The day Willette received his nine-month prognosis, he drove to his local funeral home and made the arrangements for his service, picking out the casket and the songs he wanted played. A week later he started an experimental drug and followed with a couple rounds of chemotherapy. He returned in late 2014 for more chemo and was told he was finished. Willette thought his nine-month prognosis had finally come true.
But Willette’s cancer was in remission.
“My first day back to work I got to pick up a helicopter off the roof and I said, ‘Yeah, I’m back.’”
“I was ready to come back to work that day,” he said, before adding the doctor forced him to wait three months. “I came back Jan. 27, 2015. My first day back to work I got to pick up a helicopter off the roof and I said, ‘Yeah, I’m back.’”
To be sure, Willette isn’t excited to see trauma patients. But he’s thrilled that it’s his job to help bring patients back from the brink. He takes his role in the trauma golden hour – the critical first hour after traumatic injury to save a patient – seriously.
It probably makes sense that Willette thrives in the fast pace of the Regional One Health Elvis Presley Trauma Center. He’s a child of a Vietnam War veteran, and served in the U.S. Marines as a weapons specialist guarding nuclear weapons. After his military service, he worked on offshore oil rigs in Louisiana.
He later moved to Dyersburg, Tennessee, and worked as a mechanic. A nurse friend said he should go to EMT school. He fell in love with it and worked as an EMT while attending nursing school.
Oh, and when not living his role as Trauma Tommy, Willette works his Northwest Tennessee farm to relax.
He looks the part of former Marine, but Willette’s compassionate heart makes him the embodiment of what he believes it takes for nurses to succeed at Regional One Health.
“’Your Life. Our Passion,’ that’s not a catch phrase. You have to incorporate it into your heart and your mind,” he said. “You have to take ownership. That’s what sets us apart. I’m not one of these people who walks in and chit chats for five minutes with a patient. I get to know them. I tell new nurses to treat the patient but you also have to treat the family. They’re somewhere they don’t want to be. I treat everyone like they’re my family.”
Are you interested in joining Trauma Tommy and the nursing team at Regional One Health? Learn more about joining our A-Team nurses and view our open positions at RegionalOneHealth.org/Nurses.