Thanks to a Bluffton dental office for sharing the story of its involvement with Bluffton-Jasper Volunteers In Medicine.
'Dentist Gives Back After Scare'
Special to Lowcountry Life
This year did not start off very well for Dr. Michael Langehans. The local dentist thought he was beginning the year with a simple case of the flu, however what transpired for the next 34 days changed Langehans' life and dental practice forever.
On Dec. 28, 2013, Langehans went to urgent care. He was diagnosed with the flu. The nurse practitioner gave him a prescription for Tamiflu, saying "take this if you want to, but I really don't know how long you've had this and it may or may not help."
He decided not to take the medicine. By Dec. 30, he was feeling considerably worse. He had gone into work (he never misses) but at lunch visited a Bluffton doctor to get a chest X-ray. She diagnosed him with bilateral pneumonia. She sent him back to work with instructions to take it easy the rest of the week.
By Jan. 2, Langehans was rushed to the ER at Beaufort Memorial Hospital. He spent the night in the ER and then early the next morning was airlifted to Roper St. Francis Hospital in Charleston. He spent the next 22 days in the ICU at Roper. He was completely sedated, paralyzed and intubated for 18 days -- and the outlook for a fast recovery was not looking good.
The medical personnel explained he needed to be kept that way so his body could rest and antibiotics could work. While in the ICU he developed C-Diff -- a nasty intestinal bug with severe cramping -- and also tested positive for H1N1. After 14 days, it is standard procedure to do a tracheotomy. Doctors and nurses woke him after 18 days and began weaning him from the ventilator. By day 22 he was moved to Vibra Acute Rehab Hospital in Mount Pleasant. His tracheotomy was removed on day 25. He was told he had a staph infection and would need more antibiotics. He was transported by EMS late Jan. 31, to Beaufort Memorial Acute Rehab Facility. He improved rapidly and was discharged on Feb. 4 after spending 34 days in the hospital.
During this time, Langehans' wife, Beth, had to find someone to run his practice. He did not have a backup doctor on call after the recent departure of a dental employee of seven years.
"I had to scramble and find someone," Beth Langehans said, "Dr. Chuck Ingle had come highly recommended by several dentists in Beaufort and he was willing to drive to Bluffton to help out. I had never met Dr. Ingle before, but he was so nice and willing to help out right away. I am a home-schooling mom of four children. Michael and I determined early on that we would not ever work together. I had never been a part of his dental practice except to listen when he comes home and try to offer advice or support. However, there were supplies to order, bills to pay, payroll, tax information due to various entities, laws and regulations about dentists, hygienists, assistants, insurance to file, the office to clean, etc., and the one person I would have asked all the 'how to' questions was comatose."
Ingle has since become a permanent part of Off-Island Dental, assisting at the Bluffton practice one day a week and on an as-needed basis.
"I'll never forget the day Beth called me, I truly felt so sorry for this poor woman who desperately needed my help immediately," he said.
"I had no idea what was going on around me for over a month," Langehans said. "I am unbelievably blessed and grateful to my family, friends, patients, staff and Dr. Ingle for all of their amazing support during the entire time I was sick and recovering.
"If I said the experience had not changed my entire outlook on life, I would be lying. It has made me more thankful for everything. I have always been involved in our church community, but this made me realize that I needed to give back in an even bigger way. This life experience (don't like to call it a near-death experience) has made me want to better utilize my professional talents and my staff's talents in a more meaningful way in my practice."
Off-Island Dental has recently organized free, quarterly dental services for Bluffton Jasper Volunteers In Medicine to provide its patients in most need of dental services, and free services and procedures from extractions to cleanings.
In order for someone to qualify for the free dental services, registered patients must have already been seen at Bluffton Jasper VIM as a patient.
"There is unbelievable need for professional general dentistry care in our community. We are grateful to have these services offered through Off-Island Dental," Bluffton Jasper VIM executive director Pam Toney said.
"So many uninsured people simply allow regular dental care to lapse until emergent needs arise," Langehans said. "As a result significantly more patients are being seen in hospital emergency rooms for problems that could have been initially treated with simple dental office procedures."
Off-Island Dental plans to continue the free services with Bluffton Jasper Volunteers in Medicine on a quarterly basis.
"It's one small thing I can do to give back to my community," Langehans said, "and celebrate how truly lucky I am to be able to do so."
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