When he awoke the morning of June 28, US Navy Chief Petty Officer Bill Lemocks (retired) was prepared to begin a major home improvement project. He was enhancing the appearance of his tiered garden, the first phase of many, to bring more curb appeal to his front yard.
Bill made the trip to a local hardware store and purchased twenty 45-pound bags of white marble landscaping chips, loaded them by hand into his SUV and then subsequently unloaded the bags in his yard. Cutting each bag open and sprinkling the chips around the base of the garden, he was well on his way to creating an attractive new look for the sloped lawn.
The project took about three days. “With the heat and my 68-year-old body – though in pretty good shape – I carefully paced myself so as to not overdo it,” said Bill.
It was a challenge, “even for a young buck, which I am certainly not,” noted Bill, but he had a mission to complete. With no muscle aches and no pain, Bill thought he was in the clear for an injury. But by mid-week, the first signs of pain began in his shoulders and neck. Yet, he continued to work on his garden, powering through the pain, with his ‘never quit warrior attitude’ developed, over 36 years in the Navy.
Day-by-day the pain increased exponentially in Bill’s left trapezius, the large triangular muscles extending over the back of neck and shoulders used to help move the head and support the arms. He self-medicated with Tylenol, topical muscle creams and ice packs. Still the pain marched over his back and shoulders with determination. Despite his best efforts of pain management, his symptoms got worse by the minute.
After squirming and wiggling his way into a semi-comfortable lying position on day six, Bill was able to get a little rest. “I managed to drift off for a few hours, only to be abruptly awoken by severe pain in my upper back. This level of pain could only be delivered by the devil himself,” said Bill.
With no other options available at 3 am, and unable to withstand the extreme pain any longer, Bill and his wife made the decision to drive to the Tallahassee Memorial Emergency Center – Northeast.
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Bill and his wife were both nervous about visiting the emergency center.
“Considering everything that’s going on, I was sensitive to the risk of getting coronavirus, especially at my age,” noted Bill. “We decided if things looked a little sketchy, we wouldn’t stay. But I also knew I had to get treatment.”
Upon arrival, his concerns were alleviated. Bill saw face masks being worn by the entire staff in the Emergency Center - Northeast. Physicians and nurses were using appropriate personal protective equipment, and Bill – like all patients – was given a mask, had his temperature taken and was asked a series of screening questions when he entered the emergency center. Bill’s wife waited in the car while he went through triage to prioritize his care. In less than fifteen minutes, Bill was able to see Edward Eastman, MD, emergency medicine physician at TMH and former Marine. Needless to say, the common bond of military experience made for a trusting relationship between patient and doctor.
“It’s always rewarding to provide our patients with high quality, professional emergency medical care – it’s what we do day-in and day-out – but it’s especially rewarding amidst the pandemic when we know patients are delaying care in fear of COVID-19,” said Dr. Eastman. “I’m so glad Chief Lemocks made the decision to come to us to receive care and was able to experience the safety protocols we have in place firsthand. He was a pleasure to treat and is expected to make a full recovery.”
After examination, Dr. Eastman confirmed that Bill had severely strained his left trapezius muscle. However, in an abundance of caution, Dr. Eastman ordered a chest x-ray and an electrocardiogram (EKG) to rule out a possible heart attack.
Two hours later, Bill was on his way home with a clean bill of health and a prescription for pain medication. Although the clinical care put him on the mend and told him to take it easy for a few weeks, what struck him most about his visit was the level of increased patient safety and protection taken by the emergency center staff to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“It was obvious they were well prepared. I was instantly put at ease,” added Bill. “Everyone was thoughtful, highly professional and very caring. It made me feel proud to be cared for in Tallahassee.”
A month after visiting the Emergency Center- Northeast, Bill is actively working out, walking five to six miles a day and focusing on completing his garden.
To learn more about how Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare is keeping patients, visitors and colleagues safe, please visit TMH.ORG.