A Match Made in Medicine
On an early autumn morning in 2005 Dr. Terrell Joseph went down on one knee in the swaying basket of a hot air balloon. As the craft began to sail above Minturn the soon-to-be-local surgeon asked his terrified companion her hand in marriage.
"I told him to stop moving around in the basket," says Dr. Natalie Martin. "I don't know if the ring and the flowers helped my fear of heights but I did say yes."
The couple met four years earlier in their respective residency programs in New Orleans Dr. Joseph for orthopaedic surgery and Dr. Martin for emergency medicine. It was only weeks after Hurricane Katrina hit the city that the couple found themselves flying high and out of flood danger and they both agree that the perfect place to land was in Vail.
"It's a small town and a small community, says Dr. Martin. "It's a great place to work and a great place to raise children. Our other options would have meant staying in Louisiana and we love it there but we really feel like this is an unusually interesting and safe community to live in."
Here To Stay
They knew they wanted to move to Vail even before Katrina hit. Dr. Joseph spent three years here in the early '90s working as a raft guide and an emergency room tech at Vail Valley Medical Center.
"When Terrell first introduced the idea of Vail I remember it was Mardi Gras and I was a second-year resident in New Orleans", says Dr. Martin. "We were in a coffee shop before we went to a parade and he said his job options are Baton Rouge or Vail", and I said Vail.
And so Dr. Joseph took the job as a hand wrist and knee specialist at Vail-Summit Orthopaedics. He says the area brings in some of the most talented and driven people in the world and it is a unique pleasure to work with people who have such strong goals.
"The patients here are so exceptionally motivated, educated, worldly and happy",
he says. "This place is magical as far as the combination of the outdoor lifestyles and the quality of patients it makes what's in the next room really exciting.
From the Inner City to the Colorado Mountains
Both Dr. Martin and Dr. Joseph have seen a fair share of trauma but they say they have been glad to see injuries that are from skiing rather than violence.
"I worked in the inner city and there were a lot of gun shot wounds and car/pedestrian accidents in the middle of the night," says Dr. Joseph. "We really do have the luxury of not having much nighttime trauma here. It's those hours between midnight and six in the morning that can really test you in emergency medicine and orthopaedics."
Support from their colleagues and community also helps the couple to stay balanced and connected. Dr. Martin says Vail Valley Medical Center is a great work environment with outstanding colleagues.
"The hospital does a great job in preserving the continuity of care here, she says. "This is what keeps the standards of excellence so high."
Work And Play
Dr. Joseph says on a ski day Vail-Summit Orthopaedics he averages two to three operations, keeping his hours predictable and seasonal. As a doctor of emergency medicine at Vail Valley Medical Center Dr. Martin's hours are more varied, which they say helps them to balance work and family life. "My schedule affords a lot of days off in the summer, but the winter is of course very busy,"says Dr. Martin. "This time of year if we are both finished with work we will just come home and hot tub and Terrell and the kids have just built a big snow fort to play in."
Their kids 4-year-old Reece and 3-year-old Chloe are described as playful handfuls in their own right, Reece a fort builder and worm digger and Chloe a dancer and pink-loving princess. "They are very happy little kids, says Dr. Martin. "As long as they are happy that's all I care about."
She and her husband have created strong relationships in the valley through their involvement with their kids and their careers. "We have a lot of very good friends who we have met with kids, says Dr. Martin.
"Every year we have a big crawfish boil with a band and 200 to 300 pounds of crawfish. There are usually at least a hundred people who come and we try to invite the whole hospital community."
And when they're not fixing wounds healing hearts entertaining and building snow forts the doctors still somehow find time to get outside and play. In the winter she says she enjoys snowshoeing up the mountain while he'll hit the slopes for a few runs with friends.
"We are really active," says Dr. Martin. "We are always doing something and there is not a lot of lounge time."
Happily Ever After
The couple made stained-glass aspen leaves for their wedding guests and they also breed Labrador retriever puppies with their 7-year old lab Weezie. While nothing else would seem to fit on this family's packed plate the couple still makes time to appreciate one another.
"Natalie is a very grounded person" says Dr. Joseph. "I think she only really gets upset over things that are worthy of getting upset about. Maybe it's a part of seeing what she sees in the emergency room in that she keeps it all relative.
"He always keeps me on my feet," says Dr. Martin of her husband. "He is always doing something really off the wall and funny and his observations are very interesting. He is also my best travel partner in life because I think we have very similar interests and want to see and do the same things."
Any patient is in good hands under the watch of both these doctors but Joseph says it's a hard day for anyone who has to see he and his wife back-to-back. "If there's a patient that ever has to see Natalie and I in the same day that's just not a good day,"says Dr. Joseph.
Sure it wouldn't be a good day but on the flipside they can certainly turn the situation around for injured people.
"So many of the injuries in the Vail Valley are broken things in healthy people, says Dr. Joseph. "So I try to show them pretty quickly that this is fixable this is healable. It's a bump in the road and in the end it's going to workout and be fine."