Methodist’s Dr. Pohlman Was Trained By First Trauma Doc To Treat JFK

C. James Carrico, M.D., trained IU Health Methodist Hospital trauma surgeon Timothy Pohlman, M.D. Dr. Carrico was the first physician to examine President John F. Kennedy after he was shot on Nov. 22, 1963. Dr. Pohlman gave us the account of that day as told to him many times by his mentor.

He lost a coin toss. It was the flip of a penny that sent C. James Carrico to Parkland Memorial Hospital at 12:30 p.m. on Nov. 22, 1963.

Dr. Carrico didn’t want to go. He was a 28-year-old surgical resident who wanted to be a plastic surgeon.

On that day at noon, Dr. Carrico and another resident, Red Duke, were sitting in a lecture given by a man who had invented a new method for breast augmentation.

“These guys wanted to go to Hollywood, augment the breasts of all these actresses, make a gazillion dollars, retire by 45 and have a house on the ocean,” Dr. Pohlman says.

Then, their pagers buzzed: A gunshot wound to the head was coming in to Parkland. This was no novelty. There were five of those a day at the Dallas hospital.  

But one of them would have to leave the lecture to respond. They flipped a coin.

“It was a coin toss that changed Carrico’s life forever,” Dr. Pohlman says. “He lost it, but he really won it.”


Immediately, Dr. Carrico noticed something different about this patient as he walked into Trauma Room 1 at Parkland.

The man on the gurney was in an expensive suit. The man on the gurney was surrounded by men in expensive suits, brandishing automatic weapons. 

“He looked down at Kennedy and the back of his head was literally blown off,” Dr. Pohlman says. “He looked at the Secret Service and says, ‘Well, this man is dead. There is nothing I can do.’”

The lead agent told Dr. Carrico: “You have to try. You have to do something. This is the President of the United States.”


Dr. Carrico always contended, had it not been for a brace the President wore, he might have survived that assassination attempt.

When the shooter Lee Harvey Oswald took the first shot at 12:30 p.m., it missed Kennedy and hit the concrete of the street. The second shot hit Kennedy in the neck.

Kennedy, according to Dr. Carrico, had a terrible back and he wore a stiff brace from his collarbone down to his knees. That second shot should have thrown the President forward into the seat where he would have been protected.  

Instead, the brace kept Kennedy up.

“The third shot hit him in the back of the head, which instantly killed him,” Dr. Pohlman says. “If he had lived and served on as President, who knows how the world would be different.”


Inside Parkland, word was spreading. That gunshot victim was the President.

Dr. Carrico had to do something, so he intubated Kennedy. But really, nothing could be done.

“Finally, a neurosurgeon sees there are no brains in his head,” Dr. Pohlman says. “And pronounces officially that Kennedy is dead.”

That was 1 p.m. on Nov. 22, 1963.

Dr. Carrico’s life changed forever. He rarely spoke publicly about treating Kennedy. He quietly went on to be a very successful trauma surgeon.


How Dr. Pohlman landed with such a grand mentor as Dr. Carrico started when he was a “punk resident at the University of Wisconsin,” he says.

Five or six chief residents were in a room and Dr. Carrico, then the department chair at the University of Washington, was there to talk. He asked each of them what they wanted to do.

“By then, I was sick of being a resident,” Dr. Pohlman says. “I just wanted to be a cruise boat doctor, treat a few sunburns, send them on their way, wear a little white coat and eat dinner with the captain every night.”

The other residents had no such ambitions. They were overachievers. They told Dr. Carrico that they wanted to publish papers, teach and go into rare, subspecialties of medicine.

“He gets to me, I raised my hand and said, “I want to be a cruise boat doctor,” Dr. Pohlman says.

There was stunned silence. “Carrico looks at me like I’ve lost my mind,” Dr. Pohlman says. “Who is this goofy person here?”

Dr. Carrico took Dr. Pohlman out into the hall and told him that he had worked too hard to be a general surgeon to stop now.

“Why don’t you come with me?” Dr. Carrico said to Dr. Pohlman, “and I’ll train you to be a trauma surgeon.”

That’s exactly what happened.

“I loved the man,” Dr. Pohlman says of his mentor, who died in 2002 of colon cancer. “He had this gift. I’d go into his office and he made me think I was the most important person talking to him that day.”

Much like that fateful coin toss, it was by pure happenstance Dr. Pohlman was trained by Dr. Carrico.

“It was just a twist in my life,” he says, “that changed everything.”

— By Dana Benbow, Senior Journalist at IU Health.

   Reach Benbow via email or on Twitter @danabenbow.

Methodist’s Power Couple

He’s a toxicologist. She’s in critical care. Both are clinical pharmacists.

He’s an intensely organized, quiet guy. She’s OK with a bit of disarray and is definitely outgoing.

It sounds so cliché – to say that a couple complements each other. But Jim Mowry and Judi Jacboi-Mowry do just that.

Together, they are a force to be reckoned with – the power couple of IU Health Methodist Hospital. The two are nationally and internationally recognized in their fields. They travel the world speaking and lecturing. They publish papers and mentor young pharmacists.

“They are two of the smartest people I know,” says Kathy Hendershot, director of nursing operations at Methodist. “They are like a brain trust. Impressive and world-renowned – both of them.”


It was a baby girl that led Jim to a career in toxicology.

One of his first nights on call during his pharmacy doctorate program at the University of Minnesota, an 18-month-old girl came in with an iron overdose.

“It was probably still the most severe iron poisoning I’ve ever seen,” says Jim, PharmD, DABAT, FAACT,
manager of poison control at IU Health. 

The child, who had been fed her mother’s prenatal vitamins by a sibling, died in less than 24 hours.

“We tried to do all kinds of heroic measures,” Jim says. “It was a very tragic case.”

That case stuck with Jim. So did what happened to his colleague during his pharmacy school days. That colleague got methanol poisoning and ended up mostly blind.

Both cases made Jim realize there was a need for people in toxicology who understood those drugs and how to manage and treat them.

Three decades later, he says he absolutely made the right choice in specialties.

Jim’s days start early, rounding on patients at all three hospitals, Methodist, University and Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health, checking in on poison cases.

The rest of his day is filled with duties overseeing the Indiana Poison Center, located at Methodist. The center takes about 58,000 calls a year and has a staff of 16 nurses answering the phones.

There are seven physician toxicologists that run the medical toxicology consult service and a health educator that goes out and does poison prevention and education.

Jim, who has been at Methodist since 1988, keeps everything running smoothly.

“He is one of the most organized and efficient people that I know,” says Judi. “He is just incredibly focused. He really will work on something until it’s absolutely done to his satisfaction.” 


Critical care caught hold of Judi in a very raw way. She was on one of her first rotations and a patient was dying. She had never seen a person take his last breath.

As she observed and asked the nurses questions, she knew. This is where she wanted to be.

“Just the environment, the compassion, the teamwork,” says Judi, PharmD, MCCM, FCCP, BCCCP, critical care pharmacy specialist at Methodist. “This was the early 1980s and a very physician-dominated patient care environment. But, in critical care, it started as a team sport.”  

When Judi came to Methodist as the only critical care pharmacist in 1995, there were 80 critical care beds. She worked with a hospital-based team and saw just a small portion of the patients. She knew there was a need beyond that.

Judi worked with others to train, hire and build a team. Today, there is a pharmacist for each critical care unit responsible for the drug therapy for patients in that unit. The pharmacists round with the team and are a resource for the nurses.

“I spend my days in the critical care unit really trying to anticipate and prevent problems,” Judi says. “Really optimizing drug therapy for patients.”

It’s a lot of problem solving. Can one drug be taken with another drug? Could a patient’s unusual symptom be drug related?

“She’s the resource that everybody goes to when they have a problem. She is the person that will spend the time to help,” says Jim. “She’s brilliant. But, she’s also always thinking about how to do things best.”


Judi was born in a suburb of Milwaukee, Wis. Her dad was an engineer and her mom stayed at home, involved in all sorts of volunteer work.

Her grandfather was a pharmacist at a drug store — one of those iconic drug stores, with the wooden counter and the soda fountain and all the rows of penny candy.

“He was quite a fixture in the neighborhood,” she says.

Judi didn’t know, as a little girl, that she wanted to be a pharmacist. But the neighbor lady across the street was a pharmacist and her family had a friend who was a pharmacist. The career was introduced to her early and often.

In high school, she excelled at math and science, was part of the student government and worked stage crew for the musicals. She was a Girl Scout until she was 18, which kept her busy camping and racing canoes.

As Judi was choosing a career, a guidance counselor mentioned pharmacy. The University of Wisconsin had a top program and so did Purdue University. Judi had a really good friend who was going to Purdue.

So, it was off to West Lafayette to become a pharmacist.

Jim was born in Carbondale, Ill., home of Southern Illinois University. His dad was a professor at the college, running the experimental horticultural center —  a peach and apple breeder.

His mom stayed home but also did volunteer work at the church and local hospital, where she spent years as a “pink lady.”

Jim started at Southern Illinois with big plans to become a chemist. His first chemistry course quickly changed that notion. But an elective in pharmaceuticals caught his attention and he signed up. 

“I thought this really sounds cool,” Jim says. “And that’s when I decided I wanted to be a pharmacist.”

But both Jim and Judi wanted to do more than work in a retail setting or at a hospital pharmacy – which was what most pharmacists did at the time.

They liked the idea of clinical pharmacy, rounding with teams, assuming responsibility for drug therapy and drug dosing and managing the patient face to face.

They ended up getting their doctorates in pharmacy at the University of Minnesota – but didn’t meet there. Jim was two years ahead of Judi. 

Yet, it was the Minnesota connection that ultimately led to their chance meeting.


They were in San Francisco in December of 1980 at a national pharmacy meeting. All the people with a University of Minnesota  connection were hanging out.

Judi was 24, and finishing up her doctorate. She saw Jim. It was “pretty much” love at first sight, she says. She asked another pharmacist who he was.

At the time, Jim was working in Oklahoma as a clinical pharmacist, with plans to take over the poison center there. He had just finished a yearlong toxicology residency in Tennessee.

Everyone at the conference knew Judi was looking for a job. They told her she should go talk to Jim, that he might have something.

In that big reception hall, Judi went up to introduce herself to Jim. They spent the rest of the week in San Francisco together. Both knew then this was the real thing. 

But they didn’t know that Judi would be the one to land Jim his job in Indianapolis.

It was the next month, in January, Judi was back at the University of Minnesota working at its drug information center when a call came in.

It was a man Judi had trained with at Purdue. He was calling to talk to Judi’s preceptor, who happened to be unavailable. He wanted to let her know about a drug and poison center in Indianapolis. 

“And I said, ‘Well, I just met this guy and he really wants a poison center,’” Judi says. “That’s what brought Jim to Indiana.”

Jim came to the Indiana Poison Center in 1981, which was located at the former Wishard Hospital. In 1988, it moved to Methodist and so did Jim.  

Judi, meanwhile, went to Ohio State University for a residency in critical care pharmacy. They saw each other every other weekend.


The marriage proposal happened at the top of a water tower in Giant City State Park in Illinois. They were married in 1982.

As they sit in Methodist, there is still that glimmer, that twinkle in their eyes as they look at one another.

Judi loves Jim’s dry sense of humor. She loves that, as she’s gotten involved in more and more things throughout the years, he has been there to reel her in.

“He’s kept me centered and focused,” she says.

Jim loves that Judi is the outgoing half of the relationship.

“I hardly said anything when I was in pharmacy school. You couldn’t get me to talk at all,” he says. “She pushes me to be more outgoing.”

As for the secret to 35 years of marriage?

“We are so blessed to have similar interests,” Judi says. “Our best nights are when we’re playing tennis on courts next to each other or cycling together.”

They have found that perfect complementary balance.

“It’s just a team approach to everything,” Judi says. “And it works.”

Career Advice From The Power Couple

Jim: “When I first started my career, I thought everything was black and white, and I’ve learned that it’s all gray. There are multiple ways to get to the same end point and there’s no one way that’s the best way to do it. So, you always learn. I want to learn something new every day. That’s the only way you can stay fresh and stay motivated.”

Judi: “Honestly, the No. 1 thing that holds most people back is themselves. They’re often thinking, ‘Oh, I’m not good enough. I’m not smart enough to do that.’ In reality, there is so much to be done and the leaders are just waiting for someone to raise their hand to do it.”

— By Dana Benbow, Senior Journalist at IU Health.

   Reach Benbow via email or on Twitter @danabenbow.

Why I Volunteer: 3 IU Health Employees Explain

Tis the season for volunteering and Operation Winter Ready is a great way for Indiana University Health employees to consider giving back.

“Operation Winter Ready is a project that we’ve been involved in for four years,” explains Rebecca Fox, an engagement project manager in IU Health’s community outreach and engagement sector. “Each year, our volunteers pack up around 1,000 kits for the homeless which include items like blankets, hats, gloves, socks, and hand warmers. This year, we’re also adding in a toiletry kit that will contain things like a toothbrush, toothpaste, chapstick and reusable plastic cutlery.”

From there, Fox explains, the supplies will go to the Blended Street Outreach team. “This is a group that has members from various organizations that serve the population of homeless people in Indianapolis. IMPD will have some for their homeless unit, for instance, and this year some are going to EMTs, too, so ambulances will have a couple of kits, as well. Indiana University Health also works with Indy’s Public Safety Foundation on this project.”

But how did Operation Winter Ready originally get started?

“Indiana University Health’s Methodist Hospital sees many of Indy’s homeless population,” explains Dane Nutty, executive director of Indy Public Safety Foundation, partner on the project. “Their emergency department staff began to see homeless patients with varying levels of cold-weather ailments, such as frostbit and hypothermia. In order to provide a valuable resource for our homeless community and to assist the hospital staff in preventing some of these visits, we helped established Operation Winter Ready. The timing was incredibly appropriate given that during the winter of 2014, Indiana experienced one of the coldest winters in recent history.”

Wondering why employees get involved? Here, three IU Health team members explain.

My name is Patrice McKnight. I work as a cardiovascular technologist in the electrophysiology department at IU Health’s Methodist Hospital. I’ve worked at IU Health for two and a half years. I signed up to take part in Operation Winter Ready this year because of my passion for helping and giving back. My theory is: If you are capable of helping others in a time of need, then try to help them. I believe that I have been blessed in my life, and so I feel the need to pay it forward. The reality is that everyone falls on hard times, and I think that when you have someone in your corner that is willing to help, it makes life a little easier.

My name is Lanessa Austin and I am a family support specialist with the HealthNet Healthy Families program through IU Health. Through this program, families receive free and voluntary home health visits beginning prenatally or after birth. I’ve been in my role for over a year. As a family support worker, we visit homes at least once a week for up to three years to help establish support systems and enhance positive parent-child interaction. Working in the community has enabled me to see firsthand the challenges families face. A lot of families are grappling with unemployment, homelessness, poor health, domestic violence, limited education, little food, no transportation, etc. Growing up, my mother volunteered in the community and she took me and my siblings to with her where she went.  As a parent of two girls, I now show them by example that giving back is not only the right thing to do, but helps others and the community. It is truly a blessing to just be able to hear that a smile, hug, king word or a helping hand made someone’s day a little brighter.  This is why I volunteer, I want to help make a difference. 

My name is Cindy Henson and I’ve worked for IU Health for 10 years. Currently, I work in the cafeteria at Riley Hospital for Children where I’m the team lead in the cash department. I signed up to volunteer for this particular opportunity due to its location (it’s right across the street from where I work) and because there are several homeless people in Indianapolis that are currently in need of supplies. I know this because I see them every day when I drive in to work. I know the role I personally play in the Winter Ready process is a small one, but I wanted to help these people–especially with winter coming soon. I can’t imagine what they must go through on a daily basis but hopefully the items that we pack will help these folks stay warm and make them more aware that people really do care in the world.

— By Sarah Burns

Methodist Nurse Of 33 Years: ‘It’s About Believing In Something Bigger Than Me’

In 33 years as a nurse at IU Health Methodist Hospital, Carol A. Harmon, MSN, BSE, has found the key to her career is not about her but about others.

She was drawn to nursing early. Her grandmother was a nurse and her sister followed on a similar path – practicing as an LPN. We asked Harmon to chat with us about her three decades caring for patients.

Favorite patient story: “There was a 14-year-old girl who was practicing track and field and next thing she knew, she was being sent to Methodist for a heart attack.  She came through open-heart surgery and was in a coma for a while but made it. She graduated from high school this year.”

How do you get through the sad times? “Many good interactions with patients and making a difference. Seeing other nurses making a difference and being told by the patient we make a difference. Not everyone can do this career. My best friend reminds me of this all the time and continues to tell me it is a calling. Having faith and believing in something bigger than me and asking for guidance every day. It is not one thing but being able to draw on multiple support systems.”

What it takes to be a great nurse: “Understanding why you are a nurse and having empathy and sympathy for our patients and peers. Nursing is a service career. We are here for others.”

— By Dana Benbow, Senior Journalist at IU Health.

   Reach Benbow via email or on Twitter @danabenbow.

Remarkable Recovery: 80-Yr-Old Man Fell 50 Feet From Tree

He’s sitting in the IU Health Neuroscience Center with three huge pies next to him – butterscotch, coconut cream and peanut butter.

Jim Pickett has been up all morning baking those pies from scratch. It’s a diversion from his normal morning routine – which he does every day, except for Sundays. He has two church services to attend on Sundays, one Methodist and one Presbyterian.

About 8 a.m. the rest of the week, he shows up at the diner in Brazil, Ind., to meet a group of friends, eat a bacon sandwich and have some coffee.

Then, he heads to Hardee’s for coffee with his “old buddies” at 9:30 a.m. Finally, Pickett meets another group of pals at McDonald’s around 11:30 a.m. and has a warm blueberry muffin.

Most days after that, he goes to the grocery store to snatch up deals. He talks proudly about the 10 pounds of butter he just bought for less than $3 each. And the 12 dozen eggs he got for a steal.

Pickett, now 80, has been to Las Vegas twice in the past year and to California. He cooks a lot — sausage, green beans, potatoes, corn bread, deviled eggs. He just attended a big festival of trees. And he soaks in every single minute of every day.

Pickett has a new lease on life, a second chance, as he sees it. After all, it was one year ago that he was having life-saving surgery after what could have been a deadly fall from a pine tree.

“When I found out I could walk again, when I found out I could live again, I made a deal,” Pickett says. “That I would forgive everybody. I was going to live and make people happy and be around happy people.”


Pickett’s neighbor and his dog, Bridget, found Pickett that day lying on the ground – after a 50-foot fall from a pine tree — a chainsaw still hanging in the branches.

He probably should have died. Pickett broke his back in four places and broke 13 ribs. And he was 79 years old.

“Patients with his type of injuries, with as sick as he was at that time, to have a patient survive that is surprising,” says Richard Rodgers, M.D., Pickett’s surgeon at IU Health. “Is it a miracle? I don’t know. Deciding miracles is above my pay grade. It is out of the ordinary, for sure. He definitely has beaten the odds.”

Pickett thanks Dr. Rodgers with a homemade coconut cream pie. He’s baked 492 pies in the past five years, since his wife of 51 years died of pancreatic cancer.  

Then, with an ornery chuckle, Pickett asks Dr. Rodgers if he can keep up his tree trimming business.

“You can go back to the business as long as you’re the guy bossing people around,” Dr. Rodgers says. “We can’t have you climbing trees. No more trees, no more ladders.”

Of course, Pickett has no desire to trim trees. Outside in the waiting room before his appointment, he made that clear.

“Two pumps in a barber chair,” he says. “That’s as high as I want to go.”

Larissa Goshen smiles as her dad talks. She can hardly believe it’s been a year. Looking at him now, she can barely believe there were days at IU Health Methodist Hospital that doctors thought her dad might not make it.

Goshen stayed by her dad’s side 65 straight days as he recovered.

When Pickett left Methodist, he went for 7 weeks of rehab.

Pickett then went to live with Goshen for five weeks. He came back to his own home on a weekend in March. The following Tuesday, he was in Vegas.

But, there was just one problem. The cane.

“I try to walk on the cane because it helps my back,” says Pickett, who was a hot dog salesman for 46 years until he retired at 70. “But it makes me look old. I think it dates me.”

That attitude, the one where Pickett says, “To me, I don’t feel 80. I still want to be 50,” is a glimpse of what got him into trouble in the first place.


He was 79 up in that tree, trimming it, despite his family’s requests to just hire someone.

Pickett remembers cutting two limbs off. He remembers, vaguely, holding onto branches and smelling pine. And he vaguely remembers the helicopter’s whir as he was taken to Methodist.

And now, here he is back for his checkup. He gets weighed. The 50 pounds he lost in the hospital is back.

He gets X-rays and they look great, Dr. Rodgers tells him. The screws and bars on his back are still in place doing their job.

“No screws loose?” Pickett asks, laughing. Neurologically, too, Pickett is completely normal.

And he’s so thankful for that. He’s so grateful for everything people did for him, when he was down.

His daughter sticking by his side for nearly 10 weeks straight. His Hardee’s friends, who surprised him with a lunch at rehab. And the neighbors who were there to find him and stay with him until the ambulance came.

“It humbled me everything everyone did for me,” Pickett says. “I just feel lucky.”

Read more on Pickett’s journey a year ago:

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

Nursing: Like Mother, Like Son

Tommy Wood hears it often: “Aren’t you Jane Wood’s son?”

His mother walks the halls of University Hospital stopping often to introduce her son to fellow team members. If they hadn’t already met him, they’d heard about him. Jane Wood is a familiar face at University Hospital. She addresses fellow team members by first name and her face shows the pride for a son who chose the same profession she loves. Tommy Wood has been a nurse at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health since 2013.

“I’d like to think I had some influence on him going into nursing because when he wasn’t sure, I got him to come work on the lift team to help nurses move patients. You could tell people loved him,” said Jane Wood.  At the time, Tommy, a 2009 graduate of Brownsburg High School was biology major at Marian University. A former high school athlete he had his mind set on a career in physical therapy. But a job shadowing experience changed his mind and decided he wanted to become a nurse.

Like her son, Jane Wood, didn’t initially choose nursing. The mother of four and grandmother to one was caring for her ailing father-in-law when she saw herself working in a hospital. She was 33 and had worked in accounting until then.

“The nurses said ‘you should be a nurse. You have the compassion and caring spirit,” recalls Wood, 59. Her mother-in-law helped fund nursing school and Wood now helps care for her. “She’s 88 and she swears she wouldn’t be alive if it weren’t for IU Health and the doctors who have treated her for various medical things,” said Wood, who has been married to Tom Wood, an aviation mechanical supervisor for 40 years.

“He’s my rock – a very strong and supportive man. I couldn’t have made it this far without him,” said Wood, of the man she met on a double date with her best friend. She fell in love with Tom Wood and was married at age 19.


She was 37 and pregnant with her fourth child when she started nursing school.

“You need to learn to work hard and not give up. I know there were rough times, but I kept going and my husband was there with me all the way.”

As she thinks back to a career that spans more than two decades, Wood sees faces.

Chris comes to mind. “He was a 19-year-old with liver failure. I could barely get him to look at me, let alone smile.” That was until she got him a fast-food burger. He eventually got a liver transplant and still comes to visit her.

Betty also comes to mind. “She looked like Marilyn Monroe. I met her when she was on the commode with an oxygen tank and we just formed a bond and laughed a lot.”

She talks about another patient Shannon. “She is the sweetest thing and should be a model.”

Working in medical progressive care, Wood said she has spent countless hours with patients and their families during difficult times.

“I love my patients. I love the people I work with, and I love the quality nursing care that IU Health demands we do,” said Wood.

“I draw everything from my patients,” she said. “I think about the people I’ve helped and the people who didn’t make it. I try to make it as easier for them and their family to go into the next world. I use the resources here – other nurses, chaplain and student educators to help me help my patients.”


And in recent years, she’s also looked to her son for support.

“We’ll talk about why we’re sad or about the progress of a patient – not specifics, but just in general. Tommy’s more intellectual than I am.”

Her son quickly interjects: “She doesn’t give herself much credit.” Like his mom, Tommy Wood loves his patients. He never saw himself working with children until he observed a nurse practitioner, serving in home health. He saw the care that was given to a child and the family. He struck up a conversation with the father and quickly learned that the connection with the family was the full scope of pediatric nursing.

 “I like taking care of patients but the thing that gets me on the other side is the ability to use critical thinking. Our doctors are awesome and thinking through things and seeing the progression and the cure is just amazing,” said Tommy. Like his mom, he’s often referred to as the “social butterfly” of his unit because he likes to explore and learn about different areas of the hospital and the focus of other colleagues.

He often eats dinner at his parent’s house before starting his night shift. The family enjoys camping, boating and hiking. And when it’s just Tommy and his mom, there’s usually talk about nursing.

“I think the thing that my mom has passed down to me– maybe not intentionally – is that she is a nice person,” said Tommy. “She’s not just about caring for her patients, but also about caring for random people. It’s just an instinct. She’s a nurturer.”

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

When Cancer and 13 Hours Separates Parents, Four Children

Since the day of her husband Ryan’s diagnosis, Traci Berg has written in a notebook –dates, reminders and observations. But the ink on the pages of her diary, is not the focus of the Berg family. It’s another decorative journal that serves as the tide that binds the Bergs with their four children including twin boys – Drake and Max aged nine, and daughters Mallory, 5, and Kinsley, 3.

The journal started as an idea by Lisa Rainey, an art therapist with the CompleteLife program of the IU Health Simon Cancer Center. Art therapy is one of several programs that provide physical, social, and emotional, support to patients and their families.

The Bergs fill the pages of the family journal with drawings, questions, and jokes and send it back to Nebraska. Their children, in the care of grandparents, add to the journal and return it back to Indianapolis. The most recent entry from Ryan and Traci was customized for each child asking questions about their favorite foods, colors and sports.

Ryan’s favorite color is green and his favorite sport is baseball. He hasn’t thought much about his favorite food lately.

Since early September he has been a patient at IU Health Simon Cancer Center undergoing a high-dose chemotherapy and autologous peripheral-blood stem cell transplant known as an effective cure for patients with relapsed testicular cancer.

It was August 8, 2016 when Ryan Berg received his initial diagnosis. A baseball player since the age of five, he’s spent much of his adult life as a coach for the sport he loves – both for his twin boys and for an 18-year-old league team in his hometown of O’Neill, Nebraska. When he felt pain in his back he initially sought relief from a chiropractor. But the pain didn’t subside, so he underwent testing. A tumor was discovered in his abdominal area and lungs. Twelve weeks of chemo followed back home. The tumor shrunk and the Bergs came to IU Health Simon Cancer Center where Dr. Richard Foster performed surgery in January. The infected lymph nodes were removed and the Bergs returned to Nebraska and their four children.

“Things went down hill from there,” said Traci Berg. Ryan’s lymphatic system was compromised and he was unable to eat solid foods. During those months, the Berg’s community of 4,000 rallied to support the family. Traci, a former teacher, is the head girls’ basketball coach at St. Mary’s Catholic High School, Ryan’s mother, Nancy Berg, retired as a teacher from the school and their children attend the Catholic school.

Ryan and Traci met at the YMCA and were married 11 years ago. Shortly before the birth of their twins, Traci converted to Catholicism. It was a faith that Ryan knew well having served as a long-time altar boy in his youth. Later in life, he served on the church’s finance board, as a lectern, and assisted with communion. Traci also volunteers with the church.

Five years ago, Ryan and Traci moved from Wahoo, Nebraska to Ryan’s hometown of O’Neill. Known as the Irish capital of Nebraska, O’Neill is home to Biglin’s Mortuary. Ryan’s father, Bob Berg served as the funeral director for 35 years and when he retired, Ryan took over the family business.

“We live in a tight knit community. Ryan is a phenomenal funeral director. He has touched a lot of lives. He cares about families,” said Traci.

And the families in O’Neill care about the Bergs.

Stacks of cards sit on a shelf in Ryan’s room at IU Health Simon Cancer Center. But the cards are only a fraction of the support from their hometown. More than 100 people – friends from their sons’ third grade class shaved their heads in support of “Buzz for Berg.” Another 150 people joined in a charity golf outing on a nine-hole course. Others participated in a donut drive – selling 850 dozen donuts – enough to fill the elementary gym.

The Bergs enjoyed a full summer of baseball and Ryan coached his team to state.

“It was an emotional season,” said Traci. “The team dedicated the whole season to Ryan. “These boys told lots of people they were playing for coach Berg.” Parents, players and fans wore green t-shirts that said “Irish Strong” and included Ryan’s number “33.”

Resting in his hospital bed, Ryan recently paused often to collect his thoughts and explain his emotions.  A homemade blanket covers him – displaying pictures of his children and his baseball players. On a cabinet in front of his bed hangs a picture of his children.

“It’s hard. There’s so much time to think,” said Ryan, adding that his strength comes from his faith and his wife who has stayed in Indianapolis by his side since he was admitted to IU Health Simon Cancer Center. They look forward to Face time visits with their children and to receiving the personal family journal in the mail.

“The people here have been fantastic,” said Ryan. “When you come to a big city like this you don’t know what to expect but the nurses and staff have been fantastic and I can’t say enough about Dr. Einhorn. “He’s a trustworthy a guy that you can just talk to so easily. He’s so educated and well known and he doesn’t have to give us the time of day but he’s been beyond nice and down to earth.”

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

Lung Transplant Doctor Got His Start In Small Town

Inside Dr. David Roe’s office – among the displays of hunting memorabilia, IU sports novelties, and family photos – is a stack of brimmed caps. The caps, carefully displayed on tiered shelving, represent the Indy 500, Chicago Bulls, Delta Airlines, and Pioneer Seed.

Mostly, the collection of nearly 20 caps represents Dr. Roe’s connection to his patients.  In some ways it’s also a connection to his small town upbringing. This is a guy who uses the word “humble” often and drives a pick-up truck through back roads to and from work while listening to country music. Part of his hat collection includes one with a John Deere logo.

His youth was spent in a small town with one doctor.

And yet at 47, Roe, is perhaps one of the best-known doctors in his field, part of a Methodist Hospital team that has performed nearly 900 lung transplants since the first in 1989. As he converses about being part of that history, Dr. Roe rarely talks in first-person. He acknowledges not only his team at work but also, his team at home.

He has been married for 24 years to Lauri. Together they have four children ages 15, 17, 19 and 21. The couple met at IU Bloomington. They were engaged after nine months and were married after his first year after medical school.

“She’s been with me the whole time and I couldn’t have done it without her,” said Dr. Roe, who knew in fourth grade that he wanted to become a doctor.

“My father is a retired dentist so I had been exposed to healthcare as a child.” He grew up in Pinckneyville, Ill. a town of about 3,000 residents located 60 miles southeast of St. Louis, Mo.  “We had one doctor. It was an agricultural and coal mining community and I grew up like a lot of small town kids – hunting and enjoying the outdoors.”

It’s that childhood that Dr. Roe credits with his humble beginnings.

As he thought about pursuing a career in medicine he initially thought of going into primary care but during his residency he was drawn to pulmonary care. When he came to Methodist Hospital, he said he knew lung transplant was what he wanted to do.

He completed his undergraduate degree at IU; medical school at Southern Illinois University, and went on to Michigan State University for a residency in internal medicine and pediatrics.  In his third year, he decided he wanted to pursue a sub-specialty in pulmonary/critical care medicine.

He looks back on that decision as one of the toughest and yet one of the best he’s made in his life.

“As transplant pulmonologists, we take care of patients before transplant and after surgery for the rest of their lives. It’s a collaborative model and a team effort. The unique part of lung transplant is that we take care of the all of their issues – we practice a great deal of internal medicine. It’s about the whole patient,” said Dr. Roe.

As the medical director, typical day for him starts at 5:30 a.m. in the office responding to email or attending to other administrative tasks. Usually he will attend multiple meetings throughout the day in between his clinical duties.

“I’m still 100 percent patient care. That’s where the hats come in. When you’re caring for the patient it extends to the family. After some 20-25 visits just in the first years around transplant you get to know them pretty well. It’s like they are sitting on my couch at home.”

The John Deere cap was given to him by one of those family members – just like all the other caps.

“It’s more than ‘we just did your transplant and its over.’ We are fully vested in these patients and their families,” said Dr. Roe. “We are making a huge commitment to them and to their family. And then there’s the donor side – it’s a true bond between physician, recipient and donor. I think you need all those equal parts or it doesn’t work.”

Those are the rewards of the profession. But there are also some tough times. Dr. Roe said his worst day is when he has to tell a patient, “No.”

There can be any number of reasons why a patient is not a viable candidate for a transplant.

“Because this is a life and death situation there is nothing harder than telling someone with hope that they can’t have a transplant,” said Dr. Roe.

On November 11, Roe spoke at the American Lung Association’s Annual “Evening of Promise” Gala.

“I want to first focus on organ donation because without awareness, there is no transplant,” said Dr. Roe. Secondly, he talked about the disease process and the people who benefit from lung transplants.

“A lot o people think of lung disease as self-inflicted but there are lots of lung diseases that have nothing to do with smoking, such as COPD (including emphysema and chronic bronchitis), lung cancer, and cystic fibrosis.”

Doctor Roe will also talk about innovations in pulmonary care and transplant.

One of those innovations, is the ex-vivo lung perfusion (EVLP), an innovative therapy applied to lung donors outside the body before transplantation, improving the organ quality and making the lungs more suitable to transplant.

“This basically allows us to tune up the lung so it’s a better organ to transplant, then eventually transplant it into a recipient. This way, we can increase the donor pool for anyone on the list so they will have a greater chance of being transplanted,” said Dr. Roe.

What does he see as the future for lung transplantation?

“I see a couple of things. Number one is the advancement of ex-vivo profusion centers, with multiple machines ready to prepare organs when they become available. Number two, there’s a lot of research on chronic rejection that wasn’t done 10 years ago so I think healing will continue to improve. If we can try to reduce that failing graph after transplant, then we can increase the overall survival rate.”

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

Methodist ER Doctor Treating Blood Clots With One Simple Pill

He came on the scene of IU Health Methodist Hospital five years ago – an emergency department physician. Jeffrey Kline, M.D., was a man who wasn’t about to stop there.

Within his first two years at Methodist, Dr. Kline had set up a Level I pulmonary embolism response team and created an outpatient treatment center for patients with blood clots – the first of its kind in the United States.

All the while, Dr. Kline has headed up one of the top emergency care journals in the nation as editor-in-chief of “Academic Emergency Medicine.”

Dr. Kline is, arguably, one of the nation’s leading minds on pulmonary embolisms. He decided on that focus more than 20 years ago, while trying to find a niche to research.

His research fellowship was in heart function and Dr. Kline became interested in the right side of the heart.

“Mainly because I wanted to be different and nobody was studying the right side of the heart 20 years ago,” he says. “It was my desire to find a niche, a research area.”

He delved into anything and everything pulmonary embolisms. All aspects of taking care of patients. His passion for the specialty has been Methodist’s gain.

‘All It Takes Is One Pill’

When a patient is diagnosed with clots in the legs or arms or lungs, they are now treated at Methodist most often with a pill. One pill.

“In the old days, the old days being five years ago, we had to give you shots for a week and then transition you to a pill that required dietary restrictions and multiple blood tests,” Dr. Kline says.

People were put in the intensive care unit. The chance of dying was 10 percent within the first two days. 

To put it bluntly, patients were told: “This disease, had we not diagnosed it? It would have killed you just like it did Aunt Flora,” Dr. Kline says. “Now we just give you a pill and that’s it.”

Dr. Kline in 2013, set up the first outpatient treatment program for treating clots in the emergency department at Methodist. In four years, more than 600 patients have been treated at the Klot (Kline outpatient treatment) Klinic.

It’s been a radical shift, and one that has drastically improved the quality of life for patients.

“We allow patients not to have to be hospitalized,” he says. The pill is standard practice and the results have been tremendous. Dr. Kline is taking the idea of the outpatient treatment center across the country to other hospitals.

Level I Response

Once Dr. Kline had the clinic up and running, he moved on to his next big idea — starting a Level I pulmonary embolism program at Methodist.

It’s known as the pulmonary embolism response team, and was one of the first such teams created in the country in 2014.

“It’s basically responding to more severe PEs the way that we do to trauma or stroke or heart attack,” Dr. Kline says.

When a patient has a pulmonary embolism with certain severe and risky characteristics, they are brought into Methodist as a Level I patient. The response team is alerted via pager and responds immediately.

The team uses a multidisciplinary approach and includes team members from emergency medicine, pulmonary critical care, interventional radiology, interventional cardiology and the usual emergency care providers.

The response team has treated about 200 people since the program was created.

— By Dana Benbow, Senior Journalist at IU Health.

   Reach Benbow via email or on Twitter @danabenbow.

Food Allergy Fix on a Keychain?

Food allergies are on the upswing.  And anyone who suffers from (or loves someone) with a severe food allergy knows the minefield that restaurant food can be. On a wing and a prayer, individuals often ask kitchen staff about the ingredients in these meals, placing incredible amounts of trust in what they hope will be an accurate answer.

People with allergies also have to trust that restaurant workers won’t cross-contaminate their meals by handling different (and potentially triggering) ingredients and tools in the kitchen. This approach generally leaves those with allergies with little choice but to completely avoid any foods that have the chance of containing an allergen, either in the natural ingredients, or because of contact with other foods containing allergens during preparation in a restaurant kitchen.  

Thankfully, there may soon be another solution. 

Food researchers at Harvard Medical School, funded by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, have just developed a forty dollar device that fits on a key chain and can accurately test for allergens, like gluten or nuts, in a restaurant meal in less than 10 minutes. The system, called integrated exogenous antigen testing (iEAT), is designed to give those who suffer from food allergies a rapid, accurate device that allows them to personally test foods in less than 10 minutes.

The device consists of three components. A small plastic test tube is used to dissolve a small sample of the food being tested and to add the magnetic beads that capture the food allergen of interest, such as gluten. A bit of that solution is then dropped onto electrode strips on a small module that is then inserted into the electronic keychain reader. The keychain reader has a small display that indicates whether the allergen is present, and if so, in what concentration.

Testing showed that measurements of the concentration of the allergen is extremely accurate. For example, even though Federal standards say that a food is considered gluten free if it has a concentration of less than 20 mg per kg of gluten, everyone’s sensitivity is different, and many people would have a reaction at much lower gluten concentrations. Extensive testing of iEAT revealed that the system could detect levels of gluten that were 200 times lower than the Federal standard.

Beyond obtaining the information they need in about 10 minutes using iEAT, a novel addition to the system was the development of a cell phone app, which offers the possibility of addressing food allergies at the community level. Using the app, users can compile and store the data they collect as they test different foods for various allergens at different restaurants and even in packaged foods. The app is set up to share this information online with both time and location stamps indicating when, where, and in what food or dish an allergen reading was taken. With the app, people will eventually have a personal record of levels that trigger a reaction. Others with the app will be able to find restaurants with foods they like to eat that consistently have no or low levels that are below the individual’s triggering concentration.

“We were surprised at the amount of interest this device has generated. We have been asked if we can adapt iEAT to test for other substances such as MSG,” said Hakho Lee, co-senior leader of the project. “The good news is that we definitely can adapt the device to test for just about any allergen.”

More good news: The research team has granted a license to a local start-up company to make iEAT commercially available. The company plans to merge the three components into a single module to make it even more convenient to use. Production on a larger scale is also expected to reduce the price of the unit considerably.

What do our experts say? “Such a gadget, depending on its accuracy and validation, may be very helpful for families addressing food allergy issues,” explains Dr. Girish Vitalpur, pediatric allergist at Indiana University Health. “Nevertheless, all families that have members with a food allergy should still continue to be vigilant, asking questions, and carrying emergency epinephrine as well,” he maintains.

In the meantime, makers of iEAT say that in addition to supporting food safety in the U.S., the device could also be valuable for travelers in countries where there are no specific requirements for food labels—or to identify food contamination with bacteria such as E. Coli more swiftly.

— By Sarah Burns