A promise made is a promise kept
During the week, Monday through Friday, Dr. Kevin Kimm steps into his office at the Center for Specialty Care in Fairmont where he takes his knee-length, white lab coat off its hanger and slips it over his shoulders.
Today, most doctors have decided to forego the starchy lab coat for a more casual shirt-and-tie look, but Dr. Kimm made a promise several years ago that he is not about to break.
Flash back several years to when Kimm was a second-year medical student at the University of Iowa. His mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer, so Kimm decided to escort her to the oncologist appointments.
According to Kimm, the oncologist wore flannel shirts, jeans and tennis shoes and his long hair was pulled back into a ponytail.
Although Kimm seemed to like the doctor, his mother was less than impressed.
“She asked me to promise her that I would never dress like that,” says Kimm, smiling as he recalls the memory. “She said, ‘You will wear a white coat, a shirt and a tie,’ and that’s what I’ve worn every day since.”
Unfortunately, Kimm’s mother passed away before she was able to see her son keep his promise, but several years later, in 2012, she would ask one more favor of him.
Kimm joined the United Hospital District as a general medicine family practitioner in June 2008.
The new doctor was well received at UHD; his patients admired him and he even served as chief of staff on the UHD?Governing Board.
Life seemed to be going quite well for the young doctor he was highly respected at work and now he was able to spend more time with his wife, Sandie, who also worked at UHD as a registered nurse.
However, life as he knew it came to an abrupt halt one early, April morning in 2012.
On April 12, at 2 a.m., Kimm woke to enormous pain on the right side of his head.
Sandie woke up as her husband, who was writhing in pain, told her, “I think I’m bleeding in my brain.”
After rushing Kimm to the emergency room, she noticed that Kimm’s right eye had dilated to three-times its usual size.
“She saved my life,” Kimm says. “Without her, I’d be dead.”
Kimm was airlifted to the University of Minnesota Medical Center in Minneapolis after he had suffered an uncial herniation.
An uncial herniation, Kimm explains, is when bleeding in the brain (subdural hematoma) puts an extreme amount of pressure on the uncus, which is in the temporal lobe.
In Dr. Kimm’s case, the pressure had pushed the uncus downward until it began to pinch his brainstem and squeeze the oculomotor nerve, which caused his eye to dilate, the telltale symptom that Sandie had noticed.
After intensive brain surgery at the U of M Medical Center, Kimm slipped into a coma.
It was there that he saw his mother for the first time since she passed away several years ago.
As Kimm recalls, he saw a figure standing at the end of a long, dark tunnel. The figure was standing with its back against a burning, white light, and he recognized it as his mother. He remembers going to her, but she stopped him before he could move past, telling him that God was not ready for him yet, he had to turn around and go back, away from the light.
At first, he protested, but eventually he gave in to his mother’s wish, just as he had when he assured her that he would wear a shirt, tie and white coat to work each day.
“The only thing I remembered when I woke up from the coma was that,” says Kimm of his near-death experience. “But now I know that this is the best gift that any entity could have given me.”
Dr. Kimm was in a coma for 30 days before he eventually began to regain consciousness; however, he still had trouble eating and speaking and he was unable to walk.
During this stagnant time in his recovery, Kimm started to reflect on the events that led him to the hospital bed.
“That was the biggest subdural I’ve ever seen,” said Kimm, referencing the actual bleeding in his brain. “I shouldn’t be alive, but I have no doubt that God sent me back to share my story and practice medicine. That’s when I started doubling my efforts.”
Since the herniation, Kimm has grown exponentially stronger, both physically and spiritually.
“One of the most important parts of my day is meditating in the morning,” Kimm says. “You get that feeling and you know that God is with you.”
Because of the events that have unfolded over the past three years, Kimm believes he will become a better doctor.
“That’s what I have now empathy for my patients,” he says. “Now I know what it’s like to be sick and I know how much it can impact a life.”
Determined to reach his goal to practice medicine again, Kimm had to complete several requirements set down by the Minnesota Board of Medical Practice.
So, in the beginning of 2013, the doctor put all of his energy into strengthening his body and sharpening his mind.
And his hard work paid off; earlier this year, he passed a series of Board Certification Exams administered by the Minnesota Board of Medical Practice.
As another requirement for reinstatement, Dr. Kimm also participated in a preceptorship with Dr. Michael Schneider, a certified general surgeon at the Center for Specialty Care, with offices located in both Blue Earth and Fairmont.
The next requirement on his checklist was to obtain approval from both the neurosurgeon and the neurologist who worked on Dr. Kimm’s case at the University of Minnesota, Fairview.
“They both kept telling me, over and over, ‘You’re a miracle, Kevin,'” Kimm said. “When you hear that coming from a neurologist and a neurosurgeon, it’s pretty crazy. It definitely gives you the confidence to move forward.”
Both the neurosurgeon and the neurologist cleared the doctor for reinstatement.
“I returned to work on November 3,” says Dr. Kimm.
Contrary to what many of his patients from the past have been told, Kimm did not return to UHD on November 3.
Rather, he joined the Center for Specialty Care where he will see patients in both the Fairmont and Blue Earth locations.
Kimm joined the practice because his values align with those of Dr. Corey Welchlin and Dr. Schneider.
“You call, we’re going to come down to the office and see you,” says Kimm. “If you need to see someone at 3 a.m., we’ll make sure someone is there.”
Kimm is the first Family Practice Physician who has practiced at the Center for Specialty Care, and because he has joined the team, Dr. Welchlin may consider expanding his practice.
“Our idea is to get as much as we can under one roof so that the people who have trouble traveling to the Cities or Rochester can come here instead, he says. “Ninety percent of what I see I can take care of.”
Dr. Kimm is considered a ‘broad spectrum’ family physician meaning that he can treat his patients for a number of ailments and, in theory, from the time they are born until the time they die.
“A good doctor treats the disease, but a great doctor takes care of the person with the disease,” Kimm says. “Let’s do what we’re good at and let’s heal people.”