Indiana has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the United States, and a group of experts in the state across many fields are working together to address this complex issue.
Maternal mortality is defined as the death of a person during pregnancy or up to one-year post-partum that is due to a cause related to or made worse by the pregnancy. Among states that report data, Indiana ranks 3rd worst for maternal mortality.
Because of this high ranking, Indiana created the Maternal Mortality Review Committee (MMRC) in 2018. The MMRC includes physicians, social workers, psychologists, nurses, and others. This diverse group of people brings different perspectives to case reviews.
What Causes Indiana’s Low Ranking?
Why maternal mortality is particularly challenging in Indiana is a difficult question. But the diverse perspectives have allowed the MMRC to zero in on some specific issues and create recommendations that could decrease those figures. Dr. Caroline Rouse, a maternal fetal medicine physician at Riley’s Children Hospital and member of the MMRC shared several:
Early pregnancy care: The MMRC data from the last couple of years has shown there are higher percentages of patients who did not have access to early pregnancy care that results in maternal mortality, she said.
Prenatal care deserts: Counties that do not have a delivery hospital or any prenatal care providers result in a higher rate of maternal mortality based on the number of people in those counties. If a patient cannot access care, they are not able to see a provider that will help identify risk factors in their history, Rouse said. If the providers in the county are not familiar with working with pregnant or post-partum people, this increases the risk of complications that could occur. Rouse said they are seeing this happening.
Racial and ethnic disparities in health care: “People’s racialized experience in medicine impacts how they access care, whether or not they access care, how they experience the care they get, what they do with the care they get,” Rouse said. It is important to be mindful – even within this general devastating category of maternal mortality—there are some communities that are much more affected than others, she said. It is an important factor as well in searching for answers and ways to decrease mortality.
What Should Someone Who is Pregnant Know?
Dr. Rouse emphasized that “advocating for yourself and feeling comfortable bringing up concerns” is the first step.
Pregnancy is an anxiety-provoking time for a lot of people. Most of the time, concerns that people are feeling end up just being part of normal pregnancy – but sometimes it’s not. With that said, it is important for pregnant people to work with their care provider to be honest about things that are happening and concerns they have.
By IU Health Senior Journalist, T.J. Banes, email@example.com
In her younger years, Gabriella “Gabby” Hollman set up a makeshift classroom in her Fort Wayne, Ind. home and coaxed her sister to play “school.” Later, when she graduated from high school and headed to IU Bloomington, she set her sights on a career in the classroom.
During her senior year, Hollman, 25, had an opportunity to take that passion to Tanzania, East Africa as a student teacher. She spent three months teaching at a private school – students ages 12 to 16.
“I always looked up to my teachers. There was always something about the impact teaching had on others that drove me to the classroom,” said Hollman. Teaching in a far off place and experiencing a different culture, added to that impact, she said. “It helped me work better with students whose primary language was not English.”
Her three-month stint included volunteering at an animal shelter, experiencing a safari, and unexpectedly getting lost during a long hike and being rescued by local tribesmen.
As Hollman tells her story, her mother, Tiffany Hamill, sits beside her hospital bed in the transplant outpatient clinic at IU Health University Hospital.
Neither of them imagined that Hollman’s sojourn to a land more than 8,000 miles away would result in her near death – when she returned home to Indiana. But upon her return, she was so run down that she could barely enjoy her graduation party.
“I felt achy and feverish and went to bed early. The next day I had a 104 fever. It was my sister’s high school graduation and I ended up going to the hospital. If I hadn’t caught it when I did, I would have died,” said Hollman.
What she “caught” was malaria, a serious disease caused by a parasite that commonly infects certain types of mosquitos.
According to the World Health Organization, there were about 227 million cases reported worldwide, the year Hollman was infected. The estimated number of deaths were 627,000. The organization reports four African countries accounted for just over half of all malaria deaths worldwide. The United Republic of Tanzania was one of those countries.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) outlines the various choices of anti-malaria drugs. The CDC includes the most effective medications based on the length of travel and other conditions such as age and if a traveler is pregnant. While kidney damage is considered rare with anti-viral medications; there are warnings that some of the drugs can lead to renal complications.
After going to her local hospital ER on June 2, 2019, Hollman was admitted to intensive care. She had developed disseminated intravascular coagulation syndrome (DIC), her heart was surrounded by fluid, her kidneys, liver and spleen were failing, and her lungs were filling with fluid. Blood tests revealed that her body was also not responding to the malaria medication.
“A special request was made to the CDC to open its ‘vault’ and fly in a medication that was not FDA approved in the US, but used widely in areas of the world where Malaria exists,” said her mom. A pharmacist met the plane at an airport in Fort Wayne.
Hollman spent two weeks in the hospital near her hometown. When she left, her kidneys had failed and her body had deteriorated so badly that she was unable to walk, her mom relates in an online blog. During her final days in the hospital, the principal and vice principal of Fort Wayne’s Maple Creek Middle School came to the hospital to interview Hollman for a teaching position. She was hired as the school’s English teacher. Her dream of becoming a teacher came true and she was determined to give it her all in the classroom.
To prepare for the upcoming school year, she started dialysis three times a week, and began physical therapy to build her strength. Her first year in the classroom, she became known as, “Ms. Hollman” to her students. She was not without struggles. And then there were the challenges of a pandemic that caused delays for surgeries, such as transplant. Her mom relates that there were frequent hospitalizations, nausea, and low energy. In December 2019, she switched to home dialysis that helped free up her schedule somewhat and restored her energy.
“The irony of all of this is that I took Doxycycline, the medication that wasn’t as strong as the other that may have caused kidney failure. Then I get malaria which ultimately caused the kidney failure,” said Hollman.
A friend, who chose to remain anonymous, was tested and approved as a match for Hollman. Her blog shows pictures of her arriving on the IU Health Transplant unit at University Hospital. “Ms. Hollman” received a new kidney on May 18, 2022, in the care of IU Health surgeon, Dr. William Goggins. Back in her classroom, Hollman’s students wrote on her chalk board, “Kevin the Kidney.” From then on, her new organ was called, “Kevin” and her hospital room was filled with homemade cards from her students.
The day after transplant, Hollman’s mother wrote: “The doctor took a picture of Kevin. He’s a big healthy boy.” They continued to chronicle Hollman’s journey with photos of nurses helping her walk the hallway and leaving the hospital five days after surgery.
She’s spending the summer regaining her strength and working to put back on weight that she lost – enjoying banana cream pie ice cream in a waffle cone. For the time being she’ll remain in Indianapolis where she can be close to IU Health for her clinical visits.
“I think my clinic my experience with IU Health has been great,” said Hollman. “I really appreciate the nurses and all the attention they give to detail. And a bonus is they always know the best places to get ice cream.”
Caregivers throughout the state entered uncharted territory when it came to the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2022.
During the last COVID surge, patients were getting very sick, staff was overwhelmed, and ICU beds were at capacity.
For a rural facility with a 6-bed intensive care unit like IU Health Bedford Hospital, it created even more challenges.
But thanks to a special technique and a group of helping hands from IU Health Bloomington, the team at IU Health Bedford Hospital began to see some relief, and patients hospitalized with severe COVID cases are still alive today.
While June may be Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness month, IU Health makes it a yearlong focus working with patients who struggle with PTSD daily. It’s important to bring awareness to PTSD as many people suffer from this very treatable condition and don’t seek help due to the stigma surrounding mental health conditions.
Stigma is a negative attitude or disapproval of an individual or groups of people based on conditions that are perceived to be ‘deficiencies.’
Mental health disorders have a long -standing history of being stigmatized. Persons with depression are often stigmatized as being ‘lazy’ and ‘weak’ and those with anxiety disorders are often seen as ‘dramatic’, ‘hysterical’ or ‘crazy’. These misperceptions result in people not seeking help for mental health conditions and keeps them isolated.
It’s important to note that stigma is often the result of lack of education and awareness as well as fear. Stigma blames people for their mental health problems, even in the face of years of research that supports a connection between a person’s biology, psychology, and social environment.
How to Break the Stigma
Healthcare has been moving towards trauma informed care which recognizes the widespread impact of trauma and the signs and symptoms of trauma and PTSD. It seeks to understand and meet people where they are; it is compassionate and avoids judgment and harsh words or actions that could be re-traumatizing to an individual. In healthcare organizations, the practice needs to happen throughout every person in the organizations, not just the direct providers of healthcare.
Language is key to breaking down stigma. Words such as ‘crazy’, ‘lazy’, ‘junkie’, ‘schizo’, ‘nuts’ and ‘addict’ are harmful and hurtful. Use appropriate person first language such as ‘person with mental illness’, ‘person with PTSD’, ‘person with a substance use disorder’ or ‘person in recovery.’ Remind others of this when needed.
Education is key to breaking down stigma related to PTSD and other mental health issues. In organizations and in our personal lives, we can gently challenge our co-workers, friends and family when we hear inappropriate language or judgment related to people with PTSD, substance use disorders, and other mental health conditions. In the workplace, this could be related to staff burnout or stress. Creating a culture of awareness and feedback is critical to dismantling stigma.
You can also speak out and advocate for people with mental illness. Your local National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) chapter has several ways to help.
The National Center for PTSD has information and videos to help you understand the treatment options available and help you choose the treatment that’s right for you or a loved one.
If you or a loved one is in a crisis, there are resources available that can help:
Veterans Crisis Line 800.273.8255 (press 1)
National Sexual Assault Hotline 800.656.HOPE (4673)
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Helpline 800.950.NAMI (6264)
Nowadays, many residents of OKC suffer from pains in various parts of their body, the most common of them being back pain. As most people are doing office jobs or students are spending hours bent over their books or sitting in front of their laptops, back pain is becoming more common than ever. You should consult with a good Back doctor in OKC if you feel such pains. Though there is nothing to worry about them if taken care of at an early stage but if left unattended they could become worse over time. So, in this article, we are going to discuss precautions that you should take before matters go out of hand and signs when you should go to a back doctor. Chiropractor and acupuncture
Common reasons for your back pain
The most common reasons for back pain are ligament strains & muscle strains. The causes behind ligament strains could be obesity or bad posture, as both of these puts unwanted pressure on your back & makes it painful. More serious reasons for the pain could be fractured vertebrae & ruptured disc. Other reasons that could be possible are as follows:
When should you visit a back doctor in OKC?
We tend to neglect back pain a lot, thinking of it as a very light matter. Most of the time it doesn’t really create many problems but there are signs when you should consider seeing a doctor. Following are the signs when you should consider seeing a physician, chiropractor, or a physiatrist:
The pain lasts for a long time say more than 2 weeks & is constant.
It is leading to your weight loss
Interrupting your sleep
Interrupting your daily activities
The pain is spreading below your knees
Redness or swelling on the back
Numbness, Weakness, or tingling in the legs
Fracture, infection, or cancer that might be having an adverse effect on the spine
What are the benefits of going to a back doctor in OKC?
If you see the signs that are mentioned above you should seriously look into the matter. You should consult a chiropractor or a physician. There are also the following benefits of going to a Chiropractor:
Going to a Chiropractor could decrease your dependence on pain relievers
They can help you in reducing osteoarthritis symptoms
It is more affordable than expensive medicines or surgeries
The patients are highly satisfied with the treatment.
This treatment has the added benefit of correcting your posture
Many athletes consider this treatment as it enhances athletic performances
In this article, we tried to cover all the symptoms, causes & treatments that you could look into for your back pain. Back pains could hinder us from doing our day-to-day activities and we shouldn’t neglect them as they could turn out to be severe later on. It is necessary that a medical professionals should be sought out when necessary as they know what to do when things tend to go out of hand. Back pain specialist Oklahoma City
Elledge Chiropractic & Acupuncture
Address: 5715 N Western Ave #BOklahoma City OK 73118
Phone: (405) 858-2225
A tree is not just a tree when it is planted in honor of someone loved. That tree symbolizes a family’s strength and love, with sheltering guidance from above.
During the demolition of the legacy building at IU Health Frankfort in 2021, a tree stood in the path. A tree that had been dedicated to the memory of Harry Thompson Stout III, MD, a longtime physician in the Frankfort community.
Michele Tansey, RN, nursing supervisor, had worked with Stout for 31 years prior to his passing. She could not bear to see it torn down, so she had the tree moved to her property where it has taken up residence in a meadow with many other trees, living its best life.
This week, Stout’s children, Mark (wife Jamie), Anne (husband Tim), grandchildren and sister Susan joined IU Health Frankfort team members at the new Frankfort Hospital to dedicate a new tree in the memory of Harry Thompson Stout III.
Stout’s Frankfort legacy
Before the hospitalist discipline became commonplace, family doctors saw their own patients at the hospital. Tansey shares that since Stout saw the majority of the patients in town, he was often at the hospital doing his rounds bright and early, after office hours and on the weekends. She describes him as a tall and lanky man who took very big steps and had hard-to-read handwriting. He drove a yellow VW bug—a tall man in a little car.
“As a young nurse, he was a bit intimidating. I was shocked the first time he called me by my name,” shares Tansey. “He always got to know every person at the hospital. He was kind and generous.”
Stout also did home visits, often bringing patients and their spouse to the hospital himself when they needed inpatient care. He was also known to bring his patients to the hospital in a wheelchair from his office across the street.
“His wife Carol was a nurse, so he was always kind to the nurses, often thanking them for everything they did,” added Denise Scofield, RN, case manager, who joined the Frankfort hospital in 1977. Stout joined in 1978.
“Being a newer nurse, I would always start with ‘this might be a silly question,’ and he would always say there are no stupid questions,” recalls Sheena Kuyper, BSN, RN. “He listened to the nurses and spent a lot of time with us. Always mentoring.”
Like his father, Harry Thompson Stout II, he was a well-respected doctor and a leader in the community. The pair, along with a few other physicians had a practice located at 1305 S. Jackson St., the current home of the administrative office building of IU Health Frankfort. The difference, according to Tansey, is Harry (Stout II) was a big joker while Tom (Stout III) had a very dry sense of humor.
“He would order a glass of wine or beer for his patient which was shocking to the team. Stout felt it was part of the healing process if the patient was used to the drink and it wasn’t affecting the medical condition it would help them relax,” recalls Scofield. “Of course, patients used to stay longer. Times certainly have changed.”
“He was also the doctor who wanted to sit with his patients and learn about their life, asking “what do you do when you do what you want to’?” remembers Kuyper. “He considered himself the gatekeeper-– always kept track of his patients no matter where they were.”
In his free time, he loved his yard and was often seen cutting the grass and trimming trees. His children were married in his beautiful backyard full of trees.
There was also tragedy in his life, which often played out in the very place where he worked. Stout lost his wife to a brain tumor. When his son was in a tragic car accident, Stout had him moved to the Frankfort hospital for his final days, because no one could care for him like his father. When Stout was diagnosed with cancer, he closed his practice but continued to show up to the hospital until he could no longer.
“The closing of his practice was heart breaking,’ shares Scofield. “I will never forget the advice he gave me: Never stop working. Never take to the clicker, Denise.”
Stout passed away in October 2011. He was a graduate of Frankfort High School and Wabash College. He received his medical degree from the University of Louisville Medical School and completed his residency at the University of Alabama Birmingham.
“It was hard when he passed. It was like losing a member of your own family,” added Kuyper.
By Charlotte Stefanski, marketing associate, firstname.lastname@example.org
Since early spring, the United States has experienced a nationwide baby formula shortage, particularly of hypoallergenic varieties. The crisis has left store shelves empty and parents in need.
Two experts at IU Health North Hospital, Dr. Melissa Boling, a Riley pediatric hospitalist and medical director of the hospital’s newborn nursery, and Kathy Thomas, a registered nurse and lactation consultant with 35 years of experience, have offered advice for struggling families.
The two have outlined do’s and don’ts, community resources and how to help.
“You may hear people say, ‘Breastfeeding is free, natural, or easy,’” Boling said. “However, this does not take into consideration lactating parents’ time and effort that is put into breastfeeding.”
Both she and Thomas said there are a variety of medical factors that can prevent a mother from breastfeeding or producing enough milk, including breast development, a family history of infertility and even thyroid issues.
“I think women need to support women, and we can’t be judgmental, Thomas said. “What’s working for us may not work for another person. No two women are the same.”
HOW TO BE PREPARED DURING THE SHORTAGE
For mothers that have been struggling with breastfeeding during the formula shortage, Boling and Thomas recommend connecting with a pediatrician or lactation consultant to help with milk supply.
One key element is stress, Thomas explained, and she knows the shortage has caused a lot, both for women who can’t produce breast milk, and those who can.
Many moms have tried to pump extra milk to store in case of an emergency but pumping too much can have a negative effect.
“What that can actually do is increase their milk so much that the baby is not happy at the breast. It’s almost like somebody turned on a water hose,” Thomas said. “Babies often get a belly ache, they can arch at the breast or they can cough, so it’s uncomfortable for them.”
Instead of trying to produce a freezer full of milk, mothers who are worried about their supply can add an extra pump or two a day to their schedule.
Stress can also halt milk production, so Thomas recommends taking time to do relaxation and breathing exercises to help milk flow.
“It greatly reduces cortisol, and on the other hand, it increases oxytocin, which is the love hormone, and love hormone is what helps bring milk down to the baby,” she said.
Mothers who have previously breastfed but stopped, whether it be because they didn’t like it or had issues, can also try to gain the ability back, especially if it’s only been a few months.
“It takes more effort. You have to pump every two to three hours to re-initiate milk supply,” Thomas said. “We have had more calls about that lately, and it is possible to do that.”
CHECK WITH YOUR PEDIATRICIAN FIRST
With many families struggling during the shortage, some might look to new or unconventional ways to feed their child.
When it comes to generic brands of popular formulas, Thomas advised it’s best to check with your pediatrician first, especially if your baby is sensitive to formulas.
Parents can also carefully compare the labels of name brands to their generic versions, ensuring ingredients and percentages are an exact match.
“Unfortunately, not all generic forms are created equally. Sometimes they have more fillers,” Thomas said. “That’s where you’ve got to really read labels before making a change.”
According to Boling, parents should avoid using any homemade formula recipes or diluting formula with more water than directed, both of which can cause various nutrient deficiencies.
She added that alternative forms of milk, like cow’s milk, plant-based milk, goat’s milk, evaporated milk or condensed milk, should not be given to infants younger than 12 months old, unless directed by a physician. Water should not be given to infants less than six months old, and juice and tea should be avoided until after 12 months.
And if you’re considering donor breast milk, Boling advises that parents should only receive milk from trusted organizations, like The Milk Bank.
“Currently, it is not recommended to participate in informal milk sharing,” Boling said. “Avoid purchasing human milk from those that you do not personally know such as on social media groups or online.”
COMMUNITY RESOURCES THAT CAN HELP
While shelves might be bare, there are plenty of community resources that have been a great help during the formula shortage.
For low-income households, both Boling and Thomas recommend reaching out to WIC with questions at the toll-free information line, 1.800.522.0874. Caregivers who are having trouble finding formula can also contact the Indiana Department of Health MCH MOMS Helpline at 1.844.MCH.MOMS for information.
And while formula might be sold out at stores in larger cities, Boling notes that smaller towns might have more items.
“If you cannot find formula, check smaller stores,” Boling said. “Try local social media groups online as well.”
IU Health North also has plenty of resources, and patients can always ask their pediatrician questions, make an appointment with a lactation consultant, or call the unit for any parenting advice at 317.688.2680.
The hospital has also partnered with The Milk Bank, an Indianapolis-based organization that receives human milk from carefully screened donors, and pasteurizes, freezes and distributes it throughout the country.
Thomas explained the hospital has an “express site,” and while the location does not accept donations, it has milk available for patients.
The milk is used in a variety of ways at the hospital, whether a new mom is struggling with breastfeeding or waiting for her milk to come in, or in emergency cases for babies in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
Mothers leaving the hospital can purchase up to 40 ounces of milk without doctor’s prescription. Patients struggling during the formula shortage can also contact the hospital to purchase the milk or reach out to any other Milk Bank location.
Both Boling and Thomas encourage mothers with a larger supply to consider donating to The Milk Bank, which has seen a greater need for donors during this time.
Jenna Streit, advancement director of The Milk Bank, said there was a donation shortage, even before the formula shortage. This was due to an increase in demand both from families at home and hospitals.
“The need is continuous. We must approve 82 new donors every month to keep up,” Streit said. “It’s an incredible pace, and moms continue to meet the needs of babies across our communities.”
To learn more, visit themilkbank.org.
MOTHERS HELPING MOTHERS
Jayme Melton, a registered nurse (RN) at IU Health North, began donating her breast milk to The Milk Bank in February after having her first child, Jack, in August 2021.
Last fall and into the winter, she began researching milk donation, as she was a new mother and wanted to give back in some way. She came across The Milk Bank.
“Being postpartum, I can’t donate blood,” Melton explained.” So, I was looking at other ways to help and ventured down this path.”
She did a bit of research and found out they support several hospitals, including IU Health North’s Express Site.
From there, Melton said the donation process at themilkbank.org was simple. Those interested enter their contact information and answer a few questions. From there, a coordinator reached out to Melton to ask a few more in-depth questions to made sure she qualified.
Potential donors are then asked to provide a blood sample at a lab, which is covered by The Milk Bank. Once approved, the donor will receive a unique number and be able to donate. The whole application process takes about 30 days.
“Everybody’s breastfeeding journey is different. In my journey, I have been fortunate enough that I am able to produce a little bit more than what my little one needs daily,” Melton said. “I worked on a little bit of a freezer supply, but then I realized I wanted a way to give back to those mothers that may not be able to produce, or those ones that really need the milk.”
For Melton, it’s been a surprisingly touching experience. When she mentioned she was donating to one of her supervisors, she became emotional, as her first child received donor milk. Other team members told Melton they’ve seen how donated milk saved their NICU patients’ lives.
“To be able to make an impact in that way, it’s something I will never be able to really put into words, honestly,” Melton said. “It’s a privilege to be able to donate, and because I do produce a little bit more, this is the way that I have found the most rewarding for my journey to be able to give.”
While donations cannot yet be given to IU Health North’s Express Site, Melton donates to another local Indianapolis office. When she first started in February, she was donating 100 ounces at a time, or five to six days of milk.
It fit right into her schedule, allowing her to pump a few times at home, freeze the milk while she’s at work, use what she needs for her own child and then drop off her donation.
For those who are able to have a little extra supply like her, Melton highly encourages them to connect with The Milk Bank online. The experience has been a powerful one for her, and she added potential donors won’t regret it.
Melton is hoping to make one more donation before her son turns one. Since this winter, she’s been able to donate more than 250 ounces, and would like to donate one last 50 ounces.
“It has pushed me to continue my journey of breastfeeding and pumping,” Melton said. “I really can’t put into words how meaningful it has been to see the impact.”
Two hundred and forty seconds — that’s the small window of time first responders have to revive a patient suffering from sudden cardiac arrest. What happens during those crucial four minutes can mean the difference between life and death.
But if first responders have access to an automated external defibrillator (AED) — a portable, battery-operated device that can deliver an electric shock through the chest to the heart — that tight timeframe expands, and the likelihood of survival increases.
Like any other technology, AEDs can become outdated, and it’s recommended they be replaced every eight years — but new AEDs come with a high price tag. A new AED can cost anywhere from $1,275 to $3,000.
When it was time for the Lafayette Fire Department (LFD) to replace its AEDS, the unit had to crunch the numbers to see if it was even feasible.
“We have a limited budget,” said Richard Doyle, LFD chief. “When we spend money, we have to be strategic about what we purchase because inevitably some things always have to go the wayside.”
Fortunately for LFD, the generous donors of west-central Indiana made sure their local heroes had the tools they needed to keep their community safe. Their generous gifts to Indiana University Health Foundation’s Arnett Community Initiatives Fund enabled the Foundation to buy nine state-of-the-art AEDs for the department.
“We go out every day and try to save lives,” said Doyle. “This updated equipment will help us do just that.”
The Arnett Community Initiatives Fund benefits health initiatives in the greater Lafayette community, especially alongside partners such as first responders.
Past donations to the fund have also supported trauma and health education for healthcare professionals and community members.
“Gifts to the Arnett Community Initiatives Fund are important because they enable IU Health Foundation to care for Hoosiers outside the walls of our hospitals,” said Amanda Rardon, RN, CEN, TCRN, IU Health director of Emergency Services. “Those gifts also help us achieve our mission of making Indiana one of the healthiest states in the nation.”
If you’d like to support community initiatives in west-central Indiana, contact IU Health Foundation Philanthropy Director Julie Paolillo at 765.429.7525.
Nearly three years ago, 24-year-old Danielle White feared for her life and the lives of her unborn twins.
Her boyfriend was physically abusive and addicted to methamphetamine and opioids.
“I thought he was going to kill me,” said White. “I lived in fear every day.”
White sought help from assistance programs in the community, including the philanthropy-funded Indiana University Health Nurse Family Partnerships Program.
“This program saved my life,” said White. “It was and is my safe haven.”
Launched in 2018, Nurse Family Partnerships pairs first-time, low-income moms with IU Health nurses who provide educational resources and support throughout the entirety of the pregnancy and until the child turns two years of age.
“The program has three main priorities — mom’s health, baby’s health and economic self-sufficiency of our clients,” said program director Amy Meek, MSN, RN. “And that last one is the big one. Economic self- sufficiency means jobs, careers, stable housing, mental healthcare, substance use care and more.” And in the case of Danielle White, that meant help with escaping her abuser.
Once the expectant mother is paired with her nurse, the two meet biweekly so that the nurse can check on mom and baby’s health. And although these meetings involve discussions around nutrition, growth and development, many of their conversations focus on social health — anything from mom’s support system and understanding who is in her household, to budgeting her income and finding employment and career opportunities for her. The nurse can even help mom secure basic needs for her baby, such as diapers and formula, if she cannot afford them.
“It’s very relational,” said Meek. “The clients tend to be very good friends with their nurse by the time it’s over.”
When White was pregnant with twins, Nurse Family Partnerships paired her with IU Health nurse Kim Cramer, RN. The two had to be strategic about when and where they met, because White’s boyfriend did not want her speaking to Cramer by herself.
“He would always be at the house when Kim came,” said White. “We would try to go on walks by ourselves so that we could talk about how I was going to get out of this situation.”
Four months after her sons Ryder and Reece were born, Cramer helped White escape her boyfriend’s abuse. During that tumultuous time, Cramer was White’s port in the storm, helping her not only purchase a new breast pump, find formula, buy diapers and secure books for her children, but providing her with the security she so desperately needed.
“Danielle is wise and motivated for the sake of her twins,” said Cramer. “I’ve affirmed her strengths, determination and resiliency throughout this program.”
With Cramer’s guidance, White has secured a full-time job and insurance and is living with her mother while she saves for a down payment for a new home. Both she and her sons are healthy, and White’s mental health is improving every day. The trauma she suffered from her boyfriend’s abuse affected her ability to socialize or function in public — but now, she’s able to manage a normal routine.
“I can even take my kids to the park without having to look over my shoulders,” White said.
She credits her success to the Nurse Family Partnerships Program, but more specifically to Cramer.
“Without her support, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” White reflected. “My children are safe, and I’m thriving, all thanks to Kim.”
If you’d like to learn how you can support community initiatives like the Nurse Family Partnerships Program, contact IU Health Foundation Senior Development Officer Emily Trinkle at 812.345.5625.
In a foundational story in the Christian faith, Jesus describes a shepherd who leaves 99 sheep in the field to go in search of one that is lost.
This is a story that could be seen as a model for the Indiana University Health Congregational Care Network (CCN) — a multi-faith program supported through grants and philanthropic dollars, including a three-year, $1.37 million investment from IU Health.
The program connects specially trained volunteers, called “companions,” from faith communities in Marion and Monroe counties with IU Health patients who are high utilizers of care and need extra support when they are discharged to homes or care facilities. Companions receive four weeks of training that helps them understand everything from HIPAA laws to making medical referrals. Their assistance also helps patients ease back into their normal, at-home routines — and they even work with patients to offer resources and solve problems. In many ways, the companions serve as mentors to IU Health patients in need.
In 2021, the network provided companionship to more than 300 patients discharged to their homes — many of which lived alone or in long-term care facilities. CCN helped to reduce inpatient re-admissions among these patients by 64% and reduce emergency department visits by 24%.
Ivan Douglas Hicks, PhD, is the pastor of First Baptist Church North Indianapolis — a church that helped pilot the CCN program. According to Dr. Hicks, CCN allows members of his congregation do what they are called to do: care for their community.
Located in an economically challenged neighborhood and drawing membership from a wide geographic area, First Baptist provides a range of programs to meet the needs of neighbors. “We are a social service hub, and in many ways, ‘ground zero’ for community help,” Dr. Hicks said.
Nichole Wilson, IU Health vice president of Community Health Operations, knows that ground zero well: She grew up in the area and has watched it evolve over the years, thanks to the support of churches like First Baptist and programs like CCN.
“The Congregational Care Network embodies community health,” said Wilson. “It reduces social isolation — something that greatly contributes to poor health and behavioral health. IU Health hopes to deepen our partnership with churches and neighborhoods to establish even more place-based solutions that will impact the health of the community.”
Wilson also noted that the program could not exist without philanthropic support. Like other community health programs, CCN doesn’t charge fees, nor does it collect any revenue from participants. This means philanthropy supports everything the program does — such as training volunteers, providing resources to participating congregations, recruiting new faith communities and more.
Wilson is inspired to think of what the program could become with more support. “There is great opportunity for expansion,” she said. “The program is intended to include faith communities from all faith traditions.”
Meanwhile, the members of First Baptist Church North Indianapolis will continue to support the lost and lonely in their neighborhood – an act of service that Dr. Hicks says benefits the “shepherds” as much as the individual “sheep” they seek to help. “Our parishioners are blessed to be a blessing.”
If you’d like to learn how you can support community initiatives like the Congregational Care Network, contact IU Health Foundation Development Officer Veronica Onofrey at 317.963.9032.