications. Any unusual headache, don't wait!"