Team Approach Results in Patient Comfort

A team at IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital recently created a bedside tool to increase the comfort and efficiency for cardiac patients.   

By his estimates, Dr. Wayne Gray may have performed well over 10,000 heart catheterizations. He’s been practicing with IU Health for more than five decades – always striving to get the best results for his patients.

Working alongside him for the past seven years is Troy Johnson, an interventional radiology technician. They’ve become familiar with technique and needs so when a new idea came to the table, Johnson pulled in co-worker Joe Cook, a maintenance team member. Together they recently created and introduced an arm-positioning device that improves access to the patient’s artery.

Dr. Gray read about a new approach to the radical artery puncture site that was less painful to patients. Current positioning devices were not adaptable to the technique so the three men put their heads together, designed a prototype, and introduced it into the operating room.

In the field of cardiology Dr. Gray is known as an early adopter of the radial approach to catheterizations, an alternative to the femoral approach. The procedure used to treat certain heart conditions involves threading a thin flexible catheter through a blood vessel into the heart.

Many patients prefer the radial approach because the radial artery in the wrist is smaller than the femoral artery in the groin. It is easier to apply direct pressure to the puncture site to stop the bleeding. For most patients, radial access does not cause as much discomfort as femoral access and many patients are out of bed walking right after the procedure, said Dr. Gray.

Cook has worked in maintenance at IU Health Ball Hospital for 35 years. His craftsmanship is seen throughout the hospital – he has built the majority of the cabinetry. Similar to Dr. Gray’s records with heart catheterizations, Cook estimates he has built well over 1,000 casings. His work includes a doghouse for the IU Health canine unit and a mock up of Methodist Hospital’s iconic lighthouse of health beacon.

The catheterization positioning board is made of Plexiglas and attaches to the side of the operating table similar to a standard surgical arm board.

“This is a situation where team members saw a need that would increase a positive patient experience and they created a solution,” said Jeff Bird, chief operating officer and chief medical officer for IU Health Ball Hospital.

— T.J. Banes,

Social Worker Helps Patients Reframe Their Lives

Janet Hoyer, MSW, LCSW, facilitates the cancer support groups at IU Health Simon Cancer Center. As a social worker she helps patients recognize their strengths – emotionally, spiritually and physically.

One of Janet Hoyer’s favorite selfies is a close up of her smiling face. She calls it her “joy face.” She says it’s important to help patients find the joy in their lives, no matter where; and that’s what she is about.

Since Feb. 9, 2015 (she remembers the exact date) Hoyer has worked as an outpatient social worker for IU Health spending the majority of her days with oncology patients. One of her roles is as a facilitator for the “Living With Cancer” group, one of several groups that meet during the Cancer Support Group the first Monday of each month. This month’s meeting is September 10 due to the Labor Day holiday. The monthly cancer support group meets in the IU Health Simon Cancer Pavilion Atrium from 5-7:30 p.m. There is a free dinner from 5-6 p.m. followed by break out groups that include art and well-being; brain tumor; children of parents with cancer; coping with chronic lymphocytic leukemia, and slow-growing lymphoma; coping with multiple myeloma; and living with cancer. 

Hoyer also facilitates the weekly Cancer Caregiver Support Group Thursdays 2-3 p.m. in the CompleteLife Center at IU Simon Cancer Center. “I never know who will come or what they will bring to the group and it’s always wonderful. Everyday people show me such courage in their willingness to be vulnerable, to heal. That includes the amazing staff I work with here at IU Simon,” said Hoyer.

Hoyer is part of a social work team that helps connect patients with such resources as counseling, lodging, transportation, family support, financial/insurance assistance, and legal aid. Beyond the practical needs, Hoyer also wants patients to recognize their own strengths, abilities and interests.

“They have lives. They go to school, or work, movies with friends, and attend church.  Part of my role, as I see it, is helping them reframe this bout with cancer,” said Hoyer. “Because although we’re dealing with this disease, I want them to remember their interests, who they love, who loves them, what makes them happy, and, oh, yes, that they also have cancer. Whoever walks through the door, I meet them where they are. I call it listening deeply, having a compassionate presence. I stand there with them where they are.”

She often asks patients: “What do you like to do?”  Hoyer understands that in the fear and flurry of diagnosis and treatment, it’s easy to forget about everything else in life.  “They even forget to really breathe.  They put aside so much that mattered to them before the occurrence of cancer, as well as hobbies, projects or clubs, time with friends, almost hiding at home.  I use gentle reminders of self in real life, who they are despite the illness or because of it. Sometimes I may ask, ‘Tell me about how you met?’ and suddenly that older couple dissolve into joyful, precious memories of their lives. “The shift in the room is palpable, miraculous, brilliant,” said Hoyer.

“I love my job. I have learned that patients are so brave. I call it ‘vicarious resilience’ and it inspires me every day.”

More about Hoyer:

  • She has been married to her high school sweetheart Konstantine “Kim” Orfanos for many wonderful years. They have an “amazing” daughter Zoe Orfanos, 27.
  • Before becoming a social worker she worked in commercial property management. “I realized while I was working in that job that what I liked best was talking with the tenants or our staff about their lives, hopes and dreams. Maybe I could help them. Helping inspire others is important to me.”
  • People may be surprised to learn: “That I worked in hospice for about four years. It was like a graduate course in being present with people, on what is important. When someone is at that end of life and their family sees them at that end of life, they don’t care that they didn’t go to college, lost a loan, or blew out a tire on their car. What’s important is what is left, what is now.”
  • Her hobbies include writing, lots of reading, walking, studying the evolution of consciousness, learning anything, aqua aerobics and meditation.

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

Transplant Patients Team Up For Support

Three IU Health transplant patients recently connected on social media, met for the first time, and have formed a friendship based on mutual experiences.

It’s difficult to measure the depth of appreciation for their donors. They sometimes struggle with explaining their gratitude. Many times, they can be reduced to tears – overwhelmed with the sensation that they have a new lease on life. And sometimes, it’s hard for others to understand those feelings.

But when three IU Health transplant patients recently met face-to-face, the conversation flowed. They understood each other – even though they had only just met. All three received pancreas transplants at University Hospital.

“It’s comforting to know other IU transplant people. We see the same doctors and nurses and share a similar background,” said Greenwood resident Heather Hobbs. She received her transplant on Jan. 21, 2017 after years of treatment for Type 1 diabetes.

Sarah Henderson Powell was also diagnosed with diabetes. The Shelby County native received her first pancreas transplant under the care of Dr. Jonathan Fridell on Nov. 11, 2016. But complications developed. A year later, her body began rejecting the organ. Powell was again listed for transplant and received a new pancreas on Feb. 13, 2018.

“Having support groups online is wonderful but meeting with people in real life is much better. We hope to make it a monthly thing, said Powell. “We sat for over two hours talking about everything from how we are doing to trying to live life after transplant. What was really interesting to me was how even though I was just meeting these women for the first time, we have a bond that not many share.”

Beth Zeilstra reached out to other transplant patients through social media in an effort to create a forum for sharing similar experiences. After 20 years of diabetic highs and lows, she received a new pancreas on June 7, 2008.

“When you go through a transplant, there is so much you don’t know and afterward, you sometimes just want someone to talk to who has similar experiences,” said Zeilstra. “I have found that in these women.”

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

Neither Rain Nor Snow, Nor Heat, Nor Gloom Slows This Courier

Before he has even started his workday, George Muller has driven over an hour. Once he gets to IU Health’s pathology lab, he sets his course for a day filled with multiple stops collecting and delivering lab samples. 

The first time he was behind the wheel of a car, George Muller was getting driving instructions from a high school wresting coach who also taught driver’s education. It’s one of the best lessons he learned during high school.

“We did a lot of simulations to learn the braking time and response time,” said Muller, who was 15 at the time. “I was lucky enough to take the course during the winter so he took us to the parking lot and we did donuts so we could see just how quickly we can spin out.”

Today, Muller uses those lessons when he couriers from Lafayette, and around Indianapolis picking up urine, blood, and tissue samples to deliver to the pathology lab. It’s a second career of sorts. Before coming to IU Health he worked as a parts manager.

Between his daily commute, stops at the Rehab Hospital of Indianapolis and IU Health Eagle Highlands, Muller estimates he puts about 200 miles on his hospital-issued electric car. An average of 27,000 daily steps have resulted in a weight loss of about 11 pounds.

“George is our favorite guy. He’s personable and he has a big smile every day,” said Sharon Jiles, a lab assistant. When he arrives at his various stops, Muller puts on a pair of protective gloves, collects samples – frozen, refrigerated, and room temperature – logs them and loads them. Sometimes he makes up to 60 stops a day.

When he’s behind the wheel he passes time listening to his favorite podcasts – mostly focused on his hobbies – woodworking and hunting.

Time is of essence.

“I know there are people waiting to find out the results of the samples and there are people waiting to get busy testing them,” said Muller who has been married to his wife Sharon for 26 years.

There’s not much that slows him down – no road rage, no potholes, no breakdowns.

“Once in awhile the country roads can be slick in the winter. I just go at the speed the roads permit and do the best I can,” said Muller. “I like meeting people but I don’t have a lot of time for chit-chat. I know I need to get to my next stop.”

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

Preparing For New Life

His smile says it all. Benjamin Tran is feeling better and ready to go home. After a weeks-long hospital stay, Tran recently spent time talking to bone marrow transplant social worker, Kim Baker with Integrated Care Management about his transition.

Tran is the first patient at IU Health to receive a groundbreaking gene therapy known as CAR-T cell. Specifically, the gene therapy uses custom-made cells to attack a patient’s own specific cancer. As part of the Indiana University’s Grand Challenge Precision Health Initiative, CAR-T cell therapy allows doctors to isolate T-lymphocyte cells – the body’s cells that fight infections and are active in immune response. According to Dr. Mervin C. Yoder, M.D., a leader in IU’s Precision Health Initiative, the T cells are then engineered to express a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) that targets a protein on a patient’s cancer cells, attaches to them and eventually kills them. Tran is under the care of Dr. Michael Robertson, who specializes in hematology/oncology. Indiana University Health is the only site in Indiana to administer the treatment.

“One of the things about my job is that I see patients before, during and after transplant so there’s a continuity of care and I get to see them progress,” said Baker. She has met several times with Tran, his wife Lien Phan and their 21-year-old son, Andrew during their stay at University Hospital. Her role has included connecting the family to cancer resources and education, and helping them navigate issues such as insurance and lodging.

“Mr. Tran is such a positive person and has such wonderful stories. It has been rewarding to watch him walk, talk, and smile again. His fortitude is inspiring,” said Baker.

The Trans who came to IU Health from Fort Wayne are originally from South Vietnam. Benjamin Tran worked as a machinist for nearly 20 years.

“I want to go home. I want to travel again around the United States and I want to get back to my life,” said Tran.

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

​ LifeLine Paramedic Met Career By Accident

Kevin King initially thought he’d be an auto mechanic but when he took a phlebotomy class, he was hooked on a career in patient care.

He’s got the physical strength of a former high school wide receiver, but get Kevin King talking about his 20-year career with IU Health and there’s a tender side that speaks of his love for patient care.

Born in Chicago, King was raised by his aunt and uncle Robert and Thelma Beard on Indy’s eastside. He graduated from Arsenal Tech where he played football, baseball and basketball and ran track and field for the Titans. After high school he enlisted in the Army but was never really sure of his calling in life.

“I was young and thought of myself as a victim but my mind is in a different place now,” said King. He was one of 32 children raised by the Beards. “At one time we had up to 12 kids in the house, three or four to a bed. They did everything to raise us. Food was an adventure. Here’s what I learned from that situation – statistics show that staying out of poverty means graduating from high school and not having kids before marriage.”

After the Army he met his second wife Janna King. They’ve been married for 22 years and together have five adult daughters and three grandchildren.

“I wanted a better life for my children,” said King. He started his medical career as a phlebotomist and met someone on the job who encouraged him to become an EMT.  His first job with IU Health was with the Riley Hospital Critical Care Team. After the merge with LifeLine, he got his paramedic license and then began working ALS/BLS – a program that is expanding by leaps and bounds.

“I like the freedom that comes with working in emergency care. You aren’t stationary, you are always moving, and preparing for what’s next,” said King. He’s also learned over the years not to take anything for granted.

“I’m 51-years-old and I can see a 6-year-old boy with a terminal illness and have the family thank me for being there. There are kids who barely make it in this world,” said King. “I don’t let it get to me. I keep perspective and recognize that this job teaches me to be a better person.”

More about King:

  • He’s not the only medical professional in his family. His wife is a nurse; his daughter Rosie Carr and her husband Brian Carr are both surgery residents with IU Health; his sister Rhonda King works at Methodist Hospital; and his brother Chase King works at Riley Hospital.
  • What he’s most proud of: The success of his daughters. One daughter has a sociology degree, another is a lawyer and his youngest daughter, who is 21, attends Butler University on a piano scholarship.
  • Something that might surprise people to learn about King: He once played the lead role of Danny Zuko in his high school’s musical, “Grease.” He loves attending Broadway musicals. Other hobbies – he and his wife like to take hikes and identify different trees, he plays chess and rides a Honda VTX cruiser motorcycle.
  • What he’s known for on the job: His straightforward approach. “I won’t ask anyone to do something I won’t do.”
  • He and his wife live on nearly four acres with chickens and a donkey. At one time they also had a horse and a goat.

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