Opportunity or Obstacle... You Choose!

PHOTO BY Molly Kendrick
PHOTO BY Molly Kendrick

Opportunity or Obstacle... You Choose!

Life is full of challenges. We can see some of them coming and therefore steady ourselves as we prepare for the impact. However, some of them show up out of nowhere, surprising us with no rhyme or reason, offering us a choice. On some level, we may actually seek challenges. We want to learn and grow, and it seems life’s most effective tool for growth appears in the form of our experiences. But with these, what do we co-create with that reality? What awareness do we develop because of it? What glimpse of our highest self does this give us? Dr. Wayne Dyer shares, “With everything that has happened to you, you can either feel sorry for yourself or treat what has happened as a gift. Everything is either an opportunity to grow or an obstacle to keep you from growing. You get to choose.”

Dr. Kyle Groom was born in 1969 in Texarkana, Texas, to Lynda and Don Groom. Don worked as an electrician in air conditioning and refrigeration and as a maintenance man at a local paper mill. Lynda was a stay-at-home mom. “Dad worked a lot, so I spent quite a bit of time with my mom and both sets of my grandparents when I was young,” said Groom. “Both grandfathers had been farmers, so I loved to spend time with them. They both were retired and took the time to teach me a lot.” His great-aunt, Mary, also lived with them. She was a retired registered surgical scrub nurse who also taught nursing. She was widowed and had no living children of her own. “She always encouraged me to pursue my dreams.”

Groom’s family lived in Texarkana until they purchased land from his grandparents and moved to DeKalb, Texas, his sophomore year of high school. “I loved being in DeKalb because all my friends and family were there,” he says. “I was an average student. I enjoyed football and Taekwondo.” At age 15, he met Leann Barrett at a high school basketball game. “She struck me immediately as beautiful and easy to talk to,” but he did not see her again for two years. One night while out riding in his truck, he was stopped by some friends. Leann was in the other car and he asked her out on a date for the next weekend. The “rest is history” as they say, and they have been “inseparable” ever since. “We clicked immediately.” They married in 1993 and started their lives together. “She is my best friend, and we complement each other,” he said.

Dr. Kyle Groom submitted photo

After graduating high school in 1987, Groom began attending Texarkana College. While he loved biology and the outdoors, he initially wanted to become a wildlife biologist. Two friends encouraged him to test for the Wadley Regional Medical Center Radiologic Technology School to become an X-ray technician. He took the test and was accepted. After finishing the program, he got a job as an X-ray tech in Commerce, Texas. There he attended East Texas State University, receiving a bachelor’s degree in biology. He enjoyed his work in the hospital, and that enthusiasm inspired him to consider a career change. “I had the opportunity to work with a lot of good physicians,” Groom said, “and they encouraged me to pursue my dreams of becoming a physician. My family physician was an osteopathic physician, Dr. Alex Keller. He encouraged me to apply to osteopathic medical school. The difference between osteopathic and allopathic medicine is the holistic approach to patient care. We take care of the person and not just the disease process.” He applied and was accepted to The University of North Texas Health Science Center–Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine in Fort Worth, Texas, where he graduated as a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine in 1999.

On December 7, 2003, on his way home after a shift at Wadley Hospital, Groom was involved in a vehicle accident. He shares, “It was a miracle no one was killed. I was wearing a seatbelt and the air bag deployed, but I still hit the steering wheel, causing it to be deformed.” He initially refused to be taken to the hospital by ambulance but continued to be in pain, so Leann drove him to the emergency room. Once there, “Dr. McCrary ordered a CT scan, which showed a fractured sternum and multiple spots on my liver. The etiology of the liver lesions was unknown, so they did a liver protocol CT the next day. The lesions did not look benign, so they ordered a liver biopsy later in the week. The biopsy was performed and came back positive for carcinoid cancer. After the diagnosis was made and a thorough review of the CT scan was performed, the cancer was discovered in my distal small bowel and the right side of my colon. We met with Oncology, who reviewed the pathology and radiologic studies later that week. The prognosis that they gave me was not good. The doctor felt my disease was far too advanced and did not believe that treatment would be effective. It was recommended that I go back to work and try to make money for my family while I still could.” 

With this grim prognosis and without other options, his doctor referred him to MD Anderson in Houston, Texas, but he did not believe they would have much to offer Groom. “I had looked at the films,” Groom said, “and I had 13 different lesions on my liver, and as a physician myself, did not feel anything could be done. I was devastated! I had a wife and three young children and what would happen to them without me?” Exactly as they told him, he went back to work and tried to make money and preparations for his family. “I was in a dark place and felt hopeless. I went days without sleep.” Standing beside him the whole time, Leann never gave up and kept reassuring him, “Everything was going to be alright.” Groom remembers, “I prayed every day, and I prayed hard–sometimes all night. It wasn’t even that I was afraid of dying. I wanted to see my boys grow up and to be there for my family.” 

Just as he felt like he was hitting “rock bottom” and wanted to give up, he had a glimpse of hope. A family friend who knew the head of GI Surgery at MD Anderson called him about Groom’s case. Her husband had the same type of cancer Groom had. She set up an appointment for him the next week. “She then informed me of the appointment and told me to be there. It is good to have friends!” A short month later, Groom had surgery. They removed half his liver, half his colon and one-third of his small bowel. All the cancer that was visible was removed. Groom said, “It was rough for about six weeks. The doctor informed me that I was not cancer free, but he had given me time and that the disease could be treated. I have not slowed up since.”

Leann and Dr. Kyle Groom on their farm in DeKalb, Texas. photo by Molly Kendrick

Despite what some might have found to be an insurmountable challenge, Groom works hard to continue to spread his time and expertise evenly and tirelessly between three different places in service to his community. He opened DeKalb Physician’s Clinic because DeKalb was such an “underserved area.” He felt there was a genuine need for a clinic there. His practice involves a lot of preventative care and treating acute or chronic problems with established patients. “I enjoy visiting with my patients and being able to help people.” Not only does he desire that for his patients, but he also is committed to giving that to his staff. Kim Crumpton, his office manager at the clinic, shared, “Dr. Groom is a joy to work for. I have worked with him for 11 years. I have enjoyed working for him because he is willing to listen, always willing to help others, and he truly listens to his patients. He and Leann treat the employees like family. He has created a hometown team for hometown care.” Groom also is an owner of Texarkana Emergency Center and Hospital, where he provides emergent care for acute medical and surgical problems. Groom expressed his enjoyment of emergency care and “the fast pace and wide variety of conditions you get to treat. No day is ever the same in the emergency department.” Even though the settings are very different, he is committed to treating both “with a personal hometown touch.” 

Groom also serves as a partner for Mid-South Transitions Medical Group. They provide care to patients who are high risk after hospitalization for decompensation that could cause them to be readmitted or become ill again. They work with the patient’s physician and home health to make sure they get everything they need to succeed at home. Their staff provides care either in home or via telemedicine. This is a necessary service that helps the patient and decreases healthcare costs. Mid-South’s office manager, Lacy Engledowl, shared, “I enjoy listening to his stories from when he was younger... these stories always seem to portray a fun-loving personality that you don’t always get to know while working in an office together. One thing that stands out to me about Dr. Groom is that he seems really good at juggling all the many tasks he is responsible for. He is always very prompt about taking care of any patient or office needs we have for him.”

When he is not busy working, he finds his greatest joy spending time with his wife of 27 years and their three sons, Hunter (24), Kaden (22) and Tyler (18). He also enjoys hunting and fishing. “Any day outside is a great day,” he said. He also has land and agricultural interests he likes to pursue. 

Groom’s story is a beautiful illustration of what it truly means to face a challenge and make the choice to look outside of your own circumstance and continue serving those around you. Making it even more inspiring is the fact he did not just make this choice one time. He makes it every day. The cancer is not gone. The treatments did not stop. The pain did not go away. His wife Leann shares, “He is a fighter. He takes it day by day and lives each day to the fullest.” With that struggle and courage comes the gift of being able to walk into a room, take the hand of a patient and truly understand what it means to be where they are. It has made him a more compassionate physician who genuinely knows what it is like to be ill. Groom is a true warrior choosing to overcome every day. Cindy Young said, “He is the toughest person I know. I am honored to know him.”

Wouldn’t we all, while facing any health challenge, want to be taken care of by someone who has been in our shoes, who has felt the fear, had the questions, and prayed their way through to a new reality? Dr. Kyle Groom now lives life inspired by the words of a preacher friend of his, Austin Battiest, “The only thing you get to leave this world with is Jesus and love. Everything else stays here!” More than ever, Groom faces each day as it comes, with all the good and bad, knowing that “the Lord is in control.”


 

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