Father-Daughter: Waiting for the Call

Mark Perry takes care of the buildings across the academic campus. His daughter, Marlena Gainey cares for patients at the Coleman Center for Women at IU Health’s University Hospital. Their jobs rely on answering calls to help others. But there was one call that was answered to help them – it was a call for a transplant.

On any given day, Mark Perry can answer numerous calls for maintenance at buildings throughout the IUPUI campus. One minute he can be on the roof repairing a leak; the next he can be in the basement working on a stranded elevator.

His daughter, Marlena Gainey’s job is to make sure her patients at the Coleman Center for Women are receiving topnotch care. It’s not unusual for her to triage calls and answer patient questions.

“We’re both putting out fires,” said Gainey, who has been a nurse at IU Health for seven years and serves as the nurse manager for the Coleman Center. She was introduced to the academic campus when she began her undergraduate degree at IUPUI and rode to work with her dad. She later went on to get her masters also at IUPUI.

“We’d meet for lunch at Cavanaugh Hall,” said Perry, who has worked maintaining the campus for 16 years.  He’s done a little bit of everything from working on air compressors and pumps to repairs in the Neuroscience Building, the Research Technology Center and everywhere in between.

“The campus has really grown a lot over the years. We never know where we’re going from one day to the next,” said Perry, who turns 63 next month.

But there’s one building that he hadn’t been into – Methodist Hospital.

That changed two years ago. Like his daughter, Perry is an avid bike rider. One day after a leisurely ride, he began to feel extra tired and was out of breath. He was also losing weight. A medical check-up revealed Perry had Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IBF). The lung disease results in scarring (fibrosis) of the lungs. Over time, the scarring made it more difficult for Perry to breath. Eventually he was on oxygen around the clock and was chosen as a viable candidate for a lung transplant.

“I’m a daddy’s girl. Everyone says we look alike and have the same mannerisms. They say our compassion for others is the same. We want to help people. “It was hard to see him as a patient,” said Gainey. She and her husband bought her childhood home and her parents built a home next door so they could be close to their three grandchildren – ages 13, 10 and 8.

With Gainey at his side, Perry began the transplant process in February 2016 with screenings, and workups. At 3:30 a.m. six months later Perry got the phone call that they all had been waiting for.

“I didn’t sleep at all that night. I just felt like something was going to happen – that we were going get the call. It was almost like when you get the call that a mother’s water breaks and a new baby is on the way,” said Gainey.

In fact, this was her dad’s chance at new life.

On August 11, 2016 Perry underwent surgery for a bilateral lung transplant. He was in the hospital for nine days and during that time, his daughter made frequent trips from University Hospital to Methodist.

“I was mostly the medical translator and making sure I knew what was going on.  I’ve been a nurse for a while but this was a part of the body I didn’t know,” said Gainey. Perry’s wife Linda was his main caretaker, and Gainey was his advocate.

“It really opened my eyes. If patients don’t have a family member in the health field there is so much they don’t know and understand,” said Gainey. “We’d leave and they’d ask more questions. It made me realize that we need to explain to patients in a way they understand and we need to explain it over and over. Patient education is important.

“I’ve always wanted to treat every patient like I would my family member and having a family member as a patient you hope the other staff feels the same. I wanted to be an advocate as a nurse and a daughter to make sure he got the best care, and he did,” said Gainey.

Since his transplant surgery, Perry says he feels fantastic. He returns to Methodist Hospital every three months for lab work and a general check up but otherwise he said he’s never felt better.

“I’m grateful to be alive. It’s awesome be able to spend time watching my grandkids grow up,” said Perry.

And his goals?

His wife recently bought him a new bike and with Gainey’s help he’s working his way up to a 160-mile cross-state bike ride.

— By T.J. Banes, Associate Senior Journalist at IU Health.
   Reach Banes via email at
 T.J. Banes or on Twitter @tjbanes.

Music – Universal Language For Patients

Admitted to IU Health University Hospital for treatment of Acute Myeloid Leukemia, Mike Palm discovered a special way to relate to fellow patients – his music.

The sterile hospital room is more than two hours from Mike Palm’s Starke County home. He’d prefer to be sitting on the front porch, strumming his guitar, and watching the wild turkeys and coyote roaming his 110-acre homestead. But on a recent weekday, he lifted his glossy acoustic with the tortoise shell pick guard and began strumming a tune that rang throughout the fifth floor bone marrow transplant unit of University Hospital.

The music quickly captured the attention of patients and caregivers.

“The patients came out of their rooms to listen and before long we had a jam session at the nurse’s station,” said Emily Caudill, a board-certified music therapist with CompleteLife Program at IU Health Simon Cancer Center. She joined on fiddle, and Juan Ferres, spouse of another patient, joined in on drums.

When he knew he was going to be in a hospital 138 miles from home, Mike Palm said he knew he’d have to have his guitar. He was first diagnosed last September with Acute Myeloid Leukemia, a cancer of the myeloid blood cells characterized by rapid growth of abnormal cells. He recently underwent a stem cell transplant and hopes he’s on the road to recovery.

And for a few minutes, his music takes him away from the fear and anxiety of his disease. It helps him cope with missing his country home – hunting and horseback riding, and his family – his wife Toni, son and two daughters. And it helps him connect with other patients.   

“I hadn’t been here long at all when I met another guy who had a guitar,” said Palm. Sometimes when he wakes up for 3 a.m. blood draws he says he’ll just grab his guitar and stay awake. He loves to sing along to a variety of tunes ranging from Janis Joplin’s “Me and Bobby McGee,” to Gordon Lightfoot’s “Early Morning Rain.”

The funny thing is, Palm, who is 63, didn’t learn to play guitar until he was in his 30s.

“I guess it’s like everything else you set your mind to – whether it’s beating a disease or learning to play an instrument – you just do it,” said Palm. “I was 38 and it was one of the best decisions I made to take lessons. Every day I’d walk by my guitar and I’d pick it up and practice my cords. I’m so glad I stuck with it. Music is a universal language. It’s introduced me to other patients and it’s doing everything to help me with my healing.”

— By T.J. Banes, Associate Senior Journalist at IU Health.
   Reach Banes via email at
 T.J. Banes or on Twitter @tjbanes.

Kidney Transplant Patient Counsels Campers

A year ago Joy Araujo received her second kidney transplant. She says she feels stronger than ever and recently dedicated a week as a camp counselor at Kidney Camp, attended by youths 8-18 with kidney disease.

She wears a sash around her waist that reads “Miss Indiana International” but behind that strip of cloth, Joy Araujo is like all the other participants at Kidney Camp.

Araujo recently served as a counselor at the camp sponsored by the National Kidney Foundation of Indiana. During the week at Camp Tecumseh near Brookston, Ind. she spoke to the 35 “kidney warriors” about “Dreaming Big.” She wore her sash to illustrate her message: “However I felt, I never stopped dreaming big.”

Founder of the non-profit organization, Donor Appreciation Network, that recognizes living kidney donors, Araujo was on dialysis 11 hours a day before receiving her second kidney transplant last year. All the while, she worked diligently to prepare for pageant competitions where she focused on conveying the message about the importance of living kidney donors.  

“You are all resilient. So, if you too, have a dream, you too can bounce back from any obstacle, despite any low that comes your way in life. Maybe you love music, writing or sports; maybe you dream of going to college – you all are resilient,” she told the campers.

Like the campers, Araujo was diagnosed with kidney disease at an early age. She was preparing to leave for the Miss U.S. International competition last year when she got the call that she was getting a new kidney. Dr. William Goggins at University Hospital performed her transplant surgery.  At camp, Araujo joined dozens of volunteers and counselors – many from the nephrology department at Riley Hospital for Children – who helped children with kidney disease be – well, just kids.

For five days Araujo joined the campers hanging out in their cabins, creating boats and racing in a regatta, zip lining and horseback riding.

“These children are super inspirational, as they fight kidney disease every day at such a young age and remain resilient, strong, and positive. Every time I come to Kidney Camp, I try to bottle up their energy and keep it with me for rainy days during my own fight. Kidney disease is hard, but with a healthy dose of positivity, one can still dream big,” said Araujo.

For her own dreams, Araujo, who has maintained a 4.0 grade point average, hopes to finish her degree in Biblical Studies at Anderson University. Next month she will compete in the Miss International pageant in Charleston, W.V. where she will continue promoting the Donor Appreciation Network.

— By T.J. Banes, Associate Senior Journalist at IU Health.
   Reach Banes via email at
 T.J. Banes or on Twitter @tjbanes.

Rev Proceeds to Fund Expansion of IU Health Trauma System

Crystal Miller, chief philanthropy officer of Indiana University Health, announced that proceeds from this year’s Rev will allow further expansion of the IU Health trauma system to reach more patients in Indiana and ensure better care.

Attendees of Rev, one of Indianapolis’ top annual fundraising events, were invited to vote on proposals for how the funds would be used. 

The winning proposal, titled 911: Access Trauma, will:

  • Provide specialized trauma education to more prehospital providers, including critical care nurses and paramedics, and support continuing education for physicians, surgeons and nurses
  • Improve the exchange of patient medical records among providers
  • Buy a new ambulance for the IU Health South Central Region to fill transportation gaps in that part of the state
  • Implement a new telecommunications system in the IU Health Transfer Center, which receives about 500 calls per day requesting patient moves
  • Create a statewide database to track trauma care across all IU Health facilities
  • Provide outpatient resources and injury prevention initiatives.

“This gift will ensure that no matter where you are in Indiana, you can access IU Health trauma care,” said Melissa Hockaday, service line director for trauma and acute care surgery at IU Health. “The IU Health system is the best in the state, but like any complex system, it can always be improved.” Hockaday submitted the winning application.

“The IU Health Foundation is honored to provide Rev proceeds for this important work,” said Miller. “Not only will this gift improve patient outcomes, it will help IU Health continue to find ways to refine its already excellent trauma care. We are grateful to Rev donors and guests who have joined us to support this exciting project.”    

Rev, which took place at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 5, is the signature event for IU Health Foundation. Rev proceeds support IU Health trauma and critical care programs statewide. 

To learn more about the IU Health Foundation—and how you can contribute to expand critical care at the IU Health hospital near you—visit iuhealthfoundation.org.

Career Acquisition: He Went From Investment Banker To Cardiovascular Surgeon

The idea was to not do what his parents did. That was the master plan. No medicine. No patients. No hospitals.

Joel Samson Corvera grew up with a mom who practiced internal medicine and a dad who was an orthopedic surgeon. All his friends’ parent were doctors – a community of people from the Philippines who had come to the United States in the 1960s to get medical training.

“That’s what I grew up with —  two doctors in the family – I couldn’t fake being sick,” says Dr. Corvera, an aortic and cardiovascular surgeon at IU Health Methodist Hospital. “Doctors all around.”

And so, Dr. Corvera had it all figured out. He would blaze his own trail, despite his parents’ hopes that he or one of his two siblings might go into medicine.

No. He would be an investment banker on Madison Avenue in New York City.

The day he graduated from college, his dad said to him, just once more: “Hey, you can still go to medical school if you want.”

Dr. Corvera politely declined and joined a company doing mergers and acquisitions. He made $20,000 a year with the incentive of monstrous bonuses. Those bonuses were to come once a month, whenever a deal was closed.

But it happened to be the early 1990s when the merger market went from gangbusters to zero, says Dr. Corvera.

And he never — not one time in the nine months he worked as an investment banker — saw a bonus.

“We closed no deals,” says Dr. Corvera. “Not one. We had nothing.”

And so, the phone call had to be made. A humbling phone call. His dad picked up the line.

“How’s that medical school idea, dad? Is that deal still good?” Dr. Corvera asked him.

The answer from his father was yes.

Dr. Corvera started on a path to a new career acquisition. It was nothing at all like the one he was in, but it was where he ultimately realized he should be.

“I found out very early that my personality did not fit the mergers and acquisitions scene,” says Dr. Corvera, who came to IU Health in 2009. “I realized what I really wanted to do was help people.”

Just like his parents did.

As an aortic and cardiovascular surgeon, Dr. Corvera does a lot of aneurysm work. He gets to build long-term relationships with his patients.

Most who come to see him are very sick and in need of surgery.

“You’re dealing with life and death kind of stuff a lot,” he says. “The whole point is you’re trying to help. And I love the relationships that I form with my patients.” 

More with Dr. Corvera

Personal: He is married to Mary Lester, M.D., a plastic surgeon at Methodist who specializes in breast reconstruction after cancer. They met during their general surgery residencies and have two children, a boy and a girl.

Outside of Methodist: Dr. Corvera loves spending time with his family and trying different restaurants with his wife.

Bonus fact: At one point, when the hospital tracked minutes in the operating room, Dr. Corvera was No. 1 on that list. A short surgery for him is six to eight hours, with some surgeries lasting as long as 16 hours.

What he likes about his specialty: “It’s technically demanding. The operations tend to be long and complicated. And it’s so rewarding when people do well.”

Read more about Dr. Lester’s story here.

— By Dana Benbow, Senior Journalist at IU Health.
   Reach Benbow via email dbenbow@iuhealth.org or on Twitter @danabenbow.

Rev Event Funds Life-or-Death Machine

A small machine—funded by proceeds from Rev—has been making a big difference for critical care patients.

A thromboelastographic machine (TEG) rapidly analyzes a small blood sample to measure a patient’s ability to clot. When treating patients who have lost (or are losing) a lot of blood, doctors and nurses need to know exactly how a patient’s body will react.

Ashley McPheron knows a TEG machine was crucial to her survival. McPheron arrived at Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital after a terrible car wreck; she was a passenger, and the driver died. Doctors were not sure she would survive. (Watch Ashley’s dramatic story.) 

“We were able to give Ashley exactly what her body needed, no more, no less,” said Jill Castor, RN and manager of trauma services at IU Health Methodist. “When you have sick patients like Ashley who have a lot of issues going on, being able to run this TEG means a matter of life and death.” Normally, a TEG is used on a patient in the first 15 minutes after they arrive in the trauma center. For McPheron, the TEG was used during multiple surgeries and the administration of various blood products. 

McPheron was an extreme case because of the severity of her injuries, but Castor points out that TEG machines are important to all critical care patients. “We average 87 high level activation traumas per month,” she said. “That means more than 1,000 patients every year are treated more effectively.”

Rev, which takes place at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway every May, is the signature event for IU Health Foundation. Rev proceeds support IU Health trauma and critical care programs statewide, often by funding equipment like TEG machines. 

For information on how you can support critical care or address healthcare issues in your own community, visit iuhealthfoundation.org. And mark your calendars for next year’s Rev on May 4, 2019!

Methodist Earns Highest Level of Care for Critically Ill Moms

Methodist is a Level IV Perinatal Center, the highest level center there is, meaning it is equipped to treat intensely sick pregnant women. In turn, Methodist helps a whole lot of healthy babies come into this world.

Inside the rooms of IU Health Methodist Hospital, the gentle coos of newborn babies and the sweet cries, too, can be heard.

Many are babies born to moms with acute conditions, critically ill mothers who have come to Methodist to get the highest level of care available.

Methodist is a Level IV Perinatal Center, meaning it is trained with skilled staff — physicians, nurses, surgeons and more — to treat intensely sick pregnant women.

And, in turn, Methodist helps healthy babies come into this world. 

To be a Level IV center, the highest level possible, Methodist boasts the following:

  • Capabilities and considerable experience in the care of the most complex and critically ill pregnant women throughout antepartum, intrapartum and postpartum care.
  • In addition to having ICU care onsite for obstetric patients, Methodist has a maternal–fetal medicine care team that has the expertise to assume responsibility for pregnant women and women in the postpartum period who are in critical condition or have complex medical conditions.
  • A maternal–fetal medicine team member with full privileges is available at all times for on‐site consultation and management.
  • The team is led by a board‐certified maternal–fetal medicine subspecialist with expertise in critical care obstetrics.
  • The director of obstetric services is a board‐certified maternal–fetal medicine subspecialist or a board‐certified obstetrician– gynecologist with expertise in critical care obstetrics.
  • In accepting maternal transports, the level of neonatal care required for an anticipated delivery and care of the baby is in place.

— By Dana Benbow, Senior Journalist at IU Health.

   Reach Benbow via email dbenbow@iuhealth.org or on Twitter @danabenbow.

Managing Back Pain Without Surgery

Marlene “Kay” Roesener’s pain from arthritis made her a perfect candidate for a spinal cord stimulator. She sought treatment with Dr. Joshua R. Wellington at IU Health’s Advanced Pain Therapies Clinic.

Marlene “Kay” Roesener had once enjoyed sitting on the bleachers watching her grandchildren’s ball games, sailing on the open water, gardening and golfing. But over time, every day pleasures became painful tasks. She was diagnosed with scoliosis and Parkinson’s disease and developed arthritis in her back.

“We like to go to Florida but even walking in the sand was difficult. Swinging a gulf club was painful,” said Roesener, 75, who is married to Ed Roesener. “Back surgery wasn’t really an option because the arthritis had caused deterioration of my bones.”

When she first sought treatment with Dr. Joshua R. Wellington at IU Health’s Advanced Pain Therapies Clinic, she described the discomfort at a level “8” on a scale of 1-10.

“I had a family history of arthritis and the pain was so severe that I wasn’t enjoying the things I love to do,” said Roesener. “Now I tell people, there are options to help control that pain and it doesn’t have to be pain meds or major surgery. I feel so much better.”

Spinal cord stimulation became a viable option and Roesener was an ideal candidate. Essentially spinal cord stimulation therapy uses electrical pulses to block pain signals before they reach the brain. It involves passing special insulated wires, called leads, into the spine and attaching them to a small electrical stimulation device implanted in the lower back.

The cutting edge procedure is a two-step process. The first step involves placing trial electrodes into the epidural space of the spine. This allows the pain signals to be blocked with electricity. The trial typically lasts about a week and allows the patient to feel the level of pain relief, gain functional improvement and assess the overall changes in quality of life. If the trial is a success then the temporary electrodes (leads) are removed, and permanent electrodes and a battery are implanted soon after, just under the skin in the small of the back.  

“The trial placement of the leads is not a surgery. It’s a try it before you buy it type of procedure. It’s one of the few types of procedures in medicine that you can try out to see how it works, “ said Dr. Wellington, who teaches the procedure to physicians across the country. “You can’t do that with back surgery.”

Once the success of the trial is determined, the permanent electrodes along with a battery pack are placed just under the skin in the small of the back.

More about the procedure:

Who is the right candidate for spinal cord stimulation: Patients with chronic back and leg pain who have had failed back surgeries or who want to avoid surgery and continued pain medication. Patients undergo psychological evaluations and trial procedures before the final implantation of the device.

How long does the procedure take to complete: 

The procedure is typically performed in a hospital or clinic outpatient setting with a local anesthetic used to numb the skin around the lower back area. The trial usually takes about 30 minutes and the implant takes about 1-2 hours.

How long do the implanted electrodes last? 

Other than replacing the batteries in the simulation device (about every 10 years), the electrodes can last a lifetime.  Patients schedule annual check ups to evaluate the success of the procedure and pain levels.

— T.J. Banes, tfender1@iuhealth.org

Transplant Patient: Waiting For The Call

Diagnosed with Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) Kristeen Lynn Reeves is spending her days focusing on her three daughters and two grandsons – not venturing far from home, she waits for the call telling her she has a kidney donor.

A picture of a toe-headed toddler includes the words: “I never thought I’d need a kidney donor.” Next to that weathered snapshot is a more recent picture of a woman – now in her 40s. It reads: “Yes, here I am needing a kidney donor.”

As a child, Kristeen Lynn Reeves never imagined she would be diagnosed with Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD). It’s a chronic, genetic disease that causes cysts to grow on the kidney – eventually leading to kidney failure. Reeves was diagnosed in December of 2012.

“To my knowledge, no one in the family had PKD,” said Reeves. Her father died at the age of 36, diagnosed with melanoma and her mother died of a stroke at the age of 50. “Looking back I wonder if my mother had PKD because she had similar symptoms,” said Reeves, who was diagnosed after experiencing severe back pain.

Under the care of IU Health nephrologist Dr. Timothy E. Tabor and surgeon, Dr. William C. Goggins, Reeves began the process last August of preparing for a kidney transplant. “I’m trying to avoid dialysis. That’s one of my fears,” said Reeves, who was recently hospitalized to level out her potassium and calcium levels. 

Born in Connecticut and raised in Long Island, NY. Reeves moved to Indiana in 1989. She said until she became ill she was very social. At one point in her life she assisted with special needs students and eventually made a career in real estate brokerage.

These days, her illness has slowed her down. She doesn’t shop with friends like she’d like to and a Disney vacation has been put on hold. She and her husband, Mark are parents to three daughters – the youngest graduates from high school this year. She also has two grandsons that she enjoys spending time with.

“I have days I get depressed because I can’t do the things I want to do,” said Reeves. “I know I need to be patient while I wait for a kidney donor but it’s hard.” Her daughter set up a page for her on Facebook and her husband is working toward accomplishing health goals in hopes of being a donor, but otherwise, Reeves said she is hoping for a miracle.

“At times you forget the way things used to be. I always hosted big family dinners and was the one that others depended on – now I depend on them,” said Reeves. “I’m just waiting for a phone call, hoping for a donor so I can enjoy watching my grandkids grow up.”

— By T.J. Banes, Associate Senior Journalist at IU Health.
   Reach Banes via email at
 T.J. Banes or on Twitter @tjbanes.

Ideas to Make Rainy Days Fun

After months of cabin fever, spring is the season to enjoy being outdoors again. It’s also a time of year when rain can keep families and children indoors. Using some creativity and forethought, parents can devise ways for children to keep busy and stay active without resorting to what can often be the indoor default—screen time. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than one to two hours of screen time each day for grade school children and also advises setting limits for older children and adolescents. This reinforces the need to find alternate activities for kids when weather prohibits outdoor play. Here are a few suggestions:
 

Set up activity stations. Assemble several stations or activity corners throughout your home for kids to enjoy. The possibilities are endless, but some ideas for activity stations include bouncing on an indoor trampoline, dancing to music, completing a puzzle or craft, building with blocks or Legos, or reading a short story. Set a timer for five to 10 minutes, signaling when it’s time for kids to rotate to the next station. 

Build a fort or design an obstacle course. Get out blankets and pillows, throw the couch cushions on the floor and help your kids build the world’s greatest indoor fort. Celebrate your accomplishment by sharing a healthy lunch or enjoying afternoon story time under the canopy. Building an indoor obstacle course is also a great way to keep kids moving on rainy days.
 

Turn on some tunes for a dance party. Dancing is an excellent form of exercise for children and adults and a great indoor activity for the whole family.
 

Don’t give up on Mother Nature. If rain is gentle and the weather’s not threatening, consider letting children put on their rain boots and stomp around in puddles or play in the rain. They’ll appreciate the chance to run off some steam and enjoy the fresh spring air. Unless it’s too windy or cold, the family also can take a short walk in light rain. 
 

Get creative. Drawing, coloring, painting and sculpting are worthwhile indoor activities that allow children to use their imagination and explore their creativity. If your family enjoys cooking, spend a rainy day whipping up a healthy meal or snack.

With some planning and “thinking outside the box,” you can turn rainy days into fun days for the whole family.

Holly Smith, MD, specializes in family medicine. She is a guest columnist located at IU Health Physicians Primary Care-Anson and can be reached by calling the office at 317.768.6000.