Sunday, February 7, 2010

Anesthetist committed to community he serves

If you go to the Madison Community Hospital and have any type of surgical procedure, it is quite possible Darrel Simon would be the one who would be administering the anesthesia for your surgery.
Simon, 63, is an icon at the Madison facility. For the past 38 years, he will tell you he has been “working in cooperation with the surgeon to do what’s best for the patient to be asleep during an operation so obviously they won’t feel any pain during a surgery.”
In other words, Simon is the hospital’s CRNA (Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist) and is on call 24/7. “Our job is doing what needs to be done to keep the patient stable and alive,” he said.
Jerri McNary, supervisor of Radiology at Madison Community Hospital, has worked with Simon for 25 years. “He is dedicated to the hospital and the community. There are not too many people who would dedicate their life to a 24/7 job,” she said. “He’s good. He’s very knowledgeable in his job and he is good at what he does. He is a solid, all around good person.”
Another co-worker, Tim Higgins, who has been the laboratory supervisor at the hospital since 1980, said Simon is a professional person and is a very competent person. “I would trust him with my life,” Higgins said. “He knows his job. He does his job very well. He has had a definite positive impact because he is able to help out in so many ways.”
Simon, a 1964 graduate of Hoven High School, went to the Presentation School of Nursing in Aberdeen and graduated three years later as a registered nurse. He needed that background to get into anesthesia.
He knew a high school classmate whose brother-in-law was in anesthesia and felt that was something he would like to do. It also helped that he liked the sciences, especially biology, anatomy and physiology.
After graduation from Presentation School of Nursing, he went to Vietnam. He was in a MASH unit for one year near the DMZ and will tell you it was just like what you would see on MASH (the television show).
“All came in on helicopters, we took them off the helicopters and got them ready for the operating room,” he said. “It was rewarding from the stand point that you were there helping people who needed help.”
After his stint in the military, Simon went to anesthesia school in Rochester, Minn. He left there in 1972 to come to Madison and has been at the community hospital ever since.
“I liked the small hospital and wanted to come back to South Dakota,” he said. “I just thought the size of the hospital was what I wanted to work in. I wanted to do a little bit of everything. I wanted a variety.”
And that is where he stayed. This year marks 38 years of working with people. Simon estimates he averages administering anesthesia to about 400 people each year.
“The special part of it is that you get to help people,” he said. “What is more rewarding than taking a patient’s pain away?”
Simon said he also has pride in working with the surgeons and has a good working relationship with them. He is also comfortable working with his patients, always trying to give them a smile and ease their mind before heading into an operation.
“It is kind of nice when grandparents and parents tell their kids that it is okay because he was the one that put me to sleep during an operation,” he said. “I feel good when they say that because if they feel relaxed, more comfortable about it, they don’t come back to the operating room as worried.”
The key word for Simon is vigilance. “You are there and you have to watch them,” he said. “You can’t be reading books, drinking coffee, can’t be visiting with crew, and listening to the radio. You are sitting at the head of the table.”
In his 38 years, Simon has seen changes. Possibly the biggest change has been technology and superior monitoring. “Technology leads to superior monitoring,” he said. “The pulse oximeter (measures the amount of oxygen in blood), ventilator and alarms on the ventilators; if the oxygen level goes too low there are beepers and monitors for all of that.”
Pain is treated much sooner and much more aggressively then when Simon started 38 years ago. When he started, as a general rule, there was never anything given for three hours after post op because there was the belief that the patient would stop breathing. “Most people have something given for pain before they even leave the operating room,” he said. “We found out patients, if you relieve their pain, they actually breathe better.”
Also medicines are better and people are being seen sooner. But what has not changed is that people still want to be treated with good care.
“That never changes,” Simon said. “When they’re sick, they want to be treated fair, they want to be treated right, and they want communication.”

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