Making a difference for Tommy

Hammel family
Tommy Hammel is feeling better after being treated for Rotovirus at Winneshiek Medical Center. He is pictured with his family.

Every mother has been through it. The split second between “Mommy, my tummy hurts,” and, well…you’ve been there.

Kim and Bruce Hammel of Decorah were managing their son’s illness. Two-year old Tommy had been vomiting for nearly a week when his parents (both in the nursing field) felt he was becoming dehydrated.

“We brought Tommy to the emergency department at Winneshiek Medical Center, and the first thing he did was throw-up all over the registration desk,” says Kim. “The registration representative didn’t miss a beat – she just started helping me clean up my son and the registration counter.”

Tommy had an ultrasound and X-rays, was administered IV fluids and sent home, only to come back to the clinic two days later. Kim says, “Tommy received more fluids and was admitted for dehydration when the vomiting wouldn’t stop.” “And,” Kim adds, “he added diarrhea to the list. Tommy was only taking in around four ounces of fluid a day.”

Tommy was diagnosed with rotavirus, a violent form of the stomach flu. The rotavirus infection is easily passed on in public places, especially daycares and schools.

“After all the trauma to his little system, Tommy developed an ileus, and he went from everything coming up, to nothing – and then he got hungry,” says Kim. After over a week of severe gastrointestinal illness, Tommy began eating…and eating…and two days later, his system ‘woke up’ and began to function normally again.

“Seeing a child lying in a hospital bed tugs on people’s heart strings. Maybe they imagine their own child being sick, or they can just empathize with the parents,” says Kim. “At Winneshiek Medical Center, their concern was demonstrated by the professionalism and compassion they showed my son and our family.”

Kim shares that everyone treated her son in a way that exceeded even her expectations. She says, “The emergency and same day nurses began IVs without Tommy even noticing, the lab technicians knew how to distract little children from uncomfortable testing, and the staff respected Tommy as the patient – they addressed him first when entering his room and talked directly to him when appropriate.” These actions were not lost on little Tommy, who even saved a special bedtime song for his favorite nurse.

“Each person in every area of Tommy’s care took their role seriously. The staff value their positions within the medical center, and know their specific role in patient care truly makes a difference in people’s lives,” says Kim.

She simply adds, “They made a difference for Tommy.”