Patient Stories

Wooil's Story...

When Wooil was born at 23 weeks gestation and clinging to life, Theresa Wagner, RN, and the Regional Health care team created a trusting and compassionate healing environment for him and his family during his time in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and pediatric intensive care unit (PICU). Wooil spent seven months in the NICU and 15 months in the PICU, where he and his family experienced good times and bad — and Theresa was there through it all.

Wooil and his family are from South Korea and moved to South Dakota shortly before he was born. During their time in the NICU and PICU there was not only a language barrier, but challenges posed by adapting to medical terminology. These hurdles were met head on by Theresa and the rest of the care team, who provided the resources and restored the confidence to let the parents be mom and dad.

“We had a moment in the PICU where he was having a particularly rough weekend. Some things happened that were pretty spectacular and made us think, yes, he’s going to be ok and pull through this,” commented Wagner.

Wooil is now 4 years old and has a tracheostomy that allows oxygen-rich air to reach his lungs and enables him to be at home with his family. Theresa, Wooil, and his family often plan outings, such as playing at the park, going out to lunch, and playing with other kids his age.

“He’s our modern-day miracle,” said Theresa. “He has had to overcome so many things in his young four years and he is a very intelligent little boy. I see a bright future for him.”


Dixie's Story...

When Dixie's mother, Lucy, became terminally ill, her family had plans to make her comfortable at home as long as possible.  One morning, when Lucy felt very ill, the family decided to take her to the Emergency Department at Sturgis Regional Hospital, where she was transferred to a hospice suite.

"Every day we were working toward the goal of taking her home with us, and that didn't happen," explained Dixie.  "The hospice nurses and staff were amazing.  They took care of our mother and they took care of us."

"It's a great honor to be able to take care of patients in hospice," said Brenda, one of the nurses who cared for Lucy.  "We aspire to make our patients and their families as comfortable as possible."

Brenda understands their needs firsthand.  She was called to the nursing profession after her daughter became terminally ill and passed away at age 15.

"Before I was a nurse, I was a hair stylist and I was able to do Lucy's hair for many years," said Brenda. "When people are in this situation, I know what it feels like and how important and valuable it is to give them exceptional care."

Dixie noted how thankful her mother was to see Brenda's familiar face.

"My mother got a big smile on her face when she saw Brenda, and I was so grateful for her presence," Dixie said.  "Brenda and the rest of the team were compassionate, kind, and completely selfless.  I would recommend this place to anybody."

To learn more about the hospice care options at Regional Health, click here.


Phill's Story...


Phill and his wife moved to Custer from Michigan to enjoy life in the Black Hills. A cowboy at heart, Phill has been the flag bearer at the Custer State Park Buffalo Roundup for the last eight years and says he’s thankful to have an opportunity to participate in his ninth next fall. Phill was experiencing chest pains during the most recent Buffalo Roundup and figured it was a respiratory issue.

“During the Buffalo Roundup, I didn’t feel very good. When it was over, I packed up my tools and drove to the Custer Clinic, where they told me I was having a heart attack,” said Phill. Joy Falkenburg, M.D., a family medicine physician, saw Phill immediately when he was brought into the Emergency Department.

“There were several times where Phill thought he fell asleep, but he was actually flatlining, or in other words, he died for a short period of time,” explained Dr. Falkenburg.

The Custer Regional Hospital team stabilized Phill and transferred him to Rapid City Regional Hospital for cardiac intervention. Phill has since made a full recovery and is grateful to Custer Regional Hospital and Rapid City Regional Hospital providers and caregivers.

“When I was able to come back and thank everyone for saving my life, that’s the most memorable moment. And I’ll never forget that,” said Phill.

“Isn’t this why we do what we do? This is the coolest thing to have a patient come back in and thank us,” said Dr. Falkenburg. “I love being a physician for Regional Health. I couldn’t dream of a better job. It’s what fills my heart up and is my passion in life. I love my patients and my community.”

“I’m thankful to be here and tell this story, and encourage people to step up when they don’t feel right,” added Phill. “I’ve got a lot of dancing left to do.”

Phill was fortunate to get help in time.  If you notice something does not feel right, or have not been in for an overall health check lately, contact us for an appointment with one of our primary care physicians, serving the entire Black Hills region.