Thumbs Up, Wings Down: Patient and WWII Veteran Leaves Lasting Impact on Anesthesiologist Who Cared for Him 

Advancing health. Personalizing care. It’s a promise that Memorial Hermann has made to its community, and it’s one that Dr. Yvonne Cormier, an anesthesiologist affiliated with Memorial Hermann Memorial City Medical Center, fully embraces. In fact, Dr. Cormier’s experience with her longtime patient, Glenn Martin, is a direct reflection of the System’s brand promise in action.

Martin was first admitted to the Digestive Health Center at Memorial Hermann Memorial City Medical Center with a severe gastric bleed. To determine the source of the bleed, he would require general anesthesia.  

“Mr. Glenn was unwell, but was conscious and cooperative,” said Dr. Cormier. “He was 97 years old at the time, slightly below his ideal body weight, had no history of cardiac or pulmonary disease, and his vital signs were within normal limits. We discussed all the risk factors for general anesthesia with Mr. Glenn’s family.”

After receiving consent from the family, Martin was successfully induced and intubated. The procedure lasted longer than expected, due to the difficulty in locating the bleeding source, but with the help of an experienced team, Martin successfully met the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) criteria for extubation soon after the procedure.

“He was wheeled to recovery and one hour later was ready for transfer to intermediate care for overnight observation,” Dr. Cormier said. “I remember asking him how he was feeling, and he smiled and said, ‘Thumbs up, wings down – I’m outta here’.”

This encounter between Dr. Cormier and Martin was the beginning of a long and fun friendship. Soon after he was discharged, Martin emailed Dr. Cormier pictures of his azaleas, and she replied with a picture of her own. Over time, Dr. Cormier learned a lot about her patient-turned-friend.

“Mr. Glenn had a way of making friends,” Dr. Cormier said. “Once on a veteran’s tour, he happened to be talking to someone about the type of bomber plane he piloted during World War II when a volunteer tour guide approached him. The tour guide’s father was killed while riding in a plane during a raid in Germany. Mr. Glenn asked him for his father’s name and – in a small-world moment – he recognized it.”

Dr. Cormier recalled how Martin described it: He was the lead pilot in this raid and the fire was heavy. The commander asked Martin to move to the rear and bring the team from the back forward. That commander was the tour guide’s father, and he was killed in battle when the guide was 6 years old, and his brother was 2 years old.

Being the gentleman that he was, one year Martin asked Dr. Cormier if she needed a date to Memorial Hermann’s gala – an annual event hosted by The Memorial Hermann Foundation to raise funds for and awareness of important patient care services – which was just days away.

“I fired back and asked Mr. Glenn if he didn’t remember anything about prom, specifically not waiting until the last minute to secure a date,” Dr. Cormier said. “I jokingly told Mr. Glenn that I was going to the gala with Prince Charming.”

On a lark, Martin was due for a follow-up appointment, so Dr. Cormier and her team worked up a special surprise. She picked up the phone and called Martin’s daughter and asked that he put on his Sunday best for this appointment. When Martin and his daughter arrived, Dr. Cormier greeted them in the waiting room dressed in a beautiful ball gown – ready to take their prom photo.

Dr. Cormier attributes Martin’s remarkable recovery to the dedication and skill of his post-operative care team at Memorial Hermann.  In fact, one day Martin stopped by to visit Dr. Cormier and express how grateful he and his family were for the “gift of extended time on earth” he was given as a result of his care.

Five years after his surgery at The Center, where his friendship with Dr. Cormier began, Martin passed away peacefully surrounded by his family.

“I attended the funeral and expressed my sympathy to the family for their great loss,” Dr. Cormier said. “I let them know how fortunate I was to have met Mr. Glenn and what a privilege it was to take care of him. In difficult times, I remember Mr. Glenn’s compassion, humor and friendship, and the many lives he touched – including mine.”

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Ali Vise