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27 Stitches but No Margarita


by Glenn Shepard
August 15, 2017
Category: Epic Customer Service


Elizabethtown, KY

Aug 16

Portland, TN Aug 29

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"You’re bleeding, BADLY!"

Three words I never wanted to hear from my Beautiful Bride.

The next thing I knew, I was on the examination table at a Vanderbilt University Medical Center clinic.

They say your life flashes before your eyes when you think you’re about to die, but I was thinking about what a STUPID way this would be to die.

I’ve had plenty of chances to go out in a “Blaze of Glory”, from getting lost in a Cessna 152 on my first solo cross country flight and nearly running out of fuel, to running out of oxygen at the bottom of the Caribbean while diving in Mexico, to sky jumping off the top of the Stratosphere in Las Vegas, to crashing a jetpack in Key West. If I’m going to die suddenly, I want to die while doing something I love.

But NOT like this.

I was doing some minor repairs as we near the end of our home renovation, and didn’t duck when I walked under a low ceiling in a catwalk/overlook. I thought about the story of how Jack Daniel died from blood poisoning he got after kicking a safe he couldn’t get to open. (You’ll see the safe if you ever tour the Jack Daniels distillery in Lynchburg, TN).

The nurse asked if she could get me anything, and I blurted out “A Margarita”.

I don’t know why I said that. I was trying hard to stay calm by visualizing a beach in Cancun, and guess that seemed to go with the theme.

She responded, “What flavor?”

Margaritas are not my thing, and I didn’t know they came in different flavors. But I was just trying not to think about what was happening, and quipped “Strawberry”.

She came back and said, “We’re out of strawberry margaritas, but I brought you the next best thing… a strawberry lollipop”.

They say that women make better patients than men, and that men are big babies when we get hurt. I agree, and GLADLY took that lollipop.

Then in came the doctor. She asked about the lollipop, and I explained that I have “White Lab Coat Syndrome” (A phenomenon in which patients get so nervous in a medical setting that their blood pressure increases.)

She said she couldn’t use glue because I had a “Gaping” head wound. I asked her not to use the word “Gaping” in the same sentence with any part of my body again. She then discussed whether to use stitches or staples.

My head’s been stitched up twice. Once after a water skiing accident in Mountain Home, Arkansas, and once after an unemployed, uninsured, 19-year-old rear ended me in the Batmobile (my beloved black Corvette) while she was texting.

But the image of staples in my head made me think of Frankenstein’s monster and I quickly announced, “I’ll take the stitches!”

Dr. Frankenstein told me I’d need to take off my shirt if I liked it, because things could get “messy”. She then left for a few minutes while the lidocaine took effect. When she came back, she had done the most REMARKABLE thing I’ve ever seen a doctor do…

She had taken off her lab coat.

This was more than remarkable; it was BRILLIANT.

“White Lab Coat Syndrome” isn’t about literally being afraid of white lab coats, it’s about being nervous around doctors. The fact that she had taken hers off told me she was listening, and actually CARED.

Because she was paying attention, she found a way to help calm down a terrified 53-year-old patient clinging to a lollipop like Linus clung to his security blanket in Charlie Brown.

She was no longer Dr. Frankenstein; she was an Angel of Mercy.

She had given me a hospital gown to wear so that I wouldn’t get blood all over MY shirt, but now HER shirt was no longer covered by her lab coat. She was more concerned about her patient than herself.

I won’t say that getting 27 stitches in my head was pleasant. But if it had to happen, these were the best people it could have happened with. Not because of WHAT they did, but because of HOW they did it.

Just as with Carlos the Locksmith, being good at performing your job duties isn’t enough. Professionalism and Customer Service matter. They really, really matter.

To Your Success,

Glenn Shepard

 I’d be remiss not to identify my two Angels of Mercy. The doctor was Ruth Stewart, M.D. The nurse's first name was Rebecca, but I failed to get her last name. I did, however, send her chocolate afterward.


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