Professors Get Education on Strength of Community Care

Sandy Maisel and Patrice Franko

Waterville, Maine

“We were worried about one another, but our anxiety was eased when we realized what incredible care we were receiving. It made it easier for me to go home when I needed to rest because I knew she was in such capable compassionate hands."
Sandy Maisel







When it rains it pours — and July was a water-logged month for Colby College professors Sandy Maisel and Patrice Franko.

On July 1, Sandy’s history of cardiac complications caught up to him, requiring placement of a pacemaker. After speaking with his longtime, steadfast primary care provider, Dr. Ed Ervin, Sandy met with his cardiologist, Dr. David Frost, at the Alfond Center for Health (ACH). In spite of the fact that he and Patrice made a generous gift to the facility’s capital campaign, it was the first time they’d set foot in the building since touring during a construction phase nearly four years prior.

“We were blown away,” Patrice said. “We didn’t realize there were so many other services in the building. It was a surprise to us that it’s not just a place you go to in an ambulance —although I did a few short days later! It’s really an entire complex of care.”

As matters of the heart often do, this occasion carried some anxiety. Sandy shared his reservations which led to more gems of experience inside this system of care. “Dr. Frost consulted with Maine Health Cardiology colleagues in Portland and also in Boston while we were right there in the office,” Sandy said. “I’m admittedly one of those who would assume Portland was better than Augusta and Boston was better than Portland, so when I asked if I should really go to Portland, I was surprised to hear that, for this procedure, many of the Portland cardiologists would rather do it at the ACH because it’s newer, more spacious and technologically current.”

When all was said and done, Sandy’s procedure went off without a hitch, brought immediate relief and had them both home in time to celebrate the 4th.

On July 11 Patrice boomeranged back to the ACH by ambulance with a broken hip. She underwent surgery, recovered on 3 West for a few days and spent an additional week in the care of Dr. Michael Burns and his team on the Physical Rehabilitation Unit.

“It was less than two weeks after my episode,” Sandy said. “We were worried about one another, but our anxiety was eased when we realized what incredible care we were receiving. It made it easier for me to go home when I needed to rest because I knew she was in such capable, compassionate hands.”

Sandy visited every day and was always impressed by the care taken to inform him and the mindfulness of staff in acknowledging the impact on both patient and family. “The nurses in the rehab wing got to know my walk and could hear me coming — they were always ready when I rounded the corner,” Sandy said. “Something about that was really nice.”

During her recovery, Patrice spent a lot of time in the garden adjacent to the rehabilitation wing. “It became an important place for me,” she said. “I used it for my therapy, to visit and lunch with friends, to see community at the hospital in action — you get a sense of life going on. It’s not isolated as hospitals can sometimes feel.”

Living in Rome and being actively involved at Colby and in Waterville, Sandy and Patrice are no strangers to community. In the wake of their back-to-back health care challenges, the benefits of a close-knit community were all the more evident with friends and colleagues inquiring about each of them and offering support as both healed. “It’s part of what we love about living here,” Sandy said. “People come together — everyone inquires. It leaves no doubt that this community cares.”

They were pleasantly surprised to discover that sense of community and support didn’t stop at the ACH door either. “Almost without exception, the people who cared for us — from physicians, nurses, nursing unit assistants, physical and occupational therapists, food service staff, cleaning staff…everyone was friendly, caring, professional,” Sandy said. “And there’s a very clear network of caring beyond the walls of the facility,” added Patrice. “I saw one of my physical therapists out in town and she was eager to say hello and ask how I was doing.”

Sandy and Patrice are community contributors in their own right, supporting, among other things, the homeless shelter, KVCC and MaineGeneral’s two capital campaigns. When asked why they chose to support both the cancer center and new hospital campaigns, they found themselves talking in familiar circles.

“With the cancer center — Gerry Tipper asked us,” Patrice said. “You couldn’t help but be moved by his sense of commitment. Two of Sandy’s sisters passed away from cancer as well. Add to that that you just never know who it is who will need the services you’re supporting…”

The hospital was a bit different. While another acquaintance made the request, the pair felt their “hometown” allegiance being tested by the proposed location.

“Two years before the new hospital was built, I was against it,” Sandy said. “We understood it was necessary in order to recruit specialists, but we felt like the Waterville community might lose something. Ultimately, we felt more strongly that once the decision was made, the community needed to come together to make it happen. The reality is that 17 miles down the interstate isn’t that far for services in a state-of-the-art facility. Thayer still has a lot to offer —the stuff you need most often.”

And, at the end of the day, Patrice and Sandy’s willingness to collaborate by investing in a world-class health care facility struck close to home when they wound up being the “who” in their “you never know who will need the services” sentiment.

“There is accountability in connectedness — accountability to investment in the place you live,” Patrice said.

“We see it as our responsibility to give back,” Sandy added.  “We are lucky,” he says, nodding toward his wife as she grabs the cane she’s using during recovery to assist her to her next appointment. “We are really lucky to have a hospital like the ACH and to have the wonderful people who work there.”

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