Family Honors St. Vincent Caregivers for Lifesaving Care of their Son
Leslie Robertson expected to hear her son’s voice, but when a Montana State Trooper answered Chet’s phone, she immediately knew something was wrong.
“I was just calling to check in,” shared Leslie. “I found out about the accident because the trooper on the scene answered it. He told me that Chet was not conscious and that they were flying him to Bozeman and that it was serious.”
Chet, at 17, had moved from California to study welding technology, and even as a young adult, he was well on his way to starting his career and life in Montana. “He is very driven and has always been wiser than his years,” said Leslie. “He was already working full-time in a welding job. He had put himself on the fast track.”
The day of the accident, Chet had been fixing his dirt bike, another one of his passions, and took it out for a ride.
“I don’t think we will ever know exactly what happened, but the driver never saw him,” shared Leslie about the collision.
After being airlifted to Bozeman Health Deaconess Regional Medical Center, Chet was flown to St. Vincent Healthcare for a higher level of care. Leslie and her husband, Ken, spent the next several hours calling the hospital to get information and booked flights to be with their son. After spending the night in the Seattle airport, Leslie, Ken, and their daughter Ady, were able to get a flight to Bozeman and then drove to Billings.
“Chet had built an incredible community,” she said. “Montana is a very special place filled with people who care and who will embrace you. I called a couple of moms willing to be with him before I arrived.”
Leslie and her family spent the next three weeks with Chet in St. Vincent’s ICU. He had suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and was in a coma. For Leslie, her family, and Chet’s caregivers, it was a waiting process to allow his brain to heal and allow them to ease Chet off of the sedation.
“Those first weeks in the ICU were really tough,” shared Leslie. “The nurses and staff were incredible, and they made us feel that things were under control and that we didn’t need to panic. They gave us hope.”
With each passing day, they continued to get glimmers of hope and saw improvements in Chet’s condition. After he stabilized, they were able to repair his jaw, which had been injured in the accident. After three weeks, the care team took Chet off the sedation, and he became more responsive each day.
During those initial weeks, the family consulted closely with Dr. Louis Ross, a neurosurgeon at the St. Vincent Healthcare, on what they should expect in the healing process. His guidance helped ease some of their worst fears and gave them hope in the face of uncertainty.
“When someone suffers a traumatic brain injury, it can be overwhelming for families, especially for those unfamiliar with these types of injuries,” explained Dr. Ross. “My role was to provide accurate information about his prognosis, so they didn’t lose hope in the stress and worry of the moment. It is great to see how far he has come.”
“It helped us in a time when we didn’t understand anything,” said Leslie. “Dr. Ross treated Chet like a person and treated us with dignity. That was so important and kept our hope going.”
Leslie shared the story of a caregiver whose son had also been in an accident and suffered a TBI. In addition to providing her with encouragement and support, she gifted Leslie and her family a small statue of a mother and son. Leslie keeps it on her dresser as a reminder of the compassionate care she received.
“All of this made us feel that this wasn’t just a normal hospital experience,” she said. “The kindness that extended out from the hospital got us through. The staff made us feel like family.”
All through the process, the physicians and caregivers walked side-by-side with the family as they continued to see Chet heal.
“They are a delightful family,” shared John Jamison, Chaplain at St. Vincent. “They were so attentive, and they embraced whatever suggestions our caregivers had. Every day it was a little better, and every day we were a little more hopeful. It was a wonderful thing to watch and be a part of.”
As Chet’s condition improved, the family began working closely with the care management team on the next steps to help Chet transition to a rehabilitation facility. The family received great news when the care team found him a placement at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, just over an hour’s drive from their home in California. The St. Vincent Healthcare Foundation, in coordination with the trauma and HELP Flight team, was able to facilitate his transfer to Santa Clara.
“They went above and beyond for Chet,” shared Leslie.
After leaving Billings and St. Vincent, Chet continued his steady progress in rehabilitation therapy, and after six weeks, Chet was able to leave the rehabilitation facility to come home. Less than a year later, Chet is now making plans to return to Montana to continue his life and career.
The care that Chet and his family received at St. Vincent left an indelible mark. Leslie believes the dedication and belief of Chet’s caregivers helped him make a miraculous recovery. After their return home, they connected with the DAISY Foundation, known throughout the healthcare industry for the DAISY Award which recognizes nurses and caregivers for extraordinary care, to find a way to thank and celebrate the St. Vincent caregivers.
The DAISY Foundation produces the Healer’s Touch Sculpture, given in recognition to individuals and organizations, symbolizing the relationship between caregivers, patients, and families.
On April 21, the Robertson family returned to St. Vincent Healthcare for the dedication of the statue and to personally share their gratitude for the care they received.
“We live now in a place of deep gratitude,” Leslie commented. “It is so important to us that those caregivers know the difference they made in our lives.”
The gesture of gratitude was felt deeply by the St. Vincent caregivers as teams from across the hospital gathered to welcome Chet and his family back to St. Vincent.
“As caregivers, there are times in our lives when we can witness a true miracle,” said Melissa Filter, Chief Nursing Officer at St. Vincent. “Chet and his family touched teams across St. Vincent. We were honored as this young man and his family brought out the very best in all of us and allowed us to live our mission in a beautiful way. We are so grateful.”
The 2023 SAINTS Benefit, we are celebrating our 125-year legacy of life-saving emergency services. Proceeds will amplify St. Vincent Healthcare's Emergency and Critical Care Services in cardiac, stroke, and trauma, allowing us to serve our community, and patients like Chet for another 125 years.
Help us continue our lifesaving legacy in raising $1,000,000 to support Emergency and Critical Care Services at St. Vincent Healthcare by donating today: svfoundation.org/donate