Her Husband Steadfast at her Bedside
Kimberley's Story - a Continuum of Care
For more than 32 years, David and Kimberley Sitton, residents of Sedro-Woolley, have shared a life of adventure, fishing trips, hunting excursions and garage sale-ing; a life of friendship.
“She’s my best friend,” said David.
“Your mine too,” replied Kimberley. “I think we’re stuck with each other.”
On January 5, 2019, Kimberley’s life, as she knew it, was totally changed.
“I was having severe abdominal pain that night. I could feel a bulge on my right and left side under my rib cage,” said Kimberley. “My loving husband rushed me to the emergency room at Skagit Valley Hospital.”
“Something inside said, go to Mount Vernon. I just went,” said David.
Three weeks later, Kimberley awoke and learned about the seriousness of her situation. She found her husband, David, steadfast at her bedside. He proceeded to tell her what had transpired over the previous 21 days. Kimberley’s colon had perforated in two different places and she was septic.
“Immediately, a team of doctors were brought together and I was prepped for surgery. I was placed on a ventilator and had tubes and wires everywhere. For the next 13 days, I was in critical care,” said Kimberley. “David said it was a
crazy roller coaster ride.”
General Surgeon Allison Porter, MD, was on call the evening of Kimberly’s arrival. Dr. Porter and the care team at Skagit Regional Health rallied in response to the ups and downs of Kimberly’s delicate state.
“I wouldn't be here, I don't think, without Dr. Porter and her remarkable team,” said Kimberley.
Kimberley’s condition varied throughout the first 13 days. She underwent three major surgeries and was placed on a ventilator and had a feeding tube inserted. David navigated his wife’s care decisions with the support of the providers and team at Skagit Regional Health.
“It's either black or white with me, there are no variants. I said, ‘if she's not good, be honest with me.’ And they did. I knew exactly what was going on with my wife the whole time,” said David. “I talked to her when she was out. I said, you keep fighting girl. I'd whisper it in her ear.”
The surgeons; Dr. Porter, Joel Dean, MD and Janice Kang, MD, as well as the critical care team, gave David and their family constant updates on the changes in Kimberly’s status. David was confronted with a number of difficult decisions throughout Kimberley’s treatment.
“To be honest with you, when she went in for surgery on January 5th, when I kissed her, I thought I was kissing her goodbye because she went south that fast,” said David. “We don't want life support, but I said, ‘if you want to
jump start her a couple times, go ahead.’”
While David stayed close by, waiting for their family to arrive Hospitalist Precious Barns, DO, stepped in to make sure David was taking steps to care for himself too.
“I've never had professional people talk to us like they did. This is the first time. They drew everything on the board and they explained everything that was going on with my wife,” said David. “They answered all our questions thoroughly, so nothing went unanswered, and it brought me comfort."
David noticed the special care each of the staff took with his wife each day. He learned what numbers on the screen meant she was stable. Only then would he leave her side for short periods of time, trusting the quality of care she received in his absence.
“Even the lab techs treated her with nothing but respect,” said David. “They had to take labs sometimes three times a day to check her and they treated her like she was awake.”
Kimberley’s fate was unknown until the morning David saw a smiling Dr. Porter turn the corner into the waiting area. Her surgery had been successful. They would now focus on getting Kimberley breathing on her own.
“I was totally amazed that it had been that long,” Kimberley said of her ordeal. “It made me realize how serious my condition was. I was in the ICU, all the nurses and doctors who came in were so professional, so encouraging and so inspirational. They gave me that extra shove...they were just such caring and loving people. It just blew me away.”
When she woke up, Kimberley realized the additional impacts of her condition. A blood clot had formed in her right hand which had ultimately resulted in the doctors removing her thumb, middle finger and the tip of her index finger.
“I was so ecstatic that I was even there, to be alive, that it didn't even bother me,” said Kimberley.
“She looked at me and said, you'll just have to get me a left-handed [fishing] reel,” said David.
“It made me realize that I was alive and just grateful to be alive and to have so many caring people around me and they were pulling for me so hard,” Kimberley said.
Her positive attitude and determination radiated energy into the next part of her journey, recovery and reclaiming her independence.
As her medical needs evolved, the Skagit Regional Health teams provided an easy transition across a network of providers and services. The level of care she experienced never diminished.
“My physical therapists gave me that extra little boost, a kick in the butt so to speak. They encouraged me so much that it made me want to do it because I wanted to prove to myself and to them that I could do what they're asking me to do. And my speech therapist, Jessica was also wonderful, she really was inspiring for me to get my voice back,” said Kimberley.
Kimberley still faces a long recovery and follow-up procedures, but her strong will and determination keeps her going.
“She's really independent,” said David. “She doesn't mind me helping, but she wants her independence.”
With David still at her side, Kimberley is determined to get back to doing things her way.
"I remember when she said, I'm driving today, when she didn't have to use a walker to get out to the truck and me to help lift her in and when she could do it on her own. It was a big accomplishment for her,” said David.
“I wanted to be able to be with my family and play with my grandkids and go back to fishing and hunting, things that I enjoy doing now that I'm retired,” said Kimberley. “I have a different outlook and perspective on life and what's important and not.”
While the year was not what she had planned or expected, Kimberley said she is grateful for the individuals who supported her throughout her journey.
“2019 was a challenge of a year for me and my family. It's been full of challenges and battles and quick decisions, hope, prayers, spiritual transformation,” said Kimberley. “Skagit Regional Health is amazing. Everyone played such an
important role in my situation and they're just irreplaceable. They each have their own expertise and they've lived up to it. They're just amazing."