A Quiet Comfort

She came to IU Health University Hospital two years ago and works in post surgery. A graduate of Ball State University, Crow is the second family member to become a nurse.

“I think I always wanted to help people,” she says. After graduation from Eastern Howard High School, she declared her major as nursing and set her sights on working in labor in delivery. But plans changed as her career evolved.

“The best part of working in post surgery is the team. We have a great staff,” said Crow 27.

A few more things about Crow:

A lot of people would be surprised: “To know that I was in a sorority in college. For me it was about the service e projects. We raised funds for St. Jude Children’s Hospital and for animal adoption.”

The last great book she read: “The Hiding Place,” the story of Corrie ten Boom whose family became leaders in the Dutch Underground, hiding Jewish people in their home and aiding in their escape from the Nazis.

She enjoys: “I took German in high school and I’m interested in history. One of my favorite patients was an 87-year-old Jewish man who escaped to the US during the Nazi rise to power. Listening to him talk was like reading a page out of a history book. He just really left an impression on me.”

What she likes best about nursing: “Being able to step into someone’s life at the worst moment and being able to brighten their lives.”

– TJ Banes

Extraordinary Standards: Surgeon Can Practice Anywhere In The World

The words echoed constantly in his head — over and over and over. Those words his father would say to him.

“You can do whatever you want Raghu. You can be anything you want.”

Born in Bangalore, a city in south India about five times the size of Indianapolis, Raghu Motaganahalli, M.D., grew up thinking he wanted to be a civil engineer – building bridges and dams. That was his dream.

But after sustaining some trauma in high school and consulting with a surgeon, Dr. Motaganahalli had a revelation.

“These guys are different than I thought,” he said to himself. “And at that point, I made my decision. I want to become a surgeon.”

A surgeon he became — but not just any surgeon. Dr. Motaganahalli trained around the world, training so extensively that he can practice anywhere on the globe.

His ultimate choice to settle for a career, lucky for IU Health, is as medical director of the vascular surgery department at Methodist Hospital.

Here, he leads a team of renowned surgeons and a program ranked among the top in the nation. Dr. Motaganahalli is one of just 2,800 vascular surgeons in the United States. It’s a specialized field and one often confused with cardiovascular or cardiac surgery.

Dr. Motaganahalli explains it this way: “Vascular surgeons deal with every artery in the body, every vein in the body — except for the heart and the brain.”

“I don’t work on the pump. I work on the tubes,” says the 48-year-old father of two sons. “I call myself the plumber.”

His work with aortic aneurysms and lower extremity ischemia is critical. In many instances, his patients don’t have much time to get to surgery before the risk of death. 

Yet, Dr. Motaganahalli sees his specialty as one of positives.

“My job is to get them back on their feet,” he says. “To give them the quality of life. I went to medical school to become a surgeon, to help people and I never let it go.”

In addition to his clinical work and research, Dr. Motaganahalli takes a deep interest in molding young residents.

“It’s important to train the next generation in the proper fashion,” he says.

After all, Dr. Motaganahalli experienced a lot of amazing training and mentors on his own medical journey.


After graduating from high school in India, Dr. Motaganahalli received his medical degree from Bangalore University. He then completed his surgery residency at St. John’s National Academy of Health Sciences.

What followed was a globe-trotting jaunt that first took him to Buenos Aires. There, he trained with Juan C. Parodi, the surgeon who in 1990 had performed the first endovascular abdominal aortic aneurysm repair using a stent. 

Dr. Motaganahalli spent six months with him, learning to speak Spanish best he could.

Next, he landed in Germany on a surgical society scholarship, studying in Berlin and at the University of Dusseldorf to learn the details of catheterization technology.

Dr. Motaganahalli also received training in the United Kingdom in Ireland. He was a senior lecturer of vascular surgery in Dublin.

But then, after taking a deep breath and thinking about his whirlwind trip, Dr. Motaganahalli had a thought.

“‘You know what? I think I am going to have to go home,’” he says. “‘I think it’s time to go home and start practice.’”

But, there was one last destination he had never reached and that was the United States.

“I thought I should get part of my training there so I can be complete,” he says.

A spot was open at St. Louis University Hospital in Missouri for a fellowship in vascular surgery. He got on faculty to fast track his residency.

And before he knew it, Dr. Motaganahalli had extraordinary standards — he had finished his surgery qualifications in India, America and the U.K.

“I can practice anywhere in the world right now,” he says.

What’s ironic is that Dr. Motaganahalli never had the dream of coming to the United States. He wanted to train in India and, at the time, thought the United Kingdom had the best surgical training.

“Now, I have a different perspective,” he says. “U.S. trained surgeons are the best absolutely in the world.”

Still, Dr. Motaganahalli has a special place in his heart for that first general surgery exam he passed. It was right before his father died. 

“My father got to see me clear that exam,” Dr. Motaganahalli says. “He knew that and he was very happy.”

He father knew his words were right. His son could do anything he wanted.

More on Dr. Motaganahalli

Personal: He and his wife, Dipti, live in Carmel and are the parents of two sons, a sophomore in high school and a fourth grader.

Research interests: Use of endovascular surgery for the treatment of CAS, aortic aneurysm, lower extremity ischemia and vascular trauma and the use of thermotherapy for intermittent claudication.

On IU Health: “This is my home now. I like the department. The division gave me a lot. They gave me the flexibility, the opportunity and, more than anything, they nurtured me. My boss Dr. (Michael) Dalsing pushed me past what I wanted to do.”

— By Dana Benbow, Senior Journalist at IU Health.

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

Methodist’s Front Desk Man Michael Alexander Reveals He Has Cancer

It’s tough to feel sad talking to Michael Alexander. Even if he is talking about cancer, about the prostate cancer doctors recently found in his body.

“I’m not sad,” says Alexander, the front desk man who welcomes – and answer the questions for – everyone who walks into IU Health Methodist Hospital. “Sober. Sober in terms of the realization that I’m fortunate that I’ve made it this far in life. And I’m blessed to be surrounded by family and friends and have good fortune along the way.”

If a positive attitude can beat cancer, Alexander’s about to whip the disease.

He jokes that since he is having the surgery next month at Methodist, he may just leave the operating room and head to the front desk to work his job as guest relations associate. 

He jokes that if something goes wrong during the surgery, he’s going to tell the surgeon it’s fine to use a butter knife and ice cream scoop to finish things up.

Yes, it’s tough to feel sad talking to Alexander.

His cancer was discovered during a routine medical check up.  

“A little red flag came up,” says Alexander, who along with wife Gina Lewis Alexander, has two grown children and two grandchildren. “They said, ‘OK, let’s look a little bit further, a little bit further.’”

And then came the news. People often wonder what it feels like to hear the word cancer.

“I was like, ‘OK, this is my cross I have to carry,’” he says. “I will deal with it because I’ve been around enough people who’ve had much worse.”

As he sits each day at the front desk of Methodist – sometimes floating to other IU Health facilities – he sees people facing health challenges.

In a way, that has given him strength.

“I’m going to face it head on,” Alexander says.

He will have surgery Oct. 2 and take a minimum of two weeks off.

But first? First, he will celebrate. Alexander had his 60th birthday on Tuesday. This weekend, he will head to Cleveland – where he lived the first 21 years of his life — for a big party.  

There will be grade school friends, friends he’s known since 1963 and before. There will be neighbors. And there will be new friends.  About 80 people are expected for the party being held at a Catholic church he used to attend in Cleveland.

With that, Alexander breaks out in a little jig as he sits at the front desk.

“Am I going to dance at the party?” he asks. “Is the pope Catholic?”

Alexander’s attitude as he faces cancer is one to behold.

“I’m blessed,” he says, “beyond compare.”

— By Dana Benbow, Senior Journalist at IU Health.

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

Psoriasis: Why it Gets Worse in Winter and Fall

Fall: It brings beautifully colored leaves, cooler, crisper air, festive holidays and all too often, itchy skin. Why? Experts say the season’s drier air and lower levels of the sun’s ultraviolet rays can worsen inflammatory skin conditions like psoriasis (since ultraviolet light hinder the rapid growth of skin cells–a characteristic of the condition). The dry heat blared in most buildings during colder months can also sap the body of its natural stores of moisture, leading to dry, itching, cracked skin.

Wondering what you can do? Here, William A. Wooden, MD, FACS a plastic surgeon at Indiana University Health offers some helpful insights on psoriasis. 

“Normally our skin grows all the time and sheds effectively but with people who have psoriasis it doesn’t shed fast enough and therefore gets thicker and scalier,” says Dr. Wooden. This is also once again a systemic condition that tends to run in families…meaning it’s not contagious and if your mom, dad, or siblings have had it, your risk could be higher.

Symptoms:  Like eczema, this can be a lifelong condition where the immune system basically sends off faulty information to the skin’s cells that force them to grow too quickly, says Dr. Wooden. The result can be the formation of plaque-like growths that may appear scaly and are often quite itchy. Common places for plaque formations include knees, elbows, lower back, and scalp.

Treatment: It is very important to keep tabs on when a patient’s psoriasis flares up. Oftentimes things like stress, illness, or new medications may trigger symptoms. Sadly, there is no cure, but Dr. Wooden says there are a variety of treatments that may offer patients relief including laser options, steroids and anti-inflammatories. “Patients with psoriasis should work with a doctor to find the right treatment plan for them,” says Dr. Wooden, who reiterates that there isn’t one perfect solution so some trial and error may be involved.

Prevention: “Patients also need to be attuned to the balance of the body,” says Dr. Wooden, who says that psoriatic flare-ups are often an indication that something else is off internally.

— By Sarah Burns

Mindy Mayes Walks & Dances Her Way From Obesity

Mindy Mayes has a degree in public health so she knows about the risk factors associated with obesity – diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, heart disease, blood clots, and renal problems. She also knows how family history plays a role in those health hazards.

A reality check came on April 19, 2016 when she had her initial consultation with Dr. Jennifer Choi of IU Health North Bariatric, stepped on the scales, and read the numbers: 385.9 pounds.

“I was shocked.  . . my gosh, I was less than 15 pounds shy of 400, I have to do something. I do not want to live my life obese, overweight, and with an increased chance illness,” she wrote in her blog, “Loser’s Bench.” For six months she met with a nutritionist and nurse practitioner, talking about eating habits, diet and exercise. Her surgery was scheduled for December 12, 2016.

Originally from Virginia, Mayes said before she considered surgery, she “researched hospitals and then researched the research” but felt a connection with Dr. Choi.

“I knew if I didn’t make a change it was only a matter of time before I too had these illnesses. I’d lost weight before, 75-100 lbs, but gained it all back and then some. I knew bariatric surgery has shown to be an effective way in losing weight and keeping it off,” said Mayes, who works as a Health and Human Sciences Extension Educator with Purdue Extension, Grant County. She is also a Pastor in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and now a Zumba instructor.

“Teaching Zumba is something that I have always wanted to do, but with the weight, it wasn’t something that I would have realistically been able to do. After starting to lose the weight I decided to look for trainings in the area and found one and got certified. I love that you can work out and have fun at the same time. Zumba is for any activity level, so anyone (even rhythmically challenged people) can do it,” she said.

There were other things she looked forward to doing too she said – riding a roller coaster again, fun adventurous activities like zip lining and rock climbing, wearing cute dresses, and shopping in “normal” people sizes and wearing an airplane seatbelt without an extender.

In February, just two months post surgery; Mayes described her weight loss as equal to 640 Oreos – a total of 59 pounds.

“I eat three meals a day with 2-4 ounces of food in each meal. It may not seem like a lot of food, but surprisingly it is. My focus is on protein and fluids, making sure I get between 60-80 grams of protein and 48-64 ounces of water,” she wrote. She also avoids carbs. On a rare occasion she eats a slice of bread, a few jellybeans or a scoop of rice.

“For me the key is being true with and to yourself, and not lying. I write down everything I eat.”

After six weeks she was back in the gym working her way toward another goal – running a 5K.

In a six-month update Mayes changed the name of her blog from “Loser’s Bench” to “Winning Walk.”

“We’re not losers (well, I guess in some cases we are since we are losing pounds, but you get my point). We are winners, so welcome to my winning walk,” she wrote. She had lost 111 pounds, dropped from a size 28/30 to a size 22/24 and had taken her first plane ride without a seatbelt extender. She went zip lining, hiked the Grand Canyon, bought a bike; completed an “insane 5K” that included 11 obstacles; and began teaching Zumba.

Mayes advice to others considering bariatric surgery:

“Surgery is a tool that you have to put to work. There will be times that it is tough, but you can do it. It’s about living a healthier life and being the best person you can be.”

And Mayes is a proponent of exercise – even starting small with three, 10-minute walks a day.

On Saturday, Mayes will offer a Zumba demo and then join others in her first “Walk from Obesity.”

“I’m excited to join my bariatric brothers and sisters, their friends and families. If we put our minds to a goal, we can do it,” said Mayes. “It’s one step at a time. This is a journey, not a marathon or a sprint. It’s all about pacing ourselves to the endpoint.”

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