Stephen Dodge, PTA - Physical Therapy Assistant, Bayfront Seven Rivers Hospital
It could be said that Steve Dodge is Bayfront Seven Rivers Hospital’s guardian angel. The licensed physical therapy assistant and seven-year hospital employee has, three times in the last year, saved the lives of people who were not his patients.
The first time, Dodge was leaving work a bit early. He noticed another employee, a nurse, also leaving. When she started driving out of the parking lot, however, Dodge noticed she was driving slowly but erratically. He was close enough to look in her window and saw she was having a seizure. Dodge wrenched open the driver door, hit the brakes, put the car in park, and helped his co-worker out of the vehicle. He then called for assistance.
“When I pulled her out, she was in cardiac arrest,” he recalled. “She’s only 44 years old. I initiated the code (the hospital-wide alert for extreme medical events). She got through everything and is back working as a nurse here.
“Luckily the car was going so slowly the locks never engaged,” he added.
The second time, Dodge was helping a patient with his therapy in the hospital’s new orthopedic unit. The patient’s third floor room had a large window overlooking the main parking lot. Dodge happened to look out – and saw a woman collapse onto the pavement, also having a seizure. Again, Dodge called the code, and the woman’s life was saved.
The third time, Dodge was heading out to lunch through the hospital’s main lobby. He noticed an elderly woman slouched in a wheelchair. He realized something wasn’t right, so approached her.
“I said, ‘ma’am, are you OK?’ She answered but it was babbling, slurred speech. She was having a stroke right then and there.”
Dodge called the stroke code and, again, saved the patient’s life.
“I’m not even emergency services, this just happens to me,” he said. “I think my training has made me more observant.”
For his efforts, Dodge was named Bayfront Seven Rivers’ 2018 Employee of the Year and was selected as the Healthcare Heroes Healthcare Professional awardee.
“Not only is Steve an excellent Physical Therapist Assistant, he has literally saved lives,” reads his Healthcare Heroes nomination. “He is also an excellent Clinical Instructor, who helps train PTA students. He is one of the Safety Coaches in the hospital and one of the lead PTA’s for our successful Bone & Joint Center.”
Dodge, a Citrus County native and 2007 graduate of Crystal River High School, didn’t start out wanting to be a healthcare professional. After high school, he worked in construction. When the local economy collapsed and construction jobs dried up, he did odd jobs until he was hired as a Rehab Tech at an outpatient rehabilitation center.
“I was floundering; I didn’t know what to do. But people were placed in my life to guide me over time,” he said. “Working as a rehab tech, I started to realize this was something I wanted to do. I wanted to change people’s lives and help them walk better. Unfortunately, I needed to go to school to do that.”
No male in Dodge’s family had ever graduated from college, and he hadn’t been a strong student in high school. He enrolled in the PTA program with apprehension, started working as a rehab tech at Bayfront Seven Rivers, and found that he was a better student than he gave himself credit for. He earned his PTA license, graduating with honors.
As a PTA, Dodge helps patients with neurological, cardiovascular, or orthopedic issues gain mobility.
“The goal is to help them get their life back and encourage them to progress to a better lifestyle,” he said. “We work on balance, strength, and improving overall quality of life.”
Dodge works with a large, interdisciplinary team of physical, occupational, and speech therapists, nurses, aides, and techs.
“We all work together to make a positive experience for our patients and send them home safely,” he said, adding that the Bayfront Seven Rivers Orthopedic unit has been named in the top 10th percentile in the nation for joint replacements.
“This unit, and the work we do here, helps patients recover faster and better,” he said.
Dodge and his wife, Rebecca, live in Crystal River. His parents, Denise and Charlie Dodge, also live in the area. He enjoys fishing, and other outdoor activities, including paintball – he is part of a traveling paintball team – and metal detecting.
“I love that we are still the Nature Coast and there’s so much to do outdoors,” he said. “My family, my church, and my career keep me here.”
While Dodge’s co-workers are proud of his life-saving experiences, even putting a picture of Superman with Dodge’s face on it on his locker, Dodge credits another superpower.
“God put me in the right place at the right time. Several times,” he said.