Patricia Ronsvalle has been a Guthrie patient, trustee, and supporter for decades. She gave birth to two children at Guthrie Robert Packer Hospital, has turned to Guthrie for knee and hip surgery, among other types of care, and is a longtime board member. Pat is a graduate of Pennsylvania State University (BA) and Elmira College (MS), and she received her guidance certificates from Cornell University as well as the University of Scranton. Together with her husband, Ted, they raised five children – Jenny and Jim Covey, and Nelson, Noel, and Theodore Ronsvalle.
Pat also credits Guthrie with saving her husband’s life.
Many Years of Guidance
Pat worked for the Athens Area School District, in Bradford County, for nearly 40 years as a guidance counselor. During that time, she guided Guthrie as a member of the Board of Trustees, and she continues to do so today. Her years of work on what was once called the Institutional Review Board made her realize what is involved in running a hospital, much of which, she says, the average patient or community member isn’t aware of.
“It was hard work, but it was very rewarding too, because you knew you were doing something valuable,” Pat says. “I really appreciated the opportunity to do that kind of work.”
Pat’s appreciation of her local health system grew even stronger when a catastrophe occurred thousands of miles from home.
An Emergency Abroad
In 2013, while Pat and her husband were on vacation in Italy, Ted experienced a heart attack and was taken to a hospital in Sicily, an experience Pat calls “terrifying.” Doctors told Pat there was little hope Ted would survive, and that they planned to keep Ted, who was unconscious, sedated until he passed away. They did not consult with her about treatment or bother learning her name, and she was barely allowed any time to visit her ailing husband.
Pat knew that she had to get Ted out of that hospital if he was to have any chance of survival – and that’s what she did. But the journey home wasn’t smooth. Ted was put on a bus and driven to a private plane that could be turned into a makeshift hospital room. After Ted nearly died while the plane was on the way to Iceland to refuel, he was moved to a larger plane with the hope that would help keep him stable. That plane stopped to refuel in Canada and was then supposed to head to Elmira, N.Y., but was rerouted to Binghamton because Elmira didn’t have a large enough hangar available.
Pat’s son, Jim Covey, drove to Binghamton to wait for Ted to arrive. After what felt like an eternity of waiting in the dark, the runway lights lit up the sky and eventually, around 2 a.m., Ted’s plane touched down. Ted was taken off the plane, put in an ambulance, and rushed to Guthrie Robert Packer Hospital, where a team of health care professionals got right to work, providing Ted with the care he so badly needed.
“He got really excellent care. The contrast to the hospital in Sicily was incredible,” Pat says. “I was very grateful to all of the people who spent so much time with him. Some of the people who worked with him before he was conscious would come back in to check on him and find out how he was doing. He was so well-cared for.”
Against all odds, Ted, who became known as “The Man from Iceland,” made a full recovery and lived another year – additional time that meant the world to Pat and the rest of the family.
“It was a miracle,” she says. “He made such a marvelous recovery. It was life-changing in many, many ways. I was so glad we had that hospital to bring him back to.”
‘There Are So Many People Who Care’
Throughout her tenure on the Board of Trustees, Pat has also been a loyal Guthrie donor, always requesting that her donations go toward wherever the greatest need is.
“From the time I came on the board, I thought it was essential that I contribute what I could financially, and I have continued to give because I appreciate all that Guthrie does for the community,” she says.
One of the most important things Guthrie does for the community, Pat says, is provide patient-centered care that focuses on the whole person.
“There are so many people who care,” she says. “It’s just what they do.”