BROOKSVILLE — A patient with breathing problems was set up for an overnight sleep study, but he refused to go. He cared for his elderly mother and he said he could not be away from home for any period of time.
In stepped Robert Ingargiola.
The lead respiratory therapist at Brooksville Regional Hospital, Ingargiola arranged for the mother to accompany her son to the hospital. Ingargiola ordered a special chair for her and made her comfortable on arrival and throughout the stay.
"I could give you story after story like that,'' said Kathy Burke, the hospital's executive director. "Robert always goes above and beyond. He's a true patient advocate."
Ingargiola, named in December as the hospital's employee of the year, came to the attention of administrators at Health Management Associates of Naples, who operate Brooksville Regional and 57 others throughout the United States.
On Wednesday, president and chief executive officer Gary D. Newsome honored Ingargiola as HMA's Corporate Employee of the Year, selected tops from among the company's more than 33,000 caregivers and support staffers.
"It's great and it's awesome," said the 42-year-old Ingargiola, therapist at Brooksville Regional for the past eight years and a health care administrator all of his adult career.
With bachelor's and master's degrees in health care administration and public administration from St. John's University and C.W. Post University, both in New York state, his specialty in gerontology opened many doors to Ingargiola as a nursing home administrator.
He worked in that field for nearly seven years at various sites in several states, but he was not satisfied.
"I wanted to get into something of more quality, where I could work with people,'' he said. "I wanted to see what was going on clinically, for personal self-worth."
He attended St. Petersburg College and had an internship at Spring Hill Regional Hospital to earn certification as a respiratory therapist.
At Brooksville Regional, Ingargiola coordinates the cardio-pulmonary department, directs the blood gas lab, performs in-patient and out-patient pulmonary and bronchoscopy procedures, works the floor doing respiratory therapy and responds to code blue — life threatening — emergencies.
"When I interact with patients, I like to educate (them), explain to them what I'm doing and the benefits, so they're well aware," he said.
"Most patients I see, they appreciate me. It's a positive result when they come back to Brooksville Regional as their hospital of choice, for the attention and compassion."
Ingargiola draws his philosophy from Olympic track and field star Gail Devers. He quoted: "Keep your dreams alive to achieve anything (with) faith and belief in yourself, vision, hard work and then dedication. Remember, all things are possible.
"That gives me the drive and determination to do what I do,'' he said.
Ingargiola praised his wife of 24 years, Mary-Ann, for standing by him in his many career moves before their longer-term tenure in Hernando County. Their son, Matthew, 17, is a senior at Springstead High School.
Burke, the hospital's executive director, wanted to share another story about Ingargiola's attention to patients. She recalled a time when a patient's family descended on the hospital for a stay.
"He gave them blankets, bought things from the gift shop for them,'' she said, adding, "Our mantra is 'Care Beyond Medicine' and Robert emulates that. He is definitely one of our bright and shining stars."
Beth Gray can be contacted at email@example.com.