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My Story

Patient Gives Thanks for the Emergency Department Team


Tom Simpson, from Tularosa, New Mexico, stopped by SLV Health to show off his hand. He said his hand had healed and wanted to thank his very competent caregivers. “Everyone was so kind and professional. From the front desk to the nurse who stitched me up and everyone else, everyone was pleasant and respectful.”

(Disclaimer: Content below contains graphic images)

Besides being a hunter, he is a gun dealer, a farmer, and a plumber. “So, you see, I need my hands,” commented Simpson. “My gun blew up in my hand. It is a muzzleloader. I shot a very nice buck and was almost back in the truck when I decided to discharge the gun one more time before taking it home to clean it. Something went wrong, probably a screw got compromised. It blew up and shredded the tips of my fingers and injured the palm of my hand and thumb.

My hunting partner drove me to the SLVH Regional Medical Center emergency department in Alamosa. We were hunting up in the Saguache range and called ahead. I knew to put pressure on it and even held onto some ice. When we arrived, I was treated with respect and concern and above all, professional help. Angela, the Nurse Practitioner, put stitches both inside and out. She had a doctor look it over before she bandaged it up and sent me home.

I could not even imagine that I would have the feeling and movement that I have today...and so little scarring. I had to return to say, ‘Thank you,’ because I am so very impressed! My fingers and thumb are just about back to normal. My follow-up appointment in Alamogordo was with an orthopedic surgeon. He looked at my hand and said, ‘They did a great job. The Lord sure is looking after you.’

During this season of giving thanks, I want to share my deepest gratitude to Angela and the team at SLVH Regional Medical Center’s Emergency Department. I am very impressed with everyone in the emergency department in Alamosa. Thank you, all, so very, very much.”

Tom Simpsons hand after he was seen at SLVH Regional Medical Center emergency department before fully recovered.

Tom Simpsons hand after recovery.

"I want to share my deepest gratitude to Angela and the team at SLVH Regional Medical Center’s Emergency Department."

SLVH RMC ED is Thanked for Saving Her Life


“I am not one for drama, but literally, the SLVH Regional Medical Center Emergency Department saved my life,” said Rachel Cheslock. “They continued to follow their protocol when at the time, my husband Lance and I were ready to go back home thinking I had indigestion or issues with my esophagus.”

After the third hour of going through the heart attack protocols in the ED at the RMC, Rachel’s earlier symptoms had all but disappeared. As a healthy 45-year-old non-smoker with no underlying causes, she and Lance dismissed the idea of the heart attack she thought she was having earlier in the day. She took an aspirin at home when the pain moved from her chest to her arm, then rested and felt a little better. As she tried to stand up and had difficulty walking, she asked her husband Lance to bring her to the ED in Alamosa.

As they sat waiting for the results from the third blood test, they began planning the rest of their day when they would be released to go home. Then everything changed in a hurry when her third troponin* test resulted in an extremely increased reading. Dr. Laura Edgerley-Gibb approached the couple and said, “We are going to fly you to Penrose Hospital immediately because something is going on.”

After spending time going through many more tests at Penrose, the team used a heart catheter to get an inside look. They found a very unusual situation of a 2.3 cm tear that was creating blockage. It was repaired by inserting two stents.

“The amazing thing about this whole situation is that I do not have heart damage. The EKG never showed that my heart was dying. During my time at the SLVH RMC, they gave me blood thinners, and nitrate, and kept on top of their protocols. Even though the EKG and other tests were not showing any issues, and my pain had mostly subsided, they kept me there and kept me safe. I’d like to share some key takeaways with others.

#1) Don’t ignore your symptoms. Go get checked out. Follow up.

#2) Even though providers are not always 100% sure, they have protocols to follow. Be patient.

#3) The care and professionalism at SLV RMC were second to none. I felt important, I was seen and respected. They were not taking chances, they never doubted me, and everyone treated me with the utmost compassion and kindness.

Lance would like to thank the nursing staff who met Rachel at the door with a wheelchair and followed up with transfer details, always with a professional, kind, and caring attitude: Amanda, Sara, Colleen, and Dr. Edgerley-Gibb! As only Lance can say, “We are incredibly grateful to have such good people in our rural area. The staff did not miss a detail, even ensuring the flight nurse had cardiac experience. We are eternally grateful!”

*A troponin test measures the levels of troponin T or troponin I proteins in the blood. These proteins are released when the heart muscle has been damaged, such as occurs with a heart attack. The more damage there is to the heart, the greater the amount of troponin T will be in the blood.

SLVH Patient Shares Story about Early Detection


October is Breast Cancer Awareness Week and what better way to bring attention to this issue than to hear it directly from a recent patient, Tricia Wilson, who is enthusiastically encouraging her friends and neighbors to get their annual screening…and don’t delay!

“I was very impressed by the technology and professional staff at SLV Health. I moved to South Fork last year and scheduled my annual screening at the Stephanie L Miner Imaging Center. I was pleased to find out they had a 3-D mammography machine. However, I was surprised to get a follow-up call from the team asking me to return for another mammo with the Radiologist.

Dr. Allen showed me the screen of a cluster of calcifications found on my breast. I’ve had one or two show up in the past, so I was not concerned until he strongly suggested that I get it biopsied. In hindsight, I know that he knew exactly what he was looking at. I scheduled a needle biopsy when the other Radiologist was on site later that month in Alamosa, and I couldn’t believe how simple it was – a computer-assisted mammo in the same procedure room connected to a needle – and it was painless and quick, no scar, no surgery, and right there at the SLM Women's Imaging Center – which was extremely convenient.

The even bigger surprise was when Barbara Carlsen, the Registered Mammography Technologist, called to tell me, ‘It was positive, you have an early stage of breast cancer.’ She has been extremely supportive and helped me with a referral to a breast specialist surgeon in Colorado Springs.

The lumpectomy was not difficult, and I only needed five days of radiation since everything was caught at such an early stage. I interacted with Dr. Allen again in Colorado Springs because he works in both locations.

I’m so impressed with the level of professional, caring, high-tech care that I received at SLV Health. I’m telling all my friends to “Be proactive with your health and get your screenings done.”

Never Give Up

Never give up’ is my unshakeable belief when it comes to tackling my recent medical diagnoses,” said Jeffrey Leavitt. “I found out my A1C was high and before I knew it, I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. Luckily, I looked for resources and found SLV Health’s Diabetes Clinic.”

Mr. Leavitt appreciated the knowledgeable and compassionate care he received from Dawn Arellano, RN, CDCES, in helping him with education, resources, and support. He nominated Dawn as a DAISY nurse because she changed his life. “She’s terrific. Diabetes is a confusing and complicated disease. I am six feet tall, and with Dawn’s help, I dropped my weight from 205 to under 175 pounds; my blood sugar went from 267 to 120; and my A1C from 7.8 to 6.2.”

Later, Mr. Leavitt was diagnosed with cancer. Not one but two different types. “I thought I was going to die a slow and painful death,” he commented. “I’ve been to the ER five times, lab, x-ray, oncology, urology, otolaryngology, cardiology, surgery three times, chemo infusion ten times, and radiation sessions 28 times (at Colorado Springs). There is a consistency of professional, positive patient care running through every unit at SLVH. I have experienced big city hospitals including Johns Hopkins, and SLVH has them beat, hands down, not even close.”

Mr. Leavitt is almost 80 years young, feels strong, and will not give up the fight. “Focus is important when we have major health issues. When I get overwhelmed, I break things down into smaller pieces, deal with one thing at a time, and have open communication with my caregivers.

My advice to new patients is to leave your judgements at home and realize we are not the only ones dealing with stress. Many caregivers at SLVH have worked through the pandemic, risking their lives daily to save ours. Stress is a major part of their experiences also, yet they work through this for us. One time I asked a nurse how he felt after a shift full of patient interactions. He said, ‘Sometimes I just go home and cry.’

When we are faced with something difficult, like a scope or surgery, it is important to remember that our caregivers are people too. They want us to win. Fear about our health can easily spiral into uncontrollable panic.”

“Sometimes as healthcare providers, we don’t recognize the impact we have on the patients we serve, and then along come patients like Jeffrey who remind us that what we do matters,” says Dawn Arellano, RN, CDCES.

Dawn grew up in the San Luis Valley and completed college at Adams State University and worked in industries outside of the healthcare field before attending nursing school. Now an RN & CDCES (Certified Diabetes & Education Specialist), she chose to specialize in the Diabetes field not only because of the prevalence in the SLV, but from personal experience.

The SLVH DEEP (Diabetes Education & Empowerment Program), is the only accredited Diabetes program in the SLV. “We become part of the patient’s health care team, not only educating them on Diabetes, but also empowering persons living with Diabetes.”

When she found out that Mr. Leavitt nominated her for the DAISY award, she remarked, “Oh, he is such a kind and thoughtful person.” She mentioned that Mr. Leavitt was a patient with an open mind and was willing to learn and adapt his ways toward a healthier lifestyle.

Mr. Leavitt nominated several other nurses for the DAISY award. “I am awed and humbled by the many SLVH staff members I have encountered, each dedicating themselves to my care. SLV Health also has been supportive with a reasonable payment plan. We are given options in life, not the least of which is our own attitude. If we view the healing process as a team effort, it can truly be a win-win experience. We can find ways to work at being the healthiest person we can be. It’s our choice.”

Care Without Compromise

My name is Natalie Rose Marquis. I am 100% disabled and currently reside in the Baca, Crestone, Colorado. In 2010, I was diagnosed with Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis, as I was living an active life, managing a hotel in Austin. I spent summers in Crestone when I was growing up, with my brothers and father who love fishing. I and my husband needed to get out of the Texas heat so we moved to Crestone, where our interest in solar energy and living off grid have a lot of support. In 2013 we made the move. My diagnosis was accompanied by unexplained pain, very unusual circumstances, and at the time there was no medication for the pain. Recently this diagnosis is often effectively treated with chemotherapy medicine, but back in 2010, it was not an option. For the first three years after moving to Crestone, I retained one of the practitioners from Austin via tele-med. I went from being very athletic and active, such as hiking 14’ers, to barely walking. My limited mobility makes me reliant on my husband for caregiving. He drives me to the Sand Dunes swimming pool where I can swim and do my therapy, an exercise where I can’t fall! My husband has been a faithful companion and caregiver through all of these difficult times. A true hero and partner! He has been happy to be in the Colorado mountains again.

I left a good urology team in Austin. Women who get M.S. often have urological issues such as frequent UTIs, dyssynergy, muscles not functioning when the bladder needs be emptied, etc. When I first made appointments with the SLVH Urology Clinic, Daniel Sours, NP, had not yet joined the team. When I eventually made an appointment with him, I was not expecting such great care! He has fresh perspective and really took an interest in my disorder. I had not received this level of personal care since moving here. My husband and I have been continually “blown away” by Daniel’s perspective and knowledge. Daniel had the insight to order another ultrasound to check the efficacy of my medicine. He found that he was able to cut it in half, saying, “Let’s try this.” Two weeks later, we were all amazed that his ideas worked for me. We have been impressed with Daniel’s “out of the box” thinking. Together we developed a care plan, that allows us to slowly re-examine and make alterations in small increments, and this has totally impressed me and helped me.

I have been actually surprised and astonished at finding this fabulous practitioner in such a rural setting. He is not only a kind person, but so accessible and has shown real interest in solving my complex issues. Along the way, he told me about other situations that could develop, and he explained what to watch out for and what to do when it happens. My husband and I were frustrated that our sleep cycle had been disrupted for so long, but Daniel anticipated this and calmly said, “Let’s try a few things so you can get back to sleeping normally.” Again, he was thinking ahead and wrote a prescription for me in the patient portal. He made it so easy and just like that, it was life-changing for me. A very helpful solution from someone who seemed to have the remedy in his back pocket! Daniel is undaunted by my complex situation, so incredibly gentle and personable. My husband Richard and I actually look forward to my appointments with him, and nobody ever says they like going to a doctor’s office! His range of personality and thoughtfulness is rich, a combination of creative problem-solving skills along with his humbleness, empathy, and quiet sense of humor. I am so grateful to have become his patient and to hear a provider say, “You don’t have to compromise, we can look at other ways to fix this.” Remarkable! My gratitude for Daniel Sours, NP, is endless.

Click here to learn more about Daniel Sours, NP.

Click here to learn more about urology at SLV Health.

Your Miracle is on the Way

Experiencing a miscarriage can be deeply emotional, personal, and difficult.

Aryana and Kyle Lopez didn’t experience a miscarriage one time, they went through it five times. Each one was more difficult than the previous, with more disappointment, more pain, and more loss. After six years, during her fifth pregnancy, Aryana’s fallopian tube ruptured leaving her in dismay. Seven courageous months later, Aryana and Kyle decided to consult with the professionals. They met Stephanie Posorske, Certified Nurse Midwife at San Luis Valley Health Women’s Health clinic in Alamosa, who became Aryana’s primary care provider. With further advice, prescriptive medicine, and a referral from SLVH OB/GYN Drs. Lewing and Hernandez, the Lopezs scheduled an out-of-town consultation. But they never made it to the first appointment, because they found out they were pregnant the weekend before the consult!

Aryana worked closely with Stephanie by having multiple blood draws and weekly ultrasounds. Stephanie was also pregnant, and during the time of COVID, with mixed messages about the safety of vaccinations, it was not an easy time to navigate pregnancy. Developing a relationship based on trust would be crucial.

“Steph is so awesome, she was with me every step of the way,” a teary-eyed Aryana recalled as she cuddled her son, KJ. “She was so supportive. She returned my calls. She eased my worries. She was a God-send, being so personable and caring. She basically held my hand through my whole pregnancy, except when she left for her own maternity leave.”

Aryana’s advice to others is to “never give up!” With much emotion, she encourages others to consult with their providers and seek professional help in their journey. “It is worth it, all the heartache and struggles, it is worth it. Your miracle is on the way, too!”

Photo Below: CNM Stephanie Posorske with her son, Richard.

Prevention Saves Lives

Director Janet McGinnis and the team at SLV Health Imaging were a huge support to Christy Smith in May of 2019. Two years after her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, she got the call to return for additional tests after completing her own screening mammogram. “A colleague asked me what I was doing for self-care, and upon reflection, I decided I better schedule both my bone density test and my annual mammogram,” reflects Christy Smith, “and I was more concerned about the bone density than the mammo.”

Janet McGinnis, Director of Imaging; Dr. Matt Lowery, Radiologist; and Barbara Carlsen, Mammography Technologist

Mammography Technologist Barbara Carlsen from the SLV Health’s Stephanie L. Miner Women’s Imaging Center followed up with Christy after the new 3-D machine detected a spiculated mass. Upon following up with more tests, Christy underwent a biopsy, and it was confirmed that they had found early-stage breast cancer. She proceeded with a lumpectomy and radiation to get the cancer under control. “What most people don’t understand is the number of tests, follow up, and continual monitoring that takes place once cancer is detected,” commented Christy. She is appreciative of the whole care team, from Janet’s team to Radiologist Dr. Jasen Allen, to Dr. Penny Cooper and the Southern Colorado Breast Center team. “I am confident that my cancer may have gone undetected in a traditional 2-D x-ray. I tell all my patients to get the 3-D mammogram, every year that they are eligible,” said Christy. Christy Smith is a Family Nurse Practitioner for Valley-Wide Health Systems serving the residents of Costilla County out of the San Luis Health Center. “I have a lot of joy to share with others and a lot more living to do, and I’m thankful for this type of advanced technology and the care teams,” concluded Christy, “And, I’m thankful for Marco for prompting me to take care of myself, too.”

John Bricker's Story

Carissa Tripi, DO
Carissa Tripi, DO, Orthopedic Surgeon, with her pet bull, Lizzo.
The San Luis Valley Health Orthopedics department, comprised of Carissa Tripi, DO, Jason Defee, MD; Jeffrey Oster, DO; Laticia Hollingsworth, PA-C, ATC, CAQ, and Haley Ballinger, PA-C, works closely with the Sports Medicine Team, SLV Health’s Chiropractor, Aaron Polzin, DC, and the Physical Therapy providers in order to help patients get their lifestyle back and manage or treat their pain or injury. “While surgery is sometimes required to treat serious conditions of the musculoskeletal system, this should be your last resort for treatment. Surgery is often effective, but it can be demanding physically and it will take time to fully recover when the operation is over,” commented Tripi. “After we explore conservative, noninvasive treatments, surgery is sometimes the best solution. In the case of Mr. John Bricker, he was an excellent candidate for a double knee replacement surgery. One of the reasons his procedure was so successful is because Mr. Bricker fully committed to his post operative physical therapy. He was very determined to resume his active lifestyle! Working with patients like Mr. Bricker is an incredible honor because I get to see people change and improve the quality of their life. I have a great team at SLV Health and can’t imagine a better place to work or a better team to work with.”

“I wasn’t sure I would be able to work at the brewery any longer, I was in too much pain,” reflected John Bricker, Owner of Del Norte’s Three Barrel Brewing Company. “When my wife Pam and I decided to explore surgical solutions, we went on a fact-finding mission around the region. Within minutes of meeting with Dr. Tripi, I knew she was the one I could trust.” John eventually had double knee replacement surgeries at San Luis Valley Health’s Regional Medical Center, including pre-surgical x-rays and post-surgery therapy. “I was so happy to be back at work, to have my lifestyle back, even better than before. Now I have the strength to walk, hike, and be on my feet all day long without suffering. My friends and neighbors were surprised when they saw me walking down the street!” Bricker is a well-known businessman in the town of Del Norte, just 35 miles west of Alamosa. “Staying close to home ended up being another benefit for my family as they cared for me during the recovery process. The whole SLVH team, the nurses, the surgery center, Dr. Tripi and her staff, I can’t say enough good things about them. Their caring approach was no-nonsense. They answered all my questions and helped me get back to my job serving my customers at Three Barrel. I was surprised how little pain I experienced and how much more energy I have. Cheers to Dr. Tripi, she is the best!”

This is part of the #MyStory series by SLVH. If you have a story you would like to share, please visit and submit the “Contact Us” form and check “Patient Experience.”

Trauma Services Put Patients First

Oscar MartinezOscar Martinez, a senior at Adams State, stands near the emergency room at SLV Health. In 2019, Martinez was involved in an accident, and the trauma team was able to stabilize him until he was flown out. The trauma team recently received high marks during its trauma survey, affirming Level III trauma standing for the next three years.

In 2019, Oscar Martinez, an Adams State student, was in the garage working on the family car. His mother was planning a trip, and he wanted to check and make sure everything was functioning properly. What the family wasn’t planning on was a frantic trip to SLV Health Regional Medical Center’s emergency room just a short time later.

While checking the brakes, the jack holding up the front of the car gave out, sending the car down on Martinez’s upper body and head, resulting in multiple fractures. His father lifted the car enough for his mother to pull out Martinez’s unconscious body, and the couple drove him straight to the hospital.

Martinez was quickly evaluated and stabilized by the trauma team at SLV Health and transferred to a higher level-of-care facility for continued treatment.

“The doctors and staff were honest and upfront about my injuries when speaking to my family,” Martinez said. “They didn’t sugarcoat it, and my family appreciated how honest they were with them.”

The patient-centered care that Martinez and his family received that day is just one example of the level of care that takes place during some individual’s worst moments. A recent trauma survey done at the regional medical center affirmed the hospital’s Level III trauma standing for the next three years, indicating that the trauma services offered are patient-centered and provide appropriate trauma services on a local level. Comments from the survey team with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment included supportive statements such as, “You have an incredibly robust trauma program.”

They went on to say that the SLVH’s trauma team, led by Julie Ramstetter, RN and Trauma Services Coordinator, and David Geiger, DO, offer “a very solid resource for our region.”

“This survey reassures our direction under the capable leadership of Julie Ramstetter and Dr. Geiger,” said Konnie Martin, CEO of SLV Health. “A special thank you goes out to our staff in responding to this survey, especially by making it interactive using remote technology, as the review utilized a combination of onsite, offsite, and teleconferencing interviews. The results mirror our commitment to providing excellent service close to home and affirm our Level III trauma standing for the next three years.”

Now, Oscar Martinez only has a small recollection of that fateful day. Some lingering nerve damage to the left side of his face took a short time to correct and now, two years later, he’s doing well. Currently a senior in business administration at Adams State, he is looking forward to graduation in the summer.

“I remember waking up, and asking what happened,” Martinez said. “The nurse told me, ‘You’re lucky to be alive.’ Now I’m looking forward to whatever comes next.”

This is part of the #MyStory series by SLVH. If you have a story you would like to share, please visit and submit the “Contact Us” form and check “Patient Experience.”

On The Road To Recovery - One Heartbeat at a Time

Vivian JonesBlanca resident Vivian Jones works on her cardiac rehab with Cardiopulmonary Rehab Exercise Physiologist Michelle Crowther at SLV Health in Alamosa.

Vivian Jones realized something was wrong last year when she couldn’t catch her breath. A visit to SLV Health Regional Medical Center revealed that she had a clogged artery, and was in need of heart surgery to save her life. Now, thanks to the cardiac rehabilitation team at SLV Health Regional Medical Center, this Blanca resident is on the road to recovery.

It was doing simple things like walking that made Jones realize there was an issue. “Just walking made my heart race and I became very short of breath,” she explained. She visited SLV Health to find out what was going on. “That’s when I took – and failed – two stress tests.”

Dr. James Grigsby and Physician Assistant Brendan Simenc discovered that Jones had a clogged artery, and referred her to have surgery in November to have a stent inserted. “They were very helpful and caring,” she said.

After her surgery, an important part of Jones’ recovery now is cardiac rehabilitation. She chose to complete her recovery at the cardiac rehabilitation center at SLV Health in Alamosa, where trained staff are taking her through a medically supervised program tailored to her strengths and weaknesses. This is done on an outpatient basis, so Jones visits the cardio rehabilitation department two to three times a week for 12 weeks.

The department has a multitude of different equipment designed to help strengthen the cardiovascular system. It is there, after a small warm up, she lifts weights before doing short stints on the exercise bike and treadmill. But the program is more than just physical activity. There is also plenty of educational opportunities about how to eat healthy foods, taking medicine correctly, reducing stress and other healthy living counseling.

This is her first time experiencing cardiac rehabilitation, and Jones says it feels good. “I am learning a lot,” she said. She went on to credit the staff for being very helpful and caring. “They work hard to make everyone here feel comfortable.”

Jones had especially kind words for one particular exercise physiologist – Michelle Crowther. “She is just awesome,” she said. “I can’t really express how wonderful Michelle is.”

Born and raised in Sanford, Crowther was hired by SLV Health in 2019. While at Adams State working towards her degree in exercise science, she worked in the cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation department for her practicum and loved it. “Cardiopulmonary Rehab has been my dream job ever since, and I am very grateful to be here now.”

As a cardiopulmonary rehab exercise physiologist, she enjoys meeting and learning from all the individuals who participate in the rehabilitation programs. “I love helping people feel better,” she explained. “We spend several weeks together, so we get to know each other very well.”

Crowther especially enjoys seeing a patient’s energy return while going through the program. “I love seeing and hearing about each patient’s progress and successes they have had due to their hard work and efforts,” she said. “While we work, we listen to good music, share stories, tell jokes and most importantly, heal both physically and mentally. It is an absolutely beautiful experience.”

This is part of the #MyStory series by SLVH. If you have a story you would like to share, please visit and submit the “Contact Us” form and check “Patient Experience.”