Sister Support For Breast Cancer Patient

She thought it was just a routine mammogram. That’s how Mary Cathleen “Cathy” Iacobucci described her annual screening in January.

“My dad was ill and until he passed, I pushed my mammogram back. I’m glad now that I scheduled it when I did. The earlier it is diagnosed, the better the chances of effective treatment,” said Iacobucci, 53, of Fishers. Shortly after the screening, she got a call for a follow up mammogram and ultrasound. A biopsy was ordered and she learned she has triple negative breast cancer.

Both her mother and grandmother were diagnosed with breast cancer but not triple negative. Her mom was treated twice. Triple negative means the breast cancer cells test negative for estrogen receptors, progesterone receptors and HER2. About 10-20% of breast cancers — more than one out of every 10 — are found to be triple-negative. Unlike her mother and grandmother’s diagnosis, Iacobucci’s breast cancer does not respond to hormonal therapy (such as tamoxifen or aromatase inhibitors) or therapies that target HER2 receptors, such as Herceptin (trastuzumab). However, other medicines can be used to treat triple-negative breast cancer. Under the care of Dr. Kathy Miller, Iacobucci is undergoing a chemotherapy regime known as AC followed by Taxol.

“I’ve had typical side effects but overall I’m doing good. The hardest side effect was hair loss,” said Iacobucci, who was diagnosed at Stage I.

On a recent visit to IU Health Simon Cancer Center, her sister, Peggy Sullivan, accompanied Iacobucci. Just 18 months apart, the two grew up on the west side of Cincinnati where Sullivan still calls home.

“We worked together in our father’s grocery story and played sports together,” said Sullivan. “We were the maid of honor in each other’s weddings and our kids are about the same age,” added Iacobucci, who works as a controller for Pondurance, a technology company in downtown Indy who has supported her through treatment. She is married to Tony Iacobucci and the mother three children.

Sullivan had planned to make dinner for her sister’s family and brought a few special desserts from the Cincinnati restaurant where she works. Mostly, she drove to Indianapolis to learn more about her sister’s diagnosis and treatment.

“It can be scary to read about breast cancer but I have been assured the tumor is shrinking so the treatment is working,” said Iacobucci. “As much of a big fat bummer as this is, the nurses and staff have made it as pleasant as possible.”

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

Baby Can’t Wait: He’s Delivered In Palm Tree Lobby At Methodist

The quick action of IU Health police officers made for a smooth and safe delivery of a beautiful, bouncing baby boy – who chose to come pretty darn fast.

It was about 9 p.m. when police officer Latrice Johnson heard a call come over her radio. A woman was in the B lobby of IU Health Methodist Hospital and she was in labor. 

No big deal. It is a hospital, after all. And Methodist has a robust labor and delivery department.

“It’s pretty normal to hear that,” says Johnson, who has been an officer with IU Health four years. “What we want to do is make sure they are OK, get a wheelchair and wheel them up to labor and delivery — try to get them up there as soon as possible.”

So, on that night of April 10, Johnson called police officer Kris Hardiman to bring a wheelchair. But, the closer Johnson got to the woman, the more she couldn’t believe her eyes.

“I saw the baby was coming,” says Johnson, “like the baby was coming out.”

Her instincts kicked in. The woman was shaking and crying and she needed to lie down quickly. Johnson urged her to do just that. She helped her to the nearest bench, which happened to be in the waiting area of the Palm Tree lobby.

About that time, Sergeant Rex Stonecipher came rushing in. He stayed with the woman while Johnson ran up to get labor and delivery staff.

What happened next?

“Well, then the baby came,” says Sgt. Stonecipher, who helped deliver the baby boy and put him on mom’s chest. Side note: This is the third baby Stonecipher has delivered in his 13 years at IU Health. Both officers Hartiman and Jonathan Rochez were there by mom’s side, as well.

Meanwhile, upstairs, Johnson was excitedly telling the doctors and nurses in labor and delivery what was going on downstairs.

“It was so amazing how they already knew,” says Johnson, who is the mother of four children, ages 2, 5, 7 and 9. “They were on it.”

Of course, by the time the crew got downstairs, baby was already on mom’s chest.

“That was definitely one of the more heartwarming things I’ve been through,” Johnson says. “You saw how the staff cares. You saw how everybody just cares and how they sprung into action. You saw doctors and nurses and everybody come together to make sure everything was OK.”

Two weeks later, mom and baby are doing great. All four officers say that what they did wasn’t a big deal, that it’s all in a day’s work.

We say they’re wrong. Thanks to all IU Health officers for their dedication and service to our hospitals.

— By Dana Benbow, Senior Journalist at IU Health.

   Reach Benbow via email or on Twitter @danabenbow.

What’s Cooking? Transplant Patient’s Kitchen Therapy

Double transplant patient Sierra Fowler works with occupational therapists to build her strength and basic care skills so she can live independently – part of that means cooking in the kitchen at University Hospital.

It may seem like a simple task to some but for Sierra Fowler, 20, every movement is performed with effort. She was recently hospitalized with an infection and is retraining her body to perform everyday routines. As part of that retraining she is cooking lunch in a kitchen at IU Health University Hospital.

April is Occupational Therapy Month, a time to recognize practitioners who help patients regain that independence that Fowler is seeking. At University Hospital that team includes Lauren Busby, Greta Slabach, and Emily Winslow.

“Often the things people take for granted – the things we do every day is what we focus on. It’s important to me to help them regain that independence. We do a lot of simulated tasks that help them focus on reaching and balance,” said Busby.

Working with an interdisciplinary team of doctors, nurses, physical therapists, respiratory therapists, social workers and other clinicians, occupational therapists help the patient set goals toward maintaining a healthy active lifestyle.

“Basically, we want the patient to be safe at home,” said Slabach.

Born with polycystic kidney disease, Fowler of Evansville was two when she received a new kidney from her mother. Eight years later she received a liver transplant. When she was stricken with chicken pox, the organs began to fail. Fowler received a second kidney and liver transplant last November under the care of transplant surgeons Drs. Chandrashekhar Kubal and William Goggins.

During her recent hospital stay, Fowler focused on building her strength and endurance. Occupational therapists helped her with that goal. That included such tasks as bathing, dressing, and cleaning.

For Fowler, it also meant spending time in the kitchen, a place that gives her comfort and consistency. She spent years watching her grandfather, a chef; deliver his specialties to the table. One of her favorites was peach cobbler.

As she boiled water on the stovetop to make noodles, Fowler listened to instructions from Winslow. When the pot was too heavy for Fowler to lift, Winslow encouraged her to adapt by sliding the pot. They talked about Fowler’s other favorite activities – drawing and listening to music, and her plans when she leaves the hospital.

“With basic self care we talk a lot about having a daily schedule,” said Winslow. She talked to Fowler about grocery shopping and asked her if she tired easily.

“I really want to do things at home on my own but sometimes I’m afraid,” said Fowler. “I want to get strong enough that I can wash my own hair and ride my bike around the block.”For today, she’s working on making a light lunch – noodles with sauce.

“Maybe soon I’ll be able to make Papaw’s peach cobbler.”

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

LifeLine Nurse With a Father’s Heart

When he rocked her, the tiny girl slipped her hand behind his back and held it there while he sang lullabies. She eventually drifted off to sleep.

CJ Whitehead thinks back to that nightly routine now and understands why the little girl’s hand was on his back. She was feeling the music as it vibrated through her daddy’s body.

Whitehead, 35, grew up just outside of Vincennes, In. and attended nearby Indiana State University with a plan to study pre-med. Instead, he ended up with a degree in English, but took an EMT class along the way, worked for a local ambulance company and fell in love with the fast-pace of first response. He eventually went on to study paramedic science and then completed his nursing degree.

He started working at IU Health Methodist Hospital six years ago in cardiovascular critical care and was a clinician with Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) that provides prolonged cardiac and respiratory support to patients with heart and lung conditions.

“I liked the intensity and critical thinking that went with my role helping severely ill patients heal,” said Whitehead. To this day, he remembers one of his Methodist patients and his healing as a sign of hope for the sickest of the sick.

Like Whitehead, the patient was in his mid-30s, and a dad who had open-heart surgery and was on ECMO for months. “No one thought he’d make it but not only did he survive, it’s been almost three years and he’s living life to the fullest,” said Whitehead. 

Bedside nursing taught him long-term patient care, but Whiteside said his ultimate goal was to join the LifeLine team.

“When I went to nursing school I knew this is where I wanted to end up. I love being a paramedic and I went to nursing school with the idea of staying involved in EMS and transport. A lot of decisions we make we make on our own during transport. It’s the best of both worlds being a paramedic and a nurse,” said Whitehead who joined LifeLine two years ago.

In October of 2016, he and his wife of nine years, Molly realized another dream. They adopted a little girl from China.

Whitehead served two mission trips to Haiti and after seeing the challenges facing parents, he was sold on international adoption. His wife also felt the tug to adopt.

They started paperwork in January of 2014 and two years later traveled to Jinan, the capital of eastern China’s Shandong province. When they first met their 21-month-old daughter the Whitehead’s knew she was developmentally delayed.

“We were told she was quiet and shy,” said Whitehead. “She was one of 600 kids in her orphanage and one of 15 children – ages 18 months to three and half years – in her playroom with one adult to watch over them.”

At first they thought her lack of eye contact, her unresponsiveness to sound was a coping mechanism, a result of so little one-on-one attention. So they brought her home and prepared to shower her with love. They named their little girl Madeleine Mingxi – Mingxi means “little stream that turns into a roaring river.”

“We learned that the best way to help her adjust is to take her back to infancy and help her experience things that she may have missed out on in the orphanage so I began rocking her to sleep and singing lullabies,” said Whitehead.

He didn’t know then that his daughter couldn’t hear his voice.

Working with doctors at Riley Hospital for Children, the Whiteheads learned last June that little Madeleine was Deaf.

“I was devastated but on the way home from the hospital my wife started researching American Sign Language classes and we set our minds on doing whatever it takes,” said Whitehead.

In November Madeleine was introduced to sound through Cochlear implants, electronic medical devices with 22 electrodes on each side of her head that interpret pitches and tones. At the age of 3, Madeleine is also enrolled in a preschool that works specifically with Deaf children with Cochlear implants.

“They are teaching her to process sound and we are working on listening skills,” said Whitehead. “She is mastering six basic sounds and is progressing toward speaking.” The couple works with a Deaf mentor to help them improve their sign language and their hope is that Madeleine will be bilingual.

“It’s amazing how far she’s come,” said Whitehead. “She was once described as ‘quiet’ and ‘shy’ but now she is curious and fearless.”

As he talks, Whitehead’s daughter steps on her tiptoes trying to look out a window. The sound of an engine is heard in the distance and she begins making the sign for a “train.”

She likes Barbie, Mr. Rogers, Toy Story and playing on slides.

“When we first adopted her we thought we’d slipped under the radar and got a perfectly healthy child from China. Now we know the story that needs to be told is that any child you adopt internationally will have issues but it’s all manageable,” said Whitehead.

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

A Hero In The Night

Dr. Angi Fiege, a nighttime critical care physician at Methodist, sees the sickest of the sick. But saving lives for Dr. Fiege doesn’t stop at Methodist. By day, she speaks to high school and college students in a raw, emotional presentation about her daughter, Rachael, who died five years ago when she fell down a flight of stairs at Indiana University. “You look at a tragedy like this and there are two ways you can do it,” Dr. Fiege says. “You can deal with it or you can crumble.”

She whisks past the dark hospital rooms, subtle waves of light sweeping across her face, light that seeps into those sacred places where life wavers. Where death lurks. 

She holds a 90-year-old woman’s hand in the middle of the night as she dies.

She stares at the swollen, tired face of an intubated young man.

She looks down.

And when Angi Fiege looks down, it is always there. The reminder. They are there — three letters written on the white tips of her black Converse sneakers: RLF. Rachael Leigh Fiege.

The tears could pour out if she let them, dropping into the shadows that cast themselves into the night at IU Health Methodist Hospital. 

This night and every night the past five years is just like the night Dr. Fiege’s world changed forever.

This night could be that night. But it isn’t.

And Dr. Fiege is grateful, at least, for that.


It was August of 2013 and Dr. Fiege had finished her shift at Methodist. She was feeling especially happy.

She’d been texting her daughter, Rachael, throughout the night. Rachael was giddy. She was a freshman at Indiana University and had just landed on the Bloomington campus. She was ready to study nursing, ready to follow in her mom’s medical footsteps.  

They would be big footsteps to traipse behind.

Dr. Fiege is a physician in critical care and emergency medicine – seeing the sickest of the sick that come into Methodist. She works on professional racing circuits. Last April, she was named medical director of NASCAR’s safety team. She’s a fixture at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

She is that hero mom, the kind a young woman could really look up to. And Rachael was a daughter, a soccer player, a fun-loving, beautiful woman, Dr. Fiege looked up to, too. 

And so, as she left after that August night shift, Dr. Fiege was hoping to hear from Rachael.

Instead, a call came from a strange Bloomington number. It was the hospital, the emergency room. They had Rachael. Dr. Fiege needed to get there.

Dr. Fiege asked what had happened. No one would tell her.  

But, Dr. Fiege knew what to ask. Is she on a ventilator? Yes. Did she go into cardiac arrest? Yes.

“At that point in time,” Dr. Fiege says, “that’s all I needed to know.”


Rachael’s smiling face is projected onto a massive screen inside Cathedral High School. Dr. Fiege is a silhouette in its light. 

It’s Tuesday morning. Dr. Fiege has just spent a weekend at a race, rushing home to take a shift saving lives. This time, though, it’s not at Methodist.

The presentation is called Rachael’s First Week. It’s raw and heartbreaking.

It’s supposed to be.

This is Dr. Fiege’s way of making something good out of something devastating.

“You look at a tragedy like this and there are two ways you can do it,” she says. “You can deal with it or you can crumble.”

Dr. Fiege chose not to crumble. She chose to tell the story of her daughter’s death to high school seniors and college freshman across the state.

She chose to teach them to save lives.

Rachael was at a party, doing what a lot of young adults new to college do. She was at a house with friends she knew. There was drinking.   

She slipped and fell down a flight of stairs. But then Rachael stood up. Her friends helped her back up the stairs and onto a couch. They checked on her throughout the night.

They didn’t know Rachael’s brain was bleeding. By the time her friends realized something was wrong and called, it was too late.

Dr. Fiege has looked at Rachael’s CT scan. There were no fatal injuries to her head. If someone had called immediately, Rachael would be alive.

Rachael’s older brother, Jeremy, is part of the presentation. He talks about Indiana’s Lifeline law. It allows underage drinkers to call 911 – to report an injury – without any repercussion. 

Dr. Fiege wants these kids to know that it’s OK to call. They won’t get in trouble. The presentation warns of the dangers of drinking, dangerous signs to look for and other trends that plague this demographic. Depression. Drugs. Suicide. Risky behavior.

“I see your beautiful faces and I know you’re getting ready to go out into this world. There are a lot of dangers out there. As a parent, I’ve experienced the worst of it,” Dr. Fiege told Cathedral students this week. “I also know that you guys are well-equipped, you can use your instincts and you’ll do great.”

Dr. Fiege has something to give to them. It’s a medallion, like the one she wears around her neck, like the ones they handed out at Rachael’s funeral.

“I want you to think about this being a circle, that you want to close the loop when somebody gets into trouble,” she says. “Please take this, stick it in your pocket, give it a rub every now and then. When you’re out at a party, think about what we talked about today. Remember Rachael. Remember our story.”


Dr. Fiege didn’t set out to be a doctor. She started on an ambulance. But as she worked there, she wanted more. So, she went to nursing school.

She started doing flight nursing and loved it. But after 10 years, she wanted more. She needed to know more. Medical school it would be.

This year marks 32 years working at Methodist.

“I am totally a Methodist girl,” Dr. Fiege says. “I am dyed in the wool Methodist.”

She is a beloved doctor inside the hospital. She is a mother figure to the new nurses – her “baby nurses.” She is a mentor to up and coming physicians.

Yet, she admires the people she works with immensely.

“This is such a hard job,” she says. “All these people on the night shift, they are the heroes.”

Every night is different. One might be quiet and calm. The next might be chaotic and unpredictable.

Dr. Fiege is the calm amid the chaos.

“She is just the most amazing person ever,” says Jennifer Lommel, M.D., an emergency medicine resident who works with Dr. Fiege and is part of the Rachael’s First Week presentation.

Dr. Lommel has, time and time again, watched Dr. Fiege running on empty to make sure she is everywhere she needs to be. She has never missed a Rachael’s First Week in its four years of existence.

“It comes from her desire,” says Katie Byrd, M.D., an emergency medicine resident and Rachael’s First Week presenter. “If she can help prevent this from happening to one other person, that will be worth it to her.”


There was never any anger, never any blame. Of course, Dr. Fiege wishes those kids at the party would have known to call 911.

But she told the police – even as she was driving down to Bloomington that night, even before she knew exactly what had happened — that she didn’t want those kids arrested. 

“I don’t think anybody did anything wrong at that party other than they were ignorant of what to do,” she says. “They were guilty by omission as opposed to commission.”

Dr. Fiege knows those kids loved Rachael. So many people loved Rachael. More than 1,000 people came to her funeral. Money poured in.

The Fieges didn’t know what to do with the money, so they held off. A few months later, they were urged to come up with an idea. People suggested a scholarship in Rachael’s name, maybe a gym.

But that didn’t represent what Rachael was, Dr. Fiege says.

“If we are going to make a legacy contribution, let’s do something that would embody Rachael,” she says.

By May, just nine months after Rachael’s death, the presentation was up and running.

Dr. Fiege still gets choked up when she talks about Rachael. There is nothing worse than losing a child, she says. And she has seen plenty of death.

“There’s always the saying, ‘Rachael wouldn’t want you to be sad,’” Dr. Fiege says. “Well, to me, that’s not something that should ever be said. That may be true, but it doesn’t address the issue. It’s finding the inner strength to deal with it.”

Dr. Fiege has done that. And along the way, she has become a hero to so many.

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

Digestive Disorders, Diagnosis, Are Her Thing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More about Bucksot:

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

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

Neurologist Dr. Mackey: He Is The Brain Whisperer

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

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

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

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

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

Treating stroke is a perfect blend of the two.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More With Dr. Mackey

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

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

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

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

— By Dana Benbow, Senior Journalist at IU Health.

   Reach Benbow via email or on Twitter @danabenbow.

Peer Coach Knows Road To Recovery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Nearly 200 days passed. To keep busy, Carr built model cars at Methodist and became a local celebrity, of sorts. (Read that story: 

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

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

And Carr was.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Devastating And Hopeful Tales Of Brain Injury Survivors

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

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

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

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

Yes, survivor. 

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

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

Tanner Freeman, 24, Martinsville.

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

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

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

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

Freeman was pronounced dead at the scene.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maria Martino, 52, Kokomo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jacob Gebuhr, 29, Indianapolis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Unmasking Brain Injury Project

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

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

Heads or Tails/ Brain Injury Survivors of Indiana

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

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

Info: or

For a list of statewide brain injury groups:

For more on the project:

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