Art therapy rockin’ the bone marrow transplant unit

As a form of art therapy bone marrow transplant patients are contributing to an inspirational rock garden.

The message is simple: “I am strong.” It stands out boldly on a bright orange background. Olivia Johnson holds the rock flashing the same bright orange painted on her nails.

Orange represents leukemia awareness. Johnson, 43, was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) Oct. 4, 2017. AML is a cancer that starts in the bone marrow and moves into the blood and sometimes other parts of the body – liver, spleen and central nervous system.

“I had a high fever had been at work all day. The girls said I didn’t look well. I didn’t want to go to a clinic because you have to wait two hours. I put up a fight,” said Johnson, who works for IU Health Bloomington.

She didn’t know it then but the fight had just begun.

“I went in and a nurse practitioner was working. I told him I thought I had strep. He ran tests for strep and mono and ordered a blood draw. In 45 minutes he called and told me that I have leukemia. I thank God every day that he was on call that weekend,” said Johnson, the mother of a daughter, 26, and two sons 24 and 22. She has one grandchild and three more on the way – her middle son’s wife is expecting twins.

As a patient of hematologist/oncologist Dr. Sherif S. Farag, Johnson is seeking treatment at IU Health’s bone marrow transplant unit. She is participating in a special project conceived by IU Health CompleteLife art therapist Lisa Rainey – a rock garden.

“I want the rocks to be inspirational for both the patients and future patients,” said Rainey. Rocks are hand painted by patients and include personal messages and words such as “faith,” “hope,” “love,” and “family.” Rainey will take photos of the rocks then string the messages like garland throughout the bone marrow transplant unit.

“It’s a way to encourage them to fight and not give up,” said Rainey. Along with patients, caregivers, a chaplain and a pharmacist have also added to the collection.

Johnson had her first bone marrow transplant Feb. 21, 2018.

“I was in remission I was going for my monthly check ups everything seemed to be fine and then Jan. 9, 2019 they drew labs like usual and I had relapsed,” said Johnson. On April 2, she had her second transplant. Her youngest son was her donor.

“I have overcome so many things in life. I got pregnant at 16 and had daughter at 17. I was a junior in high school when I had her. I set my mind to finishing school and I did,” said Johnson, who is married to Todd Johnson. As a mother of three grade school children, she went on to obtain her associate degree. In 2016 she achieved her Bachelor Degree in Business.

“I think leukemia is just another hurdle God has put here for me to jump over,” said Johnson. “Like my message on my rock – ‘I am strong.’ I have my down days and I don’t think I’d have gotten this far if it wasn’t for my amazing team members at work. They are constantly sending cards, text messages, gifts and coming to visit. I’m determined to beat this.”

— By T.J. Banes, Journalist, IU Health.
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This bulldog needs a kidney

Michael Kaltenmark has made a number of visits to IU Health Riley Hospital for Children. His sidekick the Butler Bulldog mascot always accompanies him when he visits young patients. But now, Kaltenmark is spending time at IU Health University Hospital where he is on a wait list for a kidney transplant.

It was two former IU Health doctors who made the connection that may have saved Michael Kaltenmark’s life. A medication prescribed by another provider for Kaltenmark’s Crohn’s disease was having a negative impact on his kidneys.

It was in the late 1990s when Kaltenmark became symptomatic with Crohn’s disease, an inflammation of the digestive tract.

“I was on prescription meds that weren’t monitored properly by a different health system but fortunately I was referred to IU Health,” said Kaltenmark, 39. Nephrologist Michael A. Kraus and gastroenterologist Debra Helper intervened.

“I owe them so much. They got me turned around. I’d hate to think where I’d be without them,” said Kaltenmark.

A 2002 graduate of Butler University, Kaltenmark received his undergraduate degree in journalism and public relations. In 2016 he received a Master Degree in Effective Teaching and Leadership through the university’s College of Education. He began working at Butler in 2002. In his role as Director of External Relations, Kaltenmark is the handler for the Butler Bulldog mascot.

These days, Kaltenmark jokes that he needs a handler.

Last month after reaching out on social media – sharing his need for a kidney, Kaltenmark was overwhelmed by the response. His original tweet was reposted 839 times and received 731 likes. His Facebook post was shared 528 times and his Instagram post received 348 likes.

“For the bulldog that’s nothing, but for me it’s pretty neat,” said Kaltenmark.

In December 2018 IU Health nephrologist Dr. Nupar Gupta told Kaltenmark his kidney function had declined. Diagnosed with Stage 4 kidney failure, he began the process of preparing for a kidney transplant.

“Kidney transplant is considered the best treatment option for people facing kidney failure because it can generally increase the quality and length of a patient’s life. Ideally, the transplant would occur before the patient needs dialysis therapy,” said Dr. Gupta. “Success depends on health prior to transplant, care after transplant, and closely following doctors’ recommendations after the transplant.” Kaltenmark is also under the care of gastroenterologist Dr. Monika Fischer, and primary care physician Dr. Andy R. Dillingham, a Butler fraternity brother. His transplant coordinator is Shannon Gruber.

“Michael is very engaged in his care and working towards his kidney transplant.

Research has shown that patients who get a kidney from a living donor have kidney function longer than patients who get a kidney from a deceased donor,” said Dr. Gupta.

Dr. Gupta added that kidney damage is rare in patients taking sulpha medications for Crohn’s disease. Renal impairment may occur in up to one in 100 patients treated with 5-ASA, but clinically significant damage would occur in only one in 500 patients, she added. In most cases, renal failure is caused by an acute or chronic allergic reaction in the kidneys, which is unrelated to the 5-ASA formulation and dose.

“I feel like any care I am receiving now is a derivative of where I started. They all work together. It’s all integrated into a holistic approach to my medical needs. I feel like the right hand knows what the left hand is doing because they communicate so well,” said Kaltenmark. “I’ve found that once you are listed as a transplant patient, as soon as you show up and they recognize that, they are super efficient at getting you through.”

Since his initial posts, Kaltenmark has received hundreds of phone calls, texts, and private messages.

“I have people stopping me when I’m waiting on my son to get off the school bus,” said Kaltenmark, who is married to Tiffany and the father of Everett, 8 and Miles, 4. “The outpouring of support has been amazing. If I didn’t feel loved after that week, I certainly do now. I’ve been amazed at how selfless people have been. It speaks to how great people are and how kind they are and it also speaks to the notion that when we are in times of need we should speak up, get out of our comfort zone.”

Kaltenmark grew up in Wabash, IN. the third son of Jim and Shari Kaltenmark. To date, his brothers Randy and Doug are among the perspective kidney donors.

The circle of support has been wide – including friends from his hometown; his church – Traders Point Christian; Butler; and the Indianapolis community.

The US Government on Organ Donation and Transplantation reports more than 113,000 people were on the transplant waiting list as of January 2019. Of that number 83.4 percent were waiting for a kidney transplant.

“My part in this is done. Now we wait for all the testing to find a match,” said Kaltenmark. “I didn’t realize my posts would result in so many responses and that’s great. I think we’ll find a match and a really cool result is we’re bringing attention to the need for living donation. It would be great if someone came forward for me who isn’t a match but wants to be an altruistic kidney donor.”

— By T.J. Banes, Journalist, IU Health.
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Drugs, alcohol, starvation, self-mutilation – he did it all and lived to tell about it

Spencer Medcalf uses his life experience to help others as IU Health expands virtual care for addiction and mental health treatment.

Spencer Medcalf knows what it feels like to land in an emergency department desperate for help. Not so much for physical injury but for mental health/addiction treatment.

“I have been one of those people who have presented with those co-occurring psychiatric needs in hospitals and essentially handed a piece of paper and released with no real help,” he said. “You’re just as lost, if not more lost, as when you showed up.”

That’s why he is excited about IU Health’s decision to expand virtual behavioral health services to its hospitals and other centers around the state. The service, announced last month, provides round-the-clock virtual access to psychiatric evaluations and addiction assessments for emergency department patients.

Medcalf is now part of the solution to the growing need for emergency and acute psychiatric care. He works as a peer recovery coach in the behavioral health virtual hub, located at 714 N. Senate Ave., Indianapolis.


The 27-year-old marked two years of sobriety April 25 after years of abusing alcohol, pain pills and heroin.

He started outpatient counseling when he was 13 and went through in-patient treatment seven times. On top of recovering from addiction, he also is a recovering anorexic and self-mutilator.

“I haven’t felt the need to self-harm or starve myself in two years. I’m very proud of that and I think it’s important to be transparent because it’s not always just addiction. There’s a lot of co-morbidities, co-occurring disorders. I’m not ashamed of those things; I’m open about it.”

It took a village to help Medcalf get sober, he said. And he’s so grateful for that support that his mission in life is to help others on that same path.

“For a long time, I blamed a higher power for all the trauma I experienced, and now it makes sense,” he said. “I had to go through those things to be able to help people today.”

He and six other coaches work in the virtual hub, ready to be connected to smaller IU Health emergency departments when patients are deemed in need of a psychiatric evaluation. Nurses in the EDs of outlying hospitals will connect patients with a care team or coach in Indianapolis via a live video feed on a cart that can be rolled into a room as needed.

Use of virtual services will allow patients in need to stay where they are and significantly cut the wait time for an assessment. Traditionally, patients at smaller or rural hospitals who need a psychiatric assessment are transferred by ambulance to a bigger hospital, causing long wait times for treatment, additional costs and transportation issues once they are released.

The initial virtual ED encounter might take anywhere from five minutes to 30 minutes, Medcalf said. But the care doesn’t end there. A series of follow-ups are scheduled, depending on the initial assessment.

The behavioral health hub also offers 24/7 access to social workers and therapists, so even if patients are not admitted to a hospital, they have access to a safety plan, acute treatment and follow-up care.


The virtual care will give more Hoosiers, particularly those in rural areas, better access to behavioral health care and will alleviate some of the strain put on emergency departments, said Dr. Anne Gilbert, medical director of Behavioral Health Virtual Services.

“For many who don’t have access to a primary care physician or don’t know where to go, the emergency room becomes their entry point for treatment,” she said.

The virtual care component has been a boon to the patients and to emergency room physicians and nurses, she said.

The behavioral health initiative is part of IU Health’s strategic plan to improve the health of Hoosiers by focusing on mental health.

“Our clinicians in the emergency department have identified behavioral health as a critical need and are excited about this innovative approach to psychiatric care,” said Dr. Cherri Hobgood, chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine at IU School of Medicine. “We are confident that it will help us better serve our patients during a time of crisis.”

Medcalf and other peer recovery coaches began working virtually with patients in Frankfurt in Clinton County last fall. At first he was apprehensive about taking on the role, wondering if people would engage with a computer screen.

Turns out, it’s engaging enough that people will talk, and yet it’s less intimidating for those who might be reluctant to tell their story to a person in the same room with them.

Dr. Gilbert is pleased with initial feedback on the expansion, which includes Arnett, Frankfurt, Jay, Blackford, Paoli, Tipton and Bedford hospitals. Coming soon are Saxony, White, North and West hospitals.

“It’s been even more impactful than I expected at this early stage,” she said. “What’s been valuable too is often there is a dual diagnosis – people with addiction having suicidal thoughts.”

After a peer recovery coach finishes his or her assessment, it might be determined that the patient needs to talk with a psychiatrist. “We have master’s therapists in the hub – if we decide they can go home, we’ll work with them on some therapy for a safety plan and follow-up plan. We can do that all in one consultation on one cart,” Dr. Gilbert said.

Additionally, social workers are getting to understand different barriers in placements in the state, she said. “So it’s been enlightening for the system to know where we have reasonable psychiatric support and where we may need to partner or need to add services.”

Dr. Gilbert was able to get real-time reaction from one patient she was assessing in northern Indiana. She asked how he liked the virtual care platform, and he told her at first he thought it was going to be “weird,” but then acknowledged that he didn’t think he would have been able to talk so freely if she were sitting in the room with him.

Medcalf, who nearly died after overdosing more than once, tells anyone who will listen that recovery is possible for someone suffering a substance use disorder.

“I’m not special. I just finally listened and took suggestions,” he said. “My story might be traumatic, but you can achieve recovery. You just have to reach out and accept help. Any of our coaches or social workers would be happy to help.”

– By Maureen Gilmer, IU Health senior journalist
Photos by Mike Dickbernd, IU Health visual journalist

Patient from central Africa – Pain in right knee was sarcoma

He fled from a country haunted by racial tension. Even when there was little hope of furthering his education, he persevered. He moved to the United States to start a new life and now he is fighting to recover from a rare form of cancer.

There are many layers to Mukhen Tebong’s life. Just three years shy of 40, he could write a book that would make him seem twice his age.

As Tebong recovers in a hospital bed at IU Health Simon Cancer Center nurses Arra Schroeder and Aletta Royer hear him talk about a life far away from Indiana. The details are clear to social worker Janet Hoyer who has helped him navigate the path to recovery.

Tebong is no stranger to challenge. But the cancer in his leg is a different challenge. Now, he is unable to work. That reality may be temporary but every paycheck represents a mountain he has climbed. He is the primary breadwinner for a family that lives in Central Africa – a family that includes four brothers, two sisters and their children. He also has two young daughters living in Cyprus.

A native of Cameroon, Tebong learned early on the importance of education. His father was a teacher and had high hopes for his son who showed great promise and ambition in furthering his education.

“Life is different where I come from. There is extreme racial tension and marginalization,” said Tebong. “It doesn’t matter how smart you are, you still can’t get into the best schools.” After graduation from high school he completed the college entrance exam and had his sights set on a career in computer engineering. When he didn’t get into the university, he began taking computer classes and landed a job at an Internet café.

Racial tension and social exclusion in his country posed ongoing threats. Tebong feared for his life, so he left Cameroon in 2006, moving nearly 4,000 miles away to Cyprus. Four years later he was married and half way to a degree in nursing when pain in his right knee became unbearable. Doctors in Cyprus discovered the pain was caused from a giant cell tumor. Later he was diagnosed with Sarcoma. Surgery was performed to remove the tumor. Tebong completed his nursing degree but was unable to bear enough weight on his leg to complete his clinical work. A year later he had a second surgery to again remove the cancer.

Sarcoma is a rare form of cancer that attacks the bones and connective tissue. It’s not known what causes the cancer but some research suggests it can result from exposure to radiation or cancer-causing chemicals. There are fewer than 200,000 cases reported in the U.S. each year.

After two surgeries Tebong continued working and providing financial support to his family back home. Life was a continual adjustment. He lost both parents and due to the unrest in his homeland, he was unable to return for their funerals. He hasn’t been back to Cameroon in 13 years.

In April of 2016, he moved to Washington, DC – bringing his wife to live near a cousin and hoping for a fresh start in a safer environment. But the challenges continued. He couldn’t obtain a work permit for 150 days. Heartbroken over the separation from their young child, his wife left and returned to Cyprus.

“I asked where I should live to go on with my life. I wanted some place calm, no crime, no worries,” said Tebong. “Indiana” was the answer he received. So he moved to the Midwest and landed a factory job – again working to send money home.

“In August of 2017 the pain came back in my leg. It continued to get worse,” said Tebong. Dr. L. Wurtz, an orthopedic surgeon reviewed his scans. A biopsy showed the cancer had returned. It was October of 2018.

“They said I needed surgery again but I needed to work,” said Tebong. “Every time I got paid I was sending money back home. One sister has four kids; another has two kids. Her husband was shot dead at the age of 25. My brother’s business was burned. No one else could support them. It was up to me.”

But by March, it became impossible for Tebong to ignore the pain. He was admitted to IU Health for a third surgery to remove the cancer. Under the care of oncologist Dr. Daniel A. Rushing, he will continue with rounds of chemotherapy.

“I am where I need to be. I have been heartbroken. I have been afraid for my life and the lives of my family members. I know what it means to suffer,” said Tebong. “I do not know what the future holds but I know that God will put me where he wants me. Right now my life is focused on health, family and then money.”

— By T.J. Banes, Journalist, IU Health.
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Double Lung Transplant Patient has Passion for Indy 500

Since he was a preschooler, Brian Crowe has loved everything about the Indianapolis 500. It was a passion sparked by his late grandfather.

There’s a white racing helmet inside the IU Health Methodist Hospital room of Brian Crowe. It’s covered in 139 (not 140) signatures of IndyCar drivers. There’s a story behind that helmet and there’s also a story behind a pair of Puma tennis shoes tucked under a chair.

“I only wear Puma because that’s what Dan Wheldon wore,” said Crowe, referring to the two-time Indianapolis 500 winner. When Crowe’s granddaughter was born in Florida he left the house wearing one Puma shoe without its mate. He said he was in a rush and flustered that the baby was coming on race weekend and he was going to miss the race. As it turned out his granddaughter arrived on his birthday, May 29th.

It’s safe to say that May is a big month for Crowe. His wife Debbie, his high school sweetheart, learned early on in their marriage that “race month” is serious business for Crowe.

So what about that racing helmet? It’s a symbol of what he calls a “passion” for all things IndyCar. It’s also part of a showcase of Crowe’s hobby – collecting racing memorabilia – something that connects him to memories of the month of May spent at the track with his grandfather.

This May is different for Crowe as he recovers from a life-saving double lung transplant.

“I was a Riley kid. I spent my summer vacations and spring breaks getting breathing treatments and bronchoscopies, brochograms, and IV meds,” said Crowe who was born with bronchiectasis, a chronic condition that causes the inflammation and infection of the walls of the bronchi. His right lung collapsed when he was a teen and as he got older doctors contained the disease with antibiotics. A year ago, Crowe, who turns 54 this month, was advised to get to the hospital.

“I ignored it because I was at the track. I wasn’t going to give up the month of May,” said Crowe, who is in the care of IU Health pulmonologist Dr. Robert Daly. “I saw him on my birthday and he said ‘if you don’t get on the transplant list you won’t see your 60s.’” That started his journey toward an eight-hour double lung transplant performed on Feb. 2 by IU Health surgeon Dr. Jose Garcia.

At his worst, Crowe couldn’t make it through a game of Ping-Pong. His lungs were functioning at about 35 percent capacity. Two days after his transplant Crowe was back in surgery for his gall bladder.

“He’s come a long way. Brian decided to be different all around. He had a reaction to a rejection drug. His kidneys were disturbed. He lost his gallbladder, had blood clots and double strokes but now he’s doing excellent. It just took us awhile to get here,” said Debbie Crowe. And as the months to recovery ticked by, May was around the corner.

“I’m behind the eight ball and I need to catch up,” said Crowe. This year, he’ll hang a checkered flag and be glued to the TV. “There may even be some tissues,” he said.

Little has gotten in the way of Crowe’s love for all things IndyCar. He laughs as he talks about “minor glitches” of year’s past. There was the time his wife hit her head on the car window, got a concussion and they still went to the race. And then there were all the times he repaired his busted cooler with Duct Tape – and he still went to the race.

He has more than 20,000 pictures that capture memories of past races. One shows a five-year-old Crowe sitting on the grass with his mom enjoying an infield picnic. His late grandfather Earl Davidson worked for Enco, a branch of Exxon Mobile that provided fuel for the race. They called Davidson “Enco Red” for his red hair.

“He knew a lot of the older drivers and was good friends with A.J. Foyt. I can remember him working on A.J.’s car. The 1967 was my favorite. They were towing it to Texas so grandpa had it in his garage and we’d go play in it,” said Crowe of the cherry red #14 car that won the 51st running of the Indianapolis 500.

At around the age of 16, Crowe was working at a greenhouse and made his way through Valvoline’s private entrance by bringing in a flat of tomato plants for the gatekeeper. “You were supposed to be 21 to get in but I brought a flat of tomatoes for his garden and got a pass for the month of May,” said Crowe, who estimates he’s been to every race except for the four years he and his wife moved to Florida for his job.

“It was a love affair to be there in that old garage with the drivers. I could go and find the same spot and just watch people go by. I’ve been doing it for so long I could take other people out and they may not realize who someone is,” said Crowe.

Over the years his collection of memorabilia has grown. There’s the helmet – with the signatures of such racing greats as Johnny Rutherford, Bobby Unser, Mario Andretti, and Rick Mears. He has no clue who was the first to sign it or who was the last but when he had a surprise hospital visit from Pippa Mann her signature was already on the helmet. She gave him a Donate Life model car and a bag of racing goodies to add to his collection that also includes miscellaneous car parts and a 1960s pit board.

“I can’t really say what my favorite memory is,” said Crowe. “There’s nothing like walking through that gate for the first time and I always remember my grandpa’s advice, ‘Don’t ask for an autograph, and don’t bother the drivers when they’re working.’”

— By T.J. Banes, Journalist, IU Health.
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Mother’s love – “We almost lost her but we weren’t giving up”

She’s battled Acute Myeloid Leukemia twice and Rollanna Sauberlich said she wouldn’t be alive now if it wasn’t for the love and support of her mom and her family.

Sitting in an infusion pod at IU Health Simon Cancer Center, Helen Ringer fights tears as she talks about the rocky road her daughter traveled. In February of 2016 – just a year after her son was born – Rollanna Sauberlich was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML).

“I had extreme pain in my hip to the point I couldn’t walk. I thought I had a pinched nerve so I was going to a chiropractor. By the time I was diagnosed with AML I was 97 percent leukemia cells. Another two weeks and I wouldn’t be here,” said Sauberlich, a resident of Culver, IN.

To hear her talk, to see the pictures of her when she was at her lowest point, and then to see her now is something her mom says is just short of a miracle. A former high school homecoming queen candidate, Sauberlich’s petite frame dropped 67 pounds at one point. She lost all of her blonde hair; her hands, feet and nose turned black; she lost some of her nails; and her right arm had a large wound.

“At one point she had multiple doctors all working together to keep their ducks in a row and make sure the individually prescribed medications weren’t interfering with each other,” said Ringer.

Her initial trip to ER back home resulted in two x-rays. The first one revealed white spots on her spine that doctors initially thought was Histoplasmosis – more commonly known as “bird flu.” A follow up scan resulted in the diagnosis of AML. She began induction and consolidation chemotherapy at a Fort Wayne hospital and was in remission until Thanksgiving 2016. A relapse sent her back to the hospital for more chemotherapy.

“I reached remission and we scheduled a bone marrow transplant at IU but I got very sick with sepsis so it was postponed,” said Sauberlich, 46. She had her transplant on March 8, 2017 and things began to look up.

“The transplant went well but on March 21, everything changed. It is a day I will never forget. It was a nightmare. She had multiple side effects,” said Ringer. “All of her organs shut down. She was on dialysis. Her heart was operating at 20 percent. We almost lost her but we weren’t giving up. They called all the family in,” said Ringer. Sauberlich has six siblings. She also has a daughter, 27, and two grandsons.

“Rollonna’s family stayed by her side the entire time. Family rotated according to work schedules. When Rollonna got very sick, they gathered together for love and support, filling the bone marrow transplant family area,” said IU Health medical social worker Kim Baker. “Rollonna gets the grand prize. Although she missed her two-year-old son beyond measure, she championed through her difficult journey in order to return to him.”

In addition to contracting the life-threatening sepsis, Sauberlich developed a Protein C deficiency – a condition that increases the risk for abnormal blood clotting. With lack of blood flow, her nose, fingers and toes turned black.

“There was talk of amputating but Dr. Mohammad Abu Zaid said to wait it out. I’m forever grateful to him. Nature took its course and the circulation came back,” said Sauberlich. “With all that happened I spent nearly two out of three years in the hospital.”

She was released from the hospital in May of 2017 and moved with her mom into an apartment near the hospital. For nine months, she couldn’t shower and she could barely walk. Her mom drove her to the hospital and helped care for her wounds. When they moved home, Ringer moved in with her daughter for the remainder of the year. And when Sauberlich returned to IU Health Simon Cancer Center recently for a follow up appointment and preventative infusion Ringer again accompanied her.

“I learned from mom to be strong and keep fighting. My sister left her family and job for three months. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for my loving and supportive family and the grace of God,” said Sauberlich, the second to the youngest including four older brothers.

“It’s been a group effort. Her sister took family leave and all of her siblings supported her during head shaving parties. They’ve always been close,” said Ringer. “They treated her like a baby doll when she was growing up and they were very nurturing when she was at her worst. It’s wonderful having her back. It’s been a long road and I didn’t know if she’d make it but never gave up hope.”

–By T.J. Banes, Journalist, IU Health. Reach Banes via email

Mom, twins – party of three happily serves patients

Heather Wallace is a nurse supervisor in oncology at IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital. Her twin daughters – Shantyle and Savana Wallace also work at the hospital.

They finish each other’s sentences; they laugh at family stories; and they all three work in the same hospital. Heather Wallace tells about visiting New York with her twin daughters Shantyle and Savana Wallace and how they managed to clear a subway car because they were “laughing so hard and carrying on.”

It’s a party of three for this mother and her identical twins.

“Shantyle is the rule follower. Savana is the rebel,” said Wallace, who is married to Otha Wallace. Shantyle is a vegetarian and Savana loves meat – especially bacon. But, in many other ways the twins are similar. In fact, when they were born doctors determined they were “mirror twins” or monozygotic (MZ) twins – terms used to describe their physical features. When they are facing each other, some of their characteristics are opposite. Mirror twins start as a single fertilized egg but at some time during the first two weeks after conception the embryo splits into two identical parts.

“Shantyle is missing teeth; Savana has them. Savana is left-handed; Shantyle is right-handed. Savana is strong willed; Shantyle is measured,” said Wallace, who delivered the twins at IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital on November 22, 1998. Savana weighed five pounds 15 ounces, and Shantyle weighed five pounds 12 ounces. The babies were born two weeks early and Savana entered the world 15 minutes before her twin sister. The twins have two younger brothers Isaiah Wallace, 11 and Jackson Wallace, 13. Savana is the mother to two-year-old Sophia, and 10-month-old Salvador.

When the twins were students at Muncie Burris they often met their mom at nearby IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital for lunch and completed homework in the hospital cafeteria after school.

They both participated in cheerleading and volleyball and managed the basketball team together. Shantyle was into soccer and track and was a member of National Honor Society. Savana was class president. They volunteered for Relay for Life and served at a mobile soup kitchen when they were in New York.

Heather Wallace started working at IU Health Ball Memorial eight years ago in oncology.

“I really like the connection you make with people – the patients, staff, and coworkers,” said Wallace. “When I first started at the hospital I remember walking down the hall with someone who knew everyone she passed. I was wishing I knew as many people as my co-worker and now I do. It feels good.”

The Hospital is like a home away from home for the twins.

Shantyle, who is working toward her teaching degree, began working at the hospital’s Subway location over a year ago. She now works in communications and guest relations.

“I got to know so many people when I was working at Subway. I knew their orders before they said them,” said Shantyle. In guest relations she answers phones and pages doctors. Savana, a certified nurse practitioner, recently started working third shift as a patient care assistant in oncology. Most days she is passing her mom and sister as she is leaving work and they are starting their day.

“There’s hardly a day that goes by that I don’t see both of them either at the hospital or at home,” said Wallace. Until recently both girls lived with Wallace and her parents. Shantyle recently moved with a friend but they all still get together for dinners and shopping.

“I started at the hospital so I could be close to mom,” said Shantyle. “Now that I am a mom too, I understand so much more and have so much respect for her. She’s taught me a lot about life and to not rush things,” said Savana.

— By T.J. Banes, Journalist, IU Health.
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2019 Merriman Awards Honor Three Nurses

An extra-happy Nurses Week to the three IU Health nurses who have been named winners of the “Lynda,” the Lynda A. Merriman Award for Compassionate Care. Thanks to the generosity of Chuck Merriman, this award honors the kind of dedicated IU Health team members who eased his wife Lynda’s seven-month battle with cancer at IU Health Simon Cancer Center and University Hospital. The Lynda is a cash award to recognize standout team members. Lynda winners are nominated by their peers at IU Health hospitals statewide.

The three winners are:

Jessica Snyder, RN is a wound ostomy continence nurse at IU Health North Hospital. She was nominated by Shelly Lancaster, RN and other colleagues at IU Health North.

“I routinely hear from her patients how they have appreciated her gentle and caring manner as much as her clinical expertise,” said Lancaster. “She regularly helps patients come to terms with their ‘new normal’ and helps them to master the self-care required to cope with a new ostomy.”

Lancaster shared one story that exemplifies Snyder’s outstanding care. Snyder had several times cared for a patient at IU Health North with complex wound care and ostomy needs. When that patient turned up in the emergency room at IU Health Saxony Hospital and was admitted there, the patient asked for Snyder. With her supervisor’s okay, Snyder packed up her supplies and traveled the half hour to IU Health Saxony. She continues to return there when this patient needs her.

Elaine Butler, RN improves the entire nursing team at IU Health Morgan Cancer Center, according to her nominator, Sonya Payne, RN.

“Most great oncology nurses demonstrate compassion—how could we not?” said Payne. But Payne says Butler is a standout because she improves the entire nursing team at the cancer center, with a special emphasis on continuing education for herself and her colleagues, and her willingness to guide new nurses. “Elaine is dedicated to her specialty,” said Payne. “She is a great role model and mentor.”

Payne pointed out two areas in particular in which Butler excels. One is having difficult conversations with patients, including discussions of death and dying. “No matter how busy she is as a charge nurse, Elaine will stop what she is doing and give the patient her full attention,” said Payne. “She truly listens—which is often what our patients need most.” The second is ensuring that the team has proper orders, education and support to practice safely, and care for every type of cancer patient.

Jean Kolp, NP at IU Health Arnett Primary Care goes well beyond medical care to deliver holistic experiences for her elderly people throughout the community, according to Brenda DeBlaso, practice manager.

“The senior population Jean works with daily can be very challenging, and she always has a smile and kinds words for her patients,” said DeBlaso. Kolp, who receives referrals from Arnett Primary Care Physicians, assists with overall wellness, psychosocial, financial and socialization issues for patients as well as their caregivers. She also holds an advisory position at Indiana Wesleyan University, in which she mentors nurse practitioner students.

In addition to completing Individualized Medicare Annual Wellness visits (she did over 900 in 2018), Kolp shares resources and opportunities with her colleagues at IU Health and throughout the seniors-serving community in Lafayette. She established the Indiana Geriatric Society of Greater Lafayette; volunteered to coordinate Healthfest 2019, which will provide education and resources to thousands of Lafayette geriatric residents and their families; and promotes socialization for seniors by volunteering for the local Senior Games and Wacky Wednesday movie days.

During the month of May, you can support outstanding nurses by donating to the Distinguished Nurse Excellence Fund, the only statewide fund benefiting nurses. Visit the IU Health Foundation to learn how contributions support people, progress and partnerships. Two additional “Lynda” winners, who are not nurses, will be announced later in May.

Lifelong educator: “IU Health sees me as a challenge, not a problem”

When Kathy Dowling needed a third kidney transplant she learned that more than 80 people volunteered as a donor. A teacher, coach and counselor, Dowling says she can’t begin to count how many students have touched her life. And she has no idea how many lives she has touched over the years.

The numbers – they are mind-boggling. One hundred seventy six surgeries and surgical procedures, four kidney transplants, one intestinal transplant, two comas, and three cardiopulmonary arrests.

Kathy Dowling is thankful to be alive.

“I love that the IU Health teams see me as a challenge. They don’t see me as a problem,” said Dowling. “They’re my people. They never give up and even if they would make a mistake, I wouldn’t care because I know they’re doing their best with a difficult situation.”

Born and raised in Greenfield, IN. Dowling took to the water at a young age. She remembers riding her bike to the Riley Park Pool, swimming all day, going home for dinner and then heading back to the pool. She went on to swim throughout high school and was a lifeguard into her college years. She attended Indiana University and started teaching English at the age of 21. She lived in Merrillville, IN. for a short time and then returned to Greenfield where she continued teaching. She obtained her master degree from Purdue University and later her life science degree from Butler University. She spent more than 33 years at Greenfield Central High School in the role of dean of students and guidance counselor. She was also the swimming and diving coach. Locally, she advocated for water adjustment lessons starting before the age of seven. Her curriculum was adopted by the Red Cross and became a national trend.

She remembers a turning point in her career when a student committed suicide and included her name in a final message. She ended up consoling fellow students and found a natural calling to counseling.

“I have no idea how many lives I’ve touched but I know an awful lot of kids who have touched mine as a teacher, counselor, dean and coach,” said Dowling.

Her health issues began in 2004 with a ruptured intestine. She developed sepsis – a potentially life-threatening condition caused when the body responds to infection. She was in a drug-induced coma and her family set up long-term home care. She wasn’t expected to come out of that unconscious state. A year later she ended back in the hospital – this time at IU Health – where doctors began treating her for renal failure. She had her first kidney transplant in 2007 and a second one three years later – both kidney donors were friends – a Greenfield minister and a drama director at Greenfield Central High School. In 2014 she had a multivisceral transplant – another kidney and an intestine. When that kidney failed, she began dialysis and a fourth transplant followed. In December 2018, she was diagnosed with stomach cancer – another surgery followed to remove the tumor. Throughout her multiple hospitalizations she was in the care of IU Health nephrologist Tim E. Taber and transplant surgeons Dr. William C. Goggins and Dr. Richard Mangus.

“I’ve been an educator my whole life and IU Health is a teaching hospital so they work as a team and you see them learning from each situation, each challenge that comes their way. They’ve always made me feel so confident in their choices. They tell me they learn from my health challenges but they also say they’ve learned from my spirit,” said Dowling.

Now when she returns to IU Health once a month for lab work she is greeted with hugs and smiles. She sees lots of familiar faces – the person who cleaned her room, the receptionist at the front desk, the parking attendant, and lots of nurses. The list goes on. “I have met some wonderful people. They have all had a role in my healthcare,” said Dowling.

When she retired from Greenfield Central High School, she ran for school board and is serving her second term. She also volunteers in a first grade classroom two days a week and serves on the board of the Greenfield Parks and Recreation.

“I just care about kids and I think you learn better when you’re having fun in the classroom. There has to be one person who makes them feel special – I hope I’m that one person,” said Dowling “I think I have a lot of prayer warriors and God isn’t done with me yet. When anyone asks how I’m doing I say ‘every day is a victory.’ What I’ve been through has made life easy because you live each day like it’s your last.”

— By T.J. Banes, Journalist, IU Health.
Reach Banes via email

Transplant Patient and Wife Praise Nurses, Give $25,000

The note, written in the neat handwriting of a mechanical engineer, simply said, “Rosemary and I will never be able to thank you enough for everything that you have done for us. We will never be able to pay you back for our ‘miracle’ transplant. Hopefully you can use this donation to advance your cause.” Enclosed was a $25,000 check.

In late 2013, Joe (who asked us not to use his last name) had swollen legs and trouble catching his breath. He and his wife Rosemary went to the hospital near their Fort Mitchell, KY. home, where Joe was diagnosed with two dozen blood clots in both lungs. He was admitted, stayed for seven days, and then sent home with 24-hour oxygen. Six weeks later, still with no clear diagnosis, Joe was referred to University of Cincinnati Medical Center, which diagnosed him with interstitial lung disease and prescribed medications to slow the disease’s progression. However, Joe’s health steadily declined for three more years.

In September 2017, when the need for a transplant became evident, Joe’s doctors referred him to IU Health and David Roe, MD, medical director of Lung Transplant and ECMO at IU Health Methodist Hospital. Dr. Roe wanted to admit Joe immediately due to the seriousness of his disease, but allowed him to return home as long as he logged his functions and oxygen levels and emailed them to Dr. Roe.

In November, Joe failed the six-minute walk test, an indicator of pulmonary health. He was declining and the transplant team decided to list him for a lung transplant. Two days later, they called again and said to come for the transplant. “I was at rehab, and I got this call saying to be there by 5 pm,” said Joe. While Rosemary packed the car for the two-and-a-half-hour drive, Joe—always the engineer—changed the furnace filters.

The surgery took nearly 12 hours, and Joe spent 28 days in the hospital, with kidney complications that required a brief time on dialysis. He was then expected to spend 30 days in the Center of Life for Thoracic Transplant (COLTT), but completed his therapy there in just two weeks.

During Joe’s time at Methodist, Rosemary was especially grateful for the support of the nursing staff. “We’ve been through every nurse,” she said. “The thing is: they really treat you with respect.” She documented the entire process in a journal.

They noted that Katie Bussard, RN, BSN, ACNP, helped motivate Joe. “Katie gave Joe a challenge every day,” said Rosemary. “Joe made sure to do a little more every day.”

Bussard said, “We are kind of pushy, because we know that constant participation is what makes patients better. I call our floor boot camp, because we want to know that patients can do what the COLTT requires.”

Bussard, whose mother’s work as a nurse inspired her, began her career at IU Health in Adult Critical Care, then earned her master’s degree to become a nurse practitioner. “I had worked in the ICU as a bedside nurse for my whole career and loved the complexity and intensity of the patients. I particularly became interested in the pulmonary aspect of critical care, and that is one of the reasons I wanted to work with the lung transplant team,” she said. “Our role is a complex one. We are nurses who have advanced training and education allowing us to work alongside physicians and other healthcare providers to care for critically ill patients.”

She especially enjoys bumping into former patients who return for follow-up appointments or just stop in to visit. “It is so great to see them once they have fully recovered from their transplant and are back to normal everyday life,” she said.

Joe added, “This whole IU Health facility is unbelievable—the best I’ve ever seen, from the housekeeping staff to the surgeons. After 12 days on a liquid diet, my first real meal since surgery was noodles and beef—the best food ever.”

Even before Joe was discharged, the couple had discussed how to show their gratitude. “We’re so blessed,” Joe said. Their $25,000 gift to the IU Health Foundation carried the stipulation that Roe determine how the money was spent. He has suggested using the gift to fund the home spirometry program, so patients can report their lung capacity via their cell phones without having to leave home.

Now things are pretty much back to normal, and Joe is back in the office. He said, “The guys at work say, When are you going to retire? Retire? I just started over!”

During Nurses Week, May 6 through 12, you can support outstanding nurses by donating to the Distinguished Nurse Excellence Fund. Or explore other giving options through the IU Health Foundation.