New emergency department's first patient gets a surprise diagnosis

First patient in new emergency department © UC Regents
Yvonne Bennett's rush to the emergency room made her the first-ever patient treated in the new Michael W. Chapman Emergency and Trauma Center within the UC Davis Medical Center Surgery and Emergency Services Pavilion.

Posted Nov. 17, 2010

It’s an all-too-familiar story: The caretaker suddenly finds herself needing care. But when Corning, Calif., resident Yvonne Bennett, 63, unexpectedly needed emergency care last October while tending to her granddaughter, who was undergoing surgery for a birth defect at UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, there was an unusual twist.

Bennett’s rush to the emergency room, suffering from shortness of breath, made her the first-ever patient treated in the new Michael W. Chapman Emergency and Trauma Center, within the medical center’s recently opened Surgery and Emergency Services Pavilion.

Her surprising initial diagnosis? Tuberculosis — a shock for retired rancher Bennett, who wasn't sure where or how she could have contracted the disease. The diagnosis was later confirmed as mycobacterium avium complex, or MAC, a pulmonary bacterial infection that is treated with antibiotics. MAC is less contagious and does not require the stringent isolation requirements of a tuberculosis diagnosis. Bennett did spend time in isolation as a precaution before her final diagnosis could be confirmed.

It all started when she was driving to the hospital to be at granddaughter Harmony Bennett’s side. Bennett had been staying at the Sacramento Ronald McDonald House, which provides accommodations for families whose children are receiving treatment. Abruptly finding herself nearly unable to breathe, she summoned a passerby who in turn flagged down a hospital staff member. Soon an ambulance and the police arrived, and Bennett was on her way to the emergency room — and to a place forever in the new facility’s lore.

“I’m so glad it all happened at the UC Davis Medical Center because the illness might not have been diagnosed so quickly elsewhere.”
— Yvonne Bennett

“I’m so glad it all happened at the UC Davis Medical Center because the illness might not have been diagnosed so quickly elsewhere,” said Bennett, whose great-grandparents were among six couples to first settle the Corning area.

The Michael W. Chapman Emergency and Trauma Center

Dr. and Mrs. Chapman © UC Regents
Dr. Michael Chapman and wife Elizabeth

The Michael W. Chapman Emergency and Trauma Center honors one of the fathers of modern trauma surgery who served for two decades as chair of the UC Davis Department of Orthopaedic Surgery.

Adjacent to the trauma center, the Elizabeth C. Chapman Emergency Department Waiting Room recognizes Chapman’s wife, Elizabeth.

Within the trauma center, a treatment area devoted exclusively to pediatrics is named Lions Education Foundation District 4-C5 and Lions Clubs International Foundation Pediatric Emergency Room.

Click here to learn more about the new emergency department.

What was her impression of the new facility? She thought it was beautiful and sparkling new, as one might expect, but there was something else: “They were trying to make sure everything worked, including all the equipment and the computers,” she quips. “Well, apparently it all was indeed working, because they got me registered and upstairs.”

Meanwhile, her granddaughter, who is 6 years old, was recuperating in the medical center at the same time for about one week.

“As a matter of fact, she got to go home before me,” recalls Bennett. 

"The entire emergency department and hospital staff were very caring and thorough,” said Bennett. “They carefully explained everything to me and made all the necessary arrangements with various county health departments for me to come home as quickly as possible. It has been a positive experience working with the team of doctors and all the support staff.”

The new emergency room, which is twice the size of the former facility, increases the number of beds from 42 to 68 and makes the facility one of Northern California’s largest emergency rooms. It’s a centerpiece of the new pavilion building, a $424 million expansion of the hospital that modernizes the medical center’s operations.