Derek Gentile: Very grateful for the humanizing care of Berkshire nurses


PITTSFIELD — I view the situation between Berkshire Medical Center and the nurses union the same way a young child would react hearing his parents fighting downstairs: I want it to stop and want everyone to be happy.

That, I suspect, won't happen. The two sides have been discussing a new contract for the nurses for several months now. Both will eventually be satisfied to some extent, which is the inevitable aim of these types of negotiations.

I'm a nurses guy, even though a number of honchos at BMC, including CEO David Phelps, are friends. But it's hard to root against the people who brought me back to life six years ago.

This sounds a little hyperbolic. In my case, it's not. I'm not going to get into specifics of my condition, but when I was admitted to BMC for my various physical ailments, my blood sugar, for example, was 520. I know a lot of people who have diabetes or who know someone who does will not believe that number, but it's true.

(And in fact, when one of my doctors first looked at my chart, he saw that number and said, "Mr Gentile. Why aren't you dead?" He was kidding, sort of.)

So let's concede that without these very wonderful men and women, I wouldn't be writing this, and The Eagle would probably be giving out the Derek Gentile Memorial Scholarship to a deserving high school senior.

But it's more than that. I eventually lost most of my right leg. It took two amputations. I don't recommend two major surgeries within 10 days. Just sayin'.

So I had some issues just doing things I formerly took for granted. Like going to the bathroom. I couldn't use the bathroom, for a few days, because I was too weak. And the whole bedpan gig was, to me, a fairly tricky exercise in balance.

Suffice it to say, I missed quite often. And when I did, nurses had to change sheets and clean up floors.

If you have never had to deal with this stuff personally, let me explain that it's embarrassing. Very embarrassing. And these folks cleaned me up cheerfully and thoroughly. That alone left me grateful.

The winter of 2011, which was the time span in which I was hospitalized, was also one of the snowiest on record. I can recall sitting in my hospital bed and watching a lot of snowstorms that winter. And yet, I had a nurse from Becket and one from Clarksburg and one from West Stockbridge. And they always made it in to check me and administer medication and just generally be nice. And I noticed. And you would have, as well.

I sometimes hear from people who did not have good experiences at BMC or Fairview. And my response is that maybe you did. I wasn't there.

But my situation was one of the most pleasant experiences of my life, despite nearly dying and spending almost three months recovering.

So I hope it works out. I don't like to hear people I admire and respect fighting.

Reach staff writer Derek Gentile at 413-496-6251.


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