Wife's path to recovery results in attorney promoting Mary Free Bed

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Martin Buschle at the offices of Rhoades McKee

LEGAL NEWS PHOTO BY CYNTHIA PRICE              

by Cynthia Price
Legal News

It is hard to imagine anything that would turn one’s world upside down quite as much as having a spouse become suddenly ill after elective surgery, nearly die, and wind up with both hands and both feet amputated.

The heart-rending turn of events happened to attorney Martin Buschle of Rhoades McKee in mid-2013 when his wife Pam developed sepsis.

“Pam was recuperating from the operation at home over the weekend when she got very sick,” Buschle says. “I took her to the emergency room Monday morning and we found out she was in severe septic shock. On Wednesday we were told she was going to die, and we had everyone there to say goodbye.

“But then she rallied, so they were able to treat her. In order to save her they used vasopressors, and that results in loss of blood flow to the peripherals, hands and feet.

“At first we thought it would just be fingers and toes. But then, I remember at one point I got a call from Mike Roth, Pam’s brother, saying they were going to do amputations at the mid-forearm... At first, I was very upset, but eventually I realized it was necessary.”

Roth, one of the attorneys who led the transition as Law Weathers joined with Varnum recently, is, coincidentally, Martin Buschle’s brother-in-law.

After the amputations and continuing recovery at Spectrum, the emotional roller-coaster took an amazing turn as the result of incredible work done by Mary Free Bed to rehabilitate Pam Buschle.

Not only was the rehabilitation hospital able to fit her with and train her how to use prosthetic limbs, the 125-year-old institution gave her support and encouragement that allowed her personally to turn the corner.

Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital is the fifth-largest free-standing rehab hospital in the U.S. Both for children and for adults, Mary Free Bed offers comprehensive services, including a Wheelchair and Adaptive Sports Department; at the same time, its exclusive focus allows the hospital to offer the best in rehabilitative care.

The new six-story hospital has 119 private patient rooms, and Mary Free Bed operates 100 inpatient rehabilitation beds in five Michigan locations.

“I really can’t say enough positive about what happened at Mary Free Bed. Without Mary Free Bed,  I’m absolutely sure that Pamela wouldn’t be where she is today,” Buschle says.

And where she is today is, to say the least, impressive. Pam Buschle has returned to work at her job as a social worker in Kentwood Schools, working three days a week. She is about to finish drivers’ training Her care necessitated a colostomy, which has since been reversed; she also has seen a return in kidney function from the time she spent in ICU.

“The people at May Free Bed literally without exception have been wonderful and committed,” he said.

That is why Buschle has joined the Mary Free Bed Community Engagement Committee to get the word out about events through which the hospital raises funds.

On June 6 there will be a Golf Outing for Wheelchair Sports at the Thousand Oaks Golf Club; and on June 16, also at Thousand Oaks, will be the Dave Mehney/John Capena Health Care Charity Dinner. To learn more visit www.maryfreebed.com/news-events/mary-free-bed-event-calendar/

At the same time, Buschle credits his wife herself with moving her recovery forward through her own courage, strength, and determination to thrive.

“We were just really astonished at how well she’s done. She’s cognitively intact, so she can continue her work helping Emotionally Impaired children, but even more impressive is her resiliency and her positive attitude. She just does not complain.”

The couple have three children: Kristina, who teaches at St. James Lutheran School in Chicago's Lincoln Park and has just started on her Master’s degree in special education at DePaul University; Anna, who teaches in Ada and Kentwood’s Early Advantage Program; and Billy, who just finished his junior year at University of Michigan pursuing a degree in industrial and operations engineering.

“Our kids are doing really well, and I’m very proud of them. Billy was just a freshman when he got the call to come home, and he immediately got mono on top of everything, but he’s still going to graduate on time,” Buschle comments. “We’re both extremely thrilled that our kids didn’t get thrown off track by this.”

There are photos of Pam Buschle’s path to recovery available at www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2014/12/health_checkup_sepsis_survivor.html.

Buschle met Pam Roth briefly after his parents moved to Alma when he was in high school, and she was a freshman. Their paths diverged as Buschle went to Western Michigan University Haworth College of Business, and Pamela went to University of Michigan, but later, as Buschle pursued his J.D. at Villanova University School of Law, they met again one summer she was in town.

The two married as soon as Buschle was gainfully employed. His first job out of law school was as a deputy district attorney in Bucks County,?Pa.; Pamela attended the University of Pennsylvania and worked at a psychiatric hospital in Philadelphia.

The two soon longed to come home.

Buschle’s first position back in Grand Rapids was with Cholette, Perkins and Buchanan. After ten years there, he worked briefly at a small firm in Cascade Township, Roberts, Betz, and Bloss, and then, in 2000, moved to Rhoades McKee.
That is a move he was glad to have made during his wife’s illness. “Rhoades McKee really stepped up,”?he says. “I didn’t come to work at all for four months — she wasn’t really out of the woods and I needed to be there. The firm rallied around me. My partners and associates essentially took over, and enabled me to take care of my wife and family while not losing my law practice. I owe a debt of gratitude to our administration and our executive committee, and everyone.”

Buschle concentrates on serious personal injury on both the plaintiff and defense sides, and on probate litigation, including will and trust disputes. He also serves as a case evaluator in several counties. A member of Michigan Defense Trial Counsel and the Association of Defense Trial Counsel, Buschle has served the community through Habitat for Humanity, the Cascadia Neighborhood Association, and Junior Achievement.

He adds that opposing colleagues were very kind during his family’s ordeal as well. “Nobody took advantage of the situation. It was heart-warming to know. I still get kind words from legal colleagues,” Buschle says.

If there is a silver lining possible in such a painful situation, Buschle thinks it might be finding out that the vast majority of people really are “good,” from his wife’s co-workers to his fellow lawyers to the caring folks at Mary Free Bed.
Comments Buschle, “Pam is looking to give meaning to this, so we’re exploring doing something greater than we probably thought we could do as a family.”

They are not sure what form that will take, though a recent experience helping a young woman from the Dominican Republic get a prosthetic arm may have pointed them in a fruitful direction. “We are hoping at some point in the future to perhaps start a foundation so kids in third world countries can get prosthetics. We have  some other ideas too, but we’re not sure where it will go or when it will happen,” Buschle says.