A new lease on life

Doctors, nurses kept Ben Yeakley comfortable for three weeks

“The nurses get to know you and your story. They understand what’s going on, and they’re really key to the care. They make it easier for the patients and for the doctors.” – Ben Yeakley

Patient: Ben Yeakley, Tega Cay, South Carolina

Background: Yeakley is a husband, father and football coach. He began experiencing digestive symptoms in late 2020. At the time, he didn’t think it was a big deal. The symptoms and overall discomfort grew more and more intense until he found himself lying on the bathroom floor in January 2021.

At Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center: When Yeakley checked in on January 29, he thought he was only experiencing digestion discomfort and he’d be discharged in short order. But his condition was more complex. Novant Health physicians and team members worked diligently to diagnose the problem, running numerous tests along the way.

Initial testing proved inconclusive, and the team pressed on for two weeks and ruled out as much as they could. Within two weeks, they diagnosed Yeakley with ischemic colitis, an inflammatory condition in the digestive tract.

Although a diagnosis was made, Yeakley had experienced necrosis. Roughly 11 inches of his colon tissue had died, and it needed to be removed. Douglas Rosen, MD, a Novant Health colon and rectal surgeon performed major surgery to remove the dead tissue. Rosen used the da Vinci Surgical System, a leading-edge robotic technology. After seven hours of operation, the surgery was a success. Yeakley would need several months to recuperate. In the meantime, he is using a colostomy bag that will be reversible in time. He described the da Vinci as an amazing piece of equipment.

“There are several good doctors in Charlotte, but Dr. Rosen was one of the best doctors at using the da Vinci for surgery,” Yeakley said. “Being able to zoom in and be so precise with robot arms is part of what made reversal [of the colostomy bag] possible.”

Yeakley was discharged on Feb. 20, a little more than three weeks after he was admitted. In his time at Presbyterian Medical Center, he grew close with several Novant Health nurses: Bea Plowman, Shelley Flintall, Catherine Ledford and Jodi Taylor, among others. They were available to answer all of Yeakley’s questions, and upon completion of his surgery, they educated him on how to use his colostomy bag.

“I don’t know that I was ever afraid, but I wondered how I was going to handle this,” Yeakley said. “That’s where the nurses came in. They’d been through all this before and we were able to talk through how to use the bag.”

The impact: Today, Yeakley is healing and back to enjoying life. He’s lost about 30 pounds and is eating well. As a father and a football coach, Yeakley has learned to appreciate life just a little more. “The biggest thing in our family is if you fall, get back up,” Yeakley said.

During his stay, Yeakley noticed how the nurses made extra effort to ensure he was well taken care of during shift changes. He appreciated being able to stay with the same nurses, and he felt like he was paired with a nurse that matched his personality. He was impressed with how well the team worked together and looked out for each other.

“That says a lot about an organization when they take care of their people,” Yeakley said.

Yeakley was grateful for the doctors and nurses who made his care possible and saved his life, and he wanted to find a way to give back. He filmed a video to express his appreciation. Aware of how much front-line workers have sacrificed during the COVID-19 pandemic, he brought donuts in for the team and made a donation to Novant Health Foundation in honor of Novant Health team members, a group he called “greatest people on Earth.”  

“If Novant Health is there for us, we can be there for them,” Yeakley said.

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