Mary Drewes, MBA, MSN, RN, has been appointed Chief Nursing Officer for Indiana University Health White Memorial Hospital.
Drewes brings 20 plus years of healthcare experience, including emergency department level I trauma center, cardiovascular and intensive care units to her new role. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, a Master’s in Nursing with a Healthcare Administration Focus and a Masters of Business Administration.
Prior to joining IU Health, Drewes served as Cardiovascular Service Line Administrator with Community Health System – Porter Regional Hospital. Drewes previously served as the Administrative Director of Cardiovascular Service Line and Nursing Operations at IU Health La Porte Hospital.
Mary Minier, President of IU Health White Memorial stated, “Her passion for nursing education, excellence and leadership aligns with the mission of IU Health in providing every patient, every time with exceptional nursing care.”
Drewes is excited to return to the IU Health family. “It feels like coming home to me,” said Drewes. “Throughout my leadership journey, I have remained committed to a shared governance model and look forward to joining the team at IU Health White Memorial as they pursue their pathway to excellence recognition.”
Drewes enjoys spending quality time with family and friends. She and her husband have five children. She is always looking for fun ways to cook healthy for her family. She enjoys playing volleyball, cycling, paintball and relaxing by the pool.
Drewes will begin in her new role on February 4. Drewes looks forward to working with Miner and the IU Health White Memorial team to provide high quality patient care to the community. IU Health White Memorial a 25 bed acute care facility serving the residents of White County. Designated as a critical access hospital, IU Health White Memorial provides a full range of healthcare services including inpatient and outpatient surgery, diabetes care, emergency medicine, cardiovascular, laboratory, pastoral care, radiology, rehabilitation services, respiratory care, surgery and women’s health.
Indiana University Health White Memorial Hospital is now offering breast tomosynthesis, also known as 3D mammography.
Brandy Edwards, MPM-HM, B.S., RT(R)(CT)ARRT, ACHE, Diagnostic Imaging Manager at IU Health White Memorial Hospital noted, “This leading edge technology reveals greater detail, which may help us detect cancer sooner. We believe it’s important to broaden our geographic reach so that women across the region have access to 3D mammography.”
The new equipment installed at IU Health White Memorial Hospital, works much like traditional mammography. During the 3D portion of the exam, an X-ray arm sweeps over the breast, taking multiple images in seconds. This is especially good for women with dense breast tissue because the dense tissue is difficult to see through on standard 2D imaging. The 3D imaging allows the radiologist to scroll through that tissue in very thin layers, like looking at each page of a book instead of just the front cover.
“Tomosynthesis gives us the ability to see masses, particularly in dense breast tissue, that we might have difficulty detecting with traditional mammography. Because it reduces the overlap of tissue, most investigators have found that it leads to fewer callbacks and therefore less anxiety for women,” explains Phyllis Martin-Simmerman, MD, a specialist in breast imaging for IU Health Arnett Physicians Radiology
The National Breast Cancer Foundation reports that one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. Starting at age 40, women should begin scheduling annual screening mammograms. High-risk women may need earlier screening. If breast cancer is detected early, a patient’s five-year survival rate is 98 percent. If you would like to schedule a mammogram or have questions about this important breast health procedure, please call IU Health White Memorial Hospital at, 574.583.1714.
Nancy Walker, who works at IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital, is one of several nurses at IU Health who volunteers with the American Red Cross. Volunteers are needed to provide both medical and non-medical assistance for Red Cross projects.
She’s applied Band-Aids to blistering feet and sunscreen to overexposed skin. Nancy Walker has volunteered at the Indianapolis 500 Mini Marathon, 500 Parade, the Indianapolis Indians games, and the Indiana State Fair. She’s one of several IU Health nurses who have staffed first aid stations for the American Red Cross.
But the volunteering isn’t just for nurses and medical staff. As a coordinator for the American Red Cross/IU Health Alliance, Walker is encouraging others to volunteer.
Only 40 percent of the tasks require direct care nurses,” said Walker. “The remaining tasks just need lots of hands on deck to make a big impact throughout Indiana.”
Walker has volunteered since 2016, dedicating about 3,000 hours of assistance. She is on-call two 24-hour days a week. In addition to staffing first aid stations, volunteers are needed to assist with armed services efforts. Volunteers help with travel arrangements for soldiers returning home when a loved one is ill. Volunteers also provide family support when a member of the armed service has been injured.
When a family loses their home to a fire or a natural disaster, volunteers provide support such as housing, clothing and necessities. They also canvas neighborhoods and assist with installing smoke detectors.
“There are so many options to volunteer,” said Walker. “It’s just a great way to get out and connect with the community and I’ve made some nice friendships.”
Interested volunteers can sign up on the Red Cross website and include their IU Health email.
— By T.J. Banes, Journalist, IU Health. Reach Banes via email firstname.lastname@example.org.
When Martinlow Spaulding showed up at the office of a former member of US Congress advocating for patients with chronic kidney disease, he was asked, “Where’s the kidney patient?” He was the patient.
The license plate on Martinlow Spaulding’s black Ford Edge is brief and to the point: “IP4Rita.” It’s the second plate with an edgy message. The first read: “IP4Paul.”
Plain and simple, the messages speak volumes. Spaulding is the recipient of not one but two gifts of life – both donated by his older siblings. His first transplant was Oct. 6, 1993; a kidney donated by brother Paul Spaulding. His second transplant was June 2, 2004, a kidney donated by this sister Rita Bailey. He also has a sister Susan Woosley.
The siblings were raised in Scottsburg, In. – just 30 miles north of Louisville, KY. – by Frank and Joyce Spaulding. Their father died at the age of 69 – just months after his youngest son received his second transplant.
The New Year marks a milestone for the youngest Spaulding. He recently celebrated 25 years since his first transplant and 15 years since his second transplant.
So what about that license plate on his vehicle? “I believe in humor. Laughter is important. All my kids can tell you I have a lot of bad jokes,” said Spaulding, 53, a payroll specialist with the Metropolitan School District of Warren Township. He also named his car “Sara” after his college vocal coach. A graduate of Marian University, Spaulding received his undergraduate degree in music, theater, and business and a Master’s in Administration from the University of New Orleans. He was named the first male to receive Marian’s Young Alumni Award for demonstrating the St. Francis values of human dignity, respect, and character. His personal motto: “Live for others through your faith.”
Labor Day of 1991, Spaulding was home with his nine-month-old when he became ill. They were living in Oldenburg at the time – about 90 minutes north of his childhood home. “I had been helping my family bale hay all day and I thought it was just the heat that made me sick,” said Spaulding. In no time at all he was in the ER. Heart attack and stroke were ruled out but tests showed his kidneys were only functioning at two percent. Eventually he went on home dialysis awaiting a kidney transplant. His family members were tested for compatibility and his brother Paul was a perfect match. In the meantime, Spaulding raised funds to cover out-of-pocked medical expenses and missed work time for family.
“I’m 6’3 and 240 pounds and my brother is 5’7 and 180 pounds but we were a match,” said Spaulding. A year after the transplant, his lab work indicated the disease was returning – again attacking his kidneys. “They thought I’d get a year out of the kidney but I made it to ten years,” said Spaulding. He again raised funds to cover expenses for a second transplant.
Spaulding’s life had changed considerably since his first transplant. His career had taken off, and his family had grown. His greatest treasures are his five daughters and one son. They include Aimee Spaulding, a senior at Warren Central High School; Liz Spaulding, a student at IU Bloomington who aspires to a career in broadcasting; Emma Spaulding, a Speech Language Pathology major at Ball state University; Anna Spaulding, who attended the University of Southern Indiana who works as a title manager for Indiana Auto Auctions; Andrew Spaulding, who attended Franklin College on a swimming scholarship and now serves as the director of programming for Scouts of America in Iowa; and Olivia Reel, a graduate of IU who teaches in Lawrence Township.
As he entered the operating room for his second transplant under the care of IU Health surgeon William C. Goggins, Spaulding recalls saying: “Bill, I’ve got six kids. Don’t mess this up.” He remains in the care of IU Health nephrologist Dr. Asif A. Sharfuddin.
Although he’s maintained a sense of humor along with his good health, Spaulding is serious when it comes to advocating for fellow kidney patients. Since his last transplant, he continues one-on-one patient education, and fundraising for others in need of transplants. And over the years he has pursued careers in the arts – The Indianapolis Shakespeare Festival, and the Indianapolis Baroque Orchestra – and has also remained committed to serving others – both personally and professionally.
He volunteers at the Warren Sonny Day Food & Clothing Pantry and is in his 23rd year of teaching Catholic religion to seventh and eighth graders at Holy Spirit Church. As the former Executive Director of the Arc of Hancock County, he established Dream Makers a performance-based troupe – recognized by the National Organization on Disability (Washington, D.C.) as the “second best inclusive program in America.”
After his second transplant Spaulding became an independent contractor with the Renal Support Network, a nonprofit kidney patient-focused organization that offers support to individuals with kidney disease. His role took him to 44 different states as a motivational speaker addressing patient and professional clubs and organizations, and facilitating empowerment and improvement workshops. He also spent years lobbying in the nation’s capital for the Kidney Care Quality Improvement Act.
On a visit to the Washington, D.C. offices of then member of Congress, Julia Carson he was asked: “Where is the kidney patient,” and Spaulding answered, “Here I am.” During his time with The Renal Support Network (serving Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and Illinois) he twice received the national Robert Felter Patient Award, recognizing his contributions to serving those with kidney disease.
The passion has carried over to his only son. At IU Health, Andrew Spaulding created a “Celebration of Life” outdoor sanctuary for his Eagle Scout project in the spring of 2012 recognizing all living organ donors. The area includes a commemorative plaque that reads: “Celebration of Life Park for Living Donors. Dedicated to Rita Bailey and Paul Spaulding for giving the ‘gift of life’ to my dad Martinlow Spaulding.”
Spaulding recently celebrated his own gift of life at the marriage of his first child. Olivia (Spaulding) Reel was just 22 months old when her dad received his first transplant. And on the same date – October 6 – Spaulding took his daughter’s hand and led her onto the dance floor at Maple Creek Country Club where they danced to “Butterfly Kisses,” recorded by Spaulding.
“I’m thankful, so blessed to be in excellent health. I exercise three times a week at the YMCA and I haven’t been hospitalized since 2004, my second gift of life,” said Spaulding. “I think it’s most important to work with your healthcare team but you also have to be a self-advocate and stay in charge of your health – making sure all your doctors communicate with each other.”
— By T.J. Banes, Journalist, IU Health. Reach Banes via email email@example.com.
A retired nurse practitioner at IU Health Ball Memorial experienced firsthand the loneliness of death. Now, she is on a mission to bring around-the-clock compassion in the final hours.
It was the day after Christmas years ago, and Susan Magrath visited the room of a patient in palliative care. He was comfortable but he was alone in his room.
“I remember a staff member had brought him a handmade quilt and I thought that was so beautiful. It brought so much warmth, but he was still alone,” said Magrath, a nurse who retired last February from IU Health Ball Memorial. Every year she attended a daylong conference sponsored by the RESPECT Center at IUPUI – Research in Palliative and End-of-Life Communication and Training. The program focuses on bringing researchers and clinicians together to provide the best care to patients across their lifespan. It was at one of the sessions where she first learned of the program “No One Dies Alone” (NODA).
“End-of-life issues are in my heart. It’s my passion and it’s something that we need to understand and care about,” said Magrath. So after a little research, she began working with Sandra Hoover, director of volunteer services to implement NODA at IU Health Ball Memorial. The national volunteer program started in 2001 in Eugene, Ore. with a goal of providing bedside companionship during the last 48 hours of life.
“Sometimes I’d be finishing up my shift and I’d just sit with someone,” said Magrath. “It’s something a lot of nurses do. Most patients aren’t communicating at the end but just because their eyes are closed and they are silent doesn’t mean they aren’t aware or can’t hear.”
Before Magrath retired she made a commitment – to stay on staff as a volunteer with a focus on coordinating the NODA program. More than 400 health organizations across the country take part in NODA – geared toward patients who otherwise have no family members or close friends to accompany them near their end of life journey.
To jumpstart the program, Magrath and Hoover recently presented two informational sessions to interested volunteers. More than 30 people have expressed interest in volunteering for the program. Their goal is to have the program up and running by Valentine’s Day. The program is also under consideration at other IU Health facilities including Arnett and Bloomington.
“I’m overwhelmed by the number of people interested in volunteering,” said Hoover. “The volunteers are the heart of the program. It’s our hope that a year from now the program will be well promoted, well utilized and has a dedicated group of individuals who share the same passion Susan does in starting this program.
Like all hospital volunteers, participants must be 19 years or older, complete an online application and an orientation program, and meet various health requirements including TB testing, and a flu vaccination. Background screenings are required along with an updated immunization history. NODA volunteers, known as “Compassionate Companions” are encouraged to have cell phones so they can easily be contacted at various hours to take part in 48-hour vigils, working in two-three hour increments.
“Essentially they will be there to respond to the patient’s needs,” said Magrath. “That could mean holding their hand, reading, singing, praying, or communicating with their caregivers.” The number of patients who die alone is a statistic that isn’t generally recorded by hospitals, said Magrath.
“I have been saddened in the dim dark room of a patient alone with no family,” said Magrath. “I believe this is in line with our core values at IU Health – to give respect to patients in all aspects of their lives, to provide them with a dignified death.”
— By T.J. Banes, Journalist, IU Health. Reach Banes via email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Leukemia is a form of cancer that starts in the stem cells of the blood. Stem cells are extremely important because they are the basic cells from which other different types of cells are developed. Different types of blood cells have different functions and therefore the role of stems cells is vital and critical for normal body health and functions. When a person is impacted by leukemia, his or her body is unable to produce normal stem cells. Instead, the body starts producing blood stem cells which are abnormal in shape and size. They start attacking the normal cells and therefore it leads to chronic anemia and other associated problems. In other words, there is a bigger concentration of blast cells. These are considered to be immature blood cells. These blast cells are referred to as leukemia cells once the diagnosis is complete. Amongst the many treatments available, acute Myeloid leukemia bone marrow transplantis considered to be one of the most common methods of fighting this form of cancer.
Types Of Leukemia
There are 4 different types of leukemia and they are –
– ALL or acute lymphocytic leukemia
– AML or acute myelogenous leukemia
– CLL or chronic lymphocytic leukemia &
– CML or chronic myelogenous leukemia.
As far as adults are concerned, CLL and AML are considered to be the most common forms of leukemia. There are quite a few methods of treatments and according to experts, bone marrow transplantation is one of the best options. Let us therefore try and find out the reasons as to why bone marrow transplant is considered to be one of the best options.
Bone Marrow Produces Stem Cells
Bone marrow is one of the most important places in the body where stem cell transplantare produced. Hence, when a person is suffering from leukemia, his or her bone marrow does not produce healthy blood cells. Therefore the only option is to replace the bone marrow. This is like a spongy tissue inside the bone hollow and this is where stem cells are produced. When you go in for a bone marrow transplant, the sick stem cells are replaced gradually with healthy ones. Over a period of time, these transplanted healthy bone marrow stem cells start producing the right kind of blood cells which is needed by the body.
It Takes Time
However, the results start manifesting only after a certain period of time. The new stem cells have to start producing enough healthy cells and this process has its own gestation period. Further, there is always the risk of the stem cells transplantation being rejected by the body due to a number of reasons.
Is It Painful
This is another common question which comes to our mind. The answer is no. With modern technologies in place, the process of bone marrow transplant is not painful and in fact, it can be completed within a short period of time. The process is done mostly in the lower end of the spinal cord and other such places under the careful supervision of experts.
The Final Word
In fine, there is no doubt that while bone marrow transplant is one of the most essential methods of treating leukemia, it has to be supplemented by other treatments also.
He’s smooth on the ice – a professional hockey player – but when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer, Christopher “Chris” Kushneriuk looked to IU Health to help him navigate a rough terrain.
He’s amazed but he’s not surprised. Christopher “Chris”Kushneriuk has grown to appreciate a certain level of care. It’s something he calls “remarkable.” It’s also a word he uses to describe his IU Health oncologist Dr. Lawrence Einhorn.
“I literally just emailed Dr. Einhorn 15 minutes ago and he responded immediately. I can’t imagine how full his email in box must be but he must be pretty crafty when he types from his iPad,” said Kushneriuk. The observation is interesting given that Dr. Einhorn is best known for his successful treatment of testicular cancer – germ cell tumors – using a mix of high does chemotherapies and peripheral stem cell transplant.
But Kushneriuk already knows that. He traveled more than 600 miles from his home in Ottawa, Canada seeking care for the most commonly diagnosed cancer among men ages 15-44. In the United States an estimated 9,310 men are diagnosed with testicular cancer each year. Many travel from throughout the United States and around the world to design a treatment plan with Dr. Einhorn.
And Kushneriuk hasn’t made that trip just once. Last year when he had a recurrence, he returned to IU Health again seeking care from Dr. Einhorn.
“As much as this is my story, its Dr. Einhorn’s story,” said Kushneriuk. His relationship with Dr. Einhorn spans six years. “He has saved millions of lives with his research. He’d have every right to walk around with arrogance but he is so humble and loving and spends so much time making sure you understand everything. He wants to be sure that you leave his office with no questions. I was not aware of my body. I should have noticed something.”
At the age of five, Kushneriuk remembers climbing on top of a stool and looking through a tiny window in his Ottawa, Canada home. He was drawn to the view by a sound – hockey pucks clinking against the boards of the neighborhood ice rink. He eventually made his way onto the ice and mastered a sport that would become his career. He attended Robert Morris University in Pennsylvania where he was appointed captain of the Colonials’ Men’s Ice Hockey team and twice named the “Most Inspirational Player” for his team contributions.
Kushneriuk was 25 and had just completed his rookie season with the Bakersfield Condors when he was diagnosed with Stage IV testicular cancer that had metastasized to his liver and lymph nodes. He underwent surgery in Canada – a radical inguinal orthiectomy – followed by four rounds of chemotherapy. He was scheduled for another surgery on his liver, when his blood work caused his oncologist to reevaluate options.
“My oncologist didn’t seem hopeful. The outlook was not good,” said Kushneriuk. “I remember going home and at that point just being in disbelief and shock and super anxious. I tried to stay away from looking things up on Google but I decided to look up the best testicular cancer doctors and Dr. Einhorn’s name came up at the top of the page.” It was November of 2012 and by December, Kushneriuk was in Indianapolis.
“Dr. Einhorn is so fantastic, so caring and knowledgeable. From the onset he told me what to expect and gave me a clear picture of what the next two weeks would look like, said Kushneriuk. “Before I left, he looked me in the eye with a smile and said ‘we’ll get you back on the ice again.’ That really stuck with me, almost as if he knew that hope was exactly what I needed at the time.”
By January of 2013 Kushneriuk had completed his first round of high does chemotherapy treatments but his numbers were still not good.
“I remember thinking the next follow up would determine whether I live or die. I didn’t sleep the night before and I just prayed,” said Kushneriuk “I remember hearing Dr. Einhorn talking to his assistant when he came through the door and the way he was talking I could tell he was going to give me good news. Everything is clearer, more real, when you’re going through this and you learn to read him. He treats his patients like we are his own family. When he told me I was going to be OK, I broke down. He said, ‘after all the tears of pain and uncertainty, you’re overdue for some tears of happiness.’ Then he gave me one of his famous Dr. Einhorn hugs.”
Kushneriuk returned to Ottawa to prepare for the next phase of his treatment. His normal 200-pound frame had dropped 45 pounds. He hadn’t been on the ice or in the gym in months. For a guy who was referred to as “a high energy player” by his former Las Vegas Wranglers coach, Kushneriuk was worn down. Playing hockey took a backseat to his battle with cancer. He had been advised that even with a 50 percent chance at recovery there was a much lower probability he would return to the sport he loves.
In March of 2013 Kushneriuk returned to Indiana for an eight-hour surgery performed by Dr. Richard Foster and Dr. Michael House to remove a third of his liver, left kidney, and his gall bladder. “The recovery from that was crazy, said Kushneriuk. “They had me up and walking the first day and I remember the pain was unbearable. In four days I managed to fly back home. Right before I flew home, Dr. Einhorn told me things were looking good. And everything was sort of what they were expecting. He gave me the protocol for follow ups and sent me home with everything I needed to move forward.”
After a full recovery, Kushneriuk returned to the ice. He completed his final pro season with the Florida Everblades; based in Estero, Fla. where he was once named “Player of the Week,” after a game where he scored five goals along with one assist. He retired after the 2014-15 season and later framed his Everblades jersey as a gift to Dr. Einhorn.
Life got back to normal. Kushneriuk enjoyed hanging with his girlfriend Christiane Lalonde and his parents John and Lise. He also has an older brother Stefan. He started coaching junior hockey teams – youth 16-20 working toward NCAA scholarships.
Then it happened – something Kushneriuk calls a “mini bombshell.” His blood work indicated the cancer was back. He again reached out to Dr. Einhorn who ordered repeated scans that detected a tumor in his right lung.
“I was part of the less than one percent of people this happens too. I looked at my oncologist and asked ‘what do I do?’ and she said ‘we need to contact Dr. Einhorn,’ Part of Dr. Einhorn’s life work is looking at blood work. We knew at that point that there had been a recurrence, we didn’t know where it was,” said Kushneriuk. “After we determined it was in my right lung Dr. Einhorn reassured me again that everything would be alright,” said Kushneriuk, who turned 32 on December 24. “Dr. Einhorn described it in simplistic terms as ‘a couple of cells that were not washed away by the chemotherapy, hanging around, and for whatever reason have decided to start causing trouble.’ I trusted IU Health in 2012 so I returned in 2018 for surgery to remove the tumor.”
Under the care of Dr. Kenneth Kesler, Kushneriuk received a Video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS). The minimally invasive technique involves inserting a small camera through an incision in the chest and surgically removing the tumor.
A year later, Kushneriuk said he feels great. “I just returned from a vacation to Florida with my girlfriend and I couldn’t feel better. “It took me about a month and a half to recover and then I got back in the gym and started lifting slowly. After about 10 weeks I was lifting normally and skating three or four times a week. It feels like it hardly happened.”
But along the way Kushneriuk has learned some important lessons that he wants to share.
“I noticed abnormalities in my testicle. I felt a dull ache in my back but I just thought it was from the wear and tear on my body – from rough play on the ice and long bus rides,” said Kushneriuk. “Looking back now I know the signs were there. You’ve got to check yourself and know your body. Sometimes that makes the difference in how quickly you can be cured.”
— By T.J. Banes, Journalist, IU Health. Reach Banes via email email@example.com.
After a double lung transplant, Greenwood man is ready to get back to hiking and biking.
It was during a hike at Yosemite National Park in California that Eric Sheets first realized something was wrong.
A basketball player in college, he was tall and lean and had always been fit. But that day in 2015, when an older woman passed him on that mountain trail as he struggled to catch his breath, he knew his fatigue was not normal.
Fast forward to January 2019 and the 57-year-old engineer is ready to get back on that trail. But what a year it’s been. Diagnosed Jan. 30, 2018, with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, he spent most of the year struggling to breathe, barely able to talk.
A double lung transplant Dec. 1 came just in time, said Eric’s wife, Stephanie.
“We weren’t sure he would have made it; he was that bad,” she said, as she watched her high school sweetheart and husband of 34 years make another lap around the track at the COLTT Center (Center of Life for Thoracic Transplant) at IU Health Methodist Hospital. This place has been his home away from home for the past four weeks, ever since being released from Methodist just before Christmas.
And today is graduation day. After this last session, Eric will ring the bell signifying his completion of the program.
“It feels good to push myself and to be pushed,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed it. I mean there are parts that are torture, but I see the bigger picture; it’s all to help me get stronger.”
“He loves it here,” Stephanie said. “He kept saying he looks forward to the day when it’s his muscles wearing him out and not his lungs.”
That day has come, with help from the COLTT team.
“They’re all really encouraging, and they make it fun,” said Eric, who after weeks of pedaling a stationary bike, is looking forward to getting on his own bike at home. “I hope my muscles will be in decent shape to at least ride around the neighborhood with the grandkids. I’d love nothing more than that.”
The couple, who live in Greenwood, have been inseparable since the transplant. Stephanie packed up her car with clothes and necessities when she drove Eric to Methodist on Nov. 30. For the next three weeks, she said, she never left the hospital.
In all that time and in the weeks since, their family has been showered with kindnesses from friends, neighbors and hospital staff. The prayers have been steady as well.
“We know that God doesn’t let you go through something like this without some purpose,” Eric said. “We think he’s given us a real story that he’s going to want us to tell to encourage others. Things are going to happen in life, and sometimes really bad things, but that doesn’t mean he’s abandoned you. He’s going to get you through it.”
Physical therapy assistant Zell Crawford has been there to help Eric get through it as well.
“From the very beginning, Eric had nothing but a positive attitude despite his weakness and his lack of endurance,” Crawford said. “He was just focused on doing better and being better. And look at him today. He can pretty much do whatever he wants now.”
As Crawford beamed, his patient proudly rang the bell, after quickly changing from his workout shirt to his Yosemite shirt. The meaning was clear. Eric was going back to that park, back to that trail. And when he gets there, he promised to send photos back to the COLTT team as his way of thanking them.
“He said he wants to go back to hiking, and we’ve prepared him,” said physical therapist Christy DiPerna. “His smile tells the story. That’s why we do what we do.”
— By Maureen Gilmer, IU Health senior journalist Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
They knew they were twins, but two brothers didn’t know they were identical until one was tested to be a kidney donor for the other.
Sitting side-by-side, Andrew “Drew” and Austin Leach look like reflections in a mirror. Standing, Drew is just a hair taller than Austin and has been told his eyes squint a little more than his brother.
But when they order their morning beverage, they both ask for steaming cups of caramel macchiato and when asked if they are best friends, in unison they respond: “Basically yeah.”
These brothers, born to Christi Leach and Jeremy Leach on Oct. 15, 1996 always knew they were twins. They didn’t find out they were identical twins until Austin needed a kidney. When Drew expressed a desire to become a living kidney donor, a twin Zygosity test – comparing the DNA of the two brothers – revealed that they are identical twins.
What does that mean for Austin?
“There’s zero percent chance of rejection. That’s why there’s no immunosuppression,” said IU Health transplant surgeon Dr. William C. Goggins. On July 20, 2018 Dr. Goggins was in one operating room with Austin. Next door, Dr. Chandru P. Sundaram was in surgery with Drew. Dr. Goggins said the Leach brothers were only his third set of identical twins where one donated a kidney to a sibling.
“This is very unusual. It happens only about once every five years. I’ve done around 900 living donor transplants so that’s about one in 300 living donors,” said Dr. Goggins. For Dr. Sundaram, who has been performing laparoscopic robotic kidney surgery at IU Health since 2002, the identical twins were a first.
“Living donor surgery is held to the highest standards since the donor as well the kidney need to be taken care of, hence the living donor program is closely monitored by a team of nephrologists, nurses, psychologists, and surgeons,” said Sundaram, adding that the height difference between the twins is a result of Austin’s renal failure. It’s estimated that a third of children with chronic kidney disease have growth failure. In addition to removing wastes, and extra fluid in the blood, the kidneys help regulate the amounts of nutrients and vitamins that support growth.
Christi Leach was about 17 weeks into her pregnancy when she learned she was having twins. She went on bed rest and maintained a healthy pregnancy. “The testing for identical twins is not routine. They had a 19-month-old sister at the time and my hands were full. I just didn’t think about requesting a special blood test at the time,” said Christi Leach.
“Austin was about 18 months old when I noticed I was changing Drew’s diapers more often,” said Leach. “He developed a strep infection and was given Amoxicillin which we learned he was allergic to. He then developed a rash and was diagnosed with Scarlantina. His diapers were dry and he started swelling.” By the time Austin got to Riley Hospital he was diagnosed with Nephrotic syndrome, complications from kidney failure. He was teamed up with a renal doctor and over time he developed Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis (FSGS), a rare disease that attacks the kidneys. By the time he was six he was on dialysis and by seven he received his first transplant. That was in 2004.
“Austin is unique. Anything that could go wrong did go wrong,” said his mom. Within 24 hours of his first transplant he rejected and did 40 rounds of apheresis. Once he finally recovered six months post transplant his neck began to swell and doctors determined he had Post transplant lymph proliferative disease (PTLD), one of the most common post transplant malignancies. He was treated with six rounds of chemotherapy. His tonsils were removed and then without explanation they grew back.
Time went by. Austin, and his twin graduated from Hamilton Heights High School in 2015. But his health was again declining. His kidneys were again compromised.
“About a year before his second transplant, his creatinine levels were going up. We talked to Drew and he was ready to be a donor. We just didn’t know that he’d be a perfect match,” said Christi Leach.
A week before the scheduled transplant, the twins learned they are identical. They were not surprised.
“Ever since people were mixing us up at school, we thought we were identical,” said Austin. “The gym teacher always called me ‘Drew.’”
As youngsters, the boys shared a bedroom, played on the same baseball teams, and communicated with each other in a special language they describe as “Rug Rat speech.” Their mom dressed Austin in red and Drew in blue.
“The only ones who could really tell us apart were our mom, dad, and sister,” said Austin. Over the years, there were varied interests that distinguished them – some minor, others determined by Austin’s health – but for the most part these brothers are cut from the same cloth. They’ve both had their share of boyish injuries either through sports or mishaps – and they both work third shift at Kroger.
“Drew’s a zip up guy, I’m a pullover guy,” said Austin describing his brother’s gray sweatshirt and beanie. Drew wears a black pullover and matching beanie. “I steal your socks and you steal my pajamas,” added Drew. The brothers attended college for a short time after graduation. Now that Austin is on the road to better health, they are both focusing on getting back to the gym and their career goals.
Drew is interested in digital art and voice acting. Austin likes building computers and streaming strategy games like “Twitch.” They both enjoy eating out with their grandparents and watching animated movies.
When it comes to dating, Drew says he’s oblivious to social cues and Austin says he hasn’t met the right one yet.
For now, they just enjoy hanging out together. Drew drives them to and from work, appointments, and social activities in his black 2010 Equinox. He’s also teaching Austin to drive. They recently moved into their first apartment together and they’re experimenting with simple cooking – macaroni and cheese is a favorite.
How does their mom feel about them moving out on their own?
“For the first time since he was 18 months old Austin is not on any medication,” said Christi Leach. “It’s a relief because I was constantly reminding him to take his medication, and now that he doesn’t have to take any medications, it’s a relief. He’s like a different person – eating better and taking care of himself.”
Besides macaroni and cheese, Austin has started eating more vegetables and discovered he likes asparagus.
“Things are different. I feel better and it’s been great living together. We pretty much do everything together,” said Austin of his twin brother. “My medical history speaks volumes so it’s nice to start feeling better and be able to actually plan a little more for the future.”
— By T.J. Banes, Journalist, IU Health. Reach Banes via email email@example.com.
A patient who was known as a faithful public servant had a final wish before he died – to be baptized. Here’s how his caregivers at IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital responded.
It didn’t matter what it was. When Michael Winkle was asked to do something, he’d respond: “I’ll take care of it.”
He once offered assistance on Christmas Eve to a stranded motorist who showed up at his downtown Muncie workplace. He served two tours of duty with the Army and was described by friends and family members as “selfless,” and “reliable.” He didn’t want to be a boss; he wanted to be a helper, said his father, Mike Winkle.
So now it was his turn.
Winkle was admitted to IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital on Nov. 1, 2018 requiring intubation from respiratory failure. He was on a ventilator for eight days. At the age of 51, his physical and mental state was severely compromised. He needed physical and speech therapy in order to regain enough strength to return home. As a patient in the Acute Rehab Center, he completed four days of therapy. His symptoms became worse. Michael Winkle was dying.
He was given days to weeks and his family was called to discuss his prognosis and options. He wanted to go home to spend the last days with his dad, sisters, four children, 10 grandchildren and his dog. But before he did, he had one final wish – he wanted to be baptized.
Named “Michael Wayne” after his father’s youngest brother, Michael Winkle was the youngest of three children of Mike Winkle and the late Alice Anne Winkle. His great grandfather was one of the people who helped bring Central Church of Christ to Muncie from Tennessee. That first congregation branched into several more in the community. The young Michael Wayne attended a Christian school through eighth grade. Later in life he made other choices.
“I believed my children should make their decisions. I taught them well and I think God knows our hearts,” said the elder Mike Winkle. When his son had one final request, Mike Winkle turned to his church. Church members turned to Ann Taylor, a family friend, fellow church member, nurse and director of Integrated Care Management at IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital.
“I got the call around 9 p.m. and even though it was late, I reached out to rehab administrator Paula Tyler to see if the rehab unit had a tub large enough to accommodate the baptism in the hospital,” said Taylor. The Church of Christ practices baptism by immersion and that was Michael Winkle’s wish. He wanted his entire body to be beneath the surface of the water.
That one phone call by Taylor was a kick-starter to a machine focused on one thing for Michael Winkle: “I’ll take care of it.”
Tyler reached out to Cynthia Dale, the manager of inpatient rehabilitation services, who then reached out to Carrie Brannon, clinical operations manager. From there, the machine took flight.
“One thing that is unique to rehab nurses is to help remove barriers to get patients home and this is one way to remove a barrier and make it something special. This is what we do. There was never any doubt in anyone’s mind that it would happen it was just how and when,” said Brannon.
In a matter of hours, a restroom in the rehab unit was transformed into a sacred place – a place where Michael Winkle would be baptized. A screen was put into place to hide the commode, a cross was hung, flowers were brought in and a tub was filled with water.
Standing 5’8” and weighing 260 pounds, Michael Winkle wasn’t sure he was going to fit in the tub. At one point he told the nurses and occupational therapists that maybe it wasn’t worth the work. They reassured him that it was indeed worth the effort.
On Nov. 21, 2018, Michael Winkle’s caregivers helped him from his bed, into a wheelchair, and then gently lowered him into the tub. At around noon Mark Reynolds, a pastor at Town Acres Church of Christ kneeled beside the tub in the rehab unit and completed the circle of Michael Winkle’s request – at times splashing water on Winkle’s body in the makeshift baptistery.
The small room was filled with Winkle’s loved ones – including his father. Standing nearby was a cluster of Winkle’s caregivers – waiting to offer assistance and also provide dry clothes. But there was more – they were part of something unlike their daily routine. Afterward, they joined in song, “Amazing Grace.”
“There was not a dry eye in the room. The kindness, caring, and compassion extended to this patient and his family was not just, ‘all in a day’s work.’ It was true patient-centered care at a time when this patient needed it most and was truly above and beyond,” said Taylor.
One of those caregivers was rehab nurse Leigh Martin.
“It’s the first time I’ve been involved with anything like this,” said Martin, her eyes welling with tears. “It was awesome. The man was dying but he had made the decision he wanted Jesus as his Lord and Savior. It doesn’t get any better than that. This isn’t about me or us, it’s about him and his decision.” Joining Martin was nurse Mary Landis, and occupational therapist Sara Greer.
“This experience allowed me to build my problem-solving and clinical-reasoning skills, grow as a practitioner, and most importantly, reminded me of the reasons why I decided to become an occupational therapist. Being able to achieve a patient’s goal and witness the joy in that moment was truly a rewarding experience,” said Greer.
“The look on Winkle’s face said it all,” said Martin. “He smiled so big.”
It was exactly the reassurance his father had hoped for.
“He wanted to do the right thing. After talking to the chaplain he was sure he wanted to be baptized and this staff made it happen,” said Mike Winkle. “I couldn’t have taken him anywhere else where he would have gotten better care. These people are wonderful. I can never repay them enough.”
Michael Wayne Winkle was released from Ball Memorial the next day and into the care of his family with the assistance of Hospice. He died eight days after his baptism on Nov. 29, 2018.
“I miss him so much,” said his father. “It gives me some peace to know I had him for 51 years, four months and 12 days and I now know where he is and I’ll get to see him again.”
— By T.J. Banes, Journalist, IU Health. Reach Banes via email firstname.lastname@example.org.