It’s not every day when you show up for a routine dental appointment only to be rushed into an urgent care center for potentially lifesaving medical treatment.
That is exactly what happened to Don Goodlin, a U.S. Army Vietnam Veteran and native of Fort Myers, Fla.
On April 9, 2014, Don made his way to the Lee County VA Healthcare Center in Cape Coral, Fla. where he is a patient for a routine teeth cleaning. Accustomed to making the 25-minute trip to the clinic several times a month for medical appointments, Don left home with plenty of time to see his dentist.
On this day, he was not feeling particularly well. “I had a scheduled appointment, so I came in. I was a little light headed, but that’s nothing unusual for me,” Don recalled.
Don, a relaxed and forthright man, said he remembered walking into a dental examination room and almost immediately being approached by a concerned dental hygienist who asked him politely to sit down.
“He came in for a cleaning, and we routinely start with blood pressure and a review of medical history,” said Ethel Tijerino, dental hygienist, Lee County VA Healthcare Center, Bay Pines VA Healthcare System (VAHCS)
“When I took his blood pressure, it was significantly lower than his normal…and his pulse was very, very high. He was also very pale and his hands were shaking,” she said.
As part of her assessment, Tijerino asked him a few questions and soon discovered he had stopped taking prescribed medication to regulate his heart. Without delay, Tijerino alerted Dr. Robert Borgesi, the Veteran’s dentist. The dental team made a quick decision to escort Goodlin to the clinic’s urgent care center for direct medical intervention.
“We escorted him down to urgent care…and ensured that he was seen because we didn’t like what we saw with his blood pressure, pulse, and just the way he looked,” Borgesi recalled.
Don and his wife Beverly feel that the dental team’s ability to quickly identify irregular vital signs and visible medical issues potentially saved his life.
“When I hear comments…that we saved his life, it’s very humbling, it’s very touching. I am just a dental hygienist, and I would do that for any of my patients. ” said Tijerino. “I feel very much validated that what I am doing here is making a difference, and it’s touching people’s lives.” she said.
Goodlin said participating in Veterans Viewpoint was his opportunity to thank his entire VA health care team and all Lee County VA Healthcare Center employees for providing timely, high-quality and individualized care.
About Veteran Viewpoint
Veteran Viewpoint is an ongoing video series developed by the Bay Pines VAHCS that highlights personal VA health care stories from Veterans residing in southwest Florida. Through personal, one-on-one interviews these heroes share detailed and private accounts of their experiences as users of VA health care - a system dedicated to providing Veterans with timely, accessible, high quality care that is personalized, proactive and patient driven. Have a story to share? If so, please send an email to the Bay Pines VAHCS Office of Public Affairs at firstname.lastname@example.org.