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Patient Stories - Life. Where You Love It.

Cottage Health patients tell our story better than we ever could. Below you will see stories of real patients who faced serious health challenges and, with Cottage’s help, recovered and returned to enjoying the life they love in their home town.

Jessica Chen

Jessica Chen - Cottage Health

Jessica Chen was on her way to a wedding reception in the Santa Ynez Valley when an oncoming limousine in the wrong lane caused a near-fatal collision on Highway 154.

Jessica suffered a skull fracture and life-threatening brain injury in addition to facial fractures and lacerations, an ankle fracture, a spine fracture and a bruised lung. She was transported by helicopter to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital’s Emergency Trauma Center where she underwent emergency surgery.

Jessica spent twelve days in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit, then an additional five days in a medical unit before transferring to Cottage Rehabilitation Hospital to continue her recovery.

“My experience at Cottage was very personal,” Jessica said. “All of my doctors and nurses really got to know me and really cared about me; that support really helped me heal faster.”

Denise Auclair

Denise Auclair - Cottage Heart & Vascular Center

Denise Auclair was enjoying a normal Saturday afternoon when she suddenly collapsed and went into cardiac arrest. At the hospital, she was diagnosed with Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy and an irregular heartbeat which eventually caused her heart to stop beating.

Specialists at the Cottage Heart and Vascular Center inserted a pacemaker to help control Denise’s heart rhythm. “My heartbeat stopped. Now I have it back.”Today, she’s back enjoying life and educating others on the importance of CPR.

Evelyn Alberts

Evelyn Alberts - TAVR Patient - Cottage Heart & Vascular Center

Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR) is the first non-surgical procedure for the replacement of the aortic valve. Patients like 90 year-old Evelyn Alberts now have another option to open-heart surgery.

After experiencing dizziness and shortness of breath, doctors determined that Evelyn was one of 1.5 million Americans who suffer from aortic stenosis. She was at too high of a risk for open-heart surgery, and was a perfect candidate for the TAVR procedure. After the innovative heart procedure, Evelyn feels like she has just received “a second chance in life” and has regained her active and independent lifestyle.

Kathi Dickerson

Kathi Dickerson - Cottage Center for Weight Loss Surgery

Kathi Dickerson, of Lompoc, decided to have weight loss surgery after battling some health issues and watching the success of a friend that had the surgery.

A year and a half later, she’s kept off over 100 pounds and is dedicated to making positive lifestyle choices.

“I’ve had a wonderful experience and my only regret is not doing it sooner.” Kathi now enjoys taking long walks with her dog, tracking on her Fitbit 4-5 miles during the week and even more on weekends.

Gary Simpson

Gary Simpson - Cottage Center for Orthopedics

Gary Simpson's earlier years of work, climbing stairs in the sugar factory and crawling into freight trucks to make deliveries, seemed to catch up with him in his 60s. And while he enjoyed walking in Santa Maria for exercise, he finally had to stop because of the pain in his knees, especially the left one. "It just got to where I was limping, and it just hurt all the time," says Simpson.

He met with orthopedic surgeon Dr. Graham Hurvitz, who explained that the cartilage that once cushioned the bones in Simpson's knee had worn away. "He said it was bone on bone," Simpson recalls. "I had to make a decision whether I wanted to live with it or fix it, and I decided to fix it."

Now, a year after total knee replacement surgery at the Cottage Center for Orthopedics at Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital, Simpson is back walking at Waller Park. He is also talking with Dr. Hurvitz about replacing the right knee, too.

Joe Huerta

Joe Huerta - Cottage Health Neuroscience

Joe Huerta is a longtime Santa Barbara resident who remembers the shock of learning, at age 66, that he had a potentially life-threatening brain tumor. "I was flabbergasted," he says. "As soon as I picked myself up off the floor, I started looking for the best brain tumor doctor in town—and the best place to be treated."

Joe’s inquiry led him to a highly skilled and experienced brain tumor neurosurgeon, John Park, MD, PhD, medical director of the Brain and Spinal Tumor Program at the Santa Barbara Neuroscience Institute at Cottage Health. Dr. Park told Joe he likely had a meningioma.

"Dr. Park was so confident and positive, I wasn’t worried one bit," Joe recalls. "He was very friendly and explained everything. I felt safe in his hands and was reassured by the fact that removing tumors like mine was his specialty."

Colton Vogel

Colton Vogel - Cottage Children's Hospital

Pamela Vogel had a difficult pregnancy and went into labor four months before her due date. She gave birth to twins but her baby daughter did not survive. Pamela’s son Colton Vogel did survive but he weighed 1 lb 11 oz. at birth and could not breathe on his own due to his underdeveloped lungs.

Colton was cared for in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Cottage Children’s Medical Center, where he was put on a ventilator to help him breathe and to continue his growth under the careful watch of neonatologists and specialized neonatal nurses and staff. After more than 100 days, he was finally strong enough to go home to Santa Barbara with his mom and dad. Today, Colton is a healthy toddler who loves to smile and play.

Kathy Oehler

Kathy Oehler - Cottage Health Neuroscience

Kathy Oehler and her husband Richard Strasburg had just returned to their home in Morro Bay one evening after going out. Later that evening, Richard found Kathy in a catatonic state, unable to talk, with a stunned look on her face. She was taken to a local hospital and then helicoptered to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital. Tests showed Kathy suffered a severe brain hemorrhage from an aneurysm.

The neuroscience team at Cottage performed surgery and placed her into an induced coma to help her swollen brain heal. Kathy spent 30 days at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital and then another three weeks at Cottage Rehabilitation Hospital. Today, Kathy is doing well and enjoying life with her husband in Morro Bay.

Elijah Knight

Elijah Knight - Cottage Health Trauma Center

Teenager Elijah Knight was on his way to school in the family car one morning with his father, LaMont, and sister, Lailah. They were suddenly hit by a Suburban that totaled their car and shattered the back window. All of the glass fell onto Elijah as he leaned over to cover and protect his baby sister from the impact. He was pinned against her child car seat, causing life threatening internal injuries.

Elijah was airlifted from Santa Maria to the Trauma Center at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital for emergency surgery. He had a ruptured diaphragm and lacerated liver. He also fractured his elbow, collarbone and four ribs. After his surgery, he was cared for in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Cottage Children’s Medical Center. Elijah has recovered and is back to enjoying his favorite athletic activities, like running.

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