A winning card: Freestanding ER brings some luck to couple’s tragic event | by Debra Melani

Barry and Mary Dobson

Posted on Tue, Jan 20, 2015

Mary and Barry Dobson woke up that July morning two summers ago hoping the day would bring them luck. And it did. Just not in the way that they’d intended. The retired Thornton couple, embracing a day off from babysitting the grandkids, was heading to Blackhawk to try their hand at the casinos. Mary Dobson went to shower; Barry Dobson went to get his wife a cup of coffee. Then he heard the thud.

“I went in to look, and when I saw her, I called 9-1-1,” says Barry Dobson, 77. “She was unconscious, and her head was going back and forth. I turned her on her side.” Within minutes (that “seemed like two hours”) emergency responders were there, whisking his wife, 63, away. She’d suffered a major stroke. But for the Dobsons, the speed of the emergency system, along with the location of a freestanding North Suburban Medical Center ER, was like hitting the jackpot.

Neighborhood care

“Yes, her outcome might have been different without it,” says Dr. Thomas Dietrich, Dobson’s emergency physician that morning at the then-recently-opened Northeast ER. “It was rush hour, but she was brought to us close to her home (just more than one mile away). Within 30 minutes she was in the air flying toward Swedish Medical Center and under the care of one of the top stroke experts in the region,” Dietrich says. “And she already had the clot-busting medication. The earlier you get that onboard, the better. If she had had to go from her northern suburban home to a big hospital in rush hour, it could have been 40 minutes before she was even seen.”

The Dobsons are now fans of the growing trend of freestanding emergency departments, which, for HealthONE, are focused on bringing high-quality emergency care into communities in need. The success of the first venture led to the opening of the Northwest ER in Westminster this fall. “We started out with about 20 patients a day at the first ER in May 2012,” says Bart Davidson, director of emergency services for both facilities. “We’ve grown to an average of about 45 a day.”

An emergency portal

The new ER’s are fully staffed with emergency personnel and equipped for almost any medical issue a regular ER can handle. One difference between HealthONE’s FSED’s and a growing number of other private FSED’s popping up in the Denver area is that anything that its facility can’t treat or that needs expert follow-up care, as in Dobson’s case, is immediately and seamlessly available. “Our FSEDs are all extensions of our hospitals,” Dietrich says. As such, they adhere to the same stringent guidelines, which assure quality and accessibility, he says. “We provide a portal for cutting-edge emergency care.”

One grateful couple

Mary Dobson doesn’t remember anything about the experience until the third day in the hospital. But she says she knows she’s lucky. “I’m doing really well. It’s nice to be back to watching the grandkids.” Barry Dobson, who took his wife to Blackhawk six months after the stroke, and who chokes up at the thought of what could have been, feels even more fortunate. “I’ve seen a lot of stroke outcomes in my 70-some years, and I hadn’t seen any really good ones. In fact, most of the people died. I can’t emphasize enough how thankful we are that that emergency room was there.”

In an emergency, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately from any wired or wireless phone.

North Suburban Medical Center Freestanding ERs

Northeast ER
  • Holly Street and 128th Avenue, Thornton
  • Phone: 303-280-6640
Northwest ER
  • 112th Avenue and Sheridan Boulevard, Westminster
  • Phone: 720-460-3900
The ERs are open 24/7, 365 days a year, providing:
  • Board-certified emergency and critical-care doctors, specialists and nurses
  • Dedicated trauma/resuscitation room
  • 10 private patient rooms, two devoted to kids’ care
  • On-site imaging services, including CT, ultrasound, digital X-ray
  • Full-service laboratory
  • Telemedicine camera for patient consultations by physician specialists
  • Helipad to provide additional, rapid transport




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