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‘Dr. George’ retires from Shawano emergency department

Vidalakis recalls highs, lows of 37-year career
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Leader Photo by Carol Ryczek Dr. George Vidalakis recently retired from ThedaCare Medical Center-Shawano, where he was the emergency department medical director. He is pictured with a display photos from his 37 years as an emergency room doctor.

Dr. George Vidalakis’ last day of work was a Saturday during the summer in the ThedaCare Medical Center-Shawano (TMC-Shawano) Emergency Department — one of the busiest emergency rooms among Wisconsin’s small, critical access hospitals.

He was busy.

Vidalakis, who retired June 27 after spending 37 years as an emergency department doctor in Shawano, thought it was a fitting way to end his career.

Born and raised in Joliet, Illinois, Vidalakis, or “Dr. George,” as many call him, attended medical school at Southern Illinois University and completed his family residency there.

He served as the emergency department medical director at TMC-Shawano, and the Shawano Ambulance Medical Director as well as serving on many committees including the credentials committee and medical executive committee. He was also very involved in several emergency department renovations and planning for when Shawano Medical Center became TMC-Shawano.

In retirement, Vidalakis said he plans to “dust off some hobbies” and visit family, including a grandchild later this year.

Both he and the practice of medicine were much different when he started, Vidalakis said.

“When I was younger — you work a lot more scared, waiting for the next patient to come in. You were getting to that point where you thought you couldn’t handle it, but there wasn’t just one patient like that. There were hundreds like that. You learned from that. You had to do it,” he said.

As he looked back on his career, he downplayed his impact and the role he played in saving lives in the emergency department. What he did was not about saving lives, he said, but “I did a couple of things, and they turned around.”

One of the most memorable cases was a local man who was trimming his bushes and was suddenly attacked by 20-30 ground bees.

“His blood pressure was almost down to zero,” Vidalakis recalled. “We brought him back. He was not transferred, so we were able to keep him in Shawano.” He said he ran into the patient later, who told him he was a lot more careful when cutting bushes, he said.

Another time, he said, a patient was clinically dead and resuscitated by emergency medical technicians (EMTs). The techniques used to care for that patient, both by the ambulance crew and in the emergency room, helped preserve his heart and brain and were eventually used in EMT training.

He may have underestimated how significant “a couple of things” turned out to be.