Breast cancer patient is ready to kiss chemo good-bye

She was nine months behind getting her annual mammogram and Colleen “Michelle” Love says she’s glad she made the time. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month – a time to remind people of the importance of screening and early detection.

By I.U. Health Senior Journalist T.J. Banes, tfender1@iuhealth.org

When she wore a baseball cap to the classroom where she taught, Colleen “Michelle” Love says there weren’t many questions from her normally inquisitive preschoolers. So one day she decided to test the waters and ask: “Do you wonder why Miss Michelle always wears a baseball cap?” One little boy at Venture Christian Church Preschool raised his hand and innocently answered: “Because it’s sunny.”

As simple as his answer, Love said she told the children that she had gotten sick and had to take medicine that made her hair fall out.

“I told them I’d show them my head if they promised not to laugh,” said Love. “Of course there were a few giggles and then the kids went on with their day like everything was normal.”

It was exactly what Love had hoped for. Other than a strange taste in her mouth, she’s been able to continue carrying on with her normal activities since she was diagnosed with breast cancer in April.

A graduate of Zionsville High School, Love and her husband Rod married 30 years ago. They have two children Katie, 24 and Sam, 21.

“I was about nine months late for my annual mammogram and when I went it was my first 3D mammogram,” said Love. A 3D mammogram (breast tomosynthesis) is multiple images of the breast that create a 3D picture. It is effective in detecting breast cancer in people who have no signs or symptoms.

During October healthcare providers and organizations are highlighting the importance of regular screenings and early detection of breast cancer.

“I did regular self-exams but nobody could feel the lump – not technicians, nurses or doctors. It was only detected by 3D screening,” said Love, who just turned 53. The lump in her left breast measured at one centimeter and had not spread to the lymph nodes. She was diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer. After surgery to remove the lump, she began 12 weeks of chemotherapy and is under the care of IU Health oncologist Dr. Bryan P. Schneider.

“I met with someone at another hospital and it didn’t feel right. We asked around and a family friend who is an oncologist said she would go to Dr. Schneider. He’s very personable and I feel like I’ve known him forever. I’ve had excellent care,” said Love. Her specific diagnosis was triple negative breast cancer meaning the three most common types of receptors known to fuel breast cancer growth – estrogen, progesterone, and the HER-2/neu gene – are absent from the cancer tumor. So the breast cancer cells have tested negative for the hormone epidermal growth factor receptor 2, estrogen receptors, and progesterone receptors.

Common treatments like hormone therapy and drugs that target estrogen are typically ineffective so chemotherapy is usually the preferred treatment.

“They did a complete DNA test and I have none of the genes for cancer and I have no history of breast cancer so I’m hopeful this will work,” said Love. As she completed her final round of chemotherapy, Love approached the bell in IU Health Simon Cancer Center and rang it three times, signaling the end to her chemotherapy treatment.

“After my first treatment my daughter and I went to Florida for a week and after my second treatment my husband and I went to Niagara Falls,” said Love. “I guess I better plan how I will celebrate this time.”

Red Shoes awarded to Mustafa Hussain, MD

Mustafa Hussain, MD, second year resident with IU Health Arnett Family Medicine Residency Program has received the Red Shoes Award from Riley Children’s Hospital. The Red Shoes Award recognizes outstanding accomplishments, contributions and commitment to family-centered care.

The Red Shoes Award Program was inspired by the book Hannah’s Gift. Hannah, the little girl who wore her favorite red Mary Janes into the operating room changed the life of everyone who came in contact with her. During her short life, Hannah actually helped healthcare professionals better understand how to make patients and their families feel welcomed, involved, respected and nurtured.

The Red Shoes Award was created to perpetuate Mindie Bailie’s dedication to Riley Children’s Hospital. Mindie was a former Riley patient and then a Riley NICU nurse. Mindie passed away in 2001. The Red Shoes Award is sponsored and administrated by the Riley NICU.

Congratulations to Dr. Hussain. Thank you for delivering on our promise to provide the Best Care, designed for you. Wear your red shoes pin with honor.

These two friends met through unusual circumstances

Two women, both needing a kidney became friends during their transplant.

By IU Health Senior Journalist T.J. Banes, @tfender1@iuhealth.org

There’s a joke between Lahna French and Jennifer Brummett that shows the bond the two women have formed in a short time.

French likes to say she had to wait for Brummett’s transplant surgery to end before she could get her new kidney. The two women – strangers at the time – both received kidney transplants on Aug. 2, 2018.

French said she was sitting outside IU Health University Hospital waiting to go to her clinic appointment when she looked over and saw Brummett. “We introduced ourselves and then we started seeing each other during clinic two days a week. Sometimes we’d have breakfast together,” said Brummett. “It seemed so easy to talk to her. I felt like I’d known her forever,” said French.

The truth is the women live 90 minutes apart – Brummett lives in Greenwood and French lives in Parker City. Coincidentally, they both had transplant surgery minutes apart and recovered on the same hospital floor. Both had IU Health Dr. William Goggins as their transplant surgeon; French was also under the surgical care of Dr. Plamen Mihylov.

“I like to kid her that she took so long that Dr. Goggins was finishing up with her so Dr. Mihylov started with me,” said French, who is a retired loan officer. She has been married to her husband Larry for four years. They enjoy traveling the country in their 40-foot RV.

Brummett, who works as a Kindergarten Teaching Assistant in Perry Township Schools, has been married to her husband Rod for 32 years. They have three children Brittany Seib, Nicholas and Jacob Brummett. Her brother-in-law Phil Brummett was her kidney donor. “I was fortunate I had a long line of people being tested to be my kidney donor. I didn’t know until he was approved and he called me on the phone. He’s so humble. How do you thank someone for a gift like that,” said Brummett.

When the women first met they talked about their numbers and their recovery. Now they talk about family, gardening and anything outdoors.

“Our lives are very different and yet we have a lot in common,” said Brummett. Ten days before she discovered she was in Stage 5 renal failure she ran a mini marathon. It was through routine blood work that she learned her kidneys were failing. By the time of her surgery they were functioning at only 10 percent.

“I felt fine. I had no real symptoms, just a little more tired than usual,” said Brummett.

Like her new friend, French also had no clue her kidneys were shutting down. At the age of five she was treated for a ruptured appendix and she wonders if that may have caused kidney damage.

“I kept an eye on my blood work over the years but I never felt bad,” said French, who spent three months on dialysis before her transplant.

Since their transplants, both women say are not only thankful for their new kidneys but also their new friendship. To commemorate their year of recovery the women joined together this summer for the Indiana Donor Network Walk.

“It feels great to be so healthy that we can do something like this and it feels great to know I have two new friends,” said French. One is Brummett; the other is her new kidney that she also greets each morning with a “Hello, new kidney. How are you doing today?”

Husband, father – “Before my diagnosis I was sick about 50 percent of the year”

Benjamin Slaughter went through six years of pulmonary issues – including two bouts of pneumonia before he finally had answers.

By IU Health Senior Journalist T.J. Banes, tfender1@iuhealth.org

“Chronically Healthy.” That’s the term Benjamin Slaughter uses to describe his childhood. He had no issues until about 19 years ago.

He was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and his life turned into what he describes as a “roller coaster of issues.” A graduate of Avon High School and Boston College, Slaughter was living in Atlanta at the time. He was working with doctors to manage the arthritis when new symptoms started to occur.

“I was fighting something on and off throughout the year. Basically I was sick about 50 percent of the year,” said Slaughter, who has been married to his wife Darla for 15 years. They have three children – Isaac, 11, Sterling, 9, and Viviana, 6. His illness caused him to miss his kids’ sports and his favorite activities – hiking and running.

He was hospitalized with sepsis and pneumonia and battled a constant night cough.

After moving back to Indiana he began seeing IU Health Dr. Robert Nelson. Diagnosed with Common Variable Immunodeficiency (CVID), Slaughter receives monthly Intravenous Immunoglobulin (IVIg). CVID is an antibody deficiency that leaves the immune system unable to defend against bacteria and viruses. The result is patients often get reoccurring respiratory infections.

“This has made a big difference in my life,” said Slaughter. “Since I’ve been doing the treatments I haven’t been sick and I haven’t missed my kids’ activities.”

What happens when a person becomes resistant to antibiotics?

Knowing the difference in needing and not needing an antibiotic.

When antibiotics are taken too often or for the wrong reasons, they kill off the sensitive bacteria that antibiotics can treat. When this happens, resistant bacteria can grow and multiply, causing drug resistance. Tanya Abi-Mansour, a pharmacist at IU Health Bloomington Hospital who specializes in antibiotics, gives her insight on the dangers of using antibiotics without a prescription and explains what happens when your body becomes too resistant.

“Antibiotics treat bacterial infections by either killing the bacteria or preventing the bacteria from growing,” says Abi-Mansour. When needed, they are an effective treatment. However, many individuals request antibiotics from their provider when their condition does not warrant antibiotic usage, which can lead to misuse and overuse, she says.

“It is sometimes hard for the patient and the provider to tell if an infection is viral or bacterial, since they both have a lot of similarities and are both spread by similar functions,” she adds. Both may cause acute, chronic and latent infections, depending on the severity of the illness.

So what happens when a person becomes resistant to antibiotic treatment? When an individual has an infection caused by bacterium that is antibiotic resistant, this can lead to a more serious infection. It could lead to an increase in hospital visits and a prescription for a more expensive and toxic antibiotic to treat that particular disease.

If individuals overuse antibiotics, they may experience minor symptoms such as diarrhea or their condition may deteriorate leading to life-threatening effects, such as inflammation of the colon. Abi-Mansour emphasizes the importance of elderly individuals, who are diagnosed with chronic illnesses, to be very careful with their antibiotic use since they would be the most vulnerable to this problem.

Another side effect from antibiotic misuse is the potential for superbugs. According to Abi-Mansour, “Since certain antibiotics can drive more resistance when taken too frequently, bacterium start to form that become resistant to multiple types of antibiotics and the bacterium become very difficult to treat.” This emphasizes the importance of only using antibiotics when truly necessary.

Even though these superbugs are not visible to the human eye, the impact they can have on an individual is substantial. Common infections, such as neisseria gonorrhea, are transmitted through skin-to-skin contact and cause side effects such as infertility and abdominal pain.

Antibiotics are also given to livestock in order to prevent disease from spreading. The increasing amount of superbugs can cause more harmful bacteria to come into our food supply and as a result, subject us to life-threatening diseases.

What to Know?

Since antibiotics have a huge impact on public health, individuals should take the time to educate themselves on the proper use of antibiotics, says Abi-Mansour, and individuals should know the importance of keeping up with your overall health. “Washing your hands frequently and keeping up with your vaccinations are some of the most important ways you can stay healthy and avoid antibiotic usage all together.”

History: The first true antibiotic was penicillin discovered by Alexander Fleming, who was the professor of Bacteriology at St. Mary’s Hospital in London. The United States played a major role in production, making the drug widely available for use.

Length of use: Most antibiotics are typically used for 7-14 days.

Common Side Effects: Bad reactions to antibiotics are responsible for 1 in 5 emergency room visits. These side effects may include digestive problems, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and bloating. These symptoms will disappear once an individual stops taking antibiotics.

How they are Provided: Oral (tablets, capsules, liquid), topical (creams, lotions, sprays) and injections.

Common Illness that require antibiotic use: Bronchitis, runny nose, ear infection, influenza, sore throat and sinus infection.


IU Health featured expert is Tanya Abi-Mansour, Pharm.D., Clinical Pharmacist, Infectious Diseases, practicing at IU Health Bloomington Hospital.

Cousins live five miles apart; admitted to transplant unit same day

Two members of the same family received the same transplant under the care of Dr. Jonathan Fridell.

By IU Health Senior Journalist T.J. Banes tfender1@iuhealth.org

They grew up in the same Elkhart County community 165 miles north of Indianapolis. And by chance two cousins came to IU Health University Hospital for the same transplant – with the same surgeon.

Luetta Fay Miller received a pancreas and kidney transplant on Nov. 19, 2017 and Marty Wingard also received a pancreas and kidney transplant on Dec. 19. 2018. Both were diagnosed with diabetes. Both were recently readmitted to IU Health on the same day – their rooms separated by just a few steps.

The two cousins grew up in Middlebury, Ind., a community of about 4,000 residents where the slogan is “Grown from Tradition.” The area is known for its rich Amish heritage that ranges from farming the land to operating an RV plant. The residents talk about one of the largest restaurants in the state – Das Dutchman Essenhaus that serves up authentic Amish recipes, and the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail, a favorite for outdoor enthusiasts.

Twenty-two years ago Marty Wingard married his wife Doretta. Her mother, Esther Miller is the sister to Miller’s mother Ruby Schrock. The mothers are two of five siblings who grew up in Middlebury and raised their families in the community dating back to the 1830s. Twenty–three years ago Luetta Miller – who has a twin sister Loretta Chupp, married her husband John Mark. They have a daughter, 21 and a son, 10.

The families are part of the older Amish church that includes 200 churches in the district. 30 families in the area attend their church -Crystal Valley -.

“We all grew up together and we all know each other,” said Wingard. He and his wife met at a gathering at a friend’s house. Miller said she met her husband when the girls were getting together and the boys showed up.

Wingard, who works at an RV production plant recently returned to IU Health for treatment of an interparietal hernia. In his spare time he enjoys working on old tractors.

Miller returned to with a spiked fever. She and her husband work with “egg innovation,” a farm with 20,000 chickens that provides organic eggs to various retail stores.

Wingard was recently walking the hallways, feeling stronger, and ready to be discharged. Miller said she was hopeful that she’d be leaving right behind him.

After 40 years of hospital social work, team member begins new chapter

She is one the first social workers on the transplant team and now Nancy Flamme is retiring.

By IU Health Senior Journalist T.J. Banes, tfender1@iuhealth.org

As she walks the halls of the fourth floor transplant unit at IU Health University Hospital Nancy Flamme says it still hasn’t hit her. She won’t be coming to work at the hospital every day. She won’t be working with the staff members and patients she’s come to love.

With four decades of hospital social work under her belt, Flamme is retiring. She started at IU Health in 2001 and began working in the transplant unit in 2003.

“Things started to explode in transplant as far as the number of transplants,” said Flamme. “We had two social workers – one for liver and one for kidney. Because of the increase we needed another social worker,” said Flamme, who was approached by Linda Munsch, now manager of transplant services. “I jumped at the opportunity and haven’t looked back since,” said Flamme.

“We were fortunate to have someone of Nancy’s caliber join our team at a time where we were experiencing significant growth in the liver transplant program. She worked tirelessly to ensure that our patients were connected with the needed resources and provided much needed emotional support to this complex patient population. Her work and dedication will be truly missed,” said Munsch.

Nurse Practitioner Tony Davey has worked with Flamme for the past 15 years and before that he worked with her in his role as liaison with IU Health Home Care.

“I love Nancy. Back then she rounded with the doctors and she used to update me on the patients. She is an incredibly hard worker,” said Davey. “She knows a lot and if something needs to be done, she just does it. With patients she’s always been supportive and direct and ready to troubleshoot to get things done in the most effective way.”

Flamme said she began thinking about a career in social work when she was a student at North Central High School and began volunteering with adults with disabilities. Later as a student at Hanover College she spent a semester working with the welfare system in urban Philadelphia. She went on to get her master’s degree from Washington University in St. Louis.

The most rewarding part of Flamme’s role at IU Health has been following the patients through their transplants.

“I start working with them from the time they begin their evaluations and continue through transplant. I can get a call from someone who had a transplant ten years ago. They came in so sick and now I get to see them after they have recovered. Some of them become active again – going back to work and are able to lead healthy lives.”

Over the years, Flamme has met countless patients and also their family members. Many she still hears from through holiday cards. She will miss that.

She says she will also miss her co-workers.

“I haven’t been here quite two years and Nancy has been awesome,” said transplant social worker Joshua Sumner. “She’s a wealth of knowledge and an authority on transplant and how social work interacts with the patients.”

So what’s next for Flamme?

She’s planning a trip to Hawaii and looks forward to spending more time with her sister and visiting her nephews who live in Colorado, California and Michigan. She also looks forward to continuing her volunteer work with her church Northminister Presbyterian and with other local organization that help those in need.

One of the youngest adult CAR-T patients ready to return home

Devon Tesler, 20 recently completed a groundbreaking new gene therapy at IU Health Simon Cancer Center.

By IU Health Senior Journalist T.J. Banes @tfender1@iuhealth.org

That pesky cough – it was still lingering. But Devon Tesler is feeling better. He’s hopeful.

The 2017 graduate of Hamilton Southeastern High School prepared to return home after completing a new gene therapy under the care of IU Health hematologist/oncologist Dr. Hillary Wu. It’s been a little over a year since Tesler was first diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. It all started with a cough.

He’d been coughing since March and made a couple trips to the doctor. First he was put on antibiotics, then allergy medication. When his physician suggested a chest x-ray, he learned he has lymphoma. He was referred to IU Health where he went through six rounds of chemotherapy followed by several rounds of radiology. He was preparing for a stem cell transplant when his family learned about CAR-T therapy.

The innovative gene therapy 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. IU Health is one of the first sites in Indiana to administer the treatment. Tesler is one of the youngest adult patients to receive the therapy.

As he prepared to go home Tesler talked about the side effects of the treatment. His appetite has been spotty but he still has a taste for his favorite candy Tootsie Rolls and Twizzlers. He’s slowly building back up from his 10-pound weight loss.

“I haven’t noticed too many side effects other than swelling in my elbows, ankles, and wrists. I also get fevers and headaches,” said Tesler. That pesky cough is one of the few lingering symptoms that he had before treatment. It was one of the first signs that he was ill.

“He did the radiation so the cough started to subside and then it came back after chemo,” said his mom, Michelle Byrd. “Because CAR-T is so new there are no typical symptoms that we should expect. Every patient is different.”

There’s been another surprise too – he hasn’t lost the brown hair on his head, and he has more facial hair than usual.

Aside from his favorite sweets, Tesler has also had a taste for lots of veggies and waffles. He’d also like to visit one of his favorite restaurants Panda Express.

But first things first.

“He can eat what he wants, but no outside food unless it’s prepackaged or frozen,” said his mom. We’ll be staying close to home and keeping an eye on his levels. It’s great to have this kind of care so close to home. Some people come from far away and have to spend the months after CAR-T in a hotel.”

Mom of five looks forward to going home

After her last chemotherapy treatment, Jennifer Goecke rang the bell and looked forward to returning home to her favorite role in life – being a mom.

By IU Health Senior Journalist T.J. Banes tfender1@iuhealth.org

She says her life is simple – nothing too unusual or edgy. Jennifer Goecke is a mom. She’s a mom to five children and at times has been a mom to nine – part of an extended family.

It was during her last pregnancy when she began feeling pain in her left leg. Initial doctor visits left her feeling like the pain was related to her pregnancy. She made it to 36 weeks in the pregnancy and more complications occurred. A placental abruption resulted in an emergency delivery.

“It was a scary time. She almost died,” said her mother Georgia Hall. And even after Goecke and her newborn were released from the hospital the pain in her leg continued. When it got so bad she couldn’t put pressure on it, Goecke visited an orthopedic doctor. She was set for surgery when tests revealed a sarcoma – a malignant tumor.

“I didn’t know what to think. I was in shock. I’d just had a baby. My hands were full,” said Goecke, 37, of Connersville. Her three boys and two girls range in age from five months to 18 years.

She came to IU Health Simon Cancer Center in July where she spent five days inpatient for chemotherapy treatments, then home for 16 days and then back again. She recently completed her last cycle and rang the bell on 3 East – signaling the end of her chemotherapy. Nurses, her mom, her cousin and aunt cheered her on, knowing that this was a time to celebrate.

“The tumor seems to be shrinking so the chemotherapy must be working,” said Goecke. Sarcoma, an uncommon type of bone cancer results in fewer than 200,000 patients a year. Now, they wait. An MRI scheduled in October will determine if surgery is needed.

For now, Goecke is anxious to reunite with her children.

“She’s a good mom and she’s always been a good kid. She really never had any illness other than chicken pox,” said her mom. “As a kid she was a tomboy. She loved to climb trees and be outside in the country.” For a time Goecke played both basketball and football. Later in life, she played sports with her kids and enjoyed anything outdoors – camping, attending their games.

“Besides the pain, the hardest thing has been being away from kids,” said Goecke. “I’m ready to go home.”

The fog of addiction lifts for recovery coach

He should have died so many times, especially when he was pushed out of a car after an overdose. But Jay Berry climbed back from a life of pain to one of promise and purpose: “Fifty percent or more of my job is planting a seed of hope.”

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

When Jay Berry looks in the mirror, he sometimes sees the 11-year-old boy who stole prescription pills from his grandma’s medicine cabinet. Or the teenage wrestler who self-medicated to cut weight. Or the young adult who couldn’t drag himself off his parents’ couch.

But then he sees the 29-year-old man who has finally found his footing.

Berry is a peer recovery coach for IU Health. He works the overnight shift in the virtual care program of System Clinical Services, helping others who struggle with addiction.

It’s appropriate that Berry started his job with IU Health a year ago this month. Every September, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration sponsors Recovery Month to boost awareness of mental and substance use disorders and celebrate recovery.

As a coach, Berry offers help and hope to those who are spiraling down, caught up in a dependence on alcohol, illegal drugs or prescription meds.

He’s seen it all. He’s done it all.

He comes from a place of understanding. One of the requirements of the job is lived experience.

So when he looks in the eyes of a patient who comes into the emergency department, he can relate to their pain, their confusion, their sense of hopelessness.

“Jay is a passionate fighter for those in the throes of addiction,” said Ian McDaniel, executive director of virtual care for IU Health.

HOOKED ON “HOUSE”

As a boy, Berry used to watch the medical drama “House,” about a pill-popping doctor. He was intrigued.

“I was always a little too smart for my own good. I knew in my grandma’s medicine cabinet she had the same stuff that was making him act so silly, and I wanted to know what that felt like.”

He was 11.

Not long after his 12th birthday, he tried marijuana and alcohol. He says he did it to fit in with the older kids he hung out with. Not regularly, but often enough.

“It made me feel like an equal,” he said.

At the time, Berry lived in Anderson with his family. A move to Fishers before high school meant he had to find new friends.

He struggled, coming from an inner-city environment to a wealthier suburban school.

“I was out of my element. I became shy and closed off. I felt like I didn’t fit in.”

He did, however, have a talent for finding drugs. So that’s how he fit in.

Weed, alcohol, pills – those were the go-to substances. When he was introduced to heroin, he tried to act cool. He snorted it.

When he made the wrestling team, he had less time and opportunity to mess with drugs.

But when he needed to drop weight quickly to wrestle in a lower weight class as a sophomore, he started mixing appetite suppressants with more opioids. That’s when his habit truly started, he said.

And it continued into college at Ivy Tech Bloomington. He gave up wrestling, deciding the drugs were more important.

“I began to really break bad,” he said. In 2011, as a college sophomore, he started selling pills, in addition to taking heavy doses of Oxycontin, more than his 5-foot-7-inch, 140-pound frame could absorb.

He overdosed several times, he said. He was arrested a couple of times, he entered treatment programs. Eventually, he moved back in with his parents and enrolled in an outpatient treatment program, which he stuck with for a couple months before the heroin pulled him back.

BRAIN TRAUMA

When he was arrested again, he started taking recovery more seriously.

He had an apartment with his fiancé and life was pretty good for a few months, he said. Then came another relapse and another overdose.

“I’ve overdosed several times before, but this time was different,” he said. “I was in a car when I OD’d on heroin and was just pushed out of the car. I was taken to the hospital and revived, but I suffered severe trauma to my brain.”

Berry was in a medically induced coma for 13 days to let his brain heal, but when he woke up, he couldn’t walk or talk and he was nearly blind.

It was the summer of 2012. He was placed in a rehab hospital in Indianapolis and started on a long road to recovery, learning to walk and talk again, dealing with partial blindness.

When he left the hospital, he returned to his parents’ home in Fishers. He lost his girlfriend; he couldn’t work.

“I really did not do anything,” he said. “I laid around feeling sorry for myself.”

And he got high on pain meds.

He lived like that for several years, until eventually even he got tired of his situation.

“I took a hard look at my life and came to the conclusion that it wasn’t my disability holding me back, it was my drug use.”

He entered a 12-step program, determined to do it “100 percent their way,” he said. He has been clean since February 2017.

LIVING WITH PURPOSE

Once he had a grip on his own sobriety, he learned to extend a hand to others, and that is what led him to IU Health.

“I wanted to be independent, I wanted to live a purposeful life again.”

His job is to provide non-clinical support to IU Health patients coming into emergency departments with a substance issue, whether that’s an overdose or another health problem related to drug use. A nurse will contact Berry or one of the other peer coaches, who work out of a building on Senate Avenue in Indianapolis.

The coach will speak with the patient through a secure communications portal, do an assessment, then discuss the patient’s goals.

Often, he said, patients suffering from addiction don’t know how to get help. When he can share his story, it gives hope.

That is his purpose.

“People can and do recover. I am living proof.”

In those meetings, however, he gets as much as he gives.

“I get a continual reminder of where I was, where I can still end up. I get a constant feeling of gratitude and appreciation for where I am now and for all of the hardships. I am grateful for the good and the bad. It’s because of those bad moments that I am employed today with IU Health.”

It’s an incredibly rewarding experience, he said, even when you get a patient who doesn’t want to talk or who gets angry.

“There’s still a chance that I can plant a seed. Fifty percent or more of my job is planting a seed of hope.”

Photo by Mike Dickbernd, IU Health visual journalist, mdickbernd@iuhealth.org