Lung cancer patient: “IU Health saved my life”

Rich Emmons credits IU Health and a simple cost-effective scan with saving his life.

He’s semi-retired and the insurance didn’t quite cover the cost of his lung scan, so Rich Emmons thought he’d have to skip it. That is until he learned that IU Health offers the screenings for $49.

“It was dumb luck that I fell upon a sign in the hospital promoting the screenings,” said Emmons, of Markle – a town that spans both Huntington and Wells Counties along Interstate 69. The majority of his career was spent working in international transportation with the Fort Wayne Airport. Before he retired in 2016, Emmons’ wife reminded him to get caught up on all his health care – that included a lung screening. The scan came out clear but he was encouraged to continue with the annual screening.

Since his retirement, Emmons has been driving a bus transporting residents from various nursing homes to area hospitals. He just happened to be at IU Health Ball Memorial when he saw the sign promoting the $49 screening.

“I’m on my wife’s insurance and our out-of-pocket would have been about $300. So I went for the $49 screening and had results sent to my doctor,” said Emmons, who turned 61 this month. “I was immediately put in touch with an oncologist. They did a biopsy and I was diagnosed with stage 3A lung cancer.”

Emmons has been a smoker since the age of 12. “There’s no question it was caused by smoking. I’m not proud of that at all,” said Emmons. “I’ve never tried to quit smoking. I didn’t want to ever quit. I’m from a generation of the late 60s and early 70s where that’s just what you did in your teen years. It didn’t become an issue. I can remember watching Johnny Carson Shows and they were all smoking. By the time people started making it a big deal I felt that what damage was done was done.”

The $49 lung screenings are part of a campaign to advocate for patient health. Smoking-related illnesses claim more than 11,000 Indiana residents each year and tobacco use results in well over $7 billion in health costs annually. As the state’s largest healthcare system, IU Health is committed to reducing the number of people who smoke and dissuading others from starting. So IU Health joins the statewide campaign against tobacco use, including the effort to increase cigarette tax to $2 a pack. Increasing the price of cigarettes has proven to deter smoking especially among youths. The campaign against smoking promotes reduced incidents of cancer, pulmonary disease, infant mortality, and other health-related issues.

Emmons’ diagnosis was a wake up call. “As soon as we found out I had cancer, the first doctor I saw was a pulmonary doctor who put me on Chantix, a prescription medicine to help me stop smoking,” said Emmons. “It does really well. I went from two and half packs of cigarettes a day to three cigarettes a day and now I still smoke one or two a day but that’s it. I see that going away. I don’t crave it.”

He says he’s doing it for his family. He has been married to Suzette for 36 years. Together they have one son, one daughter and a two-year-old grandson. “My wife and daughter were devastated when we found out I had cancer. I’m the rock of the family. This isn’t supposed to happen to me,” said Emmons.

The biopsy showed the small cell cancer was in the upper right lobe of his lung and had attached itself to the chest wall. According to the American Cancer Society smoking is a leading cause of lung cancer. Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) accounts for about 10-15% of lung cancers, and the majority are related to cigarette smoking. Small Cell Lung Cancer can metastasize rapidly and spread to other parts of the body.

Since Emmons’ diagnosis in August, he went through 30 rounds of radiation and recently completed his final round of chemotherapy.  He will have another scan this month.

“They feel pretty confident they killed it and the chances of it coming back are 50/50. The next step will be to begin prophylactic radiation on my brain to prevent spreading,” said Emmons.

“I feel very, very fortunate. I’m not completely out of the woods but that little sign at IU Health saved my life. My doctor said without treatment I may have been gone in six months. I want to be around to watch my grandson grow up.”

— By T.J. Banes, Journalist, IU Health.
   Reach Banes via email

Facts You Need to Know about Dentures

Back in the 1800s, people had to make do with animal teeth if they ever lost their own set. Since then, dentures have made steady progress from being made out of porcelain to the current staple, acrylic resin. In this write-up, we will discuss everything there is to know about dentures and the various types that are used around the world.

 What Are Dentures?

 Simply put, dentures serve as replacements for missing teeth and OKC Teeth Whitening. One may lose natural teeth due to a variety of reasons. This may include – gum related diseases. Injuries or tooth decay. Like we stated before, dentures back in the day weren’t as precise as the ones that are manufactured today. While they still don’t feel real once applied, they do resemble and look like real teeth cosmetically. They are also comfortable and fit in perfectly, allowing your facial muscles to retain their original profile. In certain cases, they also help improve the look of your smile.

 How Do Dentures Work?

 Before you begin to know how dentures actually work, you must understand that are different types – conventional dentures, immediate dentures, and partial dentures. We will discuss more on the types later. For now, let’s focus on their operation.

 There is a common misconception that dentures stick because of the extensive use of special adhesives. This isn’t true for the most part. Gums and tissues inside your provide natural suction, and this suction is more than sufficient for any kind of dentures to be perfectly in places. Only in the case of a severely altered bone structure will someone need achieves, and that is usually a sign of an impending replacement.

 How Long Before I Get Used to My Dentures?

 Initially, the dentures may seem to be extremely loose when put in place. This is due to the fact that your cheeks and tongue are still learning to keep them in place. There might also be an overproduction of saliva. The first month is usually known informally as the learning month – since the patient undergoes a learning process of some sorts. Even everyday functions such as eating and speaking will feel like a task.

 Having said that, the amount of time that is required to comfortably adjust to new dentures varies greatly for each individual. For some, the period may only last a few weeks, and in other cases, the learning process goes on for months during which modifications are also done.

 How Long Do Dentures Last?

 Dentures are usually great when it comes to quality and longevity. Since they are made out of durable, artificial materials, they never really deteriorate with time unless you subject them to unfavorable environments while storing them at night. The only time you may need a replacement is when your mouth changes dramatically. In such cases, measurements will have to be taken again for a new denture to be cast. But it is important for patients to realize that this is a natural process. When people grow old, their body changes and dentures will need to be tweaked to maintain the same level of comfort.



$47,000 in IU Health Arnett Hospital Grants to Benefit Area Health

The IU Health Arnett Hospital Philanthropy Council, in partnership with the IU Health Foundation, has announced five grants to support hospital initiatives and improve health throughout the region. The funded programs focus on the health of infants and their mothers, patients undergoing chemotherapy and victims of sexual assault. The grants were awarded from IU Health Arnett Hospital’s area of greatest need fund, which supports priorities identified by hospital leaders.

“These grants fund specialized equipment and training that enable our excellent clinicians to deliver even better care,” said Julie Paolillo, director of philanthropy for IU Health West Central Region. “Philanthropy allows us to go the extra mile to meet challenges in our region and in our state.”

 Each initiative aligns with the IU Health systemwide goals of making Indiana one of the healthiest states in the nation.

 The following projects were funded: 

  • $29,864 to establish the IU Health Arnett Center of Hope, where nurses specially trained in sexual assault examinations will use the Cortex-Flo Camera System to accurately document and provide evidence in cases of assault.
  • $6,600 to launch a support group for pregnant women and new mothers suffering from Perinatal Mood Anxiety disorder, which will result in better outcomes for both mother and child.
  • $4,845 to purchase a Premature Anne Task Trainer Twin Pack. These mannequins are modeled after premature infants and will provide more opportunities for nurses to prepare for a variety of scenarios.
  • $4,165 to enable an IU Health Arnett RN to complete training to become an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and help new mothers with breastfeeding and lactation issues.
  • $1,530 to provide chemotherapy training and certification for 12 registered nurses, so they can administer on-site treatments at IU Health Arnett.

You can help meet health challenges in your own community by contributing to your local IU Health hospital’s area of greatest need. To learn more, visit

Thirty years of nursing – humor calms their nerves

Nurse Steve Allgood, who works in intervention radiology has learned over the years that keeping things light is the best way to put patients at ease.

When they get to him, patients are receiving biopsies and CAT scans. They know there could be some unpleasant news from the results. It’s not Steve Allgood’s job to deliver the news – good or bad. It’s his job to keep patients safe and secure.

“I start my day by preparing rooms for biopsies and then I monitor the patient during sedation, and transport the patient to recovery,” said Allgood, who has been a nurse for 30 years. He started his career working in ICU and then moved to the cardiac cath lab – working at IU Health North and IU Health West – before coming to University Hospital.

His primary patients are those diagnosed with cancer. Over the years, he’s learned that when patients come in for biopsies or scans they are nervous. Their mind is on the results. He doesn’t offer them results – most results take about three to five days and are reported by the patient’s physician.

“Most patients have been diagnosed, some not, but something’s happened and they’ve had a CT scan and need a biopsy to find out what it is,” said Allgood. “I really try to be myself and I’m a jokester. I try to keep the humor in the air. It helps alleviate the stress. Most people say the joking calms them. I think if you‘re way too serious it scares the patient and does not ease the tension of what they are going through.”

He’s also known to ease the nerves by sharing his life story.

“I grew up poor in Puerto Rico. My mother is Puerto Rican and she took me there to live. I started working in a slaughter house at age of 12 to help out at home,” said Allgood. At a young age, he served in the US Air Force, in search of an education to improve his life and earned a Bachelors Degree in Mechanical Science. He worked for a time as an engineer manufacturing military aircraft and then decided to go to nursing school.

“At the time there was a nursing shortage and 12 pages of newspaper ads for nurses. I was a single man in a hospital full of women,” said Allgood.

Over time he has become known around his department for his ability to start an IV on most any patient. “It can be a challenge but I probably start 25 a day because I get called into a lot of procedures and departments to offer assistance”

More about Allgood:

  • What makes him a good nurse: “I care about the people I take care of and what they’re going through.”
  • Personal: He married his wife Debra December of 2017. They met salsa dancing. He has two daughters, 21 and 23.
  • Hobbies: In addition to salsa dancing with his wife, Allgood restores old muscle cars and has been scuba diving for nearly 50 years. 
  • What would surprise people to learn: “Most are pretty surprised to learn I’m Puerto Rican. I speak fluent Spanish – grew up speaking it.”

— By T.J. Banes, Journalist, IU Health.
   Reach Banes via email

The doctor is in: Video visits make house calls easy

Sleep study physician and patient say the technology lends itself to certain kinds of medical appointments.

House calls harken back to a simpler time — when the small-town doctor would show up on the doorstep of a patient, black bag in hand.

Today’s “house call” relies on technology, but it’s no less effective in some cases.

Dr. Shalini Manchanda, director of the IU Health Sleep Disorders Center, is an early adaptor of IU Health’s video visit tool, part of the wider Telehealth system.

“My specialty is perfect for virtual care,” Manchanda said. “It’s not like being a surgeon where you have to feel if there is a lump or whatever. In sleep apnea, there’s a lot of data review, so once we make contact with a patient and get to know them in a personal visit, we can review that data online with them.”

All it takes is a smartphone, tablet or computer and a strong Wi-Fi connection. That and plenty of set-up work in the office on the front end.

Manchanda’s staff has compiled a checklist for the visits, which includes checking in with the patient several days before the virtual visit to ensure they have downloaded the IU Health Video Visit app and have an understanding of how the appointment will proceed.

Pamela Starks had her first video visit with Manchanda last month and loved it. It was a follow-up appointment to last year’s in-office visit for treatment of sleep apnea.

When the physician asked her if she’d be interested in trying the concept, Starks was on board from the start. Her only concern was that she would be able to download the app and use the technology correctly.

“I didn’t want to be in the middle of an appointment and have something go wrong. Then it’s wasted time for them and for me.”

She intended to call in for her appointment from her home or office, but it so happened that day she was at a family gathering at the home of her mother-in-law, who had recently passed away.

“It took me a fraction of the time to do my appointment,” she said, versus having to get ready, drive the 10 miles to the physician’s office, see the doctor and drive home or back to work.

During the visit, Manchanda reviewed Starks’ sleep habits over the previous several months, turning the charts around so that Starks could see the graphs on her iPhone.

It was convenient, Starks said, “and I still felt exactly the same when I hung up as I did when I left the office last time. I was prepared with instructions for moving forward.”

Next year’s follow-up likely will be in the office because Manchanda still wants to see her patients in person at least every other visit, but Starks said she would definitely be on board for another video visit.

“I am so happy that I did this because I could just go in another room on my phone and it took 10 or 15 minutes, then I was back doing what I needed to do.”

If not for the video visit option, she said she likely would have canceled the appointment.

Manchanda has been using the technology for more than a year now but confesses she relies on her staff to make it all work.

“I know my part, but I don’t know any of the rest. I have fantastic people. Alone, I would never be able to do it.”

Currently, she sees about four patients per week virtually, but is considering building in another hour of video visits to her weekly schedule.

Obviously, video visits won’t work for all specialties, and they can’t replace all appointments, particularly diagnostic appointments, but they are an effective and efficient option for some patients sometimes.

“You have to pick the specialty that works,” Manchanda said. “If I had an earache and the doctor had to look in my ear, I don’t know how it would work. You can’t do a well-baby check with this.”

But after she sees her patients in clinic and knows that they’re doing fairly well, she will set up a virtual visit if they’re agreeable. “Every other visit I want to make sure they come in so I can set eyes on them, examine them physically. It seems to work very well so far.”

Manchanda says seeing patients in their home via a computer or phone reveals more than a phone call alone can, and it also gives her a window into the patient’s home life.

“The other day, I was speaking to a lady in her 70s, she was sitting in her living room and she had this beautiful quilt on her chair. I learned that she loves to quilt. It’s an amazing connection you can make. It’s kind of like doing a house call. You can make different connections with the patient, connections you can’t make in your office.”

Many of her patients live in southern Indiana, so saving that travel time is a bonus for them as well.

The bottom line for Manchanda is that her patients be comfortable with their care – whether in the office or in their home.

“I think we need to embrace change. If you don’t jump in, someone else will.”

— By Maureen Gilmer, IU Health senior journalist

​ Mother’s Gift of Love Brings Life

When her only son needed a kidney, Blanca Guzman Gonzalez gave her son the gift of life. 

A year ago Blanca Guzman Gonzalez joined about 15 members of her family for Christmas Eve services at St. Monica Catholic Church. They enjoyed big meal together and shared stories. Then, at midnight they exchanged gifts.

In the back of her mind was this: Her only son, Juan Marin Guzman had just started dialysis. His kidneys were shutting down. Three times a week, Juan visited Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health where he received four hours of dialysis.

This Christmas was different. On November 28, Blanca Guzman Gonzalez donated her kidney to her 18-year-old son, Juan. They arrived at IU Health University Hospital early in the morning with Juan’s sister Blanca Paloma Marin-Guzman, 19 and their father Mario Marin. Both of Juan’s parents were tested as potential donors; his mom was almost a perfect match.

As she prepared for surgery, Blanca Guzman Gonzalez said she was nervous but happy. She wanted only one thing: “For the surgery to be a success.”

Juan gave his mother a quick hug and a kiss before she was wheeled down the hallway and into the operating room. Dr. Chandru Sundaram began surgery at about 9 a.m.

“This operation is a big deal because we are not only taking care of the patient, we are taking care of the kidney,” said Dr. Sundaram. “We want the best possible outcome so we have the most highly-qualified people on our surgical team.”

Next door, Dr. William Goggins was preparing Juan to receive his new kidney. Within a few hours, the organ was ready for transplant. The doctors communicated and coordinated the process down to the second.

“Because they are almost identical genetically this is a great match with less risk of rejection,” said Dr. Goggins. “This kidney could last 30-40 years.”

Nearly five hours after Blanca Guzman Gonzalez was wheeled into the operating room, her son had a new kidney.

“I look forward to Christmas this year with our traditions and that my son is healthy with no more worries,” said Guzman Gonzalez. “I am grateful and thankful to my mom,” said Juan. “It is almost unreal. I have a chance that many other kids don’t have. She’s given me the greatest gift of all.”

— By T.J. Banes, Journalist, IU Health.
   Reach Banes via email

IU Health Facilities Implement Temporary Visitor Restrictions to Help Prevent Spread of Flu

Due to a rise in the number of reported flu cases, IU Health is limiting visitors to some of its healthcare facilities to protect patients and staff and prevent further spreading.

Other IU Health facilities may implement restrictions in the future, so please check back for the most current information.

Facility & Start Date

  • IU Health North Hospital: Maternity Unit: Jan. 2
  • IU Health West Hospital: Pediatrics and Maternity Unit: Jan. 2
    • Effective Jan. 7, the West maternity center will implement respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) restrictions, which means only immediate family members will be able to visit patients.
  • Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health: Jan. 2
  • Riley at IU Health North Hospital: Jan. 2

Visitor restrictions* include:

  • Only parents or legal guardians will be allowed to visit and be on the patient unit (exceptions can be made for end-of-life-situations).
  • Siblings and children younger than 18 years will not be permitted on patient units.
  • Patients will not go off their unit, except for testing or therapy; at Riley in Indianapolis, evening visits for inpatients may be arranged in the Child Life Zone.
  • Visitors who have flu-like symptoms, such as fever, cough, chills or muscle aches, will not be allowed to visit patients.
  • Patients with flu-like symptoms will be asked to wear a surgical or isolation mask.

*IU Health recognizes the role that family plays in a patient’s recovery. Exceptions to the policy may be made under special circumstances. 

​Hospital Feels Like her Second Home

When Elese Grays comes to work at IU Health, she feels like she’s coming to her second home.

She was working at the former Hook’s Drugstore across the street when she looked up at the hospital and thought: “I’d like to work there.” She applied and was hired to work in the kitchen on the sixth floor.

What meant the most to Elese Grays was that like her former drugstore employer – an Indiana-based chain – there was a small-town feel to this big hospital. That was back in 1975. And even though the IU Health campus has grown exponentially over those 43 years, Grays says it still feels like home when she walks through the door.

From the window outside the fourth floor of the Glen Lehman Endoscopy Suite at University Hospital, Grays can look out at the expanded hospital campus.

“I have watched all the changes over the years. There used to be houses and a school over there and now it’s all developed over the years,” said Grays. “Inside the hospital new parts have built around the old parts. I think about that when I come in every morning and I feel like I’ve grown with it.”

From her first assignment in the kitchen, Grays moved into the areas of distributing supplies, and sterilizing equipment. She eventually became an endoscopy technician. Her badge shows various credentials “CRCST,” “CIS,” “CNA,” and “CFER” –all earned through continuing education during more than four decades of employment at IU Health. In her present job she cleans and processes scopes and transports patients from their procedures to their cars.

“Some patients drive two or three hours to come here. They know this is the best hospital. I love hearing their stories,” said Grays. “It’s like I get the best of both worlds – I learn from the patients and I learn on the job. Who wouldn’t like that?”

In addition to working at IU Health, Grays gave birth to a son and daughter at University and Methodist Hospitals, and also has a granddaughter who was born at Methodist.

“When we were doing the da Vinci (a robotic surgery device) my uncle was a patient here. My father was a patient here for CLPD (chronic lymph proliferative disorders), and my mother receives cancer treatments through IU Health,” said Grays. “When my dad died, I just can’t say enough about the doctors, nurses, everyone especially in ICU. They were so caring.”

In addition to her mother Grays helps care for her 100-year-old grandmother. She is the oldest child with three younger brothers. The family moved to Indianapolis from Birmingham, Ala. when Grays was seven. “Everyone thought I took care of my younger brothers, but really they took care of me,” said Grays.

In her adult life though, she’s known as “the helper.” Whether it means cooking a meal or offering assistance with car repairs, Grays is ready to serve others and not expect anything in return.

“My father was an honest man always willing to help others. You aren’t going to meet everyone who is like that but you should always give it your best, roll with the punches and stay positive,” said Grays.

And what about her next move at IU Health? “Believe it or not but I think I’d like to try working in dialysis. I’m not done here by any stretch,” said Grays. “I’ve learned a lot here. It’s like a second home and one of the best things is that I try to treat every patient special and I learn that I get back so much more than I give away.”

— By T.J. Banes, Journalist, IU Health.
   Reach Banes via email