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Employees as Patients: Anne Gallagher

Employees as Patients: Anne Gallagher

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Anne Gallagher has spent decades caring for the most fragile patients at UI Health. Over the years, she has worked as a staff nurse in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, and also as an evening ANI in Labor & Delivery; since 2010, she has served as a staff nurse in Labor & Delivery.

But it wasn’t until recently that she needed care here herself.

Last year, Anne found a new hobby: ice skating.

“I had been struggling with winters for a few years and was so happy to find an exercise and hobby that I really enjoyed.”

Her favorite place to skate was Ridgeland Commons, an indoor rink in Oak Park. Anne was at the rink five days a week while she built up her skills. “I never fell once!” she said. She soon began taking lessons.

“After my second lesson, I decided to try skating backwards!” she said. “I was at a lunchtime skate, skating backwards, and somehow I fell and my feet came up in front of me. I fell back without cushioning my fall.

“I saw a video of this from the rink, but I have no memory of it,” she says.

Anne hit her head hard in the fall. The other skaters immediately came to her aid, and paramedics were at the rink within 7 minutes.

Anne initially was transported to Western Suburban Hospital, just minutes from the rink. There, a CT scan showed bleeding and swelling. The doctors knew she immediately needed to get to the neurosurgeons at UI Health.

“I’m so happy they did that,” Anne said.

When Anne arrived, they took new CT scans, then brought her back for surgery. Dr. Fady Charbel, head of the Department of Neurosurgery, performed her operation.

“They removed a full hand-size piece of my right skull bone to give my brain room to swell,” Anne said. “It is amazing that it did swell and then regress significantly. Dr. Charbel saved my brain — and saved my life.”

Following the surgery, Anne spent two weeks at a suburban rehab hospital, then returned home, where she had occupational, physical, and speech therapy for two months.

At the time of surgery, the removed skull bone was frozen; this spring Anne returned to UI Health to have it replaced. She returned to work in June.

“I am also grateful for how my colleagues have helped me get back to full speed,” she said. “I so enjoy seeing my doctors and neuro ICU nurses occasionally around the hospital, and it gives me more opportunities to thank them for the excellent care that they gave me.

“I also am extremely grateful for the wonderful, excellent care I received at UI Health,” Anne said. “I believe I was granted a miracle to make such a full recovery, and the doctors and nurses were most important parts of this miracle.”

Says Dr. Charbel: “It is a privilege to care for our colleagues in the UI Health community, and it is indeed a great pleasure to see Anne doing so well.

“By the way, she gave me an hourglass inscribed: Thank you for giving me the gift of time,” he adds. “It sits prominently on my desk as a reminder of our purpose.”