Fighting Back: Bloomington Resident Takes on Parkinson’s Diagnosis

Tom Fuller strolls into the office building with a black duffle bag in hand and determination on his face. He is known to many in the Bloomington community for his stellar home construction business, but on this day his bag of tools contains nothing close to a hammer, saw or drill. Fuller is not here to build a house or oversee a remodel; he’s hoping to rebuild his body. He pulls out a wrap for his hands and a pair of boxing gloves. He’s ready to fight.

Little more than a year ago, Fuller noticed his right hand was twitching, his anxiety level had escalated, his balance was off and his handwriting was extra small. Confused by the changes in his body, Fuller made an appointment with his primary physician who referred him to Neurologist David Harvey, MD with IU Health Southern Indiana Physicians. The May 2015 diagnosis came with its own punch: Parkinson’s disease.

“I’ve rattled my brain just thinking ‘how could I have gotten this?’” he questions, his right hand noticeably shaking. The tremor is the only visible symptom of the man who is fit, lean and whose youthful look belies his 59 years of age. He says there is no history of Parkinson’s in his family, he recalls no head injuries and to his knowledge he hasn’t been exposed to any chemicals – all things prominently on the list of potential causes. He frequently wonders if stress is the cause, since his hand tends to shake more during stressful times.

The fact remains, to date there is no known cause for the disease—only studies and hypotheses. And there is no cure. Yet medications and a nationally acclaimed boxing program started in Indiana, have shown great promise for coping with and improving the debilitating symptoms. Fuller embraces the “Rock Steady Boxing” program with grit.

“I wasn’t sure it would be the right fit for me, but I thought I would give it a try,” Fuller says of the program. Eleven months later, he ventures to the west-side Bloomington IU Health location, for an hour-and-a-half session, three days a week. Wiping his brow, he says, “I come in here and give it 110 percent. By doing so, I think it motivates others here to give it their best.”

On this hot summer day in August, nine people from different walks of life, each with varying degrees of Parkinson’s, show up for the advanced class. While no two individuals are alike, they are a part of a community—each able to empathize with the other.

The routines at the boxing class—also known as RSB—require strength and endurance. Stations are set up around the room, each focusing on a different aspect  of balance and body control. Participants move through the course, pushing and pulling a200-pound sled, beating on tires with bats, shaking heavy industrial ropes, walking a balance beam, and among other things, there’s the ever popular opportunity to box with punching bags.

Fuller is a standout in all of the RSB activities, but he knows the reality. “It’s a progressive disease, but I want to fight it off as long as I can and keep a normal life.” For him, that means maintaining the business that’s earned him local people’s choice awards. He also likes tinkering with his classic muscle car, a 1972 Mustang. And he cares about the positive influences in his life: his wife, Teresa; daughter and son-in-law, Tara and Chip Johnson.

This 26-year resident of Bloomington has no intention of quitting on life. He believes RSB will keep him in the game. “If I don’t come and I don’t ride my stationary bike every other day, I can tell my balance is off. I’m doing the best I can to keep this at bay and I really believe in this class.”

Rock Steady Boxing improves independence of Parkinson’s patients

  1. Rock Steady Boxing (RSB) is a nationally-acclaimed program founded in 2006 by former Marion County (Indiana) prosecutor Scott Newman, who was diagnosed at age 40 with Parkinson’s disease.
  2. Four RSB classes are offered weekly to accommodate varying degrees of Parkinson’s. Ask your primary care provider about joining a class.
  3. The classes also offer support, where participants are given the opportunity to talk to others experiencing symptoms from the disease.

Doctor prescribes repetitive exercise

All kinds of exercise, including certain types of repetitive motions, can delay progression or even reduce symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, says IU Health Southern Indiana Physicians provider David Harvey, MD, a neurologist who diagnoses and treats patients with the degenerative disease of the central nervous system.

“Rock Steady Boxing is a great example of that kind of beneficial exercise,” Dr. Harvey says. Tom Fuller and several of Dr. Harvey’s other patients regularly attend Rock Steady Boxing classes. “Many of my patients who go have improved. It’s a great supplement to medications prescribed by neurologists.” He emphasizes that medications are an important part of an overall treatment plan.

Symptoms of Parkinson’s

Dr. Harvey describes some common signs that can signal the need for evaluation by a neurologist.

  • Tremors in the arms, which usually starts in only one arm.
  • Tremors are worse when patient is at rest.
  • “Bradykinesia” which is an abnormal slowness of body movement.
  • Parkinsonian gait, including stooped posture, shuffling and poor balance.

Featured IU Health Southern Indiana Physicians provider seeing patients for Parkinson’s conditions and other neurological disorders:

David Harvey, MD
812.353.DOCS (3627)

Tackling Concussions: Southern Indiana Physician Breaks Down Myth vs. Facts

The clash of helmets and repeated play-by-play body slams are seasonal signs that high school football is underway. Indiana was the first state in the nation to require concussion awareness training for high school and youth football coaches and to impose a 24-hour waiting period for players suspected of suffering a concussion. Despite the efforts, concussions still happen.

Jeffrey Smithers, MD, a physician with IU Health Southern Indiana Physicians Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, with practices in Bloomington and Bedford, is an expert in concussion-related injuries, working with Bedford North Lawrence High School as its sports physician.

What is a concussion?

“A concussion can occur when there is a blow to the head or body. The brain is floating in cerebrospinal fluid, much like water, inside the skull. When there is a blow to the head or body, the brain bumps against the skull,” which may result in a concussion, or temporary functional brain injury, sometimes described as a “bruise” to the brain, Dr. Smithers says.

What are the signs of concussion?

If a student develops a concussion while playing a sport, symptoms and signs usually appear rapidly and are often recognizable by a trained health professional, such as an onsite trainer. Otherwise, it’s incumbent on friends and family to watch the athlete for symptoms and signs of possible concussion, including but not limited to: headache, dizziness, difficulty concentrating, memory problems, fatigue or confusion.

Something’s not right. Now what?

“Not every concussion is an emergency room event,” Dr. Smithers says, noting that each case should be treated individually, and an MRI or CT scan is not usually necessary for routine concussions. However, timely guidance from your primary care physician or other specialist trained in treatment of head injury is key for appropriate management and is advisable in all cases.

Is this myth or fact? 

It’s sometimes said that someone with a concussion who falls asleep may never wake up. Is it true? Dr. Smithers says that in rare cases of more severe head injury beyond a concussion, including a brain bleed, signs may not be present immediately. He suggests closely watching an injured athlete within the first couple hours after the injury. If the athlete had loss of consciousness for more than 30 seconds or develops prolonged or worsening altered mental status, severe headache, focal neurologic deficits, or seizure, these are clues that an athlete may have had a more serious injury and that immediate medical attention is necessary.

How severe is it and how long will it take my child to recover?

Oddly enough, it isn’t until the child heals that the severity of the concussion is known, Dr. Smithers says, but notes that symptoms in 85-90 percent of concussions resolve within 10 days. He says recovery time is variable but is generally longer in younger athletes. There is considerable concern that repeat injury can lead to prolonged or permanent symptoms, cognitive deficiencies and even more severe outcomes. This has led to legislation requiring a 24-hour waiting period for suspected concussion and the push for appropriate cognitive treatment and physical rest until full clinical recovery occurs.

My child wants to play football. How can I protect my child from injury?

Dr. Smithers says that changes to sports rules and techniques to reduce head injuries are among the best preventative measures for concussions. Properly fitting equipment, including a helmet for football, is important for overall sport safety. Additionally, coaches are reinforcing Heads Up Football, a 2012 piloted program touting new standards in the game. The program focuses on properly-fitted equipment, good hydration, concussion awareness and heads-up tackling.

Featured IU Health Southern Indiana Physicians provider seeing patients for concussions and other sports injuries:
Jeffrey Smithers, MD
812.353.DOCS (3627)

Nurse Fell In Love With The Habit

Transplant coordinator Karen Graves talks about her love of nursing and educating families as they prepare for transplant.

The way Karen Graves remembers the start of her interest in nursing is this:

“I went to a Catholic School. The nuns wore habits. The ones who were nurses wore white ones and the ones who were teachers wore black ones. I wanted to wear a white habit so I decided to be a nurse.”

After attending Holy Spirit Catholic School, she completed high school at the former St. Mary’s Academy, and her nursing degree at IU. She began her career working with the School of Medicine in Nephrology. Ten years ago she joined IU Health, working as a pre-transplant coordinator with both kidney and kidney/pancreas transplant patients.

“I do a lot of education for the families. The best part is the patients and working with the doctors,” said Graves. “I have a lot of admiration for the way things have advanced – what would have been hopeless 20 years ago are sometimes easily treated today. It’s amazing to see how nephrologists and surgeons can help patients get through difficult health issues.”

Among the improvements she’s seen are the use of Epoetin drugs that enable patients to keep their blood counts up without transfusion. “These are important because each transfusion has the potential to increase a patient’s antibodies, which makes finding a transplant match much more difficult,” said Graves. Another change she’s seen is the reduced time spent in the hospital after transplant. “In the 70s they’d have their surgery at IU Hospital for a kidney transplant and then be transported to the VA Hospital where they’d be in isolation for about 30 days. Now it’s nothing for them to go home in four days,” said Graves.

More about Graves:

  • She is married to Bob Graves. They are the parents to two daughters and grandparents to five grandchildren. “My grandchildren are the joy of my life,” said Graves.
  • They also have two rescue dogs Ali, 12 and Max, 14
  • Her hobbies include gardening and traveling. She likes to can vegetables and salsa from her garden in the fall.
  • Growing up she had three older brothers. Her father died when she was 13 so her brothers stepped in to help her mom keep an eye on her. “After dad died, mom worked at Ayres in the bridal registry and raised me on minimum wage. She had a little German stubbornness in her,” said Graves.

— T.J. Banes

Methodist Trauma Boom: Treating The Fourth Of July Frenzy

Explosions and burns and devastating blasts are the injuries most often heard about during the Fourth of July holiday. But the Level I trauma center at Methodist Hospital says injuries from falls are most common as people climb to set off fireworks.

Fireworks injuries can be disastrous. Blasts that cause horrific injuries and burns. Lost fingers. Damage to ears and eyes. Unseen internal organ injuries.

Yet, fireworks don’t cause most injuries surrounding the Fourth of July holiday.

Holidays bring an increase in falls, motor vehicle accidents (many related to alcohol), domestic violence and trauma caused by gun accidents, says Jennifer Hartwell, M.D., a trauma surgeon at IU Health Methodist Hospital. 

And even when it comes to fireworks injuries, it’s not explosions or burns that cause the most damage. 

“It is injuries sustained while preparing the fireworks, such as a fall,” says Dr. Hartwell. “At Methodist, we don’t see a large volume of fireworks-related injuries, but those that we do see can be devastating.”

Dr. Hartwell reveals the injuries seen inside Methodist around the July 4 holiday. Take a look. 

MOST COMMON INJURIES FROM FIREWORKS

Burns: Especially on the hands or arms. These can range from superficial burns — similar to what a person would get while cooking or touching a hot surface — to full thickness burns. The superficial burns require simple, local wound care. The more extensive burns require excision and grafting.

Explosions: Which affect hands, arms or face, including eyes and ears. “At Methodist, we have dedicated specialists who are experienced in managing even the most complex injuries to these areas,” says Dr. Hartwell. “We have oral and facial surgeons, plastic surgeons, ophthalmologists and specially trained hand and orthopedic surgeons, to name a few.” 

Blast effect explosions: They occur in closed spaces that can rupture eardrums, injure eyes or damage internal organs. “There may be injuries that cannot be seen from the outside,” Dr. Hartwell says. “As trained trauma surgeons, we have a heightened awareness and we actively look for these injuries.” 

Retained foreign bodies: Pieces of plastic, wadding, or even undetonated fireworks shells can become lodged in the soft tissues, especially if the firework malfunctions and does not light and shoot off as expected. This creates a dangerous situation for the treating medical team, as well. There have been instances where bomb experts have been called to assist in the safe removal of these types of explosives in the operating room, Dr. Hartwell says. 

Head injuries: Blasts in enclosed spaces or direct blows to the head can cause bleeding on the brain. Head injuries are identified with a CT scan. Mild head injuries, sometimes called a concussion, are also seen. Methodist has dedicated neurosurgeons available 24 hours a day to care for patients with these kinds of injuries. 

BEYOND FIREWORKS

Injuries around the Fourth of July go far beyond fireworks. The most common are falls — from trees, a roof or a ladder as people are decorating or cleaning. Methodist sees a number of patients fall from standing or down stairs, especially if they are intoxicated. 

Motor vehicles accidents are another major cause of injury, frequently related to alcohol use. Twenty-eight percent of all traffic accident fatalities involve alcohol. Impaired driving is more common during holidays, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Methodist sees an uptick in alcohol-related car accidents during summer holidays, Dr. Hartwell says.

Interpersonal violence accounts for a small proportion of trauma patients during holidays. Dr. Hartwell says Methodist sees a mix of gunshot wounds and stab wounds, as well as victims of assault.

There are also a number of patients who accidentally shoot themselves, often while cleaning their gun, she says. These injuries frequently involve the thigh and lower leg, which can be fatal if the main artery going down the leg is injured.

“These injuries can be prevented by proper gun safety techniques,” Dr. Hartwell says, “and avoiding the use of guns while consuming alcohol.” 

July 4 Safety Tips From The Trauma Expert 

— Enjoy alcohol responsibly and always have a plan in place to get home. Choose a dedicated drive. Commit to not handling fireworks or firearms while drinking. 

— Purchase fireworks legally and read and understand instructions thoroughly before using them. Leave the big, extreme displays to the experts. Always keep fireworks away from children. 

— If there is an injury, seek medical care immediately. Injuries caused by fireworks can cause damage to internal organs that cannot be seen from the outside. 

— By Dana Benbow, Senior Journalist at IU Health.

   Reach Benbow via email dbenbow@iuhealth.org or on Twitter @danabenbow.

Activity During Pregnancy? Absolutely!

Not only is physical activity safe during pregnancy, it’s helpful to the pregnancy itself.  

First things first: if you smoke, stop right now. Not smoking is the single most important step you can take for a healthy pregnancy, delivery, and baby. If you need help quitting, please speak with your healthcare provider or call 1-800-quit now.
 

Next, get active. The old notion of taking it easy during pregnancy is simply not true. If you already have an exercise regime, stick with it. If you’ve haven’t been exercising, now is the time to start with a mild activity like brisk walking.
 

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that pregnant women get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week. And according to a study reported by ABC News, women who follow an exercise regimen recommended by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) have a shorter labor time, are less likely to need an epidural, and were at a decreased risk of gestational diabetes and cesarean delivery.
 

According to the CDC, “If you begin physical activity during your pregnancy, start slowly and increase your amount gradually over time. While pregnant, you should avoid doing any activity that involves lying on your back or that puts you at risk of falling or abdominal injury, such as horseback riding, soccer, or basketball.”  On the other hand, yoga is very therapeutic, and short times on your back are not harmful.

 

If you are fairly athletic, you can proceed with your routine for as long as it’s comfortable. I’ve had triathlete patients who had to reduce their intensity levels only at the third trimester. Bicycling became a problem because of balance, and running caused discomfort.
 

Know when to back off. If you are doing a more intense activity than walking, learn how to listen to your body. Often women grow up with the message to ignore their bodies. “It’s just a menstrual cramp, go back to work.” When you’re pregnant, you need to pay closer attention your body’s signals. They will tell you if you’re overdoing it.
 

Let’s talk about sex. An activity you should not avoid is sex (unless your doctor specifically tells you not to have sex). I encourage my patients to continue sex with their partners, especially during the last month of pregnancy. Women who have sex during their last month are less likely to need an induction of labor because semen contains hormones that soften the cervix and trigger contractions. 
 

Above all, talk to your doctor. No matter your physical health and activity level, your physician is the best person to recommend your course of action and monitor your individual health requirements. So while activity is important and beneficial, please consult with your physician first and continue to keep him or her in the loop. I am also happy to answer any questions you may have. 
 

_____

 

Author of this article

 

Jon Hathaway, MD, PhD, specializes in obstetrics and gynecology. He is a guest columnist and located at University Obstetricians – Gynecologists Coleman Center, 550 N. University Boulevard, Suite 2041, in Indianapolis. He can be reached by calling the office at 317.944.8231.

 

 

Activity During Pregnancy? Absolutely!

Not only is physical activity safe during pregnancy, it’s helpful to the pregnancy itself.  

First things first: if you smoke, stop right now. Not smoking is the single most important step you can take for a healthy pregnancy, delivery, and baby. If you need help quitting, please speak with your healthcare provider or call 1-800-quit now.
 

Next, get active. The old notion of taking it easy during pregnancy is simply not true. If you already have an exercise regime, stick with it. If you’ve haven’t been exercising, now is the time to start with a mild activity like brisk walking.
 

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that pregnant women get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week. And according to a study reported by ABC News, women who follow an exercise regimen recommended by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) have a shorter labor time, are less likely to need an epidural, and were at a decreased risk of gestational diabetes and cesarean delivery.
 

According to the CDC, “If you begin physical activity during your pregnancy, start slowly and increase your amount gradually over time. While pregnant, you should avoid doing any activity that involves lying on your back or that puts you at risk of falling or abdominal injury, such as horseback riding, soccer, or basketball.”  On the other hand, yoga is very therapeutic, and short times on your back are not harmful.

 

If you are fairly athletic, you can proceed with your routine for as long as it’s comfortable. I’ve had triathlete patients who had to reduce their intensity levels only at the third trimester. Bicycling became a problem because of balance, and running caused discomfort.
 

Know when to back off. If you are doing a more intense activity than walking, learn how to listen to your body. Often women grow up with the message to ignore their bodies. “It’s just a menstrual cramp, go back to work.” When you’re pregnant, you need to pay closer attention your body’s signals. They will tell you if you’re overdoing it.
 

Let’s talk about sex. An activity you should not avoid is sex (unless your doctor specifically tells you not to have sex). I encourage my patients to continue sex with their partners, especially during the last month of pregnancy. Women who have sex during their last month are less likely to need an induction of labor because semen contains hormones that soften the cervix and trigger contractions. 
 

Above all, talk to your doctor. No matter your physical health and activity level, your physician is the best person to recommend your course of action and monitor your individual health requirements. So while activity is important and beneficial, please consult with your physician first and continue to keep him or her in the loop. I am also happy to answer any questions you may have. 
 

_____

 

Author of this article

 

Jon Hathaway, MD, PhD, specializes in obstetrics and gynecology. He is a guest columnist and located at University Obstetricians – Gynecologists Coleman Center, 550 N. University Boulevard, Suite 2041, in Indianapolis. He can be reached by calling the office at 317.944.8231.

 

 

Foundation Funds Prep Kits for Arnett GI Patients

Tracy Smith, a gastrointestinal patient navigator at Indiana University Health Arnett Hospital, was alarmed to learn that some of her patients couldn’t afford the prep kits for their GI procedures. The kits, which contain the necessary prep medications to clean the bowel out, cost just $20 or $25. For some patients, especially seniors on a fixed income, that cost was prohibitive. This meant that patients were unable to have the procedure performed.

“I paid for kits for a while myself to try to find something to fill that gap,” says Smith.

What she found was a grant from the Indiana University Health Foundation, which began funding the prep kits in August 2017. Since then the Foundation has paid for about 60 prep kits, from the Arnett Area of Greatest Need fund.

Smith says a burden has been lifted for many patients because of this funding. “When I tell them I want to help you, they state their gratitude,” said Smith.

“You can’t compare the importance of having these procedures completed,” said Smith. “These tests could save lives, and they do.”

To support patients’ needs or contribute to other areas important to you, visit iuhealthfoundation.org.

Rare Disease: The Eyes Didn’t Hide

At 29, Joey Martin had never been ill. But when his eyes started drooping and his speech became slurred, he was diagnosed with Myasthenia Gravis Disease. Dr. Riley Snook and Dr. Patrick Loehrer Sr. are treating him at IU Health Simon Cancer Center.

His bride wore a knee-length white lace dress, with capped sleeves. She carried a bouquet of red roses and white lilies. Joey Martin stood by her side, exchanging vows. He wore gray slacks and a white shirt. His brown eyes were covered with sunglasses.

Those photos taken on the wedding day of Joey and Alicia Martin, Oct. 11, 2016 portray not only the start of their marriage but the beginning of Joey Martin’s journey to treatment for a chronic autoimmune neuromuscular disease characterized by weak muscles, including those that control the eye and eyelid movement and facial expressions.

Martin’s symptoms began Labor Day Weekend 2016. The guy who stands at 6’3” typically weighs 235 pounds, and regularly works his muscles by lifting weights, had rarely been sick a day during his 29 years. He met Alicia at the gym and the two of them had enjoyed a get-away to Las Vegas. During the get-away, his eyes began to droop and his vision was blurred. They initially visited a walk-in clinic but were sent to a hospital fearing he had suffered a stroke. At the hospital a doctor suspected Myasthenia Gravis Disease.

They returned to Indiana and made an appointment with IU Health neurologist Dr. Riley Snook. Two weeks later, blood work confirmed that Martin had Myasthenia Gravis Disease.

“When they told me what it was, I didn’t even know enough to ask about it. Then when I learned more I just wondered if I’d have it the rest of my life. There is no cure,” said Martin, the youngest of five children in the family of Bud and Andrea Martin.  At his worst, his speech was slurred, he had difficulty swallowing and was too tired to work out – something he had been doing since he was 16.

“There were times when my speech was so bad, I’d be talking to my parents and they couldn’t understand what I was saying,” said Martin. “Can you imagine I’d never been sick in my life and then I can’t even talk to my parents?”

***

Martin received Intravenous Immunoglobulin (IVIg) at IU Health North for six hours every two weeks. Alicia Martin remembers one occasion when the pharmacy didn’t have the medication in stock and Randall Yust, COO/CFO of IU Health North transported a pharmacy tech to another IU Health location to restock the supply.

“This is just how things have been with IU Health,” said Joey Martin. “I’ve been treated great. I feel like every person I’ve met is a specialist or has a great reputation and wants to do their best.”

The IVIg treatments are intended to fight diseases in people with weakened immune systems. Eventually Martin was told he needed a thymectomy, an operation to remove his thymus. With the help of steroids, it has been known to result in remission of Myasthenia Gravis Disease. The surgery was scheduled for Nov. 3, 2016. In preparation for the procedure, Martin was undergoing CT scans and x-rays. During the process, his radiologist discovered a nodule on his thymus gland. A biopsy revealed it was cancerous.

With surgery on the calendar, Martin had one more thing on his mind. He wanted to marry the woman who had become his workout companion, the one he had taken on a first date to eat sushi, the woman he loved. They flew to California where they were married in a private ceremony in a small chapel in Palm Springs.

“His family has been going to Palm Springs since he was a kid, I’d gone with them and we’d always walk past this little wedding chapel,” said Alicia Martin. “We knew that was where it would be.”

So a month before Joey’s scheduled surgery, they exchanged vows and returned to Indiana to face the unknown.

“When we first met, we were friends and it blossomed from there. We pretty much became inseparable,” said Alicia Martin.  “When he was diagnosed it was scary for me and we knew it would be a rough road ahead but we were in it forever.  We knew the surgery was quite invasive as they had to cut through his rib cage to get to the thymus that’s close to the heart,” said Alicia Martin. “Dr. Kenneth Kesler was our amazing cardiac surgeon who did the procedure.” The nodule margins were too close to the heart to be removed. Joey Martin spent seven days in the hospital and three additional months recovering. Soon after, the IVIg stopped working and the couple received the devastating news – the nodule was cancerous. Under the care of Dr. Patrick Loehrer Sr. Joey began radiation treatments at IU Health Simon Cancer Center along with plasma exchange treatments to help with the symptoms of the Myasthenia Gravis Disease.

***

More complications followed. His catheter became infected, had to be removed and was replaced by two ports beneath his skin. Those ports also became infected. In October of 2017, Martin was admitted to Methodist Hospital for five days to be treated for an illness. At that point, Dr. Snook prescribed a medication called Rituxan, with treatments once a week for two weeks every six months.

Martin says the medication along with 14 other prescriptions seems to be working.

On a recent check up, his brown eyes were no longer covered with sunglasses. Martin was back to his average weight and his muscles showed that he had been back to the gym. He still worries about the future but is also optimistic. He enjoys spending time with his friends and Sunday dinners with his family members – most live within five minutes of his Greenwood home.

“My wife and my family have really rallied around me,” said Martin. “Some days it’s hard to think about where I’ve been and where I’ll be but as of now, I hope I will eventually cut back on how often I have the cancer scans, stay on the medicine and hope for no more setbacks.”

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

Foundation Grants to Benefit Cancer, Transplant and Diabetes Programs

The Indianapolis Academic Health Center Philanthropy Council, which assists the Indiana University Health Foundation in its grantsmaking work, has announced three recipients of grants from the Area of Greatest Need fund. They are:

CompleteLife Music Therapy: Resources for a Growing Program. The number of patients participating in music therapy at Indiana University Health Simon Cancer Center and University Hospital is expected to double over last year’s total. The $20,000 grant will buy new musical instruments and technologies to allow the program to grow. Team members who collaborated on the winning grant application include Chad Stearns, administrative director of radiation oncology; Lindsay Syswerda, coordinator of the CompleteLife Program and Cancer Resource Center; Emily Caudill, MT-BC, music therapist, and Adam Perry, MA, MT-BC, music therapist.

Expansion of the Center of Life for Thoracic Transplant (COLTT). Founded to serve lung transplant patients, this rehab center now also serves heart transplant and ventricular services patients. The $54,000 grant will allow the center to expand from half-day to full-day programs, change the center’s current footprint, and convert from a provider-based unit to a hospital-based unit for purposes of billing. The project team includes David Roe, MD, FACP, FCCP, medical director, lung transplant; Chadi Hage, MD, medical director of COLTT Center; and Pauline Flesch PT, MPS, executive director, Rehabilitation and Fitness Services.

IU Health Physicians Diabetes Centers Diabetes Prevention Program Pilot. This $56,701.90 grant will place the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)-approved Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) at two IU Health Physicians Diabetes Center locations for at least two years and offer its services for free. The grant also covers training for 15 Diabetes Center nurses and dietitians to become lifestyle coaches, and funds a program coordinator to collect and analyze data. After two years, DPP will submit its data to the CDC and likely be approved to be a Medicare provider. Tonya Somers, MS, RD, CDE, manager, IUHP Diabetes Centers, submitted the grant application.

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

Veteran Provides Social Support To Transplant Patients

Army Veteran Joshua Sumner is a social worker dedicated to transplant patients at IU Health University Hospital and Riley Hospital.  

Joshua Sumner doesn’t need to do anything special to stand out. At first glance there’s one thing that catches the eye. He wears a green tag under his IU Health name badge that reads: “Veteran.”

“I meet patients, visitors, and co-workers every day who can relate. It’s sort of an icebreaker, a way to make a connection,” said Sumner, who served with the 55th Medical Company Combat Stress Unit in the US Army providing treatment for soldiers. The tour of duty included two deployments to Iraq.

A graduate of Crown Point High School, Sumner had just completed his undergraduate degree in psychology from Purdue when he found himself at a crossroads deciding what was next – graduate school or starting a career. Twenty days later he joined the Army.

He returned home in 2010 bringing with him experiences he said have helped him in his role as a social worker. He wears another symbol of that experience on his right wrist – a memorial bracelet honoring two members of his unit killed in combat.

“That experience colors everything I do. The military was a big part of my life for a long time so those are experiences I carry with me,” said Sumner. “One thing I find globally as a good asset is I have a high tolerance for stress. There are times social work can be very stressful and I find I can stay calm.”

When he returned to the States he completed his masters degree in social work and then began work at the Richard L. Roudebush VA Medical Center working in the genetic research department. Specifically, he was assisting with a project identifying genetic links with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder and functional disabilities. After acquiring his license to practice, Sumner’s next role was helping recently returning vets adjust to civilian life. He also worked to help homeless veterans secure housing.

“I really enjoyed working with veterans,” said Sumner. “I connected well with them. There are lots of social work roles at the VA so it’s nice to change roles every few years.”

In January he transitioned to IU Health where he provides social support in the transplant units of both University Hospital and Riley Hospital for Children.

“What I find the most interesting is I don’t find myself to be a social worker for the hospital, I don’t find myself to be a social worker for the client. I find myself to be a social worker for the donated organ – to find a spot where our recipients have what they need to take care of that donated organ,” said Sumner.

His role involves working with patients pre-transplant specifically those awaiting liver and multivisceral transplants. He spends time with patients evaluating their support network, insurance and any conditions that might cause damage to a transplanted organ – such as a history of drugs or alcohol. A lot of his time is spent talking about the emotional aspect of the transplant. He helps connect the patient with necessary resources and then follows up with them on the day of their scheduled transplant and before they are discharged after surgery.

“One of the most rewarding parts of this job is sitting down with them to talk about how transplant fits into their lives. I see a lot of anxiety and fear and I want to make sure before they leave they have a better understanding of the transplant process,” said Sumner.

He also helps patients, who desire, to write letters to their donor families.  “There’s an awful lot of emotion in this process but it can also help the recipient express appreciation,” said Sumner. It’s suggested that the recipients tell a little bit about themselves, their work, hobbies, and family, about their transplant experience and how the transplant affected their life. The letters are then submitted to the Indiana Donor Network to distribute to the families.

More about Sumner:

  • He is the oldest of four boys. His mother was a school nurse and his father was a sixth grade teacher.
  •  He was somewhat of an introvert in high school and became involved in theater as an extracurricular activity. He focused on lighting design but was also on stage in the chorus of “Oklahoma.”
  • In college he continued to focus his interest on the technical aspect of theater but appeared on stage in Sophocles’ play “Antigone” and met his future wife, Kelly, who was also performing in the production.
  • He and his wife have been married for 12 years and are the parents of Jacob, 18, Claire, 11, and Charles 6. His oldest son and his wife perform with the Hendricks Symphony Orchestra and his two youngest children participate in dance, baseball and softball.

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