Tuesday, December 5, 2017 5:13 PM

Surgical Services Open House turned out to be dress rehearsal for my son

My name is Kevin Reilly and I am a Registered Nurse (RN) working in the Post Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU) at Clovis Community Medical Center. In short, I’m the person who wakes you up after surgery.
As an RN in PACU, my role is not widely known or understood by the public. In fact, most patients may not remember ever meeting me, since they are still under the effects of anesthesia and don’t have clear memories of their time immediately after surgery.
I graduated from Fresno State in 2009 and have focused my career on post surgical recovery at Clovis Community and Community Regional Medical Center. I feel I’m always learning new things on a daily basis from experiences and by mentoring by other staff members – which is why I’m always an active participant in the Surgical Services Open House.
My son and I participated at the first Surgical Services Open House and had an experience that would come to be invaluable just six months later.
Before the first open house, our educator organized an internal staff day with scenarios and teaching points to help build better teamwork and communication across all areas of Surgical Services. This is when Thomas (my son) and I first got involved.
Thomas was 12 at the time and was asked if he would play the role of a patient having surgery and being recovered in the PACU. I was asked to play the role of the PACU RN. All-in-all, the department had a terrific day and helped young students learn a great deal about how to work together to provide the best patient care possible. Little did my son and I know, only six months later – Thomas would be a real patient going through a surgery just like the one he pretended to have at the open house.
Thomas was showing signs of what appeared to be a flu or bad sinus infection. But instead, his doctors found a cancerous brain tumor. The tumor, an Ependymoma, is a very rare type of tumor (less than 300 per year in America) that is usually seen in younger patients. It’s likely that Thomas had the tumor since a young age, but showed no symptoms until he was 12.
Thomas was amazing through the surgery and the seven weeks of daily radiation that followed to kill off any remaining cancerous cells. I think, in part, pretending to be a patient at the Open House and understanding what to expect played a small part in making the process easier.
At the Open House approximately one year after Thomas’s surgery, Linette Phillips, our amazing hospital educator, asked if Thomas and I would like to participate again as both an opportunity to educate, but also as a way for Thomas to say thank you to the many staff members that supported him during his recovery.
As an RN, I really enjoy seeing the kids learning and being interested in the work all of us do at the hospital, it gives me a real sense of pride in my profession. And for Thomas, the open houses have been a terrific tool for my son to have a more thorough understanding of what he endured during his own surgery and to be able to help give back by helping teach and being part of our group.
Thanks to Linette and staff including surgeons, anesthesia providers, nurses and ancillary staff who all volunteer their time on a Saturday to create such a positive, fun experience. Thomas and I were both humbled and thankful to be a part of the event and have the support of so many Community Medical Centers staff members.
I’m happy to report that Thomas is happy and healthy. Since his original treatment, Thomas had two years of MRIs every three months and now needs annual MRIs for the rest of his life to make sure that his tumor isn’t growing back.
You may not always remember that I helped you, but I’m happy to be a part of a team that helps patients, just like Thomas, through a tough period and hopefully a positive recovery - it is a huge part of why I love my work.
To all those considering a medical profession, just know that while it can be difficult work, it is rewarding in so many ways!
By Kevin Reilly
Clovis Community PACU Registered Nurse & Thomas’ dad