Surgical Tech Encourages Because Others Encouraged Her

Mollye Banks was in Middle School faced with the angst that many teenagers face – wondering, “what do I want to be when I grow up?” She could hear her mother’s words playing over in her head as she attended a Junior Achievement Career Fair.

Sylvia Keys frequently told her four children: “The key to success is education. You never stop evolving. When you want more, strive to get more.” A nurse who worked at a Louisville Hospital, Keys was big on education. Banks raised her two sons with the same philosophy and it has served them well. One is a hotel chef and the other is completing his master’s degree.

Born and raised in Kentucky, Banks says that experience at the career fair set the course for her future. She combined her mother’s words of wisdom with a medical path that brought her to IU Health where she works as a supervisor in sterile processing. She recently returned to the Junior Achievement event as a hospital volunteer to share her career experiences with other eighth graders.

“It’s like coming full circle. The bright eyes full of promise taking it all in,” said Banks. “I remember how I felt at that age and when one little girl said, ‘I could never do this,’ I told her ‘you can do anything you want to do.’”

When the girl still expressed doubt, Banks told her about the first time she helped deliver a baby in the operating room. “I put that new life on his momma’s belly and I knew then and there I was in the right profession.” After she finished the story, the young student left the room but she ran back before she left the career fair for the day. She asked Banks more questions.

“I felt good because I knew I had touched at least one young life,” said Banks.

She practices that same philosophy with her coworkers – encouraging them to excel in their careers and be the best they can be at their jobs.

“I try to promote education. If someone wants to do some in-service training, or take their career to another level, I’m right behind them,” said Banks, who is also an instructor for the hospital’s sterile processing certification program.  She relates how one of her co-workers obtained her nursing degree and an environmental services employee is now working as a surgery technician. It’s rewarding to get hugs and ‘thanks’ and to know that I had a tiny part in helping them find their way,” said Banks, 54.

Much of that encouragement comes from Banks’ heart – learned through life experiences.

“Being a single mom was hard. I started out on welfare while I was going to school. I got hired as a student and once I got my first pay check, I found an apartment, got off welfare, and tried to provide the best life I could for my boys.”

She completed her training at Jefferson Community College in 1991 and in 1999 she moved to Indianapolis to give her youngest son a fresh start. “He was struggling with mental issues and didn’t have many friends. He was treated at Riley Hospital,” said Banks. She started working at Riley and eventually transferred to University Hospital.

“It’s been a blessing at IU Health. I’ve had so many opportunities here,” said Banks. “I tell the kids that taking care of patients is the best job ever. I’ve always been a caregiver but I just didn’t know how to make that a career. Now I know, and I love being part of making a difference in someone’s life. The satisfaction is something you can’t explain. It changes my life.”

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

Why A Nurse Stayed Late On Christmas For A Mother And Her Baby

The mother was anxious and nervous and scared.

She told labor and delivery nurse Jeanine Blom her fears. The birth of her first child had been traumatic. The baby’s shoulders were stuck during birth. The epidural didn’t work.

As that mother lay at IU Health Methodist Hospital on Christmas Eve last year, ready to give birth to her second child, Blom was determined to make this birth a wonderful one.

“A beautiful baby boy was born Christmas morning and the birth process went quite smoothly,” says Blom, who has worked at Methodist two years. “When the baby was placed on her abdomen, instead of looking up at her husband or down at her new little one, she looked up at me and said, ‘I love you.’ I will never forget that moment.”

But the story doesn’t end there. Blom felt a connection to this mother and her baby. And even though her shift was over, she stayed late on Christmas Day to be with her.

“I wanted to ensure she and her family had a good end to their labor and delivery experience,” Blom says. So, she stayed until they were transferred to the Mother Baby unit.

It’s no wonder, in her short time at Methodist, Blom has become known as a standout labor and delivery nurse. She is respected by her peers, has won awards for her care and is beloved by her patients. 

What led her to nursing…

“Health and wellness were always an interest of mine. In grade school, I read numerous books about people with terminal illnesses. When I got a little older, I became passionate about global health and underserved populations. I had big dreams to join the Peace Corps. Although I have not been able to fulfill this dream, I have had some amazing experiences promoting other individuals’ health and wellness; these experiences, ultimately, encouraged my career choice.”

What were those experiences?

“I’ve been fortunate enough to participate in heart health fairs for middle school students. I spent many summers as a camp counselor and, eventually, a camp health provider serving underprivileged youth and developmentally disabled adults. Although these experiences were empowering, my favorite was when I traveled to Kenya to educate young women about safe sex and women’s health. Overall, I love making a positive impact on those around me and I love letting them impact my life.” 

Most memorable patient story…

“It’s challenging to pick a favorite labor and delivery story. I truly value and often think about many of my interactions on the unit. One experience that comes to mind is when the provider wasn’t in the room for a baby’s birth and I — with gloves barely on my hands – ‘caught’ my first baby. Just minutes before, the provider had checked the patient’s cervix. I left the room and within five minutes, the father of the baby came into the hallway. Although he did not speak English, I could tell by the expression on his face that something big was happening. As a colleague and I entered the room, she grabbed the delivery cart and I grabbed a pair of gloves. By that point, the baby was crowning. Someone else was dialing the provider’s number, but the baby wasn’t going to wait on anyone. I felt a rush of adrenalin and overwhelming happiness as I placed the screaming baby on mom’s abdomen.” 

How she gets through the sad times…

“I’m so lucky to have amazing support; my co-workers are extremely supportive. My husband is also a huge help. Most of his work is done on a computer and he has stated more than once that ‘a bad day at your job is a whole lot worse than a bad day at mine.’ Other ways I de-stress are by running, exercising and cuddling with my two kitties (one of which is special needs – blind, deaf, and cerebellar hypoplasia are just some of his conditions).”

What makes a standout nurse?

“You can’t be a great nurse without a great team. Without each other — providers, other nurses, our leadership team — no patient would have a standout nurse.” 

— By Dana Benbow, Senior Journalist at IU Health.

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

‘I Had To Have A Colonoscopy Way Too Soon’

It started at the gas station. No pun intended. No joke. It started at a gas station – the kind with fuel tanks and monstrous fountain drinks and bags of chips.

It was last Saturday morning, a bright and sunny day. I was pumping gas when I looked through the back seat window and saw my sons’ basketball bags sprawled amid loose gum wrappers. And a 24-pack of water bottles spread out in disarray.

I pushed auto click on the gas nozzle, grabbed the backseat intruders and headed to put them in the trunk.

As I stepped over the gas hose, my foot got caught, I tripped and I crashed face forward to the cement. I went down with a loud, blood-curdling screech. People came rushing over.

I’m fine. The gas hose is fine. The water bottles and gym bags are fine. The people looked embarrassed for me as I gathered myself up and tried to feign cool.

Once in the car, I texted my mom to tell her what had happened, which she relayed to my dad. And he had an enlightening theory as to what prompted my fall.  

THE COLONOSCOPY.

It was scheduled for Wednesday. I was nervous and dreading it. Perhaps that had turned me into a nervous klutz.    

But then, my mind started swirling, doing a lot of statistics involving the number two. What are the odds?

What are the odds that five days before my first colonoscopy, I had a terrible incident involving gas? An encounter with a hose that looked uncannily like what I imagined would be probing my lower innards.

Yes. This surely had to be a sign of what was to come.

***

That’s what happens, I’ve found, with people who are getting colonoscopies. The myths and the conspiracy theories and the superstitions start floating around in their minds.

I’d heard plenty of them, because I had talked to a lot of people before deciding to get this procedure.

Technically, I shouldn’t be getting a colonoscopy right now. Fifty is the magical age. But, technically, I should. My dad was diagnosed with Stage 3 colon cancer at 61. His story here.

With a first-degree relative, the starting age for colonoscopy is 10 years before the diagnosis or 40 years of age, whichever comes earliest. For me, it should have been at 40. Yes. I’m three years late. 

IU Health gastroenterologist Douglas Rex, M.D., is a gem of a man. He was my dad’s doctor. He gently prodded me to go ahead and do it.

It’s worth it. It saves lives. The colonoscopy – and Dr. Rex – most certainly saved my dad’s life.

But it doesn’t make the decision to forge ahead with such a disagreeable procedure any easier. I’d heard horror stories about the prep. I heard people say, “Just plan to feel like you’re not even alive the day before.” I heard people say it was living hell.

And then there was the old standby I heard dozens of times: “Once you get through the prep, it’s a breeze.”   

My prep was a traditional one, laxatives, magnesium citrate, Gatorade and more laxatives all the day before – while eating only a clear liquid diet.

All last week, those prep tools sat staring at me, taunting me from the kitchen island. They hid underneath a vase of sunny, yellow flowers, ironic, because they were the enemies. 

It turns out, they weren’t.

(I am not just saying this because I’m writing for a healthcare system. I promised myself this would be an honest recap of the procedure no matter what.)

The prep, my future colonoscopy friends, was not that bad.  

I won’t get into the details – though if you like bathroom humor like my three boys do – you’ll have to call me. They thought I was a rock star.

To make a long story short, I went. I went. I went. And then there was nothing left. And that was good.

In the colonoscopy report, Dr. Rex even wrote that I was all clear.

The procedure itself went just as smoothly. Dr. Rex welcomed me the next morning. I was wheeled to the procedure room. I woke up in the recovery room and Dr. Rex was beside my bed telling me he found nothing.  

No polyps. No cancer.

But come back in five years, he said smiling, with the family history and all. A typical clear colonoscopy yields a 10-year wait.

I was grateful and happy that I’d forged ahead and done it. The dread of a colonoscopy seems to be the worst part, the unknown. The reality is the next colonoscopy won’t scare me at all.

And I’m relieved. (Pun intended)

— By Dana Benbow, Senior Journalist at IU Health.

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

Surgeons Share Sons of Joy – Times Three

There’s a language they all three understand when they are in the operating room performing surgery for hip and knee replacements. It’s a glossary that has become part of their every day vocabulary.

But outside the hospital setting, three surgeons at IU Health Saxony have another frame of reference. It’s not unusual for conversations to include words and phrases like “sit up,” “crawl,” “sleep” and “eat.”

Doctors R. Michael Meneghini, orthopedic surgeon and director of joint replacement and orthopedics at IU Health Saxony, Khalid Azzam, orthopedic surgeon, and Lucian Warth, orthopedic surgeon all welcomed sons into their families in 2017.

“When you’re a busy orthopedic surgeon, you need to take time for your family and always take care of mom. Our wives are the VIP of the family,” said Dr. Meneghini, 45, who is married to Sarah. Dr. Meneghini welcomed his fifth child, Mario, four months ago. Mario joins siblings ages 15, 13, three and two.

“Balance is difficult.  I cannot claim to be an expert yet by any means,” said Dr. Warth, 35. He and his wife, Melissa, welcomed their third child, Connor, four months ago. He joins siblings ages five and two. “My wife and I work on communicating our frustrations and trying to carve out time for each other and individually for each child. It’s important to communicate with your partner about expectations and home/work balance.  You will both start with different sets of expectations, and being able to adjust and compromise to meet each other’s expectations will make life a lot easier.”

The dads share their advice freely with new father Dr. Azzam, who welcomed his first child, Adam 11 months ago. He and his wife Annie have been married since May of 2015.

“He’s a mini me,” said Azzam, proudly holding up his firstborn. “He’s changed my life 180 degrees but it’s very satisfying. It is amazing to see how fast he has grown in such a short time period– we go from one milestone to another.”

What does he have to look forward to?

“Every child is different,” said Meneghini. “Mario is very laid back and I think with each child, we get more laid back as parents.”

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

Can Gel Manicures Make You Sick?

Gel manicures have become all the rage in nail salons over the last decade—they last for weeks and look as shiny as the shellac on a brand-new car. But these glamorous results can come with potential health risks. “There are certain steps you should take to make sure they don’t harm you,” says Chris Adigun, MD, a dermatologist and spokesperson for the American Academy of Dermatology.

The main concern, says Dr. Adigun, is with the lamps used to harden the gel polish and bind it to the nail. “The lamps emit short bursts of high-intensity UVA light, which is about four times the amount of UVA you get from the sun in the same time,” she says. While gel manicures have not been around long enough to assess the long-term damage from such high concentrations of UVA light, we do know that UVA rays damage the skin and penetrate the DNA, raising an individual’s risk for skin cancer and causing cosmetic sun damage, such as wrinkling and dark spots. The damage is also cumulative, so the more frequently you get the manicures, the more harm they may do to your skin. Dr. Adigun points out that while many salons claim they use “safer” LED lamps, those lamps actually emit twice the amount of UVA as older fluorescent ones.

Once you’re done with your manicure, there’s another risk: To remove the gel, you need to soak your nails in an acetone bath for about 15 minutes. “Acetone is the most desiccating chemical you can expose your nails to, and it makes them very brittle,” Dr. Adigun explains. Plus, if your nails were under the UV lamp a little too long, your manicurist may have to scrape the gel off in addition to the acetone; if done too vigorously, this can damage the nail even more. Trying to pick the polish off yourself can also cause the same kind of trauma to the nail. To get the safest experience in a nail salon, Dr. Adigun recommends these precautions:

  • Shield your hands under the lamp: A cream or spray-on sunblock can interfere with the manicure and may not even protect against such strong rays, says Dr. Adigun. Instead, she recommends buying UVA-protectant fingerless gloves (available online) and wearing them during your gel manicures—or simply snip the fingers off a pair of dark, opaque gloves to block harmful rays.
     
  • Rehydrate after acetone: To keep nails from becoming brittle, coat them with an intense hydrating cream such as petroleum jelly immediately after the gel is removed.
     
  • Give your fingers a break. Let your nails go bare for a week or two in between gel manicures to let them recover and become less brittle. By stretching out time between gel manicures, you will also be lowering your cumulative amount of UV exposure.

Nearly 30 Years As Methodist Nurse: She’s Witnessed Unforgettable Moments

The hospital is abuzz – doctors and nurses, patients and techs whisking by in a blur — when Sheila Zielinski seems to stop.

She stops to think about the question she was just asked.

Is there a patient that really stands out in her three decades of nursing? A patient that impacted her, that stuck with her?

Zielinski, of course, cannot answer that. There is no way. She has so many stories, so many patients. So many awesome, inspiring, unforgettable, heart wrenching, joyful moments she’s witnessed.

So many patients she cannot and will not ever forget. They all stand out, every single one of them.

“I just love patient care,” says Zielinski, a nurse practitioner, who came to IU Health Methodist in 1989. “They count on you. They trust you.”

And Zielinski has been there for all of them.

In her 28 years at Methodist, Zielinski has stood out as a nurse who has that something special. She says the key to being successful in her career is determination and hard work.

“And keep learning because there is so much to learn. You can never know everything you need to know,” says Zielinski, a married mother of four grown children. “Get good at your skill, your craft. Some of it is science. Some of it is art.”

***

Zielinski grew up in Kenney Ill., a small farm town of about 400 people. It was one of those tiny dots on a map marked by a stop sign – and that’s about it.

Her dad was a factory worker and her mom stayed home. Zielinski did something else. She dreamed about going to college.

In those days, in her town, young women usually veered toward three careers — becoming a nurse, a teacher or a secretary. Zielinski really liked science, so she decided on nursing.

When she headed off to Bradley College in Peoria, Ill., Zielinski became the first in her family to go to college.

When she graduated, nurses were still wearing the white uniforms, the white hose and those nursing caps propped atop their heads.

After six years working as a nurse in Kansas, Zielinski came to Methodist in 1989 to work in the emergency department as a clinical nurse specialist. Things were so different than they are today.

“Everything was a paper chart,” she says. “We used to have a metal rack and when a patient would come in, triage would have to put their sheet in the rack. Doctors would pull the next person’s chart off a metal rack.”

But as Methodist’s ED evolved in the past three decades, Zielinski was right there with it.

After going back to school to get a degree as a nurse practitioner in 1995, Zielinski made a major impact in the emergency department and the hospital — coordinating the nurse practitioner team and the rapid assessment team, all the while still caring for the sickest of patients.

In 2005, she moved to the intensive care unit. But she continued – until this summer — to work some of her days off in the ED.

It was so hard to leave the department. She loved her coworkers.

But Zielinski has another medical mission on the side that keeps her busy.

***

It was 1997 when Zielinski first went to Haiti with her church, St. Malachy Catholic Church in Brownsburg. 

There was a medical need in Port-Margot, a rural town of nearly 50,000. It didn’t have a medical facility, so a mission was formed. Zielinski would go with a team to treat patients as a nurse practitioner.

“And then we just kept going out of necessity,” Zielinski says, “because we realized there were so many people that didn’t have healthcare.”

Zielinski has been back to Port-Margot dozens of times in the past 20 years.

The clinic, which has grown from a makeshift mobile unit to a two-story medical building, with a doctor, a dentist, an obstetrician and nurses on staff , serves the entire town.

Zielinski helps care for patients of all ages, from babies to elderly. People will show up hours before the clinic opens, having walked barefoot for miles, to sit and wait for hours to be seen.

Family members will carry loved ones in their arms. They are so appreciative of the care, Zielinski says.

And it’s rewarding to be able to help them, she says. Just like it is rewarding to come to Methodist each day and witness the remarkable patient stories here.

— By Dana Benbow, Senior Journalist at IU Health.

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

Nurse, Mother:  “Cancer Has Taught Me To Live To The Fullest”

Defying the odds.

That’s how some people see the strength of Kortney Arnold, 27. The Jeffersonville resident came to IU Health Simon Cancer Center following a treatment plan by Dr. Jose Azar. She was pursuing an associate degree in nursing when she started having symptoms that were eventually diagnosed as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

“My cancer was in my salivary glands. I had chronic inflammation and infection, lots of pain,” said Arnold. Surgery followed to remove cancerous cells from first the left side and then the right side of her throat.  

Dr. Azar recommended immune therapy, and a few months later she began chemotherapy. “He said there was a good chance I’d lose my fertility. We had no children at the time,” said Arnold, who married her husband Mike at the end of 2010.  But she defied the odds.

She was visiting a fertility specialist when she learned she was pregnant with their first child. Daughter Kizely was born in November of 2012. But their family wasn’t yet complete.

Arnold again defied the odds.

“After Kizley was born I did chemo for a few months, lost all my hair and Dr. Azar said I probably wouldn’t get pregnant again so we were foregoing birth control,” said Arnold. “I was having menopause-like symptoms when I found out I was pregnant with our second daughter, Kuinlynn.”

A year later, she obtained a bachelor’s degree in nursing. In August of 2015 she again defied the odds. Their son, Korcen, was born.

Arnold pursued her nursing career in ER before returning to school for a master’s degree. In May she became a nurse practitioner working in Louisville and specializing in anti-aging and wellness.

Arnold’s first encounter with IU Health was at the age of 13 when she underwent surgery at Riley Hospital for Children, to correct a birth defect. The operation, known as Ladd procedure involved correcting an abnormality in her intestine. Two years later, at the age of 15, Arnold was diagnosed with Sjogren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disease that affects the entire body, attacking glands that produce tears and saliva.

“The care here has been beyond anything I could expect,” said Arnold. “Dr. Azar is amazing. He also teaches me. When I was first diagnosed, he did an amazing job of acknowledging my level of knowledge and explaining the process in a way that satisfied my need for specific medical information.”

Arnold recognizes the strides she’s made – the odds she’s defied – even as she faces ongoing treatment.

“I have good days and bad days but I try to remain positive,” said Arnold. “I know it could always be worse. What keeps me going are my kids and my family. When people ask me what it’s like to have cancer, I tell them in a sense I feel blessed because cancer has taught me to live life to the fullest. You aren’t guaranteed a future. The future is now.”

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

Heroes Foundation Warrior Champions Cancer Cause

She stood toe-to-toe with cancer long before she joined an Army going into battle in support of others. Janet Campbell Baker was 15 when she first encountered the giant.  Her father Hayward Campbell, Jr., PhD, a senior bacteriologist, had just been named vice president of research for Eli Lilly in 1976. Two years later, in October of 1978 he died of cancer at the age of 44.

“Because of his role with Lilly he was required to have a physical every year. It was during that physical, in the midst of an overseas assignment, that lung cancer was discovered,” said Baker, 54.

Like her father, Baker’s cancer was first discovered during an annual exam. In the fall of 2010, during a routine mammogram, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Surgery and immunotherapy followed.

“After five years of hormone therapy I was declared cancer clear, but then in late June – totally unrelated, just unlucky – I was diagnosed with colon cancer,” said Baker, the mother of a high school senior.  She was feeling fatigue and had an ongoing cough. Her first suspicion was a reoccurrence of the breast cancer, but a colonoscopy revealed a tumor. She underwent surgery; IU Health oncologist Dr. Paul R. Helft manages her treatment plan.

Three years ago, Baker joined the board of the Heroes Foundation, an organization started by Vince Todd Jr., who at age 26 was fighting his own battle with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The focus of the public charity is to provide meaningful support to cancer patients, education to promote cancer prevention, and resources to advance research for a cure.

The Heroes Foundation is a supporting partner of the IU Health Simon Cancer Resource Center that provides patient advocacy and assistance programs. Through the assistance of the Heroes Foundation, patients, families and caregivers at IU Simon Cancer Center are able to share dinner, conversation and comfort during a First Monday Support Group at the cancer center.

Founded in 2001, the Heroes Foundation continually grew to include new programs and initiatives focused on the needs of people living with cancer. The staff also grew and last year Baker was named the manager of development. She brought with her a background that includes serving as vice president of external relations for The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. She also worked for The Indianapolis Star and the Indiana Sports Corporation. Beyond her professional credentials, she brought with her personal experience living with cancer.

“What does it mean to work with the Heroes Foundation and live it?  I was living as a survivor when I was on the board but this new diagnosis of colon cancer gives me more of a personal connection to the cause,” said Baker. “To be diagnosed not once but twice and see that it not only touches my life but so many others gives you a passion for what you are doing. They say with your job, live your passion. My experience makes me close to the cause and passionate about the work we are doing. To be a patient and to know what the Heroes Foundation is doing – helping people going through cancer, and also supporting doctors and researchers who are spending their lives trying to find a cure – is very personal.”

In part, Baker’s passion is fueled by her belief in self-advocacy. During her time at The Children’s Museum, incredibly, three of her direct reports were diagnosed with breast cancer.

When she meets people who are newly diagnosed, Baker tells them to be a personal advocate for their health. “I learned from one of my dear colleagues who battled cancer that you have to exhaust all avenues for information about your health. I think too often people are turned off by their diagnosis so they run away or they take the doctor’s advice as the only solution. It may be the only solution but it’s always good to get another opinion, ask questions, and do research.”

That’s how she became a patient at IU Health.

“I knew through my work with the Heroes Foundation that I needed to be close to the research and teaching. I needed to be close to cutting edge healthcare,” said Baker. 

“Dr. Helft is phenomenal. I knew when I met him that I had an oncologist who was going to treat me using the most current information and knowledge and give me the most up-to-date and compassionate care possible.”

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

13-Year-Old Girl Has New Life After Two Hip Replacements

The pain was waking Emma Wicker up in the middle of the night. She would be in a deep sleep one minute and writhing and screaming in pain the next.

Those were the screams that have woken Stacey Wicker up for years.

Those were the worst sounds — her little girl so desperate to relieve the agony. Her daughter begging to go to the hospital, to do something, to do anything to make it go away.

But on this day in November, Emma is quiet. She is inside IU Health Saxony Hospital just minutes from a hip replacement surgery that will rid her 13-year-old body of that awful pain.

She will be under the expert hands of R. Michael Meneghini, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon with IU Health.

He will be doing a surgery that is common, but that is extremely rare for a 13-year-old. Emma is one of just three patients her age or younger — out of 1,000 patients – to have hip replacement surgery in the past six years.

And it’s not a new thing. Not for Emma. Not for Meneghini. These two have been together before.

In March, she had her left hip replaced as a 12-year-old. This surgery will replace Emma’s right hip. 

And hopefully – with this one — all that pain will dissipate. Hopefully, those screams in the night will fade.

“I can’t even imagine what she’s been going through,” says Stacey. “The pain she has been in.”

***

Emma has Legg-Calve-Perthes disease, a childhood condition that affects the hip. With the condition, blood supply is temporarily interrupted to the ball part of the hip joint. 

The bone then begins to die, due to the lack of blood flow, so it breaks more easily and heals poorly. And it hurts.

How Emma gets through the pain, she “just bears with it.” There’s nothing she can do to make it better, she says.

Emma says those words without flinching. She is mature for her age. She smiles sweetly when asked if she is nervous to be going into surgery this day. Maybe a little nervous, she says.

But this has been Emma’s life, growing up in Lafayette, Ind. It’s her tenth surgery. Any procedure Stacey watches her daughter go through is tough. The first one happened when Emma was just six years old.

Emma was complaining of knee and ankle pain. Stacey noticed that when Emma walked, her foot was turning in.

Stacey thought that seemed odd. So she called a family friend, a chiropractor. After X-rays, he told Stacey he thought Emma had Legg-Calve-Perthes.

“And I said, ‘What? No way?’” Stacey says.

She was familiar with that diagnosis. Emma’s dad, Carlos, has the same condition. He was diagnosed much later, at age 14, after he fell from the top of a curly slide.

Doctors thought his pain was from that trauma, but soon found it wasn’t. In his 20s, Carlos had his own hip replacement.

For Emma, the condition has consumed her life. She has had to miss school. She hasn’t been able to run and dance freely.

“The femur where your hip is, that just pretty much disintegrates and your body absorbs the old bone and then you kind of regrow back a newer one,” Stacey says. “But it takes a few years to go through the whole process.”

And Emma’s didn’t grow back in a good way. Her ball joints on both hips grew back flat and jagged looking. And she had to walk on that.

“Even though you don’t see it on the outside of the body,” Stacey says. “She feels it.”

Emma has made the best of it. She loves her dog Harlee, a schnauzer poodle mix. She loves crafts.

One Christmas, she took socks and filled them with rice, put faces on them like snowmen and gave them to all her aunts and uncles.

“It was so sweet,” Stacey says. “She is so sweet.”

 ***

The anesthesiologist walks in. He wants to discuss pain control. He tells her what he will do to ease the pain after surgery.

There will be a breathing tube like last time, he tells her. 

“And I know you want to go to sleep with the mask. We can do that. It’s no big deal at all,” he says. “We will put the IV in after you’re asleep. You will wake up in this bed and we’ll take the breathing tube out as you’re starting to wake up.”

Stacey signs the consent form. Emma looks more nervous. But she’s not saying it.

“Alright, I’ll see you back there in a minute,” the anesthesiologist says.

It’s time for Emma to leave for surgery. A nurse comes in to take her to the operating room.

“Are you ready for that new hip?” Stacey asks her daughter. “Are you going to do cartwheels out of here?” She hugs Emma and kisses her.

“We will take very good care of her, mom,” the nurse says. Stacey nods. Now, for the wait.

***

Inside the operating room, the prep begins. Dr. Meneghini will be using the smallest size hip replacement made for Emma’s surgery.  

He talks about how rare it is to be replacing a second hip on a young girl.

“She’s a great kid,” he says. A tough kid. The surgery begins. It lasts less than two hours from start to finish.

As Dr. Meneghini pulls out the ball of Emma’s old hip, he holds it up. It’s flat.

“That can’t feel good to walk on. Look at that,” he says. “Normally, it’s a ball. She is walking on a pancake.”

As he’s stitching Emma up, Dr. Meneghini asks to have Stacey put in a conference room. The surgery is over.

“All done,” he says, as he walks into the small room where Stacey is sitting. “No problems at all. It went great.”

“Awesome,” Stacey says, a look of relief spreading across her face.

“It was bad, like we knew it was,” Dr. Meneghini says. “It was flat as a pancake just like the other side was. But she did great. Now her legs are equal. She will be very happy.”

Stacey is sure of that. She is sure Emma will be thrilled to be living without that pain.

“Thank you so much,” she says to Dr. Meneghini.

“You’re very welcome. Happy to do it,” he says. “From the first time we met, I remember, it was a tough situation from the very beginning. But she’s done great.”

— By Dana Benbow, Senior Journalist at IU Health.

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