Dear editor,

Northwest Georgia is blessed to have HMC as our primary health-care center. I personally want to thank the hospital staff and ER staff for the swift attention to myself two weeks ago. I know that my case was not life-threatening, but when you have not seen a physician in over five years, and you rarely ever have a headache, at 65 and experiencing almost constant abdominal pain for over eight hours, I drove myself to the ER at 4 a.m., after leaving a note on the bathroom mirror for my son and husband. How was I to know that it was not my appendix, or worse?

I live 18 miles away in McLemore Cove at the foot of Lookout Mountain. I knew I could make the drive to get to Hutcheson, but doubted that I could make it all the way to Erlanger or Parkridge. Nor did I want to travel across Chattanooga in the dark with all the lights at that time of very early morning.

From the time I pulled up and parked, I was quickly checked in and put in an exam room (no waiting). Most exam rooms were full. Much attention and many questions later, along with appropriate lab tests, I was given my diagnosis, antibiotics and Rx. Dr. Morgan was wonderful and so were all the staff. I can't remember all the nurses names because I was in so much pain. No one ever made me feel like my issue was not significant. Four hours later I drove myself home, followed with lots of sleep and bed rest. I was back on my feet in a few days. I am used to working full time, either as an administrative assistant, caregiver or farm girl.

Then my husband came down with "something" last Sunday. Nothing like we had ever experienced even with all his health issues. I drove him to the ER at HMC at 2 p.m. never waited a minute to get him in. No food and little fluids for four days and in a state of total confusion, I could no longer take care of him and he was going down fast. He is 59!

Once again Dr. Morgan and all the nurses and staff were most attentive and wonderful. Many, many questions, X-ray and CT scan and lab work. My husband has double pneumonia (and he's had his shot!) with some other issues. At one point, I think there were five or six staff in the exam room working on him. I just stayed back in the corner. He has had so many surgeries over the past five years, I just never know what is going to happen next. Even after he was admitted last night, another doctor called me at home asking more questions. They wanted to make sure they were on the right track, double-checking on the info I had already given upon check-in. I have never, ever experienced so much care and concern from any other hospital in the Chattanooga area.

I cannot tell you how much it means to me to know that Hutcheson is the kind of facility that expends so much energy to take care of this community. I also know that we are not alone experiencing this kind of care. My 86-year-old father-in-law has recently experienced the same kind of excellent care earlier this year when he had second- and third-degree burns over both legs from a grass fire. And over the Memorial Day holiday, my 96-year-old Mama fell and broke her wrist. She was treated like a queen.

I personally think it is a shame and disgrace that Erlanger is trying to hurt the citizens of NW Georgia by forcing the sale of OUR hospital. And I think it is another shame that the commissioners of Catoosa County are not standing behind our hospital. For folks who live further away than I do, when those minutes are much more critical than those for myself, it really could be life or death. I am not much of an activist, but I have urged everyone I know to sign the petition and attend all meetings.

We need to maintain the continuity of care that this hospital in this location provides.

Alicyne Roth, Chickamauga