Seniors Emergency Center: Cynthia's Story

Cynthia Blalock's Life-Altering Experience

After recovering from pneumonia, Cynthia Blalock, 69, now has enough energy to keep up with her great-granddaughter, Rachel.

By her own admission, Cynthia Blalock can’t sit still. The retired government administrator is currently pursuing her second master’s degree and every weekday she watches her 1-year-old great-granddaughter. She also has four children, 11 grandchildren, a house and a dog, her “living doorbell.”

So when she started feeling lethargic last year, she thought something might be wrong.

“I had no energy or appetite,” Cynthia says. “I also had a bad cough and trouble catching my breath. One night, it was so bad that I couldn’t lie down to sleep.”

That was the last straw. The next day, she asked her daughter Sheree to take her to the emergency room.    

“Even though I live closer to another hospital, I had read about the Seniors Emergency Center at Holy Cross Hospital and specifically wanted to go there,” she says.

James A. Del Vecchio, MD, medical director, Emergency Center, understands why.

“The Seniors Emergency Center—the first of its kind in the nation and the only one in our region—is part of the main emergency center but separate,” he explains. “Developed by experts in seniors medicine, the center has hand rails, special flooring, thicker mattresses, blanket warmers and other features designed for the safety and comfort of those 65 years and older. Furthermore, our physicians, nurses and social workers are all specially trained in geriatrics and attuned to the often-complex health issues and needs of older patients.” 

Sheree noticed the difference right away. “Between having athletic boys and being a police officer, I’m no stranger to emergency rooms,” she says. “I figured we wouldn’t even be seen for several hours. But that was not the case.”

Upon arrival, the hospital’s valet service took care of Sheree’s car, so she didn’t lose precious time parking. Once inside, the two were greeted immediately. Sheree took care of registration while staff began attending to her mother.

“From the second we walked through the door, everything happened so quickly,” Cynthia recalls. I had an EKG, an X-ray, blood drawn, and a nebulizer to help me breathe more easily.”

None of the initial tests, however, pinpointed the problem. The staff wisely kept her for observation while they called in a specialist in internal medicine, Yeheyis Negussie, MD.

“After examining Cynthia and listening to her ailments, I strongly suspected pneumonia,” says the experienced physician. “With senior patients, symptoms are often not as readily apparent, making diagnosis more challenging.” Dr. Negussie ordered a CT scan, which is a more sensitive imaging test, and it clearly showed pneumonia in both of Cynthia’s lungs. She was admitted, treatment began and four days later, she was home. Today, both mother and daughter—delighted by the Seniors Emergency Center’s efficiency, effectiveness and personal touch—recommend the facility to others.

“This was my first, and hopefully last, time in the Seniors Emergency Center,” Cynthia says. “But the staff was so nice, friendly and helpful, that I never experienced any anxiety. I’d definitely return if I had to.”

Learn more about the Seniors Emergency Center.