Compassionate Care - When It Was Needed the Most

November 25, 2016

For a Spink County author, access to trauma care – and an understanding surgeon – made the difference when an unfortunate accident damaged his hand.

Richard Skorupski retired from the Navy after 21 years of service, worked in the recreational boating business in New Jersey and then retired again to South Dakota to write books about rural America. He was working in his wood shop in June 2016 when he had an accident with a radial arm saw.

“The piece of wood jumped, and it took my hand into the saw,” Skorupski says. “Fortunately, I only lost the pinkie on my left hand and scraped the knuckle of my fourth finger.”

After administering first aid and retrieving the missing digit, Skorupski and his wife called a nearby hospital. “They said all they could do was stop the bleeding
and send me somewhere else,” Skorupski says. “I called Huron Regional Medical Center, and they said, ‘We can take care of it here.’”

Straightforward, Excellent Care

Steven Branch, MD, PhD, a general and trauma surgeon with experience in treating many traumatic injuries, was the surgeon on-call at Huron Regional Medical Center when Skorupski arrived in the emergency department. “After we discussed his options, Richard decided to not reattach the pinkie as this would have lead to limited movement and a risk of infection,” Dr. Branch says. “Instead, I trimmed the exposed bone and enclosed the amputation.”

What stood out to Skorupski was the exceptional care he got from Dr. Branch. “Dr. Branch was very specific and cordial when he explained what he was going to do and why,” Skorupski says. “He was always friendly, upbeat and cheerful. I was talking with his nurse, and I mentioned that Dr. Branch must be pleasant to work with, although he must have his moments. She looked me square in the eye and said, ‘I haven’t seen one.’ That spoke volumes.”

Skorupski’s recovery went well, and although he is adjusting to the sensation of not having a pinkie, he is still able to do what he loves most – write. Skorupski is the author of several books about rural South Dakota, enjoyed by many, including Dr. Branch. “I just enjoy the heck out of rural America – it’s what I write about," Skorupski says. "You hear about the lack of medical care, but that shortage doesn’t exist in Huron, South Dakota. You don’t have people just punching a time clock. They care about patients and the people they work with. I’ve been to the emergency department three times, and it’s always rapid, compassionate care. You don’t get stuck waiting for hours, and the people there want to do the right thing.”

“I found out Richard was a writer in the process of caring for him,” Dr. Branch says. “He’s an insightful writer, and probably one of the best character writers I’ve ever read. I have enjoyed reading and discussing his books with him.”

For more information about Dr. Branch, visit Find a Doc. To schedule an appointment, call (605) 353-7660.

Steven Branch, MD, PhD (left) and author Richard Skorupski with the author’s books – the Flyover County series, which is set in South Dakota. Skorupski’s books are available at the Huron Public Library. For more information, visit