Research Medical Center
November 17, 2022

Four former Research Medical Center patients with remarkable stories of recovery were reunited with their first responders and medical care teams during the hospital’s annual Thankful Families Celebration on Wed., Nov. 15. Research Medical Center is part of HCA Midwest Health, Kansas City’s largest healthcare provider.

“This annual event recognizes inspiring efforts made in delivering compassionate, high-quality healthcare to patients during their most vulnerable time,” says Research Medical Center Chief Executive Officer Ashley McClellan, FACHE. “Just like a family, we pull together to care for, support and celebrate. By sharing their personal stories, and how subsequent care impacted their lives, these patients become powerful examples of the importance of caring like family.”

“The celebration highlights the premier healthcare services like trauma, oncology, cardiology and burn available to patients throughout the region,” says Research Medical Center trauma surgeon John Chipko, MD. “As healthcare providers, it is our privilege to reconnect families with their caregivers during this month of gratitude — and reinforces our commitment to the care and improvement of human life, above all else.”

Noah Weaver, 27: Trauma Patient

Weaver suffered a traumatic brain injury when his car hit a guardrail and flipped outside Butler, Mo., on May 27, 2022. After a truck driver found him in his car and called 9-1-1, an EMS crew transported Weaver to a nearby hospital where he was then life flighted to Research Medical Center’s Level I Trauma Unit. A poet, rapper and a wordsmith who frequented open mic nights and showcases in Kansas City. Weaver is still learning to recall poems and raps. Through speech therapy at Research Medical Center and Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital in Lincoln, Neb., post-accident, he developed a new passion for writing tongue twisters. “A big part of my overall therapy was speech therapy, including tongue twisters,” he says. “My biggest personal project now is writing tongue twisters. I have written enough tongue twisters to make a book and a game.”

Vanessa Wrench, 60: Oncology Patient

Wrench is a Kansas City resident and mom of three, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in April 2022, 10 years after she underwent BRCA genetic testing, a double mastectomy and hysterectomy to prevent breast cancer from happening to her. Wrench’s sister died of breast cancer and her mother died of pancreatic cancer. At her mother’s encouragement, Wrench’s daughter tested for the BRCA gene and when the test results came back positive, she too underwent a hysterectomy and plans to undergo a double mastectomy.

Grateful for her integrated care team who not only provided her with specialized cancer care, but also supported her and her family during a challenging time, Wrench is an inspiring example of grit and survival for her family. “My sisters call me a warrior,” she says.

Robert “Bob” Podnar, 41: Cardiology Patient

An auto glass installer from Belton, Podnar suffered the most severe type of heart attack: a massive STEMI on May 27, 2022. Podnar went on to be the “young guy” during his cardiac rehab program at Research Medical Center. “Here I was, a 41-year-old man who was suddenly in classes with patients much older than me and I kept crying to myself, to them and to my care team, asking ‘how could this happen to me?’, or ‘how did I get here?’” he says. “But everyone in my class was so kind and caring. They would come up to me, look at me and sincerely tell me it does get better.” Podnar is thankful for the physicians who saved his life, and for his care team who became champions for his recovery.

Patricia “Pat” Williams, 91: Burn Patient

A hypothermic burn, or frostbite, patient at the Grossman Burn Center at Research Medical Center, Williams underwent multiple amputations and skin graft procedures after falling in her snowy driveway taking out the trash on one of the coldest days in February 2021. Discovered by neighbors nearly four hours later, Williams was frozen to the ground and, after 9-1-1 was called, was transported by ambulance to Centerpoint Medical Center before being transferred to Grossman Burn Center at Research Medical Center for the treatment of her frostbite. Williams’ daughter, Susan Buist, remarks, “My husband often says that my mother has nine lives.”