Dennis Axness

Dennis Axness at his Baker Valley home. Axness, who spent nearly seven weeks in the hospital this spring with a kidney infection, said the "swing bed" program, which is a rehabilitation program for patients as they transition between the hospital and home, was a great option.

Dennis Axness didn’t know what ailed him, but he knew it didn’t feel good.

“I thought I had a backache,” he said.

It turned out that Axness, 78, had an infected kidney this spring.

He was admitted to the hospital, given fluids, and taken by ambulance to Boise where four specialists reviewed his condition.

“They figured out what I needed,” he said.

What he needed, it turned out, was infusions six times a day.

“Every four hours throughout the day and night,” he said.

He went into the hospital on May 14, and was discharged June 30.

“A day short of seven weeks,” Axness said.

And the majority of that time was spent at Saint Alphonsus Medical Center in Baker City.

After his condition stabilized — he said he was “delirious” the first few days — Axness was moved into the swing bed program, which is a rehabilitation transition between hospital and home.

Axness, who taught science at Baker High School and served as principal at several local schools, became somewhat of a fixture at the hospital.

“I got to know all these people,” he said.

He would ask if a nurse’s child had won his baseball game, or inquire how a race turned out for one who is an avid runner.

Although he still required six infusions each day, Axness was able to leave the hospital for short rides, or to visit the home he shares in Baker Valley with his wife, Terri.

“It’s nice,” he said of the swing bed program. “You’re home — you don’t have to go to Boise for rehab.”

In swing bed, patients have some comforts of home, such as their own clothes. But it also provides assess to physical therapy, occupational therapy, respiratory therapy and meals.

His care at the hospital prompted Axness to write a letter praising the program and the hospital employees.

“They work hard. There needs to be some recognition,” he said. “The beauty of the swing bed program is you stay close to home, you get lots of care, and the doctors are a block away. It’s a good thing, a really good thing.”

About swing bed

The swing bed program, also known as transitional care, is for patients recovering from an acute illness or surgery who no longer need acute hospital care but aren’t ready to go home.

Patient care can include respiratory needs, wound care, I.V. antibiotics, and specialized therapy.

Each patient has a personalized plan, bedside rounds, and hospital level nursing staff.

The program promotes a “home like environment” along with space for rehab and respiratory therapy.

For more information about transitional care, call Saint Alphonsus at 541-523-6461.

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