During the past week, I have been spending a lot of time at “The Queen,” Napa’s Queen of the Valley Medical Center.

I was there not as a patient but to visit Eileen, my spouse of 61-plus years. Poor Eileen had a serious mishap while shopping at a local grocery store. She lost her balance and fell backward, fracturing the femur of her right leg.

As it happened, an off-duty paramedic, whose name I did not get, saw her fall and took immediate charge. After about one minute, he ordered store personnel to call 911. Within five minutes, an AMR ambulance crew arrived, followed closely by Napa Fire Department paramedics.

She was taken by ambulance to the Queen and admitted to their spacious emergency room. Subsequent and immediately available X-rays and CAT scan images disclosed a break in the upper end of the right femur just below the hip joint.

After seeing the X-ray, the ER doctor advised that an orthopedic specialist was necessary and that it would probably be Dr. Michael Shifflett. My wife and I were delighted that “Mike” would be attending because not only did we know the Shifflett family from many years ago, but our children went to St. Apollinaris elementary school and Justin-Siena High School with Shifflett offspring.

Wade Shifflett, Mike’s father, was a local attorney and later a Napa County judge for many years.

Of the Shifflett children, two chose to be medical doctors. Mike is a principal at Napa Valley Orthopaedic Medical Group and one of the area’s leading orthopedic hip specialists, while younger brother Steve is an emergency room doctor in Lake County.

After excellent ER treatment, Dr. Shifflett had Eileen admitted as a hospital patient and scheduled her for surgery for the following morning.

After a painful night and morning for Eileen, Dr. Shifflett surgically repaired the fracture the next day by inserting a titanium pin lengthwise in the femur and then securing it with metal screws across the bone. According to him, the surgery went well. They had her up taking steps in less than 24 hours.

Eileen’s condition rapidly improved and, after four days, she was discharged from the Queen and is now a patient at a local care facility for ongoing physical therapy treatments.

Reflecting back on the accident and the subsequent care, surgery and post-surgical treatment that Eileen received and, despite the pain and suffering that she has gone through, Eileen was actually fortunate in many ways.

Thank goodness for: the off-duty paramedic who witnessed the fall and took immediate charge of the situation; the AMR ambulance being pre-positioned right across the street; the professional manner in which AMR and the Napa Fire Department got her quickly transported and admitted to the Queen; the happenstance that Dr. Mike Shifflett would be the attending surgeon.

Eileen was also fortunate because, from the emergency room to the patient rooms, to the operating room and recovery room, the Queen is a great example of the latest and most efficient technology available in the medical field.

While witnessing the wonders of today’s technology, I harkened to the days of my youth and what might have happened to a Napan injured as Eileen was.

Had this accident happened back in the 1940s, the injured person would probably have been delivered by private automobile to Napa’s Parks Victory Hospital on Jefferson between G and H streets. I believe there was only one ambulance in town and response time was lengthy.

There would have been X-rays taken but the results would not be immediately available. An on-call M.D., not a specialist, would be called and the injured put in a body cast and ordered to remain immobile for days or weeks while the bone healed itself.

In conclusion, this has been a trying time for Eileen, and for the rest of the family, but we will all survive and go on our ways giving thanks that we live today and not seven decades ago.

Get News Alerts delivered directly to you.

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Jim Ford can be contacted at jwford571@gmail.com.