David Entwistle: Former CEO & Patient


David Entwistle is the former CEO of University of Utah Hospitals and Clinics; on May 23, 2009, he also became a patient. It’s a day he’ll never forget, but ironically it’s also a day he simply can’t remember.

It all started with his participation in the Stansbury Park triathlon. The 23 mile mark of the 24.4 bicycle course is the exact point where his memory of incident ends. He’s not sure why it happened, but he went from 23 miles per hour to zero in a matter of seconds, causing him to crash and flip over the top of his bike. Despite being thrown at a high speed, he didn’t break any bones and barely even had a road rash, but his brain injury was significant.

Entwistle was rushed to an area hospital, where the emergency room doctor—a physician trained at the University of Utah’s medical school—realized the extent of his injuries and recommended AirMed transport to University of Utah hospital.

There, Entwistle was met by Steve Morris, MD, an emergency medicine physician, and William Couldwell, MD, a neurosurgeon with the University of Utah Health's Clinical Neurosciences Center. They were concerned about swelling in his brain, and determined the best course of action was to place a stent in the skull to relieve the pressure. And then they began a waiting game to see how and if he would recover, as a brain injury can often affect speech, memory, or physical ability.

“Those first 24 hours were such a critical time,” says Dawna Entwistle, David’s wife. “I was in shock, yet you have to sign papers and give the okay for different treatments. Luckily, the staff was great about explaining all the risks and benefits to me so that I could make decisions with confidence. ”

Also on the sidelines was David’s eight-year-old son, Chase. “He loves his dad so much,” says Dawna. “He was so worried about him and you could see the concern on his face. We would bring him to visit and explain that daddy was hurt and would get better but it would take a while.”

David was in the intensive care unit for two weeks, and was then moved to a rehabilitation unit. It was there he first began to regain consciousness. It was a gradual road to recovery, but miraculously, he didn’t have any permanent problems with speech, physical ability, or memory.

“My goal was to start running again two weeks after getting out of the hospital, and that’s exactly what I did,” says David. In addition to his initial care team, he credits his rehab team, including Dr. John Speed and his therapists, with his quick recovery. “Dr. Speed was so calming and reassuring,” says David. “He explained what was normal and what I could expect so I wasn’t frustrated with my recovery.”

“I think I’m here today because I got the right care, at the right place, at the right time,” says David. "U of U Health is a place where you go when you have an emergency like this, but it’s also the place you go for your everyday care. I stand behind that and I’m living proof. We have all the experts right here working together as a team. I had the complete continuum of care, from the emergency room, to neurocritical care, to rehab, all right here.”

“You never think it’s going to be you but it can be,” says Dawna. “I’m so grateful we have this facility in our community and that we had such a great end result.”

“I know I’m the CEO, and of course I got a lot of attention while I was in the hospital, but I often meet with brain injury patients and they have the same story as I do. Everyone gets excellent care when they come here.”

And perhaps the most grateful of all is little Chase. David tears up a bit when he recalls a special moment with his son, three months after his accident. “I was tucking him into bed and he looked up and me and said, 'Dad, it’s really great to have you home again.'”

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