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CEO Joe Richert's "unabridged" letter from the Spring 2011 Special Edition

Dear Friends,

It’s an exciting time at Special Tree! We’re really looking forward to moving into our new “digs” at the NeuroCare Center. There are other exciting things happening, however, I would like to pen my modest missive to everyone surrounding an incredible journey that our father, Doctor Richert, and family took this spring.

In early March, my wife, Joletta and I were visiting Dad at his timeshare in the Bahamas. On one of our traditional two-mile morning walks, Dad began struggling with his balance and fell on the beach. He was scooped up by some very kind beach attendants at the “One and Only” resort (by the way, where the James Bond movie, Casino Royale, was filmed).

Joletta and I took Dad to the Doctors Hospital in Nassau where we learned that he had an acute subdural hematoma and needed emergency brain surgery. IT HIT ME LIKE A TON OF BRICKS. I WAS IN NO WAY PREPARED FOR THIS. He was very lucid so he and I made the decision to go ahead with surgery. It was successful; however it required a second intervention on to relieve cerebral spinal fluid. By the end of the week, Dad was stable enough and was cleared to go by air ambulance to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, Florida. After hearing the news, our son Joe, flew down to assist us. Joe went with Dad on the air ambulance flight to Miami and now has a goal of owning his own Lear 35. Apparently, it’s quite a ride.

While in Miami, Joe and his wife Rachel stayed with Dad for some time. Brother Jack and sister Jackie were next, followed by sisters Jill and Jackie who accompanied Dad back from Miami to Detroit and ultimately to room 11 at our inpatient NeuroCare Center for rehabilitation.

Doc is home now and doing great. This wasn’t the spring that I had planned, but I learned some valuable insights that I wanted to share:

1. You’re never prepared for this kind of left turn. I have a deeper understanding of what families experience when hit with a catastrophic event involving a loved one.

2. You’d love the ability to make quick decisions, but you can’t. Events unfold and eventually a plan or next step will emerge.
3. It’s important to have a Smartphone with a good data plan so you can email, text, and access the internet when outside of the U.S. As it turned out, the neurosurgeon that did our father’s surgery is the same guy who pioneered the use of folly catheter as a shunt for children in Africa (the device drains fluid from the brain so pressure doesn’t build up). Dr. Ekededes was a brilliant guy and I’m hopeful he will be a long-term friend of our family and of Special Tree.

4. I’m incredibly grateful that we had the credit card resources to cover Dad’s hospital bill because U.S. medical insurance isn’t accepted in the Bahamas.

5. It’s amazing how patient Dad is with the pace of his recovery. It’s slow, but he’s progressing.

6. We’re lucky to be part of a nation-wide brain injury community which included incredible neurosurgeons to consult as we were making decisions.

7. Who would have thought that owning and operating an inpatient facility would be such an advantage for taking care of a family member? Dad received incredible care and treatment from the NCC staff and the food’s not bad either!

8. Now for a few of the more humorous things I learned. Our visitor’s chairs at Special Tree are uncomfortable and they don’t match! I learned this while sitting on one in Dad’s room with my brother Jim. It was while I was complaining about the chairs to Jim that I noticed a blanket on Dad’s bed with a logo from the Henry Ford Health System. I later learned that we regularly trade blankets with ambulance companies so there’s probably a few Special Tree blankets in the Henry Ford Health System somewhere.

To all the staff who worked with Dad: Thank You Very Much! You all need to know how absolutely cool you are and how important you are to people in stressful and uncertain times Our father’s day-to-day caregivers were outstanding. They were able to so politely, yet effectively, get the “Medical Director Emeritus” up and walking in the most pleasant and dignified way. Our Nurses were also kind, yet effective, in making sure that Doc paid attention to the medications that he was supposed to take. Our Therapists were good natured and fun, yet made him work so hard every day that even when he started to complain it was always with a smile. I’m so proud of who we are and what we do. I have a renewed commitment to make sure we’re the best for each of our clients and their families. Oh, and by the way, I just confirmed that we’re getting all new visitors chairs in the new facility!

Thank you and Best Regards,

Joe Richert