Cardiologist is “Superman” for “Bionic Man”

A cardiac patient is forever grateful that his long-time cardiologist is readily available and willing to help him maintain his heart health.

He had his first heart attack more than 30 years ago and Michael Holmberg says that’s when he became a fan of Dr. Wayne Gray. The cardiologist, who obtained his medical degree from Indiana University in 1966, specializes in cardiovascular disease.

That means a lot to Holmberg and his wife of 51 years, Linda.

“Dr. Gray’s expertise and dedication is why IU Health Ball Hospital cardiology department is one of the best. Heart patients also have the life maintenance care because of Dr. Gray’s leadership and caring,” said Holmberg of Gaston.

He affectionately refers to Dr. Gray as “Superman,” and Dr. Gray has been known to call Holmberg “Bionic Man,” because of the multiple devices he has to keep his heart regulated.

“My grandfather, John Holmberg was the first open heart patient at IU Health Ball Hospital,” said Holmberg, who was about 12 at the time of the surgery. His father and brother later became cardiac patients. “It’s basically something I inherited,” said Holmberg.

His first heart attack was at the age of 34. Nine years later, he had a second heart attack. He’s had three heart catheterizations in a matter of years, a coronary stent procedure and a cardioverter defibrillator implantation.

After weeks of rehabilitation, Holmberg has changed up his diet to include more fish, chicken, and, water, and vegetables and less sugar and sodium.

He also began walking five days a week – about three miles per a visit – in the rehab center where Dr. Gray comes and checks on his progress several times a week. For his consistent efforts to improved health, Holmberg has been named one of the “Dazzling Diamonds” – those clients who attend rehab 13 times in a given month.

On a recent visit, Katrina Riggin, manager of cardiac services, cardiopulmonary rehab, checked Holmberg’s blood pressure. The check was all part of the monitoring process of patients, said Riggin.

Dr. Gray was the cardiologist credited with researching and introducing the Cardiac Rehabilitation Service to IU Health Ball in 1976. The rehabilitation unit has more than 32,000 visits a year, said Riggin. Clients participate in scheduled telemetry monitored sessions and the progress to the supervised maintenance program (Phase III) and can come at their convenience.  Six participants have been honored for 20 years of participation the program.

— By T.J. Banes, Journalist, IU Health.
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A Love Story That Began in the Hospital and Extends to Their Home

They had their first date 25 years ago, and this month marks 22 years since one hospital employee popped the question to the other and she said: “Yes.”

She giggles like she’s still the new nurse meeting her future husband for the first time as she talks about his cologne.

“I was working the night shift. He was delivering pharmacy carts early morning at the end of my shift,” said Barbara Ellis. “I just remember he smelled so good.”

Barbara Ellis was 23 and starting her career as an oncology nurse at IU Health Ball Hospital. Von Ellis was 31 and working as a pharmacy technician. Barbara commuted to Muncie from Rushville. Von grew up in Muncie. He started his career at IU Health Ball Hospital working in dietary and then in OR.

Together the couple has given 62 years of service to IU Health Ball Hospital. They didn’t know back in 1994 that they’d be a couple.

“I didn’t know his name. I just knew he was the pharmacy boy,” said Barbara. “We’re both shy. We’re both introverts. I’m not sure I would have approached her but some of the other nurses sort of helped out,” said Von. In fact, one of the nurses learned that Von likes golf. Barbara tried to talk to him about the sport she knew little about.

But other details are as clear as if they happened today.

Barbara remembers she was in room 5210 and finishing up her shift when she got an unexpected phone call. “It was Von. He called me on the unit and asked if I wanted to go out. I hung up and fell on the floor. I was so excited I yelled, ‘he asked me out,’” said Barbara. They chose a neutral spot to meet up before their date – the hospital – and then had dinner at the former Foxfires Restaurant. Afterward, Von followed Barbara back to Rushville to make sure she got home safely.

“I made the drive every day so it was no big deal. I remember telling my mom that he was following me home. I was so surprised,” said Barbara. Out of that first date, grew a budding romance. Three years later, Von proposed on Valentine’s Day, 1997. They were married the following December on the terrace at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge in the presence of Barbara’s parents and two brothers.

“I was the first in my family to get married; he was the last in his,” said Barbara. The entire ceremony – including Barbara’s wedding day makeup, her white lace dress and floral bouquet, and the processional violinist – were arranged by the theme park planners. They ate a meal with Mickey and Minnie and spent a week honeymooning at the park.

Now the couple – who built a home on a golf course in Selma – is the parents of two boys, Blake a senior and Brandon, a freshman, both students at Wapahani High School. They enjoy long bike rides together, raising chickens and gardening. They are active in their small group at Union Chapel Church and have distributed more than 6,000 children’s bibles in the past three years through a ministry called “Light Their Path.”

Since becoming parents they have changed up their work schedules to accommodate the needs of their boys. They work opposite shifts, opposite weekends, and opposite holidays. They look forward to catching up in the evenings. And a few years ago they returned to Disney – this time with their boys.

“I remember when he asked me to get married. His family and mine have many generations of long marriages,” said Barbara. “I just remember thinking, ‘when I get married, I want to remain married forever.’ We made the right decision.”

— By T.J. Banes, Journalist, IU Health.
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‘The Color of Medicine’ spotlights longtime Methodist physician

Film about Dr. Earle Robinson Jr. and his connection to a historic black hospital will be screened free for IU Health employees in celebration of Black History Month.

When Dr. Joe Baele, an orthopedics physician at IU Health Methodist Hospital, learned about a documentary that features longtime Methodist OB-GYN Earle Robinson Jr., he knew he wanted to see it. But more than that, he wanted others to see it.

So Dr. Baele dug into his own pocket ($2,500) to finance the screening of “The Color of Medicine” for all IU Health employees this month, in concert with the IU Health Office for Diversity and Inclusion and in honor of Black History Month. The first screening is at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday (Feb. 19). A second has been added at 5 p.m. March 29. Both will be held in Petticrew Auditorium at Methodist, 1701 N. Senate Ave. Admission is free.

The movie documents the history of medical training and care for African-Americans at Homer G. Phillips Hospital, which opened in 1937 in St. Louis. It was the first teaching hospital west of the Mississippi River to serve blacks. Dr. Robinson is a second-generation physician and alumnus of the hospital training program, and his father was one of the first 27 interns at the hospital in the 1930s.

“My father … and his classmates were on their way to Kansas City to intern at Kansas City General,” Dr. Robinson says in a trailer for the film. They had to change trains in St. Louis and while they were in the train station, a train porter asked where they were headed. When they told him Kansas City, he said, “They just built a colored hospital here and they don’t have any doctors.”

So the group took a taxi to the hospital to check it out and decided to stay after learning the pay ($10 a month, plus room and board) would be the same as what was promised in Kansas City.

The young doctors would go on to change medical history in St. Louis and beyond.

“When the hospital opened up, it gave patients facilities that were second to none,” Dr. Robinson said.

The all-black hospital, which served patients and trained doctors for 42 years, opened at a time when there were fewer than 40 black specialists in the country.

Dr. Robinson, a longtime OB-GYN at Methodist who retired a decade ago, will be on hand with his daughter, Rebecca Robinson-Williams, for both screenings and will sit for a question-and-answer session after the film.

Dr. Baele, who grew up in a racially diverse neighborhood in South Bend, said his parents set an example for him and his siblings for how everyone should be treated. When he first came to Methodist in the 1980s, he said it troubled him that more doctors of color weren’t affiliated with larger medical groups. “They were on their own.”

As a young resident and then an ortho surgeon, he knew of Dr. Robinson. They saw one another in the surgeons’ lounge and in the cafeteria. But that was about it.

“I worked around him, not with him. He was delivering babies and I was fixing fractures.”

Now the two are Facebook friends, but Baele said the fact that Dr. Robinson is featured in the film should resonate with current employees.

“I thought it would be cool for folks to see one of our own get a movie. There are still people here who worked with him. They need to see it.”

The film runs about one hour and 20 minutes, followed by the Q and A. Light snacks will be provided. Employees should wear their ID badge when entering the hospital.

–- By Maureen Gilmer, IU Health senior journalist

Red hats for little heads

Chandler Downing was all smiles when her firstborn child received a hand-knitted red cap from IU Health West maternity nurse Montana Hix. Kaydence Todd was born at 5:23 p.m. Feb. 6 at IU Health West, weighing five pounds, 15 ounces.

Kaydence is one of more than 3,000 Indiana babies born in February who received red hats courtesy of the American Heart Association’s “Little Hats, Big Hearts” program. American Heart Association staff members delivered the tiny hats to more than 30 hospitals across the state.

February is American Heart Month, also a time to create awareness of Congenital Heart Defects. Heart disease remains the No. 1 cause of death in the United States and in Indiana, and congenital heart defects (CHDs) are the leading birth defect in newborns. Approximately one of every 110 babies is born with a CHD, and 25 percent of those require invasive surgery within the first year.

The Little Hats, Big Hearts program raises awareness about CHDs while offering new parents information about living a heart-healthy life.   

“In 2018 we had two unexpected cases of infants with transposition of the great arteries.  These cases were caught by our amazing team of physicians and nurses, and the infants’ care was transferred downtown,” said Jennifer Sollman, a nurse and Clinical Manager of the Maternity and Special Care Nursery at IU Health West. “After those cases, and the incredible work that our team did, I felt that this program was a great way to bring more awareness to heart defects and how they can truly touch anyone regardless of their location. I think the hats are obviously adorable, the patients love them, and it opens up a conversation for awareness for the babies that have more struggles,” said Sollman.

The tiny hats were knitted with love by 200 volunteers – including 8-year-old June Leis, daughter of Dr. Anita Leis, who works with OB-GYN patients at IU Health West.

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

She’s half the woman she used to be

Tiara Jenkins has lost 215 pounds: “I’m not afraid to actually go out in public anymore.”

Tiara Jenkins remembers the day her life began to change. It was in February 2017 when she stepped on the scale and watched as it hit 445 pounds.

“It was like a lightbulb went on. I knew I had to do something.”

What she did was lose 215 pounds, the first 50 on her own and the rest with help from gastric bypass surgery at IU Health Bariatric & Medical Weight Loss Clinic, under the care of Dr. Ambar Banerjee.

Previous Coverage

  • Taking steps to better health – July 13, 2017
  • Weighing Down: She’s On Her Way – July 26, 2017
  • Weight Loss – New Lease On Life – January 29, 2018

We have shared portions of Jenkins’ story before but thought it was time for an update.

The 27-year-old Indianapolis resident says she has 10 more pounds to lose off her 6-foot frame to reach her goal weight of 220. When that happens, it will be the first time she’s been out of the obese range since she was about 5 years old, she said.

“I was always the obese kid. Food was a big comfort to me. It was a go-to for my entire family, and I was just brought up on eating whatever, whenever.”

She compared her family’s eating habits to that of the mythical Hobbits. “We would have two breakfasts, a lunch, another lunch and then a dinner.”

It’s no wonder her weight ballooned over the years. As it went up, her confidence plummeted.

“I always wanted to kind of lock myself away from everyone, but now it’s like I actually want to go out and do things.”

She traded her all-black wardrobe for brighter colors and patterns. She colored her hair. She even got a tattoo after losing 200 pounds. It says: “She became her hero.”

“I didn’t have much of a style before; now I love shopping. I’m not afraid to actually go out in public anymore.”

Jenkins, who works as an assistant manager at a shoe store and practices photography on the side, said her life has changed dramatically.

“That’s one thing I wasn’t prepared for. I’m definitely more outgoing, more confident. I just have my life back. I know that sounds really cliché, but I do, I have a life back.”

She hopes to eventually get a college degree in business so she can make photography her career.

Jenkins went to see Dr. Banerjee, assistant professor of surgery at IU Health North Hospital, in January, for her one-year follow-up. He is pleased with her progress.

“She continues to do well and remains committed toward her health by following dietary and lifestyle changes, which are keys to success after this surgery,” he said. “She is indeed an amazing success story and an inspiration for all patients who are currently dealing with obesity and its associated morbidities.”

Jenkins continues to give and get support from fellow bariatric patients on Facebook and in person at group meetings. She works out five times a week, and she does meal prep for the week in advance so she always has something ready to go when she’s hungry.

“It’s a whole new world,” she said. “You have to eat a certain way, and you didn’t believe that after surgery a cheese stick would fill you up, but it did. It’s been a whole mind game ever since.”

Now she just has to distinguish between “head hunger” and actual hunger before she reaches for a snack.

As her relationship with food has changed, so has her relationship with her family.

“Our relationship is good; it’s actually a lot better, mostly because I’m not an angry person anymore. That’s one of the things I’ve come to see is I was really angry before.”

Now, she’s looking ahead to new adventures. She’s looking ahead to her new life.

-– By Maureen Gilmer, IU Health senior journalist

Pediatrics receives amazing donation

The pediatric department at IU Health Arnett Hospital received an amazing donation from the Alorica team. The department received 44 BluebeePals and several treat bags. The BluebeePal is an interactive plush learning tool that pairs with all apps with a narrative. The mouth and head moves while reading stories, teaching through educational games, learning a language and singing songs.

Being hospitalized is a stressful experience for children and parents. A trip to the emergency room or an inpatient stay may include a number of evaluations, tests and procedures.

“Our unit greatly appreciates the time and thoughtfulness put into these donations,” stated Susan Ziulkowski, RN. “These sweet little bags and bears will help us break the ice with some of our very frightened and sick little ones. These kinds of donations bring smiles to their faces and allow us to gain a little bit of their trust on a level they can understand. I loved seeing an organization from our community loving on our little patients by donating such thoughtful, generous items. “

The donation came from Making Lives Better with Alorica (MLBA). MLBA empowers its employees at each location to support local causes that matter most to them.  We appreciate MLBA for our patients. 

IU Health Foundation Exceeds First-year Goal by 331%

In 2018 – its first full year – the Indiana University Health Foundation raised $19,070,185, which exceeded the philanthropic goal set by system and Foundation leadership by more than 300 percent. This includes commitments raised through the Foundation as well as government grant dollars raised on behalf of IU Health.

As a result, a grants program primarily available in Central Indiana will be expanded statewide to support hospitals in all regions of IU Health. Details of this program are being finalized now and will be made available in the second quarter of this year. 

“From Monticello to Paoli and from Lafayette to Portland, IU Health patients and caregivers are reaping the benefits of philanthropic giving from generous donors,” said Crystal Hinson Miller, president, IU Health Foundation. “More than $10 million was distributed to support our mission this year.” 

IU Health Foundation raises funds to help IU Health and adult hospitals statewide achieve its goal of making Indiana one of the nation’s healthiest states. According to the United Health Foundation’s America’s Health Rankings annual report, Indiana ranks as the 41st healthiest state in the U.S. Addressing such challenges as behavioral health outcomes and the rampant opioid crisis, tobacco use, infant mortality and obesity will help improve that ranking, as well as a broader investment in social determinants of health that impact Hoosiers statewide. 

The Foundation’s efforts raised money for patient care, clinical education, innovation, and community health programs throughout the state. The following are a few highlights. 

  • Statewide:  $1.4 million through a state-directed award to IU Health makes peer recovery coaches available in every IU Health emergency department statewide. These coaches have special training and personal experience with recovery. A growing service within substance use disorder treatment, peer recovery coaching helps address the addiction crisis one patient at a time. 
  • Suburban Indianapolis:  A $10 million gift will make it possible for more people to access renowned cancer care in Hamilton County and surrounding areas. The Joe and Shelly Schwarz Cancer Center at IU Health North will be an all-in-one facility providing integrated cancer care for patients and their families. Opening in Carmel in 2020, the center will offer radiation oncology spaces and infusion rooms as well as integrated health services.
  • West Central Indiana:  More than $330,000 received through the estate of a grateful patient will benefit patient care at IU Health White Memorial Hospital.
  • East Central Indiana:  The completed integration of IU Health Jay Hospital into the IU Health Foundation family will bring benefit to Portland and the surrounding area through a $10,000 matching gift from the IU Health Foundation toward donations for patient support.
  • South Central Indiana: A $10,000 gift to IU Health Bloomington Hospice will provide custom recliners for patients and patient families in hospice care. This gift was made possible from a family who was grateful for the care they and their father received while in hospice care.
  • Indianapolis:  A $500,000 gift to IU Health Adult Academic Health Center will expand the Lynda A. Merriman Award for Compassionate Care program system-wide.

IU Health Foundation was created in late 2017 to raise funds to improve Hoosiers’ health and help Indiana become one of the healthiest states in the nation. It has combined 15 hospital foundations and giving programs representing IU Health hospitals throughout Indiana. The result is an increase in our capacity to build upon community relationships, ensuring local giving stays local, while engaging donors interested in transformative giving to impact our state’s greatest health challenges. To learn more, visit

Special graduation in NICU

A story that will warm your heart just in time for Valentine’s Day!

A special day for little Makayla Howard and her family, when she was finally able to go home after being in the IU Health Arnett Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for the first two months of her life.

Makayla and family celebrated their last day in the NICU with her very own graduation ceremony, completed with a little cap and gown!

Makayla made her debut into the world at 29 weeks. Born 11 weeks early, weighing in at only 3 lbs 3 oz, Makayla needed some help from our NICU team to help her grow stronger and healthier. Now at 37 weeks, and 6 lbs 1 oz, she is happy, healthy and ready to go home. Team members lined the hallways to help celebrate this success!

The adorable cap and gown were hand cut, stitched and sewn by Girl Scout Troop 3556. They got the wonderful idea from their troop leader and one of our own, Amy Corbett, a NICU nurse at IU Health Arnett Hospital. Amy also worked with the IU Health Foundation to help continue funding materials for the caps and gowns for our future graduates. She even worked with Gigi’s Cupcakes and Project Sweet Peas to donate some goodies and sweet treats for the celebration. A huge thank you to all who helped us and will continue to help celebrate our youngest patients!

Watch the video on our Facebook page. 

Grateful Family Donates to Hospice Bloomington

Charles Boling, a U.S. Air Force veteran and retired history teacher, was already experiencing Parkinson’s Disease, when he suffered a broken hip in 2016. His daughter Elizabeth and her siblings Daniel and Malinda were advised to seek hospice care.

Elizabeth Boling, a professor at Indiana University Bloomington and the closest to her father geographically, sought help from IU Health Bloomington Hospice. “Hospice saved our lives,” she said. 

For 20 months, Elizabeth Boling was continually impressed by the many ways hospice staff exceeded her expectations. Their first act was installing a hospital bed for Mr. Boling’s safety, then acquiring and installing a lift for caregivers to use when moving him. Elizabeth Boling said hospice staff provided comfort, solace and strength at every stage of this uncertain and exhausting journey. 

“The folks who worked with us clearly cared about my father,” she said. “They talked to him as a person, not just another sick old man. It was clear that they cared about the quality of his life down to the last day of it.” 

When her father passed away in October 2018, Elizabeth Boling and her siblings gifted $10,000 from his estate to Bloomington Hospice, the oldest and largest provider of end-of-life services in South Central Indiana, and the only remaining not-for-profit hospice in the region. 

Charles Boling died with dignity, and his children have ensured that others can do the same. To learn how you can make a contribution that honors IU Health caregivers, visit

Baby on the way: Cancer didn’t get in the way

They thought they’d wait to start a family but after a cancer diagnosis, this couple believes their expectancy is going as planned.

Kayla Mollo was a student at IU Bloomington and picking up hours as a server at a popular craft beer pub on College Ave. Evan Mollo worked in concrete and excavating and helped the owners get the new bar open. Afterward, he stayed on to help staff the doors of the popular hang out.

That was more than six years ago. It didn’t take them long to know that this was a match to last a lifetime.

“Evan is pretty shy. I’m the total opposite,” said Kayla, who grew up in Owen County. Evan grew up in Brown County.  “I always think it’s funny because people wonder how he reached out to me. We knew each other for a good year and half before we started dating,” said Kayla.

Last May, inside Greenwood’s romantic rustic Bay Horse Inn Barn, overlooking 35 acres, the couple exchanged vows. About 200 family members attended their wedding where the bride, groom, and attendants were dressed in neutral champagne colors, accented with gray.   

The couple enjoyed trips to French Lick, trying out craft beers, and remodeling their rural Brown County home. They dreamed of raising a family in the country – enjoying outdoor activities like boating and camping.

They didn’t think they’d start a family right away. But in November they discovered Kayla was expecting what will be the first grandchild on her side of the family. Kayla has a younger brother; Evan has an older brother.

“We always said for our first anniversary we’d take a trip and then wait until summer to start a family,” said Kayla, 27. “For whatever reason, something told us we should go ahead and try. It happened quickly.” They learned that she is due August 6.

On December 27 – a month after they found out they were expecting – they received more news. Evan, who turned 30 in October, was diagnosed with testicular cancer.

“I had some back pain but I work in construction so I just thought is was from work,” said Evan. But the pain lasted a couple weeks and spread to his groin. Two days before Christmas they made a trip to urgent care. He was sent home with an antibiotic and referred to an urologist. An ultra sound showed elevated tumor markers and on December 28 he went in for a radical inguinal orchiectomy to remove the tumor. He is under the care of IU Health urologist Dr. Timothy Masterson and oncologist Dr. Lawrence Einhorn and is undergoing chemotherapy at IU Health Simon Cancer Center.

“This was totally unexpected,” said Kayla. “We both thought it was a hernia. When you start to Google symptoms testicular cancer pops up but we didn’t want to think the worst.”

Evan met Dr. Einhorn for the first time in mid-January.

“From the first time I met him I felt comfortable. I was busy thinking about being a father and he gave me the assurance that this is curable,” said Evan. “There’s no need to panic – just keep on thinking positive about our family and our future.”

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