St. Mary's Health Center ER Whirlwind

1 decade 2 years 8 months ago Wednesday, April 05 2006 Apr 5, 2006 Wednesday, April 05, 2006 4:31:09 PM CDT April 05, 2006 in News

A twister is his sign on the ER board because he's always spinning during his rotations.

Simms married his high school sweetheart, graduated with honors from medical school, had two children and bought a new house. He was living the American dream, until one day.

"It was a bright, sunny, August afternoon," Simms recalled. "We had just signed the papers on our new house and I was on my way to work. Someone pulled out in front of me."

Simms rolled his truck eight times, breaking his neck.

"I was knocked out briefly and, the next thing I remember, was hanging upside down in my vehicle and I knew at that point I was a quadriplegic," he recalled.

"I decided I had spent so long training to do what I do and I love what I do. I'm passionate about this job and I decided I would try it," he went on.

"Of course, a lot of people were uncertain about having a quadriplegic emergency physician. To my knowledge, it's never been done," Simms admitted.

In fact, Dr. Simms may be the only quadriplegic ER physician in the world.

"I think patients are a little taken aback when the emergency physician comes in in a wheelchair," said Simms. "It's funny. I've had patients, my favorite comment is, 'You look worse than I do.'"

He explained, "What you see is the chair. That's only part of it. I live with pain everyday. But, it has given me a perspective about what it's like to be on the other side of the stretcher, to live with pain everyday."

Physician's assistant Jen Chapman said, "He makes life seem effortless, but it's really not. Some days, I know he struggles just to even sit upright and he never complains."

Chapman takes care of any movements for Simms that require hand dexterity.

"She's phenomenal," he said.

"You can't be empathetic until you've been in somebody else's shoes," said Chapman, "and he's been there."

Two years ago, Simms' employment took another turn when a golden retriever named Robbie joined the team.

"Now, when patients see me, they don't see the wheelchair," Simms explained. "They're immediately drawn to Robbie and he's the focus. He's the icebreaker."

Simms added, "Life is about attitude. Everyone has their own set of challenges. Quadriplegia just happens to be mine."

But, this funnel cloud of a physician surrounds his patients with gale force emergency care.

"People can see me and realize you can do whatever you want to do," he said.

Although Dr. Simms has some use of his arms, he's technically diagnosed as a quadriplegic.

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