TROY — Hospital Chaplain Jim Burkhart didn’t feel the greatest early one winter day as he headed to Upper Valley Medical Center for breakfast.
Walking down a hospital hall, he encountered nurse Elaine Bohman, a recent acquaintance who greeted him with a good morning.
When Burkhart failed to respond, Bohman turned back to find out why.
Everyone’s glad she did.
Burkhart was having a stroke that had taken away his ability to speak.
The two, coincidentally, were in a hallway that led to the UVMC Emergency Department. Bohman quickly helped Burkhart to the ED, where medical personnel immediately began diagnosis and treatment.
“I turned back around because he didn’t say good morning,” Bohman said. She initially thought the chaplain didn’t hear her or that he may have had a difficult night in his work and needed to talk to someone.
“It didn’t take me long to realize he maybe he could not speak. His eye contact was there. He responded, but could not talk,” Bohman said.
She stayed with Burkhart during his time in the ED until he was taken to Miami Valley Hospital on CareFlight.
The January 2013 stroke affected Burkhart’s speech and language center in the brain. He received speech therapy and ended up off work more than seven months for his therapy, then working with a cardiologist to regulate heart medication.
He returned last fall to work as a UVMC chaplain.
Bohman said her reaction to Burkhart “was probably the nurse in me and, then again, one could maybe say luck, too.”
Burkhart remembers the events of the day, events he believes were “divinely orchestrated.”
“The Lord used Elaine to help me. She was my guardian angel,” he said. “She evidenced the ministry of presence by staying with me until I was loaded on the helicopter. I felt comfortable with her, she encouraged me.”
Both learned from the experience.
Burkhart remembered waking up in the night a few hours before he ran into Bohman, having difficulty checking his pager, then giving up and going back to sleep. “That was a no-no,” he said, saying he is more attuned to a possible medical emergency.
Bohman said the experience brought home to her the importance of making the most of each moment, a concept emphasized by the hospital training.
“So often we can have our mind on the previous moment, other events, instead of what is right in front of us,” she said. “I have thought about that many times over the past year. I was relieved I was there in that moment, but there are a lot of moments maybe I could have missed.”