Nurse worked in the middle of the North Pacific Ocean

LaFonda “Fonda” Lillard was once a traveling nurse working in Hawaii and Baltimore. Now she serves patients at IU Health Coleman Center for Women.

People who know her would be surprised to learn that LaFonda “Fonda” Lillard once went snorkeling in the North Pacific Ocean. She’s afraid of water. For three months she served as a traveling nurse in Hawaii. She also had a stint in Baltimore working as a clinical nurse. But the bulk of her career has been with labor and delivery.

She recently joined the team at Coleman Center for Women at IU Health University Hospital where she works with new and expectant moms, along with female patients with other health needs.

Lillard grew up in Ft. Wayne and graduated from the former Paul Harding High School. She is the oldest of three girls – including a sister that is 14 years younger. Lillard said she was shy in high school but excelled in science.

“My middle sister said I fulfill the role of big sister well,” said Lillard. “I’m very nurturing and I think nursing came naturally.” She obtained her nursing degree from Ball State University, worked in med/surg. for three years and then jumped right into labor and delivery.

“I wanted to work with patients one-on-one and with labor and delivery you are working with patients who are well. You are a bridge for them during this important stage of their lives,” said Lillard.

What advice would she like to give to every new mom? “Their time with their baby is their time and how they want to spend that is up to them. They’ll get a lot of advice from family but that time is up to them.”

What advice would she like to give to every woman? “Take good care of your body.”

More about Lillard:

  • She has a 12-year-old Golden retriever named “Nala” who weighs 80 pounds but thinks she’s a 10-pound lap dog.
  • She loves spending time with family and friends.
  • She enjoys working on crafts and makes homemade gifts.
  • She loves watching super hero movies especially those based on DC and Marvel comics.

— By T.J. Banes, Journalist, IU Health. 
   Reach Banes via email tfender1@iuhealth.org.

How To Overcome The Stress Neck Pain

The best way to overcome stress neck pain is to treat both the mind and the body. Treating the mind could help reduce stress and tension, while treating the body could help overcome the physical manifestations which often come in the form of Oklahoma chronic neck pain. Here are a few proven and time-tested exercises which could be useful in more ways than one.

Neck Stretches

 Neck stretches if done regularly can help loosen the muscle and tissue tightness and give the much needed relief from neck pain caused by various factors including stress. It also could help to keep the range of motion in tact as far as the muscles of the neck are concerned. While doing these exercises it is always better to take Owasso  Chiropractor expert opinion. Identifying the right trigger point exercises for the pain is vital and important.

Taking The Help of Cognitive Behavior Therapy

 Opting for cognitive behavioral therapy has been known to help those who are suffering from stress and tension. It could help them to develop thought patterns and habits that are healthy. One could even try and take help from an online or brick and mortar support forum. You can share your problems and concerns and there are many who would be willing to offer a supportive hand to alleviate the problem.

Importance Of Meditation

 Meditation is a proven and time-tested method by which one can overcome stress and tension. It certainly can help to soothe the nerves and play a vital role in calming ones thought and anxieties. There are quite a few videos and other resource materials available on the internet which certainly could be helpful in more ways than one.

Acupuncture And Massaging

 There is no doubt that a combination of Oklahoma City acupuncture and massaging can certainly play a big role in relieving stress and tension. It also is known to play a positive role in easing and relaxing the tightness of the shoulder and neck muscles. However, it has to be done under expert guidance and care because wrong massaging could lead to sprains and other problems. Pressure point therapy such as acupuncture is also known to help in more ways than one. Here again the role of experts is extremely important.

Taking Help From Friends And Family

 Neck pain caused by stress and tension might require the help and assistance of family members. They need to come out with a helping hand and share the load for some time. There are quite a few things that friends an d family members can do. Simple things like running errands or massaging the neck area and muscles could certainly be a big relief for the affected persons.

The Importance Of Exercise

 Exercise apart from helping the body to remain in shape, also assists the mind. Regular exercising releases and hormone called endorphins and these could result in dulling of pain and could also promote overall feeling of well being.

The Impact Of Low Impact Aerobic Exercise

There are a number of low impact aerobic exercises which could be done regularly under the help and assistance of doctors and physical trainers. They help in making the neck muscles supple and loosen the tightness which often develops because of lack of use and eve because of excessive build up of stress.

Before She Was a Candidate, Gene Therapy Was on Her Radar

Lori Ann Haalck was no stranger to a groundbreaking cancer treatment offered at IU Health Simon Cancer Center. She’s now among the first adult patients to receive gene therapy known as CAR-T cell.

Cancer is no stranger to Lori Haalck’s family. She comes from a blended family of six and has lost three siblings to cancer. Her father also lost his battle and her husband of 28 years, Heath Haalck, just completed treatments for prostate cancer.

“We’ve had a crazy couple of years. God just keeps us going,” said Haalck, 48.  She and her husband are the parents of two daughters – Alyssa, 22 and Brooke, 19. Both are students at IU Kokomo. Her mom Trisha Van Kamp has also been by her side.

“Our community has been very supportive,” said Haalck, who works as a stylist at La Revive Salon and Day Spa. The salon helped out by offering discounted products to customers. Heath Haalck is a captain with the Kokomo Police Department and head of the motorcycle unit. Friends and family members came together for a motorcycle rally and also a red carpet gala.

Haalck’s journey started in March of 2017. She was having back pain that was like nothing she’s every experienced. She first went to her family practitioner near her Howard County home. She ended up in ER and tests confirmed she has Diffuse large B-Cell lymphoma (DLBCL or DLBL), a cancer of B cells – the white blood cells responsible for producing antibodies. According to the National Cancer Institute, it is the most common type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma among adults and accounts for about 4.3 percent of all new cancer cases.

“I don’t know what are typical symptoms because mine started in the bone. I felt the pain on my left side,” said Haalck. She first completed six weeks of R-Chop chemotherapy – a monoclonal antibody drug, a group of targeted therapies.  Within a month, she relapsed and the cancer was in her right femur. Last December she had a stem cell transplant and was clear for nine months. Then the cancer returned.

“It’s kind of crazy because when I was first diagnosed my daughter came to me and said ‘mom, you need to read this article on CART-T cell. This is what you need to have done,’” said Haalck. It wasn’t a feasible treatment then, but her daughters continued to research the treatment – one is a premed major and one is a biology/physiological science major.

“They both wrote papers on CART-T cell so by the time it became an option, it was already on our radar,” said Haalck. When she again relapsed, she started treatments under the care of IU Health hematologist/oncologist Dr. Michael Robertson.

CAR-T cell is the gene therapy that uses custom-made cells to attack a patient’s own specific cancer. CAR-T cell therapy allows doctors to isolate T-lymphocyte cells – the body’s cells that fight infections and are active in immune response. The T cells are then engineered to express a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) that targets a protein on a patient’s cancer cells, attaches to them and eventually kills them. Indiana University Health is the only site in Indiana to administer the treatment.

“I feel good other than a nasty taste in my mouth that can only be described as tomato soup and garlic,” said Haalck, just a day after her treatment. “I’ve been thrilled with the nurses and doctors here – how attentive they’ve been.”

She’s hopeful for the future. “My Goddaughter told me that she doesn’t need to pray for me anymore because Jesus told her I’ve been healed. I hope that is true,” said Haalck. “ I want to see my daughters finish college and get married. I want to enjoy grandchildren and I want to travel.”

— By T.J. Banes, Journalist, IU Health.
   Reach Banes via email tfender1@iuhealth.org. Follow her on Twitter @tjbanes.

Nurse Of Triplets: “I Went For Neck Pain And They Found Cancer”

She went to the doctor for neck pain and discovered she has Hodgkin Lymphoma. Now this IU Health nurse and mother of five – including 11-year-old triplets – is accepting the care given by others.

On any give day, Cheryl Smitherman, is working with a team of case managers and social workers to assess patient needs. As an integrated case management nurse at University Hospital that could mean coordinating extended care when a patient leaves the hospital or evaluating the patient’s needs during a hospital stay.

And that’s just what she does part of her day. She also works a second job at another hospital; taxis her five children to sports practices and various school activities; serves at her church; and like most moms, is busy planning for the holidays.

“I have a Type A personality. I’m always on the go,” said Smitherman. She’s a co-leader for her daughter’s Girl Scout troupe, has led Boy Scout dens, and coached soccer. She was preparing to go back to school to get her nurse practitioner license when life suddenly slowed down.

A year ago in November, she went to the emergency room complaining of neck pain. Initial testing indicated she had cancer.

“They thought I had lung cancer at first. I didn’t want to believe that,” said Smitherman. She reached out to Becky Hardin, an oncology nurse coordinator, and was admitted to IU Health. Further scans showed she has Hodgkin Lymphoma. She is under the care of Dr. Michael Robertson.

According to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Hodgkin Lymphoma is one of the most curable types of cancer. It is a cancer of the lymphatic system, part of the immune system, and affects people at any age, but most commonly those between the ages of 20 and 40 years old and those over 55.  Smitherman turns 42 just five days before Christmas.

She completed treatment and was in remission until the end of March. She returned to work and her busy life of raising five children.

But the beginning of October she began having difficulty swallowing. Her lymph nodes were swollen and she felt like she had strep throat. Tests showed she had relapsed. She again started chemotherapy to control the cancer.

During a recent treatment Smitherman talked about how life has changed since her diagnosis. As she talked, co-worker Kali Bonanni dropped by to deliver a snack and check on her friend.

“She is strong,” said Bonanni. “She loves her kids and would do anything for them. Cheryl is also willing to help out others. Cheryl is a team player and helps when it is needed.”

As a caregiver, it’s difficult for Smitherman to accept help from others. “My co-workers have been amazing. Very helpful to me and my family,” she said.

A graduate of Ben Davis High School, Smitherman received her nursing degree from Indiana University and started her first job with IU Health working in the lab at Methodist in 1997. She then worked in pediatric resources with Riley Hospital for Children and migrated to IU Health North in NICU and pediatrics.  She returned to University Hospital two years ago in her current role in case management.

It was a fellow nurse, Angie Thompson who convinced Smitherman she would be a good nurse. They were on a trip to Israel, Egypt and Jordan when Smitherman began discussing her options in medicine. She was biology major at the time and switched to nursing. She completed her degree in 2003.

A year later she married her husband John. When their oldest daughter was born 12 years ago, they named her after one of Smitherman’s former Riley patients – Hannah. Next came their triplets Jack, Emma, and Claire, 11; and then their youngest Samuel, nine.

She was raised as the youngest child – an older sister and older brother, but later in life her parents adopted two girls from China who are now 16 and 11. “It’s a little funny when your younger siblings attend the same school as your children and you hear them calling, ‘Aunt,’” said Smitherman.

Throughout her diagnosis and treatment, Smitherman has relied on what she calls the “three F’s” – Faith, Family, and Friends.

She chooses a different scripture each day – many take her back to that trip to the Holy Land when she decided to become a nurse.

“My grandmother had a bible from Bethlehem. I remember I was five and I just loved it and said that one day I’d have one of my own so when I went on my trip to the Holy Land, I got one. It’s very special to me,” said Smitherman.

And when it comes to her family, Smitherman’s voice softens. She begins to talk about how she told her children of her diagnosis. It wasn’t easy.

“In the beginning, we didn’t use the word ‘cancer.’ We kept it simple and told them what we knew. Once we knew what was ahead, we told them about the cancer and that I’d take chemotherapy and get better,” said Smitherman. “They were there when I had my head shaved. I thought I’d cry but then I realized I look more like my son with my head shaved.”

Her kids have been involved with fundraisers for cancer including the Relay for Life and the Curtain Dance Center. So they know the tough questions.

“I do get asked, ‘Mommy, will you die?’ I tell them ‘we are all going to die,’” said Smitherman. “This diagnosis has taught me to slow down.”

And as a nurse, Smitherman uses her diagnosis to better understand and empathize with her patients.

“I have had patients say, ‘You’re the first person who understands my pain.’ There are different layers of pain having cancer and there are things people have given me to help me get through from snacks to advice,” said Smitherman. “The one thing we can’t do is solve the problem and make the cancer go away. Cancer is one day at a time.”

— By T.J. Banes,  Journalist, IU Health.
   Reach Banes via email tfender1@iuhealth.org.

White Memorial Grants Announced

Seven projects are receiving funding from the fall round of the Grassroots Grants program at IU Health White Memorial Hospital. The grants are known as “grassroots” because an individual team member with an idea champions the grant application.

Winning grant applications are selected by the White Memorial Philanthropy Council, which assists the IU Health Foundation in its grantsmaking work. This fund has granted an average of $15,000 per year in the 10 years of its existence. The monies are taken from contributions made to the hospital’s area of greatest need fund.

Mary Minier

“Grassroots grants are one of the best ways that we see our charitable dollars at work here at IU Health White Memorial Hospital,” said Mary Minier, president of White Memorial Hospital. “These grants make a huge impact on patient care delivery in our community.” 

The grants were awarded to: 

  • $10,200 for keyless entry supply carts in the emergency department that will decrease the amount of time needed to access emergency equipment.
  • $6,500 for “Bair Huggers,” to warm outpatients before surgery and improve outcomes.
  • $5,800 for whiteboards in each inpatient room to improve communication among physicians, caregivers, patients and their family members.
  • $2,200 to upgrade sleep study mattresses for better patient experiences and more accurate evaluations.
  • $2,100 for a keyless entry/lockable IV cart, which will decrease the time needed to start an intravenous line and ensure safe storage of supplies. 
  • $850 for a new “comfort cart” that delivers food and drinks to families who can’t leave their loved ones.
  • $370 for a carpet extractor/shampoo machine to ensure hospital cleanliness in all carpeted areas.

 To contribute to programs you care about, or learn more about the IU Health Foundation, visit iuhealthfoundation.org. 

​Transplant Coordinator; Minister Who Prays For Her Patients.

Josephine “Cissy” Brents has been with IU Health for 40 years. As a transplant coordinator she sees a need and she isn’t shy about fulfilling that need. She prays for her patients.

She remembers one of her first patients as if she were the most recent one. Josephine “Cissy” Brents was helping the woman navigate her journey to transplant. The woman received a kidney from her niece who lived out of state. It was a time of joy for the patient and Brents shared in every moment.

“I love my job. There have been so many patients who have touched my life. They are thankful to me but I am grateful for them,” said Brents. She relates how one patient became frustrated and on edge and through it all Brents repeatedly offered assurance that they would get a transplant. “When it all clicked and they realized I was here to help them get the best outcome, they were like a changed person. I love seeing that,” said Brents.

She was a student at Arlington High School working in the school nurse’s office when her course was set. It wasn’t a course specific to a hospital setting but more of a course set toward caregiving, she said.

She started at IU Health as a student nurse in 1979 and has worked on the renal floor and dialysis at both Methodist and University Hospitals.

“My mom, Bernice Fleming, helped me get into nursing school. She put the papers in front of me and helped me complete the process,” said Brents. “She died of cancer when I was in my freshman year. She was only 49. I can still see the nurses at Methodist Hospital all dressed in their nice white uniforms – so kind and caring – and thinking, ‘I really do want to be a nurse.”

As a nurse Brents spent six years in the Air Force Reserves. One of the highlights was to attend a weeklong Combat Casualty Care course with the Army, Marines, National Guard and Navy.  She went to yearly training and spent time in Germany and Florida, helping to train medical technicians. Also while working at IU Health, she took on the role as assistant worship leader at her church and began working toward her Masters in Divinity.

“I’ve done a lot of work with pastoral care – speaking at funerals, visiting families. It’s all helped me become more patient and practice perseverance. I also pray for my patients and I pray for my co-workers and the transplant team,” said Brents. “I think it’s important to recognize that we all need that faith.”

More about Brents:

  • What makes her a good nurse? “I was working at a health fair and recruiting donors and discovered I have a kidney disease. It makes me more compassionate. I know a little more what patients are going through.”
  • About her personally – Brents has a twin brother, and two other siblings. She has been married to Mark Brents for 29 years.
  • A high point of her career? She was the transplant coordinator when Dr. William Goggins performed his 2,000th kidney transplant earlier this year.
  • Something that might surprise people to learn about her? “I used to ride a Harley Davidson Road King.”

— By T.J. Banes, Journalist, IU Health.
   Reach Banes via email tfender1@iuhealth.org.

Hip & Joint Pain Causes & Symptoms

Pain in the hips and joints arising due to arthritis or bursitis can cause difficulties in doing the day-to-day chores. Getting rid of hip and joint pain is easy with the use of the following ways:

EXERCISING:

Indulging in daily exercises like bridge exercise gets the muscles activated, engaged, and working. It is important to follow the steps correctly in order to avoid negative impacts or elevation in the pain. Exercising helps to strengthen the muscles around the hip and other joints, thereby, providing a better support to the bones during various movements.

ICING:

If inflammation is seen in the paining joint, it is better to apply ice on it. It helps to reduce the inflammation. Doctors usually advice icing 4 to 5 times a day for about 15 minutes if the pain is too severe. A common method of applying ice is wrapping a towel around a pack of ice and placing it on the inflamed joint.

HEATING:

Another effective method of relieving pain in hip and joint due to arthritis is warming up the joint. Generally, a hot bath or shower helps to soothe the pain. When the pain in hip is caused due to bursitis, heating is avoided because it can make the inflammation even worse.

STRETCHING:

Stretching is a good way of relaxing the muscles around the hips and joints. It is especially effective in case of hip pain from bursitis. Different types of stretching exercises are employed to relieve the pelvic muscles and overcome the hips pain completely over a period of time.

STRENGTHENING OF INNER AND OUTER THIGHS:

Inner and outer thighs are important muscles group that help in supporting the hips. Therefore, strengthening them can prove highly beneficial in case of hip pain. Exercises of thighs are generally performed with the use of a large ball.

SWIMMING:

Water aerobics & swimming are great ways of getting relief from joint and hip pains. Such exercises allow the strengthening of muscles without putting much pressure and stress on the joints.

AVOIDING HIGH-IMPACT EXERCISES:

Exercises like jumping, running, and climbing can make the pain from bursitis and arthritis worse. People with conditions of hip and joint pain are advised to avoid such exercises. Walking at a slow pace is best suited for them.

LOSING WEIGHT:

People with extra weight in their body are likely to suffer from severe conditions of joint pain. If there is already a condition of hip pain or joint pain, the few extra pounds put excess pressure, causing the joint muscles to wear & tear and worsen the condition. So, it is better to loses body weight and offset the excess pressure from the joints & it also people goes to chiropractors in Oklahoma City for release pain.

If the use of above measures do not bring positive results, it is better to seek other options of treatment such as medication, alternative therapy, injections, braces & splints, etc. Different types of pain relievers are available in the market that helps to reduce the swelling and pain in hips and joints. Cortisone injections are also used to provide immediate relief from pain. Usually, injections are recommended is the pain unbearable. Alternative therapies like magnetic pulse therapy and acupuncture Okc have proven greatly effective in treating joint pain. These therapies are used to stimulate certain specific areas and bring about relief.

From Cake Decorator To Clinical Nurse specialist, Her Focus Is always On The Heart

Methodist nurse is retiring after 26 years spent working with heart patients.

Linda Rohyans has a heart for people and a heart for service. Is it any wonder then that the longtime nurse followed her heart into the field of cardiac care?

For more than a quarter century, she has cared for patients, working as a bedside nurse in IU Health University Hospital’s cardiac transplant unit, as a clinical research nurse in a study of heart-failure patients, as a heart coach at IU Health Methodist and as a clinical nurse specialist with clinical informatics at Methodist, specializing in heart care, of course.

But way before she found her passion for nursing, she thought life was leading her down a different path. Many paths, actually. First it was working in the radio control tower at Indianapolis International Airport when her mother was a pilot. It was a fascinating job but very stressful, she said.

Next, she worked as a deli manager at Kroger, which then led to an interest in professional cake decorating. “I lived for cakes.”

But that job, too, had its stressors. Everything had to be perfect for the client’s big day, and weekends were consumed by weddings. Rohyans even made her own wedding cake. She wouldn’t give up cake decorating, but she decided to branch out.

The medical field came calling next. She worked as a graphic designer in the medical illustration department at what was formerly known as the IU Medical Center. That led to a friendship with renowned cardiologist Dr. Jacqueline O’Donnell, who inspired Rohyans to think bigger.

“I worked for her as an administrative assistant and fell in love with the way she treated her patients,” Rohyans said. “I saw her caring attitude and just how smart she was about everything.”

She was the one who told Rohyans she needed to be a nurse. But by that time, Rohyans was 40. “I wondered am I too old? Am I smart enough?”

Fast forward 26 years and Rohyans has the answers to both of those questions. After earning her bachelor’s in nursing, she later went back to school again to get her master’s as a clinical nurse specialist.

Her work as a coach with heart failure patients at Methodist opened up a new world for her.

“That was my passion, sitting and talking with the patients. It was so wonderful, even the ones who were ornery and stubborn. It was all in how you presented it.”

The key, she said, was helping the patients identify why they needed to make changes to live better, longer lives. And it’s not because a nurse or physician is telling them to do it.

“That was a hard pill for me to swallow. You want them to do it because it’s what they need to do, but it’s not about you. It was just miraculous to see, once it became about their goals.”

It was the most important lesson she learned in her nursing career. “Put the patient in charge and then give them the resources they need to get there.”

Rohyans would go on to become an expert in matters of the heart. Professionally, she is a member of the American Association of Heart Failure Nurses and has chaired the group’s publications committee. She also served on the editorial board of the Clinical Nurse Specialist Journal, for which she has written numerous articles.

Personally, she and her husband, Tom, have two children and three grandchildren whom they love to spoil.

Rohyans has spent the past four years working on the clinical informatics team at Methodist, which is where she met longtime nurse Susie Crichlow.

“When Linda came to the Clinical IS team, she had limited Cerner experience,” Crichlow said. (Cerner is the hospital’s electronic medical records system.)

But what she did have was more important.

“She was asked to join the team because of her strong cardiology background and the intangible qualities that define her,” Crichlow said. “A desire to learn, kindness, compassion, gentleness and a broad accumulation of life experiences outside of computers and nursing.”

In 2016, she received the Red Shoes Award from Riley Hospital for Children, which recognizes those in the hospital system who go above and beyond to care for patients and their families.

Her nominator was none other than the manager of the Red Shoes Program.

“I know that it is unlikely for someone on the Cerner team to receive a Red Shoes nomination because the staff does not interact with patients and families,” wrote Susan Henderson-Sears. “However, I felt Linda needed to be recognized. Despite a wide array of challenges trying to access and work in Cerner, Linda was a master communicator and committed to finding the best solution for us to serve families. She is a wonderful collaborator, and we have felt like she has been part of our team during this journey.”

Over the years, Rohyans has followed many career paths, always with the faith that they will lead her to where she is supposed to be.

And now she’s at a different crossroads. She is retiring Dec. 31, a fact that both thrills her and leaves her feeling a bit unmoored.

“I am a nurse. If I’m not doing that, who am I?” She wrestled with that question of identity before coming to terms with the bigger picture.

“I have a very strong faith, and I know God has led me down this road and that road, and they meet up here. But I am more than a nurse. This is a starting point to build future memories.”

She will use her good heart as a volunteer now, sitting with the dying in Eskenazi Health’s No One Dies Alone program, leading the health ministry team at her tiny country church in Greenwood and holding preemies in Methodist’s NICU.

And she will bake the occasional cake for family members and good friends. She will not, however, be making her retirement cake. Someone else will be in charge of that.

Her time with IU Health has been extraordinary, she said, “but I know there’s more out there to experience. This place is going to be fine. It will move on without me. And I will be fine.”

— By Maureen Gilmer, IU Health senior journalist
   mgilmer1@iuhealth.org

An Educator; A Caregiver Who Exudes Confidence

People see Crystal Crayton, wearing a big smile and green scrubs in the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit at IU Health University Hospital but what they don’t know is she had a former life that included working in a prison.

She was 18. It was her first job after high school and Crystal Crayton remembers the lesson well. She started out as a stocking clerk at a popular retail store and no matter how hard she worked, her manager pushed her to work harder.

“His criticism elevated me. I didn’t know it at the time but now I know it got me to where I am today,” said Crayton, a certified technician and unit secretary on the bone marrow transplant unit of IU Health University Hospital.

Within no time at all she was promoted to data entry, accounting and payroll.

A graduate of Lawrence Central High School, Crayton has one sister Dorian Shirley who works at IU Health Saxony.

“I was popular and confident in high school. I was involved in lots of clubs, played basketball and performed with the drama club,” said Crayton.  Through one business club she landed a job working at Fort Benjamin Harrison as a file clerk in the library.

For the bulk of her career before IU Health, she worked as an isolation facilitator for an IPS alternative school and then spent 15 years with the Marion County Juvenile Detention Center as a manager and trainer. 

“I was always full staffed because I treated my employees the way I wanted to be treated. We had a really good rapport and I’ve learned how important that is over the years when it comes to job satisfaction,” said Crayton. She ended her career in criminal justice working with the GEO Group, a correctional program focused on providing evidence-based rehabilitation to people during incarceration and post-release. Crayton taught a class “Thinking for a Change” that covered various topics including substance abuse to life skills.

“Working in the prison system taught me about nurturing and teaching. Sometimes people just need you to talk to them, to listen and to care,” said Crayton. She came to IU Health four years ago, starting out in dietary at Methodist Hospital.

“Working in the bone marrow transplant unit at University is like home. I love helping the patients. I’m still a nurturer and I’m still an educator – teaching them the importance of drinking enough, eating enough and getting out of bed even to do a lap – it’s all part of the healing process,” said Crayton. 

More about Crayton:

  • Her aunt was a patient on the Bone Marrow Unit several years ago. When people ask her how she does it, she tells them she feels like her aunt’s spirit is guiding her.
  • She has two adult sons and a 6-year-old granddaughter.
  • She recently moved back home to care for her aging parents.
  • What might surprise people to learn? “I started a young women’s mission group and hosted a prayer breakfast with 65 women in attendance. One of the women had just been released from prison and we helped her find a place to live, a job and get a new start.”
  • Advice to people who fall on hard times: “Learn to put God first and always treat people with respect. When you treat people with respect, you get respect.”

— By T.J. Banes, Journalist, IU Health.
   Reach Banes via email tfender1@iuhealth.org.

What Mom Learned at Rev Helps Daughter Walk Again

Because she and her husband are avid racing fans, Amanda Cohoon decided in 2014 to volunteer for Rev Indy, the Indiana University Health Foundation’s signature event, held annually at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Cohoon had no idea how important that decision would be. Contributing her time and talent to Rev led to medical care that helped her daughter walk again after a horrific boating accident in 2016. 

Rev kicks off the month of May at the Speedway, and its proceeds benefit trauma and critical care programs at IU Health. Over the past five years, the event has raised more than $2.5 million. Cohoon’s role as a Rev volunteer has been securing restaurant participants and sponsors and finalizing their contracts. Carol Howard, executive director of Rev, said, “Amanda is the first one to raise her hand and pitch in.”

Exactly the kind of person you want nearby in an emergency, like the emergency that hit the Cohoon family on Labor Day weekend in 2016. Cohoon, her husband and their four children were on their boat when a larger boat zoomed by at a high speed, sending a wake directly toward them. The force of the wave knocked 16-year-old Madison off her feet, onto the boat deck. Madison couldn’t feel her legs. 

Cohoon held Madison still until they reached the dock. With no cell service, she carefully strapped Madison to a wakeboard and drove her to the nearest hospital. The emergency room staff there recommended surgery. 

Because of her experience with Rev, however, Cohoon was certain that IU Health Methodist Hospital was the only place to go for trauma care. Cohoon insisted that Madison be helicoptered there. Cohoon’s instinct was right. The surgeon on call that weekend was the highly regarded Richard B. Rodgers, MD, a neurosurgeon with Goodman Campbell Brain and Spine, who is also an associate professor of clinical neurological surgery at the IU School of Medicine. He placed two steel rods in Madison’s spine. 

Madison Cohoon

Madison spent three weeks in the hospital, and Cohoon knew both she and Madison were in good hands.

“Everyone treated me like I was family,” said Cohoon. “They were such a good support system for us.” Now in high school, Madison has decided that she wants to be a surgeon, and she recently completed a surgical internship in Spain. 

By giving her time and talent to Rev, Cohoon has made a difference in the lives of critical care patients all over Indiana. Little did she know how much her actions would give back to her own family. 

Tickets for Rev 2019 go on sale Dec. 1, and the event (on May 4, 2019) is usually a sellout.