As a patient advocate for more than 30 years, the tables were turned on Elaine Makupson when she sat down with her daughter and Dr. Audley Mackel for her first appointment.
“My daughter told Dr. Mackel ‘Look, the only reason she is considering surgery is so she can walk me down the aisle and dance at my wedding’. And it was true,” Elaine laughs.
“She was there to help convince me. But everything has changed since then so I am grateful for that. I really have found a better quality of life.”
Elaine needed the encouragement. For years she had felt escalating knee and hip pain on both sides of her body but she avoided surgery.
The idea terrified her.
“I think we only hear about horror stories of surgery on TV. But working here and seeing patients I had the advantage of seeing so many great outcomes and so many people saying they had wished they had done it sooner. You see them get the surgery and shortly afterwards they are back for a follow-up appointment and walking around and feeling so good. So I began to consider it.”
Entering her 12th year at St. Vincent Charity as a Nurse Case Manager, Elaine helps advocate for patients and navigate the details of insurance reimbursement and the financial considerations of care. Her job requires her to be on the move, visiting other caregivers and patients across the St. Vincent Charity campus.
With so much familiarity with the caregivers at St. Vincent Charity, Elaine was confident she would get great care. Her only remaining concern was personal.
“People know it’s a Catholic hospital. But as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, my caregivers at St. Vincent respected my religious beliefs on blood transfusions. There was never any hassle about it. They were trained in bloodless surgery and ready to treat me without even thinking about it. It was very important to me not to be pressured to compromise my faith and values.”
That environment of mutual respect was no surprise to Elaine. In her 30 years in health care, she has worked for several organizations in Cleveland—but she found the personal touch at St. Vincent Charity to be unique and it has kept her there both professionally and as a patient.
“There is a culture of respect in this hospital. All of the support staff are respected at this hospital for their role in patient care. Our doctors respect everyone. That culture of respect spills over into how patient care is delivered—whether it is from a physician or housekeeping.”
“I think the fact that our CEO is still a practicing surgeon is very beneficial to maintaining that culture. He knows what both his staff and our patients are feeling and it helps ensure we keep that personal touch”.
That personal touch was important through all of Elaine’s surgeries, who now has new knees and hips on both sides. All of the procedures were performed by Dr. Mackel and Elaine points to the continuity in staff and St. Vincent’s ability to retain such quality physicians for so long as a crucial element of that special culture. Dr. Mackel’s expertise doesn’t just have her dancing at weddings again, she also enjoys gardening and playing with her grandchildren.
As a veteran of these procedures, Elaine applies her personal story to her job at St. Vincent Charity.
“I do use my experience to talk to patients. I can serve as an example to them and that makes me proud. It was interesting to experience the other side and the benefits of the compassionate care we provide here. More than ever at the end of the day I can tell myself that I did something good today. I solved that problem for my patient. And that is very rewarding.”