Incorporating family members into patient care is essential in the rehabilitation of patients at Madonna. Our staff understand the importance of family-centered care because, for a number of them, they work alongside their own family members. Madonna employs several husband-wife, mother-daughter and other relatives who bring the same compassion and care they have for their families at home to the families who rely on Madonna for their loved one’s recovery.
Meet Matt and Diane Ulmer, a husband and wife duo who together have contributed more than 25 years to Madonna. Matt is a physical therapist and Diane is the program manager for Madonna’s Spinal Cord Unit. The Ulmers met at Madonna and work within the same team of clinical experts who provide care for spinal cord patients. Together, they have grown in love for each other and for the work they do that impacts the countless families who have loved ones rehabilitating from serious injury or illness. Diane and Matt opened up about how they met, what it’s like working together and how Madonna has shaped their family for the better.
So, how did you two meet?
Diane: I started at Madonna before Matt. When I moved back to Nebraska from working at a rehab hospital in New Mexico I told my mom “Well, if I ever meet someone to marry, the Lord will have to have him sit next to me at church or next to me at work because I don’t know where else I would meet him.” A few years later His answer showed up.
Matt: I had been a student here, so when I was hired as a new grad, I began hanging out with a group of therapists that I had met as a student. Luckily for me, Diane was in that group.
What is it like working together?
M: We get this question a lot. The short answer: it’s really fun to see your wife in the halls, walking through the therapy gym and stopping by to see her at lunch! We have never known any different and I hope it stays this way for the rest of our careers! While we don’t have to interact regarding patients on a daily basis, knowing that she is involved with the same team and is able to meet and impact the same patients that I work with is a really fun aspect to our jobs.
D: I wouldn’t want it any other way. If you forget your purse you always have someone to buy you lunch! But seriously, what more could you ask for in a vocation than serving others alongside your spouse? I’m so proud of the work Matt does here and the impact he has on our patients and their recovery. Seeing the relationships he builds with patients and the Christmas cards we get as a result of the journey they tackled together is awesome. When I paged him overhead to tell him I left work because I was in labor with our third child and he needed to leave NOW too he said, “Can I finish this EKSO session first?” so he may never live that down! He always goes above and beyond for our patients and colleagues which makes keeping dinner warm a challenge most evenings but I know he is late for a great reason.
What made you both fall in love with the work Madonna does?
D: I fell in love with the work Madonna does because my grandma had a severe aneurysm rupture when I was in elementary school and she was my whole world. She did her rehab at Madonna and we drove an hour to Madonna every day after school to be with her. I did my homework in the lounge outside her room, then I helped feed her dinner and get ready for bed. We spent every weekend at Madonna participating in her therapy sessions until the day she came home. I decided in 5th grade I wanted to be an occupational therapist at Madonna because they gave me my grandma back.
M: I have always enjoyed working at Madonna in order to build relationships and encourage patients through a typically very difficult time in their lives. It’s important for me to be able to do as much as I can to help them physically, yet I truly enjoy helping them emotionally understand/accept their new abilities and how they will still have a very productive and happy life.
How does your relationship as a couple, and as coworkers, enhance the care your patients receive?
D: We are able to bounce ideas off of each other, share research articles we have read and combine our experience to think outside of the box about what could better help a patient or family overcome a particular challenge. We can more easily extend grace to each other when we are exhausted so that we can be ready to help again the next morning. I think the occasional silly story about our kids also provides some good comic relief for the patients as well!
M: We both care deeply for the outcomes of our patients. We both work with a passion to improve patient’s lives and see these roles as a calling, not just a job. We are able to see the dedication that we each put into our roles and want each other and our patients to be as successful as possible.
How has working at Madonna strengthened your marriage?
M: The best way to say this is that after working at Madonna we should not take any day for granted. We should love each other, help each other and encourage each other day in and day out, because life can change in an instant. We are able to see first-hand the power of marriage and how one spouse will drop everything and do anything they can to meet the needs of their spouse who is recovering. I challenge myself to respond in the same loving way as we encounter any challenges through the rest of our marriage.
D: Matt said it best. The only thing I would add is that I think if everyone really understood the difference their spouse made in others’ lives every day like I get to do that they would love them even more.