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From patient to caregiver: Jerry’s story

Jerry Torgerson moves from cardiac patient to caregiver

Jerry Torgerson knows customer service.

He spent nearly 40 years working for a Washington bakery providing his customers with more than just baked goods. “I learned over my 36 years with the bakery how to have that customer service; how to take care of people. The more I became friends with people out on the route the more bread they bought.”

It is the same care and kindness Jerry received as a cardiac patient at Monument Health and what inspired him to be part of the team of caregivers.

Jerry is now one of the first, friendly faces patients and visitors see when they come to Rapid City Hospital. “I love my job,” Jerry said of being a valet for Monument Health. “It is the best retirement job anyone can ever have.”

Talent Recruiter Amy Ressler said Jerry had mentioned his amazing care when he applied for the position. “He was just a great fit,” she said.

Jerry, his wife Linda, and daughter Kristin moved to Rapid City in 2022 to be closer to the couple’s other daughter Leah and her family. Leah’s husband Jason is a weapons specialist at Ellsworth Air Force Base. “I didn’t want my grandkids growing up seeing us on an iPad screen,” Jerry said of their three grandkids, 7-year-old twins Luke and Nolan, and 3-year-old granddaughter Quinn.

“We love it here. My family belongs here. I just wish we were here 40 years ago. Rapid City has a sense of community that I’ve never experienced before. How can you not live in a place where you feel like you belong.”

Jerry’s first retirement job was in Cabela’s warehouse where he unloaded semitrucks and helped customers load up their purchases. It was at Cabela’s when he realized something did not feel right. “I would start to feel lightheaded every time I would pick something up.”

Jerry, who scheduled checkups every two years, knew he had a “squishing” sound in his heart, but doctors in Washington did not seem concerned. However, Jerry’s primary care physician thought differently. He referred him to Charan Mungara, M.D., Cardiothoracic Surgeon, who signed him up for open heart surgery the next week to replace his mitral valve. “He was surprised I didn’t have a cardiac arrest or a stroke.”

Both Jerry and Linda said their experience was exceptional from the surgery and care before to the rehab after. “The care was so well done that I wanted to be a part of the team. How can you not work for someone who is so caring for the community?” Jerry said. “I really do praise God for Monument Health.”

He now shares his story with those he encounters at the hospital.

“I went through it all. I had the care. I had the surgery. I tell people what I went through and that it is going to be OK. The care here is excellent. You are in excellent hands. These people know what they are doing.”

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