Digestive Disorders, Diagnosis, Are Her Thing

Lois Bucksot has been a nurse at IU Health University Hospital for nearly 40 years focusing on work with gastrointestinal doctors who treat patients with digestive procedures and disorders. 

When she first started at IU Health Lois Bucksot worked with a small staff, performing one or two ERCP procedures a day. Now the area has expanded to perform about seven procedures a day – anywhere from 45 to 60 a week.

“I was working with Dr. Glen Lehmen, and he had visions of developing a world- class ERCP program at IU Health. At the time I was a newly divorced single mom so we both dug in our heels and built this program from not much of anything – it’s been a team effort. Everybody worked tirelessly to bring it to where it is today,” said Bucksot. Over time, other doctors followed including Dr. Stuart Sherman who serves as director of the ERCP. 

Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) is a procedure, which combines endoscopic techniques with radiologic imaging techniques to diagnose and treat both pancreatic and biliary diseases. “Our focus is on the ductal systems which drain the pancreas and liver. My doctors refer to themselves as ‘endoscopic plumbers.’”

Bucksot starts her day in the basement of University Hospital, at 6:30 a.m. setting up the rooms and preparing for procedures. About an hour later she meets with the physicians to review the caseload of the day.  Most procedures are performed as a same day surgery. Bucksot assists physicians during the procedure, charting and also orienting new employees.

“The physicians I work with are gastroenterologists.  We take care of patients with bile duct stones, bile duct cancers, pancreatic cancer, chronic pancreatitis – it’s a variety of issues and a number of disease processes,” said Bucksot, a graduate of Northwest High School and IU School of Nursing.

“Every day I’m learning something new working with these physicians,” said Bucksot. “They’re always very patient and make it such a team effort. I think everyone feels like they are contributing to the team. We have great physicians and nurses to work with, and we’re always on the cutting edge with new equipment and procedures.”

More about Bucksot:

  • On becoming a nurse:  “It was just one of those jobs I always thought I wanted to do. When I was young I would read the Cherry Ames books, written by Helen Wells – portraying various types of nurses – island nurse, department store nurse, Army nurse – I used her as a role model. I always had a penchant to do that and never considered any other career choices. “
  • A great day at IU Health: “One of those days when I can assist with a procedure that has been failed at another facility. The patients often travel a distance from home to seek the expertise of my physicians. These procedures are often challenging, but after a 10-hour day it just feels good knowing I’ve helped someone have a better quality of life.”
  • A perfect Saturday: “Making most of my work outs in the morning, and usually having plans for dinner with friends. I love to take some time for pleasure reading and when the weather is nice I love to work in the yard.”
  • Something few people know about her: “I was a member of the spelunking club in high school. I did it with my best friends so I could get into advanced physics. People who know me know that I’m a little freaked out in cramped spaces so it’s an unexpected truth.”

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

Neurologist Dr. Mackey: He Is The Brain Whisperer

Dr. Jason Mackey wants to be there for stroke patients going through a terrifying time. He wants to change the course of their prognosis

The sun is pouring into the IU Health Neuroscience Center where Jason Mackey sits talking about his complex medical love – the brain.

He gazes out the window, taking a moment to ponder why he fell for the field of neurology. It’s hard to explain, he says, what drew him to neurology – why he went on to specialize in stroke.

The technical answer for Dr. Mackey, a neurologist at IU Health, is that stroke was the perfect intersection of his two favorite fields.

In medical school, he fell in love with the acuity of emergency medicine. He also fell in love with the complexity of neurology.

Treating stroke is a perfect blend of the two.

But the more heartfelt answer, the more emotional answer, comes later – when Dr. Mackey starts talking about his patients.

“To be totally normal before and, in the next instant, they can’t see half of their world, can’t understand speech anymore, can’t speak themselves?” says Dr. Mackey. “Our brains are what makes us who we are. And to go from totally normal to different in a moment, that is devastating.”

Dr. Mackey wants to be there for those patients going through that terrifying time. He wants to change the course of their prognosis.

“Here’s a chance to help,” Dr. Mackey says. “And what a difference —  from losing the ability to walk or talk or, possibly, needing to go to a nursing home — to reverse that or reduce that.”

But it’s not just stroke. Dr. Mackey is there for patients brought into IU Health Methodist Hospital suffering from head trauma or having seizures or extreme headaches.

He will rush over to the hospital to evaluate the patient and see what course of treatment can be taken.

His job is to take care of acutely sick people. And a majority of those are stroke patients.

As one of 100 hospitals in the nation certified as a Comprehensive Stroke Center – and the only one in Indiana — Methodist sees more than 800 stroke patients a year. 

“A lot of people are coming in from all over,” Dr. Mackey says. “And, not surprisingly, the more people we can help the more people come to us.”

More With Dr. Mackey

Personal: He is married to Amy, a primary care physician, who he met in medical school. Together, they have three children, Luke, 10, Elise, 8, and Joshua, 7.

Growing up: Dr. Mackey was raised on a 100-acre farm in Brownsburg, the oldest of five boys. His first job was working in the fields of corn and soybeans, using a hoe to take out weeds. He graduated in 1997 as valedictorian of his class at Brownsburg High School.

Medical training: He received his undergraduate degree at Milligan College in Elizabethton, Tenn., and then attended medical school and completed his residency at Indiana University. Before coming to work at IU Health in 2011, Dr. Mackey landed a prestigious stroke fellowship at the University of Cincinnati.

Career highlight: Dr. Mackey is medical director of the soon-to-open Mobile Stroke Treatment Unit. The unit is one of fewer than 10 like it in the nation and will race to the scene of patients suffering from stroke to give life-saving treatments. Read more about it here.

— By Dana Benbow, Senior Journalist at IU Health.

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

Peer Coach Knows Road To Recovery

There are paintings in her office that represent many things – a creative outlet allowing Linda Bond to channel her inner strength onto a canvas. One colorful painting depicts a journey. She calls it, “Road to Recovery.”

Linda Bond knows that road. She also knows that every road is similar, yet different for every patient she meets. 

Bond came to IU Health in November of 2016. Her role as a recovery coach is part of an ongoing plan to address a statewide addiction crisis. The Indiana University Health Foundation recently secured a $1.4 million award from the Indiana Division of Mental Health and Addiction (DMHA) to provide peer recovery coaching services at all Indiana University Health emergency departments statewide. The award covers onsite as well as telehealth services, so the coaches will be available 24/7.

Operating on the premise that it takes an addict to understand an addict, peer recovery coaching is a growing service within substance abuse treatment. Peer recovery coaches typically have been in recovery themselves, so they can relate to patients struggling with addiction—including those brought to the ER in the midst of an overdose.

“The recovery coaches work with patients to overcome barriers to treatment and give them extra support. Quite often, this is the patient’s first exposure to the idea of treatment – especially treatment that leads patients to have the most independent lives possible. For us, having recovery coaches available to patients who present with an overdose is another way of reaching out to the community,” said Bond. 

Bond’s addiction began as a teenager. She remembers at the age of 15 experimenting with drugs and alcohol. By the time she was 25, she went into a treatment program and managed to stay clean and sober until she was introduced to pain pills. About five years down the road she had a severe Opioid addiction that she said lasted more than a decade. In 1997, she went through the addiction-counseling program she now serves at IU Health Methodist Hospital.

“It was inspiring but I didn’t stick with it,” said Bond. “At my worst I was addicted to cocaine and marijuana. My kids were taken to live with their father and I wasn’t able to have contact with them until I was clean.”

A former college professor, Bond was in and out of treatment programs and at one point was so desperate for help that she said she attempted to take her own life.

A bright yellow Ford Focus with black flames left an impression on Bond.  She says that’s about all that she had left of a life once filled with the opportunities as a wife, mother, and educator. She lost it all – her family and her job – and was sleeping in that beat up car, feeling like she had hit rock bottom.

“My family finally made a deal with me,” said Bond. “If I’d go into a longer treatment program and stay in a sober living community they’d pay for it. I did that because I’d lost everything. All I had was the recovery community and the AA meetings I was sentenced to go to every day. “

She eventually reconnected with her two children – now adults, retuned to school for her masters degree in counseling, and began working with addiction recovery programs. She has been sober since June 5, 2011. Through the process she said she’s learned a number of lessons about addictions and also several myths of an addict:

  • Myth #1 – The most prevalent myth is that addiction is a moral failing – that it’s a sign of weak character. “Addiction is not weak character; it’s a disease.”
  •  Myth #2 – Addicts can be treated once and they are cured. “There’s no cure unfortunately. You wouldn’t throw a needle at a diabetic and say go shoot up insulin and you’ll be fine. You wouldn’t tell someone who had a heart attack to go home and do what he or she has always been doing. When you’re in recovery you have to keep up with meeting and connecting with others to support your sobriety.”
  •  Myth #3 – People will change when they hit rock bottom. “I see people every day who haven’t hit rock bottom but maybe have had some consequences to their actions or it can just be a shift emotionally or spiritually.”
  • Myth #4 – Addiction only applies to certain people. “Addiction doesn’t discriminate. People with perfectly normal stable backgrounds have become addicts and alcoholics.”
  • Myth #5 – Marijuana is not harmful or addictive. “People seem to believe there is only psychological dependence, but new research shows that there is a distinct withdrawal syndrome, very similar to nicotine withdrawal.”
  • Myth #6 – Recovery is only about the individual. “Addiction is a family disease, and often (usually) the family is as sick as the chemically dependent individual. It is vital that the family get help too, whether it be individual and/or family therapy, Al Anon, and/or attending a treatment program’s family component if the person is in treatment.”

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

200 Days At Methodist Waiting For A Heart And Then…It Happened

Jeremy Carr had warned the doctors and the nurses: He isn’t a morning person.

If at all possible, could they — for a 38-year-old guy waiting on a heart — not bother him early in the day?

The medical team knew that. They had come to know Carr pretty well, like family almost. After all, he’d been at IU Health Methodist Hospital nearly 200 days.

So, it took Carr a bit by surprise on March 29 when a team came into his room at 8:30 a.m.

“They don’t do that for no apparent reason,” he says.

And then the reason became abundantly clear. And, within minutes, Carr’s life changed forever.

We found a heart. One has become available. It’s a really good match — 98 percent – a low-risk donor. We are waiting on a test result to come back sometime this morning and, if it’s good, it will be a go. 

The rest of that day was a blur for Carr. Five fours of waiting, worrying, contemplating. Five hours of not believing that this moment could finally be here.

And then around 1:30 p.m., the team was back. The heart was a 100 percent match.

CALMING THE FEAR

In the wee hours of that night, Carr was being wheeled back to the operating room to get his new heart.

It was a transplant that had been nearly six years in the making. It was 2012 when Carr went to an all-you-can-eat buffet and started feeling short of breath. He thought he’d just overeaten.

Doctors discovered something much more devastating. Carr was in heart failure and his heart was working at just 8 percent.

He received an LVAD, a left ventricular assist device, used in patients with advanced heart failure whose heart can’t pump enough blood to the rest of the body.

Carr went back to work and opened a business, C&J Automotive in Indianapolis. But, by September of 2017, his health took a turn for the worse.

Getting on the transplant list was his only option and he needed to be hospitalized until he could get it.

Nearly 200 days passed. To keep busy, Carr built model cars at Methodist and became a local celebrity, of sorts. (Read that story: https://bit.ly/2JGMFbY). 

All the while, he waited. And waited. And then the doctors appeared that early March morning. And 12 hours later, it was time for surgery.

“I was definitely scared, but I felt comfort going back there because I was well aware of what was going on and I knew what I was facing,” says Carr, of Avon. “When I got in and I saw Dr. (Thomas) Wozniak, I felt a personal comfort with him. He just looked at me and said, ‘You’re going to be just fine.’”

And Carr was.

A NEW LIFE

This week, nearly two weeks past his transplant, Carr talked about his appreciation for his donor and that person’s family. He talked about how his gratefulness is immeasurable.

“I get to be a father. I get to be an uncle. I get to be all the things I enjoy doing because of that donor,” Carr says. 

And so, he’s pushing himself hard. And he’s preparing for a healthy lifestyle ahead.

“Getting this transplant, it makes you really open your eyes and think, ‘OK, what can I do to carry on this heart that was given to me?’” he says.

It’s, literally, another chance at life, Carr says.

Already, he is feeling better. Things are different. Before surgery, his body felt dull to the touch. Because of lack of blood flow, his skin color was off. He had loss of feeling in his feet and ankles.

“But now I can feel everything,” he says, “some of it good, some of it bad.”

His skin color is turning a healthy tone again. His vital sign numbers are perfect.  

“I’ve got blood pressure and things just like a healthy person,” Carr says. “That makes me feel good.”

And it makes him look forward to the future. Carr is expected to be released from Methodist either Monday or Tuesday.

“I just keep telling myself the next stop is home,” he says. “It’s just time for me to go home.”

Carr isn’t going to forget any of what he’s been through. In fact, he has big plans to give back.

He loves drag racing, any kind of racing. Carr plans to build a car that he takes to races with messages on the side: organ donation, heart health, transplant awareness.   

He wants to do the same thing with model cars at national and local show. After all, every donor has the potential to save five lives.

Even one person deciding to become a donor would be worth it, Carr says. “Every donor, in my eyes, is a hero.”

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

The Devastating And Hopeful Tales Of Brain Injury Survivors

The masks hang in sadness, darkness displayed in the words that are pasted on them.

Broken. Hurt. Life Over. Angry. Suicidal. Tragic. Worry. Cheated. Helpless. Lost.

The masks also hang in joy, with light displayed in the words chosen.

Grateful. Still Intelligent. Miracle. One to watch. Promising. Life. Hope. Optimistic. Healed. Survivor.

Yes, survivor. 

Each of the masks displayed this week inside the IU Health Neuroscience Center was crafted by a survivor of traumatic brain injury. The creations are part of a national project called Unmasking Brain Injury, put on locally by Heads Or Tails/Brain Injury Survivors of Indiana and other support groups statewide.  

We met with three survivors to hear the story of their masks and how their lives were changed.

Tanner Freeman, 24, Martinsville.

He was working a food truck downtown Indianapolis on July 4, 2014, when Tanner Freeman got the call. He was needed at another job the next morning — early.

It was already close to midnight, so Freeman asked his boss if he could leave to get some sleep before his early shift. Because his car recently had broken down, Freeman got a ride.

On the way home, after stopping to get a bite to eat, man driving Freeman pulled up alongside a truck at a stop light and decided to drag race.

“He got up to 165 miles (per hour) before losing control and wrapping around a pole,” Freeman says. The driver walked away with a broken femur.

Freeman was pronounced dead at the scene.

Inside IU Health Methodist Hospital, Rhonda Freeman was told her son would likely not recover from his injuries; he would be a shell of who he once was. 

“Doctors know better than to put odds like that against me now,” Freeman says. “I am too much of a miracle.”

After three months at Methodist and rehab at Rehabilitation Hospital of Indiana, Freeman went home. He still has left side weakness in his leg and little to no movement in his left arm. Yet, he is hopeful.

“Tanner is really doing great. He is upbeat most of the time and positive,” says Rhonda Freeman, who is a co-facilitator for Heads Or Tails/Brain Injury Survivors of Indiana. “Of course, he misses his old life.”

Freeman’s goal is to get back to college and keep moving forward. His mask tells that story.  

Freeman’s mask in his words: “I was a passenger in a car accident. I won’t quit working toward a better me. I am one to watch as I am taking care of business. I always make an effort to give more than 100 percent, I think 120 percent. I have always been pretty OCD, but it has been magnified since the injury. I feel like I am actually becoming a better man. My vision is decreased after the injury and now I wear glasses. I am so grateful to still be alive and where I am today. I am going to let my injury be my motivation to become better and an even more intelligent person. My brain is injured. I am not.”

Maria Martino, 52, Kokomo

It was her 40th birthday. A day to celebrate. Maria Martino was living her best life. 

She was an associate professor in health behavior and family studies at Indiana University and lived in Bloomington. She had a master’s degree in recreational therapy and was working on a doctorate degree.

And so, on her milestone birthday, Martino’s niece asked to take her out.

As her niece drove straight through a green light, another car disregarded the red light and collided with Martino and her niece.

“I kind of remember the wreck, kind of not,” says Martino. “When I woke up, I was thinking, ‘What the heck?’ There was like this whole swarm of all these people around at the scene.”

Martino later found out her niece thought she had died. She didn’t. She lived, but life has not been the same since her traumatic brain injury.

“Everything is different,” she says. “Everything.” 

Martino’s mask in her words: “The mask represents the two vastly different sides of me, my life prior to the car accident and my life now. The blue side was prior to the accident and the red side represents my life now. I was relatively healthy, enjoyed living in Bloomington where I was surrounded by friends and going to various activities that a Big 10 city had to offer. I enjoyed being physically active by participating in many sports. I also liked to spend time with family, which was very important to me, On the red side, it reflects I am not able to attend IU with friends and colleagues. I am on disability. Many challenges and injuries have altered every aspect of my life.”

Jacob Gebuhr, 29, Indianapolis

He doesn’t remember the accident – and no one saw it. What Jacob Gebuhr does know is that he was 22 years old, riding a longboard skateboard in Indianapolis. He was sailing down the streets and hills when it happened.

“Apparently, I was probably going pretty fast when it happened,” he says. “I just hit right on my skull, right in the center on my forehead.” 

It was an eerie scene. The board was in perfect condition. Gebuhr’s body looked fine. Nothing was broken. There was no blood. But when doctors took out the front of his skull, they found a slight fracture.   

Gebuhr was put in a coma at Methodist for 10 days. He was in the hospital for a month after surgery to remove the front of his skull.

Since then, Gebuhr graduated from college with a 3.66 GPA. Yet, he has struggled finding work. He has headaches and seizures and other lasting effects of the injury. 

Inside the Neuroscience Center this week, Gebuhr looked at the masks of other brain injury survivors.

“A lot of it is reminiscent of what I went through,” he says. “The pain but also the feeling of goodness because I am still here. I’m alive. There is a reason for that.” 

Gebuhr’s mask in his words: “This mask shows how my mood can change daily thanks to my injury. Some of this is directly due to the injury, some is the effect of all the medication I must take. In addition, emotions brought about by the consequences of the injury. One day I might be excited, energetic and open a new business. The next day I am depressed and worrying about my money and my future. This bipolar tendency has unfortunately described my life for the past seven years.”

About Unmasking Brain Injury Project

The mission of the national project is to raise awareness to the prevalence and effects of traumatic brain injury. This is the second year for the project in Indiana. Masks displayed are from brain injury support groups across the state. 

“Brain injury is often unseen and silent, with the deficits often being invisible on the outside, including cognitive, emotional and behavioral deficits,” says Wendy Waldman, local support network leader for the resource facilitation department at the Rehabilitation Hospital of Indiana. “The term ‘silent epidemic’ is used to characterize the incidence of brain injury worldwide.”

Heads or Tails/ Brain Injury Survivors of Indiana

What: A support group to serve the educational and social needs of 20- to 30-year-old adults living with traumatic (TBI) or acquired (ABI) brain injuries and their families.

Meets: 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on the second Tuesday of each month at Traders Point Christian Church, 6590 S. Indianapolis Rd., Whitestown. 

Info: SusieFitt9@gmail.com or Wendy.Waldman@rhin.com.

For a list of statewide brain injury groups: biaindiana.org/support

For more on the project: Unmaskingbraininjury.org

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

Time Out For Moms

When she wasn’t walking her year-old son, Elliott around the room, Rebecca Courtot was sitting in a circle with other moms chatting about familiar topics. 

Sleep. Lack of Sleep. Teething. Crawling.

IU Health childbirth educator and pediatric nurse practitioner Cindy Love facilitates the weekly support groups – Toddler Time and Mother Connection. Topics vary for each group ranging from “Sibling Rivalry” to “Perinatal Moods.” And there is ample time for moms to talk, play, and ask questions.

“What is the right age for baby to begin crawling?”

“How do I calm him down when I’m trying to change his diaper?”

“He won’t go to sleep at night. What do I do?”

The moms come to learn and to find support. Courtot attended a recent west side meeting at its new location – the Avon-Washington Township Public Library. The groups also meet at IU Health North. 

“It’s nice to have something to look forward to every week and to meet other moms with children around the same age as Elliott,” said Courtot. “It’s also nice to learn things I didn’t know from a reliable source.”

Love who has been a nurse with IU Health for nearly 20 years says she bases her topics on guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“I think right now, all new moms have questions. There is no book out there that gives them the ins and outs so the topics are important and more than anything these moms are getting support for what they are doing,” said Love.

In a recent Toddler session she offered practical advice on tantrums, sibling rivalry, sharing, and conflict resolution.

“One of the things about having a sibling is that it helps the older child learn empathy – to develop a relationship with their sibling,” Love said. 

And as she talked to new mother’s about self-care Love offered tips on coping with anxiety: Exercise, proper nutrition, sunshine, and adequate sleep.  She also reminded moms to ask for help when they need it.

“I want moms to feel comfortable and have confidence in the staff at IU Health that we are here to help them in their transition to motherhood.”

For a list of support groups, dates, times and locations log onto: https://iuhealth.org/find-medical-services/maternity.

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

 T.J. Banes or on Twitter @tjbanes.

Doctor Duo – Focus on Transplant

They grew up in Montreal, Canada met in high school and had what some might consider a few unusual first dates – reviewing histology slides and discussing the workings of the human body.

They both earned their medical degrees from McGill University Faculty of Medicine Hospital in Montreal, and have been married for more than 20 years.

Dr. Fridell is Chief of Abdominal Transplant Surgery and has been with IU Health since 2002. Dr. Schwartz is a hematologist who specializes in bone marrow and stem cell transplantation and has been with IU Health since 2003.  She is also the Assistant Dean for Medical Students Education Phase 2 at IU School of Medicine.

Dr. Schwartz said she’s known since Kindergarten that she wanted to be a doctor. “It was a fundamental calling. When I visited my family physician, I liked his caring and his warmth. I wanted my chance to help people and make them better. People ask if taking care of patients with blood cancers is difficult and I tell them it’s my honor to help patients as they progress through the ups and downs of treatment. Their strength inspires me every day.” Like his wife, Dr. Fridell also thrives on walking with his patients throughout their journey – before, during and after transplant.

“Right after transplant people are often very emotional. When they say ‘thank you’ I remind them they have an opportunity to write a letter to their donor family – that somewhere, someone has gone through something terrible and has given them a chance at a new life,” said Fridell.

Here is more from Drs. Schwartz and Fridell:

What do you like best about your fields?

Dr. Schwartz: I thought the blood was fascinating in medical school. When I was in high school my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. She overcame it and then in my second year of medical school she was diagnosed with secondary leukemia. Due to her previous chemotherapy and despite many treatments, she died. The thing that I had found fascinating became the thing I wanted to fight.  It’s still so amazing to look at the immune system as a partner to help fight the disease. While my passion comes from having lost her to it what continues to draw me to it are the patients – they are amazing. I think I can empathize with the patients because I’ve sat on the other side of the desk when the news wasn’t so good. I’ve ridden that roller coaster so I think I can understand some of what my patients and their families are going through ”

Dr. Fridell: “I wanted to be a plastic surgeon. Everything I did in medical school was geared toward that. Then I was in my intern year of general surgery and we had a woman in ICU who had advanced cirrhosis and was dying of liver failure. We temporized using an ex-vivo pig liver (like dialysis) to bridge her to transplant and then she received a liver transplant from Toronto. I spent two years in the lab researching this event. It was a turning point for me to see what transplants could do. What I realize when I’m doing reconstructive surgery for the abdomen is that where most surgeries cut away and take out, we are putting in. Transplantation has the potential of being magic. I really enjoy being a doctor. I enjoy the challenges of medicine and one of the special things of transplant is you get to do difficult operations but you have to be at the top of your game because there are always medical challenges related to the necessary immunosuppression medication and the underlying comorbities. I consider this one of the most grateful patient populations.”

What does life look like at the Fridell/Schwartz home on a typical evening?

Dr. Schwartz: “We have two daughters ages 11 and 10. Probably like most families you have work, home and kids’ activities. It could be soccer or dance, and we just have to be strategic about when we need help. In the evenings we do homework and talk about our day. We’re really a typical family.”

Dr. Fridell: “Mornings are the usual hustle and bustle of most homes with kids. We always take the girls to school. That’s our thing. With transplant you don’t know when you’ll get called in but we try to plan as much as we can. We also love to travel. We just took the kids to New York for the first time.”

If your daughters decided to go into medicine, what would you say?

Dr. Schwartz:  “I would tell them to do what they love. We have one daughter who loves math. She saw the movie ‘Hidden Figures’ and she wants to work for NASA. The other one loves to dance and wants to be a teacher.”

Dr. Fridell: “There’s no doubt our daughters have been exposed to our careers. One of them was about four or five and talking about being dehydrated and using words like ‘trachea.’”

One of you is a Star Wars fan, correct?

Dr. Schwartz: “He is a collector. I’m not to that point but growing up as a kid I had action figures and I loved Star Wars.”

Dr. Fridell: “She likes Star Trek and James Bond more. I definitely like Star Wars more”.

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

HIV and Mental Health: “We Meet Them Where They Are.”

An evolution in holistic care – that’s how long-time staff members at LifeCare at IU Health Methodist Hospital see the attention given to clients with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

First it was care for just the patients but in the past 25 years that care has extended to family members – caregivers, spouses and domestic partners. The care has expanded from end-of-life care to a focus on testing and preventing the disease. The care for HIV patients and families has evolved from coping with a diagnosis to living life with a diagnosis.

Clients come to LifeCare from all walks of life – all genders, sexual orientations, and ethnicities. Today the program serves about 1,300 clients spanning the ages of 18 to 80, making it the largest HIV medical provider in the state. 

This month marks the 28th anniversary of the death of Ryan White – a young man who, at the age of 18, became the face of the disease that infects about 50,000 Americans a year. 

And as research and treatment evolves, LifeCare continues to expand its focus and outreach to clients. The program recently received a $1.1 million grant from the Indiana State Department of Health to allow for expanded behavioral health treatment, outpatient substance abuse treatment and medical case management.

“For 25 years we’ve been providing our clients with holistic care. Now we’re taking it to a new level, recognizing that behavioral health is primary health, and adding a psychiatrist to our program,” said Kyle Bonham, Ambulatory Manager of LifeCare. In the past, clients needing mental health services were referred to outside agencies. Now they will work with an in-house team that includes a newly contracted board certified adult psychiatrist Tracy Gunter, clinical social worker Linda Santoro, who has served as a case manger for LifeCare for 17 years, and pharmacist Jake Peters.

“We’re privileged to hear people talk about their lives,” said Santoro.  “When we work in collaboration with people and remain curious and open about how problems are affecting them, we also hear stories of possibility and change.”

Gunter, who is with IUHP Psychiatry and Behavioral Science, is also a board certified forensic psychiatrist. She first worked with HIV patients in the early 90s during an internship in her home state of South Carolina.

“One of the things that was happening at that point is people who had contracted HIV were coming home to die. When I learned of the opportunity to work with LifeCare, it was exciting because the disease that was a death sentence is now managed as a chronic disease. LifeCare patients are referred to mental health for various reasons ranging from addictions to anxiety and mood problems to crisis counseling.

“This clinic serves a lot of people who have had a lot of trauma. I’ve learned that you listen more than you talk and you stay willing to meet them where they are as opposed to demanding they meet you where you are,” said Gunter. “So far, clients have said, ‘I’m glad you are here.’ When they want to know what they should say or how they should come in I tell them ‘until you show up, until you trust us enough to see you good or bad, it will be hard to get started.’ Having the willingness to listen to the truth of their life experience goes a long way.”

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

A Heroic Tale: 100 Yards From The Boston Marathon Bombing

2:49 p.m. – April 15, 2013: Inside a medical tent just 100 yards from the finish line of the Boston Marathon, Michael Emery, M.D., stood with a nurse. They were tending to a runner, who was dehydrated and cramping.

Surrounding Dr. Emery, a sports cardiologist with IU Health, were physical therapists, physicians, massage therapists and nurses.  

“We hear this big boom. Twelve seconds later, another big boom.”

The nurse turned to Dr. Emery and asked, “Was that thunder?” There were few clouds in the sky, no threat of bad weather.  

“I knew those weren’t normal sounds you would hear. I knew something wasn’t right.”

Dr. Emery texted his wife, Amy: “I’m fine.” He didn’t know, really, whether he would be fine. He didn’t know what had happened.

“But I had suspicions something bad had happened.”

A voice came over the intercom telling the crew to stay in their stations. About that time, someone came into the tent from around the corner with a devastating message.

Those booms they had heard were bombs.

Dr. Emery didn’t know it at the time, but those two homemade bombs that detonated 210 yards apart near the finish line, would end up killing three people and injuring several hundred.

He also didn’t know that, within minutes, he would be called to risk his life to save others.

And Dr. Emery would answer that call – in a major way 

***

ALL PHYSICIANS TO THE FINISH LINE, the voice blared over the intercom.

“All of us took off like a bat out of hell running toward the finish line. And that’s when we started seeing the smoke and the chaos and started smelling it. 

But the first image of a person, the first victim that Dr. Emery saw, was a man – with his legs blown off, being lifted into a wheelchair. 

That man was Jeff Bauman. A photo of Bauman being wheeled down the streets of Boston, with a man in a cowboy hat pinching his femoral artery, went viral. A movie about Bauman starring Jake Gyllenhaal, called “Stronger,” was released in 2017. 

But Dr. Emery didn’t have much time to focus, at first, on what was happening outside. People might still be inside the building, someone yelled, people inside the Marathon Sports store located next to where the bombing occurred.

Dr. Emery ran inside. 

“It hit me when I went in. Should I be in the building?”

Dr. Emery searched and yelled out. No answers. He found no one inside the store and so he emerged.

“Back out on the street, it was pure chaos. It was a war zone, literally pools of blood in the sidewalks and streets, and I’m standing in them. 

He rushed through the crowd of physicians performing CPR on victims, stopping the bleeding and comforting. Dr. Emery made his way to a victim —  to help with an automated external defibrillator. 

“The ambulances were trying to load people up. They were trying to clear the scene pretty quickly. They were still worried about another bomb.”   

***

There were thousands of marathoners still running when the bombing occurred. They were diverted to a different route.

Once the finish line scene was cleared, Dr. Emery and other medical volunteers – including his friend, the co-medical director of the marathon who had invited him to be part of the race – wandered Boston. They wanted to make sure those runners weren’t in need of medical care.

It was 6 p.m. when Dr. Emery finally made it back to his hotel room.

“And it didn’t really hit me what had happened until I got to my hotel room and started seeing the TV. What the hell did I just experience?” 

Dr. Emery was hungry. It hit him all at once. There was nothing to eat in the hotel. He would have to venture out again.

“Literally, as soon as I closed my hotel door, I had a panic attack. I was in sheer panic mode. I went to Qdoba, got a burrito and was in pure anxiety mode the entire time until I got back.”

When the sun rose the next morning, and in the light of day, Dr. Emery’s panic subsided. He walked the streets of Boston and saw a more settled scene.

There were still armored cars and automatic rifles. The bombers had not been apprehended yet.

Dr. Emery stayed in Boston until Thursday, several days after the tragedy —  and then he left Boston behind. At least he tried.

***

Back at home in South Carolina, where Dr. Emery practiced at the time, he felt alone.

People would ask him if he was OK, but he wasn’t. It was traumatic. He hadn’t gotten to have closure, go to the memorials or get the psychological support other volunteers – still in Boston – had.

“I remember that October, it was Halloween and I was eating breakfast. And a story came on about another volunteer at the marathon that was an athletic trainer. And I just broke down in the middle of breakfast.”

Dr. Emery knew he needed to find a way to heal. He found that healing in a return trip to the Boston Marathon.

“I went back in 2014 because I needed to. And I took my family with me for the emotional support.”

He went to the site and saw the memorial. He got to have fun in the medical tent – to see what it was like to volunteer for the marathon without a tragedy.

And he went back again in 2015 and again in 2017.

“Even today, when I think about that day, it still gets me. It’s not something you ever get over. Or forget.” 

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

Cheerleader Fell From Stunt, Now An EMT

Her petite frame was perfect for a basket toss, shoulder stand or the tiptop of a base stunt. Merideth Brooks had cheered on the sidelines of sporting events in elementary school and middle school. Her goal was to cheer throughout high school and on into college.

But those plans changed in seconds.

It was halftime of the Herron High School Achaeans basketball game Dec. 7, 2012. Brooks was 10-feet above the hardwood floor finishing a stunt when she fell, landing headfirst. The gym grew silent.

She lost consciousness and remembers waking up to emergency workers strapping her into a cervical collar and loading her onto a backboard. She remembers it was snowing outside. The rest is a blur.

“It’s a scary thing for a 13-year-old to hear they might be paralyzed. The EMT’s took good care of me,” said Brooks. She was rushed to IU Health Methodist Hospital where scans were conducted. It was determined there was no bleeding on her brain but she had suffered a concussion in the fall.

She was released into the care of her primary physician for ongoing testing every two weeks to determine the extent of the concussion. She failed the concussion test four times and the headaches that started early on began to intensify.

“I went from a normal busy teenager to barely being able to get out of bed. I couldn’t stand up without passing out,” said Brooks. “We went to every doctor – every specialist you can imagine – cardiologists, neurologists, psychologists – trying to find out what was wrong.” Her parents didn’t know it on that fateful December night but there would be more ambulance transports to ER in their daughter’s future.

It was those emergency transports that left her with such a powerful lasting impression of first responders. Now at the age of 19, she is in her final year studying for a degree in paramedic science and began working as a LifeLine EMT in December of 2016 – four years after her cheerleading accident.

“Working as an EMT has been the best thing that’s happened to me,” said Brooks. “For the longest time I didn’t even know if I’d graduate from high school. I didn’t even know if I’d get out of my wheelchair or live much of a life at all. To be on the other side is the greatest gift. I’m not a patient anymore I have patients of my own to care for.”

It wasn’t always like that.

In and out of Riley Hospital for Children, she missed school and continued to suffer extreme dizziness, headaches and nausea. At one point doctors thought her symptoms were psychological episodes triggered by a conversion disorder. Another time there was testing for allergies. After six months, the diagnosis emerged. Brooks has Postural Orthostatic Tachycarida Syndrome. Commonly known as POTS, the condition affects blood flow and is a form of orthostatic intolerance where symptoms develop when a person stands up from a reclining position. The primary symptoms are lightheadedness, fainting, and a rapid heart rate.

Many people develop POTS after an illness, serious infection or trauma such as a head injury.

For Brooks – the very sights and sounds that she now works with daily – bright lights and sirens – were triggers for her symptoms.

“A loud sound like a fire alarm can be perceived as a threat. My brain couldn’t connect the dots to tell me what was actually happening,” said Brooks. Before her diagnosis, she suffered seizures and spent a year in a wheelchair because her muscles were too weak for her to feel safe walking. Many times she spent a week’s time at Riley for symptoms resulting from a compromised immune system. 

It wasn’t until her senior year of high school that a strict medical regime helped treat the symptoms and retrain her brain.

“I spent so much time learning about medicine and the different parts of my disease that I really grew to like the emergency medicine side,” said Brooks. So the summer after her senior year she enrolled in an EMT class and began working at LifeLine after completing her certification.

Her experience and diagnosis has also led Brooks to public speaking and fundraising encouraging others to learn more about POTS and to raise awareness about concussions and traumatic brain injuries.

“When my accident happened we knew what a traumatic brain injury was, we just didn’t know what POTS was. I have learned so much,” said Brooks. “I say my story isn’t a sad story because of where I am today. It was unfortunate and I was unlucky but I’m so much more of a person now than I was six years ago – I see life in a completely different way and when I respond to an emergency where there is a head injury, I can relate. I know what it feels like to be strapped to a backboard, to wake up from a seizure, to be scared.” 

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