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Client Story: How Ron Stays Off the ‘Roller Coaster of Health Care Crises’ with Lifespark

  • Jul 27, 2023
  • Cathy Gasiorowicz
  • 6-min Read

It was February 2020—ten months before the presidential election—and Ron was on the campaign trail working 20-hour days on behalf of a candidate whose platform included improving health care for families. He was meeting with business leaders, talking to voters at the Iowa and Minnesota State Fairs, giving speeches, and knocking on doors—with no evidence of any lurking health issues.

After the Iowa caucuses, he returned to Minneapolis for some additional medical tests. “I had no symptoms, but according to the heart surgeon who saw my test results, I could have easily dropped dead on someone’s doorstep,” Ron said. Within days, he was undergoing heart bypass surgery at North Memorial Health.

While he was recuperating in the hospital, he met with a representative from Lifespark who told him about Lifespark COMPLETETM and other in-home services that could support his recovery. She also told him about a new partnership between North Memorial and Lifespark designed to prevent gaps in care.

“I was impressed by what I heard, but what really resonated was this idea of being on a roller coaster, going from one health crisis to the next as things keep falling through the cracks, losing momentum until there’s no coming back,” he said.

With an active life and four thriving businesses, Ron had no desire to go that route. “I remember her looking me straight in the eye and saying, ‘Ron, we’re here to prevent the roller coaster. It’s what we do. We support people so they can heal and stay healed,’” he said. “That hit home.”

Vitals and so much more

The day after Ron was discharged, Kelly Pritchard, RN, Lifespark Life Manager, stopped by his house on her way home. “She checked my vitals and my overall health, and then we ended up talking for another hour—about the health care system, how to expand access to good medical care, about entrepreneurship, my daughter, her kids, and the U.S. Senator I was campaigning for,” he said. Before Kelly left, she made a call to Lifespark. “She told me, ‘Ron, just so you know, you’re not officially in my territory, but I’m going to be your nurse from now on.’”

For the next eight months, Kelly stopped by frequently to check Ron’s vitals and stay connected. She also kept in touch with his North Memorial primary care doctor and cardiologist through Ron’s North Memorial patient portal. “I fell in love with Lifespark because of Kelly and the excellent care I got,” he said.

Back from the brink

By the fall of 2020, Ron was making great progress, choosing to do his cardiac rehab at home to minimize his exposure to COVID. Although he no longer needed in-home support, he kept in close communication with Kelly and with Rachel Thomas, his Lifespark Life Advisor.

Then, in February 2023, Ron’s health hit another unexpected snag.

He has no memory of what happened, but his daughter has told him that when she called to wish him a Happy Valentine’s Day and didn’t hear back, she started to worry. The next day, she called and texted again. Finally, she went to his house where she found her dad on his bed, barely conscious, severely dehydrated, and struggling to breathe. “From what we could piece together, I’d been lying there for over three days,” he said.

After 13 days in the hospital, Ron was discharged to a nursing facility for transitional care. “From the moment I was admitted, I had a very bad feeling about the place,” he said. The next morning, he called a friend who picked him up and drove him home.

Call for help

The first call he made was to his daughter; the second call was to Lifespark. “They immediately connected me with Rachel (or as I call her, The Magician) and I asked her to get me into a good skilled nursing facility,” he said. Rachel identified a Lifespark affiliate with an excellent reputation. The only caveat was that he’d have to wait five days until they had a bed for him.

“Rachel called me every day to check in and let me know that Hannah Walther, RN would be my new Life Manager,” Ron said, adding he knew Kelly had taken a different position at Lifespark. “I also found out that Kelly had trained Hannah and thought the world of her.”

During his time ‘in limbo,’ Hannah paid Ron a visit. “From the moment I met her, I knew she was every bit as good as Kelly: competent, dedicated, bright, warm, and personable, and interested in me and my care,” he said.

Continuity of care

After two weeks at the transitional care facility, Ron was able to return home with Hannah as his Life Manager and his North Memorial Health providers for primary care and cardiology. With Ron’s permission, Lifespark has full access to his medical records which, for Hannah, means seamless continuity of care.

“Any time Ron has an appointment, I can log in and view physician notes, lab reports, and visit summaries, and if Ron has any questions, I can talk him through it,” Hannah said. “That continuity of care is what keeps people off the roller coaster and allows us to provide the best possible care.” As part of his ongoing recovery, she has coordinated with Lifespark Home Health to provide in-home physical and occupational therapy.

Ron says that consistency of care and ongoing communication give him confidence and peace of mind. “Just knowing that Hannah can see what’s going on with my health—without my even having to tell her—is so important,” he said. “I need to heal, and Lifespark is a partner in my healing and my general well-being.”

Beyond vitals

Monitoring Ron’s physical health is just one part of his overall Lifespark experience. “Hannah asks about my outlook, my sense of purpose and motivation, and my life goals,” he said, adding that his answers are what his Life Plan is built on. “I told her I want to be healthy enough to spend a month with my 90-year-old mother in California; I want to actively support my Senator’s political initiatives; I want to get back to mentoring young people who are just starting out in their careers; and I want to put my chef training to use for fundraisers and other events to promote the causes I believe in.”

Hannah admits that when she first joined Lifespark, she was a little skeptical that the company could really deliver on its promises. “It honestly sounded too good to be true, but I learned pretty quickly that it’s real,” she said. “The fact that I can take the time to get to know Ron and create a plan to help him reach his goals, and that he’s had the same point of contact for the past three years—that speaks volumes. It’s something you just don’t see anywhere else.”

To learn more about Lifespark and how we help people age magnificently, visit Lifespark COMPLETE or call 952-345-8770.

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