Stubborn as they come, Wyandotte Mayor Joseph Peterson said it was time to listen to his body, rather than his mind, on Monday.
Reluctantly, he picked up the phone and called Dr. Ramalingeswa Yalamanchi, his family doctor of 34 years.
At about 6 p.m. that night, Peterson was admitted to Henry Ford Wyandotte Hospital, where he remains, battling pneumonia.
“I’m glad I came to the hospital when I did,” he said Wednesday during his first bedside interview. “Don’t ignore the symptoms. Don’t ignore what your body tells you. My body told me something was wrong (last) Wednesday and Thursday, but my mind told me you can wait till after the council meeting.”
But he never made it to the council meeting Monday night.
“Right before I was going to go to City Hall (on Monday), I just couldn’t do it,” he said. “I couldn’t take a hard breath. They were all short breaths. That had been going on for about two days and honestly, was a little scary. I finally stopped being stubborn.”
But those who know Peterson understand that stubbornness as Monday’s council meeting wasn’t just any old council meeting. It was the first meeting in the new council chambers at the new City Hall.
“I wanted to be there so bad and it really tore me up not being there,” he said. “I love this city so much and know what a history making night that was.”
But, he said, all wasn’t bad.
Councilman Larry Stec was the mayor 13 years ago when the city first purchased the Chase Bank building that now houses the new City Hall. Now as the city’s mayor pro tem, Stec was the man running Monday’s meeting in Peterson’s absence.
“How fitting it was for Larry Stec, the mayor when we purchased the building, to do the first council meeting in it,” Peterson said. “If there’s ever a guy deserving, it would be Mayor Pro Tem Larry Stec.”
Proving that his hospitalization hasn’t gotten the best of him, Peterson joked about watching Monday night’s council meeting on his in-room TV despite some audio difficulties that kept most of the viewing public from being able to hear the meeting.
“Yeah, I watched it on TV, but couldn’t hear a word that was said,” Peterson said. “It made me feel good to watch it on TV to see a new page in history opening up right in front of my eyes. Getting to see the new council chambers and how far we’ve come in just the past 3 or 4 years is great. We did this work as a team.”
In addition to being mayor, Peterson also is an assistant coach for the Roosevelt High School varsity hockey team. His sickness has caused him to be temporarily benched.
“We always tell the guys that there’s no excuse to miss a game and here I’ve missed two so far,” he said. “It’s not been easy.”
A Slow Recovery
This is Peterson’s second bout with pneumonia in the last couple years. The last time he had to be brought into the hospital in an ambulance. He was hospitalized then for about five days. This time, he said, he’s not sure how long he’ll be admitted.
“It’s going to be a slow process for me,” he said. “This time it’s worse because both of my lungs have some fluid in the bottom of them.”
Between breathing treatments, an oxygen hookup, steroids and other medication, he said, there’s been an improvement over the last couple days.
“I’m starting to feel a little better, but I’ll be honest, this one hit me kind of hard,” he said. “I’m not used to being down. This is tough to be sitting here.”
With another X-ray planned for Thursday, Peterson said, he’s remaining optimistic.
“I’m stable, so that’s a good thing,” he said.
Peterson said he doesn't know when he'll return to City Hall and has already begun canceling appointments set for as far out as mid-February.
From housekeeping to the nursing staff to the hospital restaurant, Peterson said, everything associated with his stay has been superb.
“I see the hard work everyone puts put in here around the clock,” he said. “This is a first-class hospital and it’s right here in Wyandotte. I would never go to another hospital because of the quality of the services I receive here. This is the type of services anyone gets here at Henry Ford Wyandotte. I can’t express enough the professionalism of the staff of this hospital.”
In addition to his family doctor, Peterson also praised the work of Drs. Kempaiah Gowda and Robert Pensler.
“Within 24 hours, I had seen all three doctors and they worked together to make a game plan for me,” he said. “The services I’ve received from these three doctors have been second to none.”
Getting Things Done
Not being a big TV watcher, Peterson said, his days have been spent with his cell pone in hand — handling both city and personal business. He said he has City Administrator Todd Drysdale on speed dial.
“Things are getting done, trust me," Peterson said. "That’s the luxury of having someone you trust and work with. I don’t worry about things because I know we’re in good hands. I know the city administrator has the best interests of this city. Whether I’m in the hospital or not, I know we’re in good hands with Todd Drysdale.”
An avid Facebook user, Peterson posted a message on his Facebook page Monday night.
It broke my heart to miss the first council meeting at 3200 Biddle, but this case of pneumonia landed me in Henry Ford Hospital is a tough one.
Since posting that, he’s had nearly 200 get-well wishes posted in response. Those are in addition to the calls and flowers he said he’s received.
“I knew I had supporters out there, but people letting me know they care is great,” he said. “I know the people know how much I care about the city. And now I want to let the people now know that I appreciate how much they care about me. … Now that I’m sick, it’s nice to know that they’re looking out after me.”
And if all of that wasn’t enough, the hospital’s order-when-you want-it restaurant, Henry’s on the River, knows how to turn typical hospital food into a fine dining experience, Peterson said.
“The hot turkey sandwich is great,” he said, with a smile. “It’s my favorite. And it comes with sherbet. My wife doesn’t even feed me sherbet.”