ER team makes first impression; lasting impression

Three team members at IU Health West represent 30 years of combined commitment to IU Health. As the system patient access supervisor team, they oversee the emergency department and all outpatient areas and are often the first face patients see when they come to IU Health West.

“There are over 40,000 patients that visit our emergency department yearly and over 50,000 visiting our Main Admitting area. This team manages that 24/7 scope flawlessly because they have each other’s backs,” said their supervisor Laura Bowman, System Patient Access Manager Revenue Cycle Services, IU Health West.

 “There is great respect, trust and genuine care among this team. Not one is worried about getting the credit; they are all concerned about the best care for our patients, team and each other,” said Bowman.

Tiarra Battee has been with IU Health for more than 11 years and says she loves the face-to-face interactions with patients. “I absolutely love serving our patients and giving remarkable customer service,” said Battee. I also love working with our team, keeping them educated on new processes, systems and insurance updates to ensure our patients are receiving a complete and accurate registration to kick off the clinical flow. Giving our patient a peace of mind, knowing it was done right the first time.” 

Carissa Wiley has been with IU Health for almost 10 years and says her team members are some of the best peers she’s ever worked with. “I found my purpose at IU West. I come to work every day with a drive to make someone’s day better whether it is a patient or a coworker. My favorite moments are when we can come together as a team to accomplish a goal all while enjoying a good laugh or two,” said Wiley.

Patty Buchanan joined IU Health eight years ago. “After 25 years of working for another company I felt like I found my forever home with IU Health. When I came to West Hospital and had the privilege of working with our leadership team I knew for sure I found my place,” said Buchanan. “I feel rewarded every day helping our patient’s and their families and being part of such an amazing team. Working with Laura, Tiarra and Carissa is the best and I’ve learned so much from them every day.”

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

Nurses Pay Respects in Special Way

When a fellow nurse passes, IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital caregivers are there to offer a special tribute to one of their own.

She was known as an “encourager” – someone who was patient, helpful, kind, and intelligent. Pamela Wright was also known as a great nurse.

So when she passed on Oct. 5, 2018, her fellow nurses were there to pay tribute in a special way. Four nurses, dressed all in white, formed an Honor Guard somberly standing watch. Those nurses were Patty Williams, Jonna Grindle, Sherri White, and Brittany Dorton.

Wright, who earned a Master’s Degree of Science in Nursing at Ball State, started her career at IU Health Ball Memorial in 1984. Patients knew her for her tireless dedication to helping them cope with fibromyalgia and Rheumatoid arthritis. Wright also battled the autoimmune disease. 

Wright’s celebration of life was the first service for the founding members of the Delaware County Nursing Honor Guard. Members of the Nursing Honor attend services paying tribute to fellow nurses (including retired nurses) by “keeping watch” near the casket – similar to a military tribute.  Their involvement in services may also include reciting the “Nightingale Pledge,” and the “Nurse’s Prayer.” At some services they set a table with a white cap, white bible and a lighted Nightingale lamp. At the close of the service, the lamp is blown out, symbolizing the end of the nurse’s service to a beloved profession of caring for others. The candle is then presented to the family along with bookmarks that include the “Nightingale Pledge” and the “Nurse’s Prayer.” Since their first service, the Honor Guard has grown to 28 active members.

“Taking part in the Nursing Honor Guard is a great privilege,” said Brittany Dorton, the Nursing Professional Development Educator at IU Health Ball Memorial and a member of the Honor Guard.  “Being able to honor a deceased nurse is a blessing beyond words. I know what it takes to be a nurse and the dedication one has to their profession,” said Dorton.  “I couldn’t think of a better way to honor them and their commitment to their patients and to nursing. This also provides comfort to the family and letting them know how much they meant to their profession.”

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

A Few Reasons Why You Should See An Orthodontist

There are thousands of people in Oklahoma and surrounding areas who suffer from various problems of the teeth and gums that are not ordinary in nature. A common dentist can handle common problems such as tooth pain, removal of dental plaque and tartar and even perhaps extract a tooth that is decayed. However, if you want something special and would like to improve your overall looks and appearances then you would have to look at the services of a good orthodontist in Norman and surrounding areas. Not all of us have the right idea and information about the reasons for visiting an orthodontist. Hence, we have compiled a list of common reasons as to when it would be prudent to visit these professionals. We sincerely believe that it will help you in getting to know the various instances where you would do well to immediately visit these dental professionals.

 You Are Dealing With Professionals

 There is no doubt that orthodontists are experts in their respective field. They are well known for diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of facial and dental irregularities. They could play a bit role in correctly aligning teeth apart from helping in jaws and bites. They are also experts when there is a need to straightening teeth that are crooked. Though dentists and orthodontists have quite a few things in similar there are some areas where special treatments are required. This is where the role of quality orthodontists often comes into play. It could be similar to visiting a general physician or a dermatologist for a skin problem.

 They Help In The Quality Of Smile

 There is no doubt that the smile is one of the most important attributes for any human being. When you meet somebody for the first time and even when you meet him or her repeatedly, the person’s smile is something that you always bear in mind. It is a way of breaking the ice. However, many people are not able to smile freely and without any inhibition because of crooked teeth, broken teeth, wrongly aligned teeth, teeth with stains, plaque, tartar, and other such problems. Hence, if you are looking for something special and unique as far as your dental and facial looks are concerned, it does make a lot of sense to hire these professionals.

 Physical And Psychological Benefits

 As mentioned above, there are obviously a number of physical benefits when you decide to go in for orthodontists in place of ordinary dentists. They are considered to be one of the best when it comes to improving your overall smile. They could be considered to be one of the best options when it comes to handling bad bites that can damage gums and teeth. Their services are considered to be extremely useful when it comes to handling misaligned teeth or protruding teeth. You also could find them useful whenever there is a need to correct gaps in the smile, correcting overcrowded or crooked teeth, chewing, breathing and speech difficulties, and also for handling jaws that are misaligned.

To sum up, there is no doubt that there are many reasons as to why it makes better sense to visit an OKC orthodontist instead of an ordinary dentist.

Contact US:

Sky Ortho

Address:717 S I-35 Service Rd
Moore, OK
Phone: 405-378-4774

Spanish interpreter/doula has helped with hundreds of births

She was one of the first interpreters to serve the Spanish speaking community at IU Health Methodist Hospital maternity ward. Over the years, Luisa Valle has formed a special bond with many of her patients.

On a recent Wednesday, Luisa Valle entered the room of Marina Flores and began a conversation in Spanish that included laughter and lots of oohing and awing over the tiny little center of attention. A dark-haired infant in a bassinet named “Salma” was born at 7 a.m. on March 5 and weighed seven pounds, 10 ounces.

Salma was Flores eighth child. She delivered all of the babies – five girls and three boys – at IU Health Methodist Hospital. And Valle was with her during three of the deliveries.

Born and raised in Acapulco, Mexico, Valle moved to the United States after college to practice her English. She came to IU Health in 2004 working in dietary.

“I was delivering trays to the rooms but everyone kept asking me to interpret and the food was getting cold so eventually I became a Spanish interpreter,” said Valle. She was one of the first to work as an interpreter and Doula in the Luz de mi Vida program, which means “Light of My Life.” The program is part of the maternity unit at IU Health Methodist Hospital. She later obtained her certification as a lactation consultant. A doula is a birth companion or birthing coach that assists patients before during and after childbirth. As a lactation consultant she also helps mothers breastfeeding their newborns.

“I believe this position is not just to interpret the language but also to help others understand and appreciate the culture,” said Valle. And there’s a difference between interpreters born in Spanish-speaking cultures and those born in the United States.

Valle tells about a belief in Mexico where pregnant women wear a red string around their bellies or on their wrists to protect them against any eclipses. The belief is the protection helps avoid their child from developing a cleft palate.

“When a woman goes in for an epidural and the anesthesiologist sees a red string around their belly, I’m able to explain,” said Valle.

The most difficult part of her job is relaying bad news. “I don’t like them to hear bad news from the interpreter rather than the doctor. Most of our Hispanic patients have Catholic backgrounds and Catholic priests don’t routinely baptize babies when they pass so I usually ask the parents if they want someone of a different faith baptizing their baby and they will say almost always say, ‘yes.’”

At the bedside during delivery, Valle’s focus is to help the patient relax and save her energy for pushing. She usually talks to the husband and family members about how they can help in the birthing process.

If a patient is in the hospital for a lengthy time, she will bring them magazines and books written in Spanish to help them pass the time.

Every patient is different.

“Sometimes there are bilingual patients and we still help with interpretation because sometimes during horrible pain you lose your second language. Then after the delivery, the pain is gone and they can communicate with the doctors and nurses on their own,” said Valle.

The best part of her job is seeing returning patients like Flores. “I get to help my own people at their most vulnerable time in their life and the most important time in their life. It’s an honor to help in the delivery. Each of them has a little bit of my heart with them.”

The number of births she assists with in a given month varies. She estimates there could be as many as 10 and she has no idea how many she has assisted with since she started at IU Health. “Probably hundreds,” she said.

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

Three Physical Therapists – One Family

When Tess Jenkins joined the physical therapy team at IU Health Saxony last May she became the third physical therapist in her family and the second one working with IU Health.

Ask Tess Jenkins when she decided to become a physical therapist and her response: “I literally don’t remember making that decision. I just knew I always wanted to do it. The hardest part was getting into PT school.”

A graduate of Yorktown High School Jenkins was a three-sport athlete with 11 varsity letters – soccer, basketball and softball – but had no desire to pursue athletics in college. So she went to IU Bloomington where she studied exercise science and then completed her doctorate in physical therapy at IUPUI.

The career was one she had learned about early on. Her father is a physical therapist at IU Health Ball Hospital and her sister, Alyssa Keys – 10 years older- works as a physical therapist at a Fort Wayne hospital.

“I grew up seeing how my dad loved his job. I went to the outpatient clinic after school and then in high school when he worked at Ball I’d go once a week for a shadowing experience for credit,” said Jenkins. “Having an athletic background I had my share of sprained ankles and I saw from both my dad and sister what a broad field this is. There are so many things you can do that you never get tired of your job.”

Steve Schlatter is proud of both his daughters.

“It was not a surprise to me as they both decided early in their educational careers to become physical therapists. Tess and I frequently communicate via texts or actual phone calls to discuss clinical items but also how to interact with co-workers, patients and physicians,” said Schlatter.  “She was very helpful and encouraging to a 66 year old PT who is not tech savvy when we recently transitioned to a new Electronic Medical Records system.”  They are also attended a continuing education course together. Steve and Susan Schlatter live in Muncie.

Jenkins who was married in October to Ryan Jenkins said the best part of her job is being creative. “There’s variety every day. No two patients are the same and there’s endless knowledge when it comes to finding the best approach for their care. Being a new therapist I love learning from those around me,” said Jenkins.

One her first patients was a woman who had a double knee replacement. She worked with her to help strengthen her legs.

“It really impacted her life for some time but now she’s back and at the gym working out and really doing well. She still emails me to tell me how she’s doing,” said Jenkins. “The idea that I get to help people get back their lives before they were injured or had a life-changing experience is what I love.”

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

Patient faces anxiety with the help of a team of healers

When a New Orleans resident came to IU Health, she knew she needed a transplant, but she also needed healing for other health complications. Before she could do that she had to face her fears.

It started with a couple of caregivers and turned into an army. Like a quilt they came together piece by piece to cover and protect one patient who had traveled nearly 900 miles for the best care. For Kristin Derry that meant holistic care.

Derry had been hospitalized in New Orleans for a year and hadn’t walked during that year. Her original diagnosis of Crohn’s disease had progressed to where doctors back home believed she might need a multivisceral transplant.

Crohn’s disease causes inflammation to the bowel and digestive tract. Chronic intestinal failure may lead a patient to multivisceral transplantation, a transplant of the intestine combined with two or more abdominal organs. But before a patient is eligible for transplant, their body must be healthy enough to accept the transplanted organs.

For Derry that meant starting a healing process – including standing, walking, and regaining strength.

“After being in the hospital in New Orleans for over a year, we were running out of options. My doctor came across a scholarly article written by Dr. Mangus and recommended I go to Indianapolis,” said Derry, 48. She came to IU Health with her sister, Cindy Boucher, 18 months younger than Derry.

Dr. Richard Mangus is a transplant surgeon and Director of Intestine Transplant at IU Health. He also supports the management of patients with intestine failure. He is known for operating on patients who have lost their intestine or have inadequate function of their intestine and are dependent upon total parenteral nutrition (TPN). IU Health is one of the few healthcare systems in the country that performs intestinal and multivisceral transplants and the only one in Indiana. Last year, IU Health was ranked sixth in the nation (by volume) for intestinal transplant surgery.

“I have a lot of skin sores and I’m trying to lose weight. I have had to take things step by step,” said Derry. The first of those steps meant getting up and bearing weight on her legs. To do that, she has been working with physical and occupational therapists. The goal is to get her into a standing position, using a tilt table – an electric table with footboards – that helps rehabilitate patients by moving them into a standing position.

Derry was petrified. And that’s where the army came in. She began working in a cardiac chair with physical therapist, Deidre Matt – moving her from a horizontal (bed rest position) to a comfortable sitting position. To help her relax, staff members within the CompleteLife Program provided complimentary therapies. Those team members included Kelsey Underwood, yoga therapist, Adam Perry, music therapist, and Lisa Rainey, art therapist.

“The first therapist I met was Lisa. She led me to the other therapies. I wasn’t going to jump in and get involved in anything. I was down in the dumps and just wasn’t sure how to move forward,” said Derry. “Lisa is very down to earth and she saw the best in me. I felt like if she could do that with me she could do it with a lot of people.”

As she talks, Derry cries. “They are happy tears,” said her sister. “She is so appreciative of the care she has received.”

Sometimes Derry and Rainey just talk about life. And sometimes, Rainey gently coaxes Derry into writing in her journal and drawing pictures. The process is simple. Derry wrote the letter “A” and then wrote and drew something that made her happy. She drew a red apple and wrote about “the Big Apple,” New York City. For the letter “B” she wrote “Big Boys” for her two dogs – an English/American bulldog and a boxer mix. 

The more she drew, the more they talked, and the more Derry began to feel comfortable and relaxed in Rainey’s presence. When it was time for her to begin working on physical therapy, she requested Underwood and Perry to provide yoga and music.

“I have this innate fear that stops me from doing things. I was afraid to get on the table – that I’d fall off. I know the physical therapists are trained but I couldn’t get beyond my fear,” said Derry. Underwood helped her focus on her breathing and redirecting her thoughts. Perry helped her relax during wound care.

“Kristin has a lot of inner strength, we tap into that during her physical therapy treatment. Identifying a phrase that keeps her feeling strong and grounded gives her an inner resource to return to when she feels overwhelmed,” said Underwood.

The practices began to take hold and Derry began to see a difference.

“It just eased my anxiety. At one time both Adam and Kelsey were with me at the same time and it just brought me out of that scary place,” said Derry. “Together they’ve all helped me remember the positive person I am. They help me believe that I’ll look back and some day this will all just be a memory.”

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

What a new IU Health team member learns from fishing

One of IU Health’s newest team members talks about moving to Indiana from Florida during one of the coldest months in history, and what it means to embrace various cultures.

By some accounts, Roger Chen may have experienced a pint-size culture shock when he moved to Indiana in the middle of February.

He arrived with the same windshield fluid he’d used in a warmer southern climate. When the fluid froze he went to the store to buy a winter survival kit that included weather dependable washer fluid, an ice scraper, and a can of deicer spray.

He spent his childhood in Jamaica and then lived in Florida for 40 years. But it was the stellar reputation of IU Health that lured him north – to colder climates and the position as executive director of the transformation office.

“I saw the commitment to excellence and spirit of teamwork that IU Health has and it was inspiring to hear the vision that President and Chief Executive Officer Dennis Murphy has for the organization and all the work that’s being done. I wanted to be part of that,” said Chen. Before joining the IU Health team, Chen had never stepped foot in Indiana.

His role is one that helps the IU Health system achieve goals and improve and innovate operations. In many ways he’s sort of an internal coach – working with teams, empowering members to collaborate and implement creative ways to accomplish tasks.

One powerful example of such a team approach is finding ways to reduce the time it takes to treat a stroke victim.

“We’ve seen evidence that there are ways to shrink the time from 60 to 30 minutes and every minute saves powerful brain cells in a stroke patient. An interdisciplinary team can approach this with that goal in mind and introduce a more effective process,” said Chen.

It’s a process that focuses on efficiency and resourcefulness.

In some ways, Chen’s upbringing influenced his career choice. His grandparents are of Chinese heritage and until the age of 10, he was raised in Jamaica where the motto written on the money is: “Out of Many People,” based on the population’s multiracial roots.

“It’s an integrated country in terms of people from different races and different ethnicities forming the Jamaican culture. It’s a different way of seeing and learning about the world and when you are on an island and resources are limited you truly learn to appreciate those resources and live in harmony. The environment taught me things to value in life and when I found a career path that had the same values it was compelling to me,” said Chen. He talks candidly about his heritage and how it has impacted both his personal and professional life. 

“I’m very comfortable speaking about diversity and having what others consider as uncomfortable conversations. I think in the work I do with process and improvement, you want to create an environment of diverse cultures and encourage people to bring forth their ideas.”

More about Chen:

  • His first job was a cook at McDonald’s.
  • He graduated from high school at the age of 16, earned his bachelor’s degree and began his professional career at the age of 19. “Schooling was different in Jamaica. When we moved to Florida, I tested two years above my grade level.”
  • He has three children – a 24-year-old son who works as a chef; an 18-year-old daughter who is a student at the University of Miami, and a 12-year-old son. Both his daughter and youngest son play competitive football.
  • What would surprise people to learn about Chen? “I’ve traveled and fished all over the world – it’s a way to truly keep learning and experience different cultures and ways of life. It’s a way to see how ingenious people live and experience how good people are and how much we have in common.” Among his most surprise catches were a 20-pound Vampire Fish, known for its dagger teeth; a ferocious-looking Wolf Fish, and a 200-pound catfish.
  • Other hobbies: “I love performance arts and music. I saw one of my favorite Japanese drumming groups ‘Kodo’ in Carmel and I’m excited to explore the sporting, cultural and music scene in Indianapolis.” Chen is also a fan of mangos and grows the juicy fruits on trees at his Florida vacation home and freezes them. “They keep me connected to my Caribbean roots.”
  • His initial impressions of Indiana residents: “It can be cold here, but the people are very warm. People are incredibly welcoming. I’ve met a lot of people who love to bake and take it seriously.”  

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

LifeLine Paramedic Once Escorted a United States President

She grew up in a town where a former vice president attended high school and some 20,000 people congregate each fall for the “Forks of the Wabash Festival.”

But at the age of 18, Kelly Apple enlisted in the US Air Force and left Huntington, IN. – the hometown of the nation’s 44th Vice President Dan Quayle. She started her military career in a state known for its seed potatoes – Idaho – and then moved on to one of the largest Air Force medical centers located on the grounds of San Antonio’s Lackland Air Force Base.

She enlisted in the Air Force under the name “Kelly Rader,” came in with EMT certification and worked in medical administration. She quickly earned the nickname “Radar” after the fictional character in the popular 70s show about a mobile surgical hospital during the Korean War. And like the Iowa farm boy Radar O’Reilly, Apple learned quickly about working in the field of healthcare.

In Idaho she helped organize medical records and prepare to load patients onto The Lockheed C-130 Hercules four-engine military turboprop aircrafts to be transported to larger hospitals. She was in San Antonio during the Middle East hostage crisis and one of the patients in her military hospital was the Shah of Iran. She remembers the heavily armed security that kept unwanted visitors at bay.

She left the Air Force after San Antonio and pursued a career as a paramedic for 27 years working with 911. In 2010 she obtained her nursing degree and began working in ER. One of the highlights of her career was twice joining the official motorcade of the 43rd President of the United States, George W. Bush as the ambulance that would take care of the nation’s leader in the event of an emergency.

After 12 years, Apple started looking at different ways to pursue her nursing career outside of ER.

“My mom’s a nurse, my sister’s a nurse and my brother’s a nurse. It’s in my blood. It was a great education but I felt like I couldn’t breath being inside all the time,” said Apple. “It had nothing to do with patient care. I love the patient care, but I’m an outdoor girl. As a kid we were the ones who took off on our bikes and your dad whistled when it was time to come home for dinner,” said Apple. “We built forts, we explored the woods and I made my kids do the same thing. I don’t like the confines of being inside. I don’t even like having curtains on the windows, so being in an emergency room wasn’t for me.”

Eighteen years ago she married Gus Apple, a Vietnam War veteran who was introduced to Apple by his 84-year-old father at the American Legion. She has two daughters and four grandsons.

In June of 2018 she joined LifeLine working the nightshift as a paramedic on the ALS/BLS transport side. 

“Working nights is a lot different than the day shift, We tend to transport a lot more critical care patients – going to hospitals in the outskirts of Indiana and taking patients to Methodist or University Hospitals,” said Apple. Her husband works days so she sleeps while he’s at work, they have dinner together when he gets home and then she’s off to work. She also makes time to work out regularly with a trainer.

It’s the patient care aspect of her job with LifeLine that she loves the most.

“I remember transporting a patient from critical care to his large cattle ranch in southern Indiana. It was his end-of-life decision. We drove way off the road where his home was perched at the top of a hill. You know you’re taking him outside for what might be the last time and you’re at this beautiful place so you want to make him happy and encourage him to take in the setting and that fresh air,” said Apple. “We carried him around the back of the house and we lingered a bit. It was a beautiful night and I just wanted him to take it all in.

“The idea that you can step into someone’s life and help make it better – not really make them smile – but help them have confidence that they are getting good medical care is the best part of my role,” said Apple. “To be able to gain the confidence of their family at a time when they are so vulnerable and to be able to touch them and let them know ‘you’re ok with me.’”

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

Methodist’s ‘model’ patient talks about life after his heart transplant

It wasn’t an episode of “Cake Wars,” but Jeremy Carr celebrated his 39th birthday March 9 with a surprise party and a cake fight.

“I was covered in blue cake; it’s not a good look for me,” said the Avon father of two and longtime patient of IU Health Methodist Hospital. But it was all in good fun.

What better way to mark a date that he might not have reached if not for a heart transplant. The one-year anniversary for that life-changing surgery is coming up March 30, and Carr will celebrate that day in a different way.

He’ll be writing a letter to be given to his donor family. The idea both excites and terrifies him.

“I’ve been thinking about it for two months,” he said. “I just don’t know what to say. What do you say to someone that lost a loved one? There’s things I want to say, but I don’t want to bring up bad memories for them.”

He knows they haven’t forgotten their loss, yet he doesn’t want to be a painful reminder.

Carr’s life in the year since the transplant at Methodist has been one of renewal. He has strengthened personal relationships. He tries to stay active, eat right, take care of the gift he has received. It took him three months before he could refer to his donor heart as his heart, but now he and his life-giving organ are more in synch.

He got to swim for the first time in seven years. He was in the pool so long, he said, “I looked like a 90-year-old man when I got out.” He built a flower bed at his home for his girlfriend of 20 years, Jennifer. He rode his Harley one last time before agreeing to sell it at the request of his 14-year-old daughter.

“Four wheels are better than two,” he said with a sigh.

But the thing he most looked forward to during the 200-plus days he spent at Methodist was buying a 1978 Chevelle to restore in his barn. It’s his favorite classic car, and this man named Carr knows his cars.

“I’ve always been a hot rod fan,” he said. “I grew up around them.”

He also grew up with a hole in his heart that never closed. As a young adult, he did some “stupid stuff,” he said, and he thought maybe it was normal that he had heart palpitations. It was on his birthday in 2012 when he found out he was in congestive heart failure. He had eaten out at a buffet, and by the time he got home, he was having trouble breathing. A trip to the emergency room revealed the problem.

“They told me my heart was working at 7 percent,” he said.

He spent two weeks in one hospital before being moved to Methodist for several more weeks. He went home with a dobutamine pump in his arm to deliver medications that kept his heart working. Two years later, he got an LVAD, a left ventricular assist device, used in patients with advanced heart failure whose heart can’t pump enough blood to the rest of the body. Then came the long wait for a heart.

 

Carr was at Methodist last week for a heart catheterization to check his progress since his surgery a year ago. He wears a pendant around his neck given to him by his mother. It reads: My dear son, May God always protect you and give you strength.

He brought along a shoebox containing two of his favorite model cars. One is a Trans Am, the other a Chevelle hybrid. Both contain bits and pieces of his hospital environment – tubing from a thermometer, pieces from an insulin injection pin, bits of plastic from a bedpan.

That’s how Carr kept his sanity while spending months in the hospital waiting for a heart. He admits driving his nurses a bit crazy with his antics, which included adapting a back scratcher to extend up and switch off monitors when they beeped. He was moved three times during his stay at Methodist, the last time to the biggest room on the second floor in the cardiac critical care unit – all to accommodate his growing hobby of building model cars, helicopters and ambulances.

When people heard about Carr and his love for cars, they indulged him by shipping more his way. By the time he returned to his home after surgery, he had an entire room full of donated model cars. One by one, he takes them and customizes them to his taste.

He can’t begin to count the number of model cars he’s built over the years. Thousands probably, he said.

“I’ve done this since I was 8 years old. I try to build cars I’ve owned or would like to own.”

He even built a model IU Health LifeLine helicopter that’s on display in the cardiac unit at Methodist. The racing fan got to take his own flight on the real LifeLine last May for Indianapolis 500 Carb Day festivities, just weeks after he came home from the hospital, and he loved every minute of it.

But it’s the full-size car he has in his barn that he’s most excited about working on now. As a surprise, friends and family took the stock hood that he had taken off the Chevelle and turned it into a 55-pound birthday card, decorated with photos of his days in the hospital, his dogs, his Harley and more.

As grateful as he was for a new heart, Carr admits to feeling on edge for the first few months after transplant. He didn’t have the security of the LVAD or the defibrillator that could save his life. It felt strange having someone else’s organ beating inside his chest. He worried about over-exerting himself.

A few times since the transplant, he did pass out, likely due to low blood pressure. Once, he thinks, was because he got up too quickly when his dogs woke him up to go outside.

“I got up and halfway to the door, I hit the floor,” he said. “I woke up to the dogs licking my face.”

All in all though, it’s been pretty smooth sailing, he said. Doctors have worked to adjust his medications, though he still takes 30 pills in the morning and about 20 at night. He folds them into applesauce and swallows them in one fell swoop.

“Down the hatch,” he says. “It makes people cringe, but I find it easier to do that.”

Next up for Carr is a job – something he’s been without since the transplant. He starts a new job as a service manager for a company in Plainfield on Friday, and despite his nerves, it feels good, he said.

“That’s what I wanted when I was in the hospital – to go out and be normal like everybody else, to have a job, have a purpose.”

That purpose is all the more important because of the second chance he’s been given. Now, Carr spends his free time back at the hospital – not for him but for his mother. He takes her to all of her appointments. He visits with physicians and nurses in the cardiac unit when he gets the chance. Recently, he found himself watching soccer, a game he never cared about. He wonders if his donor liked the sport. He wonders about his donor a lot.

“I have dreams about him or her. I really want to meet the family.”

Back to that letter he plans to write – “I’ve started it a hundred times, but after the first sentence, I can’t do it.”

Still, he imagines meeting them someday, having dinner, spending holidays together. Sure, he’s getting ahead of himself, but every beat of his heart reminds him that first it belonged to someone else.

– By Maureen Gilmer, IU Health senior journalist

Email: mgilmer1@iuhealth.org

Photos by Mike Dickbernd, IU Health visual journalist

Email: mdickbernd@iuhealth.org

IU Health Arnett Cancer Center earns National Accreditation

The Commission on Cancer (CoC), a quality program of the American College of Surgeons (ACS) has granted Three-Year Accreditation to the Cancer Center at Indiana University Health Arnett. To earn voluntary CoC accreditation, a cancer program must meet 34 CoC quality care standards, be evaluated every three years through a survey process and maintain levels of excellence in the delivery of comprehensive patient-centered care. 

Because it is a CoC-accredited Cancer Center, IU Health Arnett takes a multidisciplinary approach to treating cancer as a complex group of diseases that requires consultation among surgeons, medical and radiation oncologists, diagnostic radiologists, pathologists and other cancer specialists. This multidisciplinary partnership results in improved patient care. 

“We are proud to achieve this prestigious accreditation. Our staff has worked tirelessly to achieve this certification and it reflects our dedication to excellent patient care and services,” said Matthew Orton, MD, radiation oncologist with IU Health Arnett Cancer Center. “In awarding us CoC accreditation, ACS has provided us with the opportunity to celebrate the exceptional cancer care we provide to our patients and our commitment to the well-being of our community.”

The CoC Accreditation Program provides the framework for IU Health Arnett Cancer Center to improve its quality of patient care through various cancer-related programs that focus on the full spectrum of cancer care including prevention, early diagnosis, cancer staging, optimal treatment, rehabilitation, life-long follow-up for recurrent disease and end-of-life care. When patients receive care at a CoC facility, they also have access to information on clinical trials and new treatments, genetic counseling and patient centered services including psycho-social support, a patient navigation process and a survivorship care plan that documents the care each patient receives and seeks to improve cancer survivors’ quality of life.  

Like all CoC-accredited facilities, IU Health Arnett Cancer Center maintains a cancer registry and contributes data to the National Cancer Data Base (NCDB), a joint program of the CoC and American Cancer Society. This nationwide oncology outcomes database is the largest clinical disease registry in the world. Data on all types of cancer are tracked and analyzed through the NCDB and used to explore trends in cancer care. CoC-accredited cancer centers, in turn, have access to information derived from this type of data analysis, which is used to create national, regional and state benchmark reports. These reports help CoC facilities with their quality improvement efforts.