From double wide to double wow
December 6, 2005
FRISCO – Lucia Sramek describes Summit Medical Center in the 1970s as “the Wild West.”Sramek and other nurses were “people of all trades,” said Dr. Charles Lackey, one of the original doctors. They sewed up lacerations, delivered babies, answered phones, filed paperwork, did lab work and took x-rays – all in a double-wide trailer.Twenty-four hour emergency service didn’t exist until 1977, and when it started, it bounced between Frisco and the Breckenridge Medical Center because of the minimal staff. Lackey and Dr. James Oberheide were the only two doctors staffing the emergency service for the first couple of years, until St. Anthony’s bought the medical center. Then doctors from St. Anthony’s in Denver took turns relieving the duo. About 10 nurses rotated hours. They relied on ambulance staff to help record vital signs and stabilize patients, Sramek said. Luckily, in those days, spring, fall and most of the summer stayed pretty quiet. But when winter came, look out.The main emergencies involved truckers losing control on Interstate 70 – before there were runaway ramps – and ski injuries at a time when resorts didn’t have medical facilities at their bases.”Semis would go off the road all the time. There were horrendous accidents,” Lackey said.
The worst came when multiple injuries occurred during the day. Then doctors would have to juggle regular office appointments with emergencies.”We just couldn’t keep up with the demand,” Sramek said. “But patients still were able to receive top care, because we all had to be credentialed and maintain our certifications.”When patients needed to go to the emergency room and an ambulance wasn’t taking them, they’d have to call ahead and find out if it was Breckenridge’s or Frisco’s turn to remain open all day and night.If they ended up in Frisco, doctors treated them in the trailer. The hollow floors didn’t allow staff to pull the x-ray machine to patients, for fear it would fall through the floor. One nurse worked alone through the night, safely locked in the hospital. When patients came, the nurse would screen them before letting them in.”There were times you’d be frightened during the night, because you were all alone and you heard noises,” Sramek said, adding that people had tried to break into the pharmacy and that she worked at a time when Ted Bundy, known to target nurses, was rumored to be at-large along Interstate 70.
Then there were nocturnal animals with which to contend. Skunks sometimes crawled under the platforms of the double-wide and stunk up the place, Lackey said. One night, a large skunk delayed Lackey from getting into his car and going home as it sat behind his wheel.”It was a dark, lonely part of town, and you never knew what kind of critter you’d find,” he said.But through all the lonely and hectic work, doctors and nurses formed a tight-knit community. And that built a foundation for today’s caring medical care.”St. Anthony’s conducts patient satisfaction surveys, and, in particular, Summit Medical Center year after year has come out on top,” Lackey said. “The tone was set early on by people that did work there.”Now, the new hospital will spread out the close-knit staff, placing them in different departments. Sramek is moving to Peak One Surgery Center.
“Because of the new people moving in and the size of the hospital and the division of departments, I think it’s going to be a challenge (to remain close),” she said. “I’m hoping that it doesn’t change the warmth and care that we felt for each other; I think people are quite sincere in their compassion. Maybe the cafeteria will become the meeting place.”Tuesday, new employees and old got to know one another as they moved into the new hospital. As they put supplies away, it was as if they were moving into a new home. Though she’ll miss the closeness established at the old building, she looks forward to working with state-of-art technology.”I find it very exciting to be trying new things,” she said.Kimberly Nicoletti can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 13624, or at email@example.com.