At six foot eight, 228 pounds, few people would consider former Huntington High power forward Patrick Patterson a child, but in the eyes of his parents and the staff of Cabell Huntington Hospital, that's exactly what he is. When the 18-year-old, who was described in the media as an "exceptionally aggressive and athletic player in a man-child NBA body," needed medical care, he received treatment in the Pediatric Unit.
Patrick had been treated by a physician for a plantar's wart on his left foot, and the deep incision made to remove the wart became infected.
"We came to the hospital because his foot was swelling and his fever was sky high," explains Tywanna Patterson, Patrick's mother. "The doctors told me it was a good thing we brought him in, and they treated him in the Emergency Room with antibiotics and an IV because he was dehydrated."
A day or two later, Tywanna was still concerned about Patrick's foot and she talked to his coach, Lloyd McGuffin. He recommended that his nephew, Dr. Aaron McGuffin, take a look at it.
"I stopped by the Pattersons' house to see Patrick, and his foot was still quite red," McGuffin says. "Cellulitis is usually superficial, but it may also affect the tissues underlying the skin and spread to the lymph nodes and bloodstream. We decided that the prudent thing would be to admit Patrick for observation and treatment to ensure that it healed properly."
Patrick was admitted to the Pediatrics Unit and was seen by several physicians during the course of his stay.
"Dr. Joe Evans and I merely facilitated Patrick's care, getting the right doctors in to see him," McGuffin explains. "Dr. Andrew Marcus took care of the orthopedic aspect, and Dr. Bryndis Sigurdardottir monitored and treated the infection."
"Certainly, we worked hard to get Patrick back on the court, demonstrating his talent and representing Huntington," McGuffin continues, "but the take-home message is that we try to do the right thing for every patient at the right time. What sometimes goes unnoticed is how hard my colleagues work to care for their patients; it shows our commitment to the quality of care at Cabell Huntington Hospital."
"This was a serious situation," says Buster Patterson, Patrick's father. "For the first time that I can remember, I saw fear in my boy's eyes. We were all surprised that something so simple could become so serious, but the doctors came through for us, and Cabell gave him the best of the best of care. They really showed us some love."
The nurses felt the same way about the Patterson family. "I kept asking the Pattersons, ‘Are you always this nice?' because they were such a wonderful family to work with," says pediatric nurse Michelle Wooten, RN. "They were under a lot of stress and concerned about Patrick's health, but they were always so down-to-earth. Even though he was sick, Patrick was very mannerly and polite."
The stress on Patrick's parents was considerable, Tywanna says, and Patrick's illness put everything into perspective. "When Patrick was in the hospital, we weren't concerned about athletics or basketball," she says. "All we cared about was that he is our child, and all we wanted was for him to be well."
That sentiment was echoed by the mother of another child who was recently a patient in the Pediatric Unit. Twenty-month-old Jackson Erwin was dehydrated and had a fever of 105.8 when he was admitted. Evans was the pediatrician who admitted him.
"It's frightening when your child has a fever that high, especially when he is so young," says Jackson's mother, Julie Erwin. "He was so sick with a respiratory infection and an ear infection."
Jackson was a patient for four days, and Julie was with him 24 hours a day, every day. "I left once for about 45 minutes to take a shower, and my dad stayed with him," she says. "I was just too worried to leave him alone."
Julie appreciated the care that Jackson received during his stay. "Everyone was really good to us, and they went above and beyond what I would expect in the way they treated us," she recalls. "Dr. Harmon, a resident, brought in Thomas the Tank Engine DVDs from home because he knew how much Jackson loves them."
"And the nurses let us bring in Barrett, Jackson's twin sister, for a visit," Julie says. "That helped Barrett understand where we had been and helped Jackson by giving him time with his sister."
"I would highly recommend the Pediatric Unit at Cabell Huntington for children who need to be hospitalized," she says. "Everyone on that floor went above and beyond in caring for Jackson, and he's perfectly healthy today."
"I know that all nurses are committed to caring for patients," says Paula Walters, RN, nurse manager of the Pediatric Unit, "but I think that the nurses in this unit are especially dedicated. Our patients range in age from infancy through age 18. Caring for sick and injured children is not easy, and the stress on the family can be enormous. We all work hard to give each child the appropriate care while involving and helping the family as much as possible. We want to give every child the healthy future he or she deserves."
For Patrick Patterson, the future looks bright. After he was discharged, Patrick returned for whirlpool therapy as an outpatient for several weeks.
"At first, I was terrified about how serious it had become, but everyone was there for me," he says, recalling his hospital stay. "No matter what the circumstances, Dr. McGuffin and Dr. Evans were right there, taking care of me."
"The nurses—they were there day and night—even when I didn't need them," he says with a laugh in his voice. "No matter how many different nurses I had, they all showed that they cared."
Today, Patrick's hospital stay is just a memory, and he is back on the court, doing what he does, and loves, the best—playing basketball.
"I feel perfect now," he says.
Apparently college coaches agree. After months of anticipation, Patrick has been recruited to play basketball for the University of Kentucky.