Every day we hope our patients experience that moment in care when they know their lives have changed for the better.
Altru Promise Every moment of every day we promise to provide an excellent health care experience. We will be respectful, compassionate, and thorough. We know that your family and friends are an important part of your care; we will involve them as you wish and extend the same promise of excellence to them.
Compassion Support Teamwork Devotion
Angela O’Leary was tender and raw from chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer. Nancy Klatt, Altru Cancer Center manager, took her aside and personally helped her dress. Nancy went above and beyond to care for Angela. That’s compassion. When Deb Olson’s co-workers at Altru became her caregivers, it was the familiarity and trust of the Altru “family” that made her confident in her care. “It’s a family here,” she said. “You trust them.” That’s support.
They’re all part of the Altru Promise, something we work to deliver to every patient,
Karen Buck has “fallen in love” with her husband Bill’s care team. “Every single person – from the emergency room and surgery, to family medicine and the Cancer Center – has been so pleasant and accommodating,” she said. “The people make the difference in the care.” That’s teamwork.
Wyatt Halvorson lost his left leg in an equipment accident. Impressed by his team of prosthetic technicians, he pursued a career in the field. “When I see a patient smile and realize they don’t have to live in pain or have something hold them back, it reinforces why I chose this line of work,” he said. That’s devotion.
experience that moment when they know their
Our patients are why we’re here. We want the care they receive from us to have a positive impact on their lives. We want them to lives have been changed for the better. This book captures the experiences of our patients and the efforts of our team. These stories share our patients’
they’re in good hands
elsey, Becky, Amber, Whitney, Brittany, Melanie, Kim, Cindy, Kourtney, Tammy, Vernie, Christine, Kristin, Melissa, Kari, Karen. Five months after Scott and Heidi Nordin’s twins, Aspen and Easton, spent the first weeks of their lives in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Altru Health System, Heidi can rattle off nurse names like they were family members. “They obviously had a huge impact on our lives,” she said.
Communicating about Care In June 2011, the Nordins found out they were expecting, and in July, Heidi learned she was carrying twins. She had an uneventful pregnancy, until around Thanksgiving, when her obstetrician noticed a rise in her blood pressure. She was ordered on bed rest and eventually admitted for monitoring. “We thought we were having 30-week babies,” said Heidi. “Dr. [Pramod] Mallipaddi (neonatologist) and Becky (a registered nurse) prepared us for what we would face once the babies were born.” But, after three days, Heidi’s blood pressure stabilized and she was sent home. On Monday, December 19, 2011, Aspen and Easton made their debut. Born at 32 weeks gestation via cesarean section, Easton arrived at 1:06 p.m., weighing three pounds, three ounces, and Aspen a minute later, weighing three pounds, 15 ounces. During the babies’ stay in the NICU, Scott and Heidi felt the level of communication about Aspen and Easton’s care was exceptional. “If we wanted to talk to one of the neonatologists and they weren’t in the building, it was a matter of minutes and they were on the phone,” said Heidi. “The nurses were also great and helped explain what the doctors shared with us – ‘he said this because this is what is going to happen.’ It made a huge difference.”
Easton and Aspen, one month, 6 days old (photo by Farrah Spivey)
Because Aspen and Easton had different care needs, Heidi would call nightly and speak with the nurses assigned to each child. “There was a system of code words that allowed us to receive information about the babies when we couldn’t be there,” she said. “It’s hard walking out of the hospital and leaving your babies. It was reassuring, however, knowing who was taking care of each of them. I often thought, ‘Well, so and so is there and she’ll take good care of Aspen.’ Because we spent time getting to know the nurses, it helped.”
Calming Fears For Heidi, nights were some of the more difficult times in the hospital. “The nurses spent a lot of time talking with me,” she said. Sometimes even walking through the door to the NICU took a lot of courage. During the first week, Heidi struggled to do so without crying. On one instance, nurse Kourtney found Heidi standing next to Aspen’s isolette, crying to herself. “She put her hand on my shoulder and said, ‘She wants you to touch her,’” said Heidi. “When your babies are born, you expect to hold them, touch them, snuggle them. With Aspen and Easton, we had to learn how to touch them. That night, Kourtney helped me get over that fear.”
Nurse Kelsey with Scott, Easton, Aspen and Heidi
Private Rooms In January 2012, three private rooms opened in the NICU. The Nordins were one of the first families to experience one of them. “By the time we moved to a private room, Aspen and Easton were doing well enough to be in a crib together,” said Heidi. “It was so nice to have our own private space to be with the babies. You didn’t have to pick which isolette you were going to sit by. When a monitor would beep, you knew it was your child.” “In the main room, whenever we had a question, there was always someone to ask,” said Scott. “It was the same in the private room. The care was always at the same level, just more private.” With both babies in one crib, Scott and Heidi started to recognize how Aspen and Easton interacted. “Aspen is definitely the protector,” said Heidi. “She likes to be touching him. It’s almost as if she’s watching over him.”
Family of Three to Family of Five
Nurse Kristin with Easton and Scott
After 26 days in the hospital for Aspen, and 30 for Easton, the Nordin twins went home. “It was a big day and everyone was excited,” said Heidi. “The nurses joked when we signed the discharge forms that we should sign one promising to bring the babies back to visit.” Big sister Brielle, almost three years old, was excited to finally have her brother and sister home. “She knew they had to stay at the hospital to get bigger,” said Heidi. “She’s excited for when they can do things with her.” “It’s been a huge adjustment going from a family of three to a family of five, but it’s all worth it,” said Scott. Looking back at their experience, Heidi recalls, “The nurses told us, ‘We’re here to help you and guide you through this.’ She told us that the babies will tell us what they want and need. We had to trust that.” “Knowing your babies are going to the NICU is scary,” she continued. “The neonatologists were always in contact with each other about the babies. That, combined with the incredible team of nurses, put us at ease. We knew Aspen and Easton were always well taken care of.”
Aspen and Easton, 1 year old
hen Chief Master Sergeant Vanessa Smallsbryant first came to Altru Rehabilitation Center, she felt weighed down. Having returned from deployment in Kyrgyzstan, she was seeking treatment for a torn ligament in her left elbow. As she walked in Rehab’s front door, she was met by greeter Mike Patridge. “I could tell she was nervous, maybe even a little uncomfortable,” he said. “I just did my job. I put my arm around her shoulder and said, ‘Whatever it is, we can fix it.’” That small gesture took some anxiety off the Chief. When she saw hand therapist Travis Mackenzie, he had a similar sentiment. “Whatever it is, we can fix it,” he said. “Is that some kind of corporate line you all use?” she asked. “He said no, that’s just what we can do for you. I told him the gentleman at the front door said the same thing.”
Mr. Mike When the Chief returned to Altru the next day, she was pleased to see Mike at his door. “I started calling him Mr. Mike,” she said. “In the military, we’re taught to address people in a proper manner and since his last name wasn’t on his name tag, he became Mr. Mike.” “His actions meant the world to me, so I presented him with my coin,” said the Chief. “Chief master sergeants in the United States Air Force each have their own Challenge Coin, which we can present for exemplary service above and beyond the call of duty. Mr. Mike went above and beyond his call of duty. He really set the bar high for all the folks at Altru.”
small gesture, big impact
“I kept saying I didn’t do anything; she kept telling me I did,” said Mike. “We, myself and all the greeters, try to do the same thing for all the patients who come through Altru’s doors. We greet them as they come in and out and make sure they know where they’re going.”
Another Diagnosis In October 2011, around the time the Chief was finishing her treatment and rehabilitation for the torn ligament, a group of her female Airmen and a civilian team member approached her about getting a
mammogram. “I’m a big proponent of mammograms and get them routinely in February,” she said. That February, however, she had been deployed. “We do everything else together, why not get mammograms together?” they insisted. Of the five women who went, the Chief received a diagnosis: Stage 0 DCIS breast cancer. “Dr. [Robin] Hape called me to confirm the diagnosis. He told me we had two options,” said the Chief. “He said we could let the cancer do its thing and run its course, or we could say ‘Yes, I have cancer, but cancer doesn’t have me.’” Because of a paternal history of breast and ovarian cancer, the Chief chose to have a bilateral double mastectomy performed by Dr. Hape, while plastic surgeon Dr. Brad Meland simultaneously began reconstruction. “Dr. Hape took great care of me and assured me that whatever was going to happen, we’d be in the journey together. He was so thorough and comprehensive. His care has been over the top,” she said. “Being in the Marine Corps and now serving in the Air Force, it’s sad to say I’ve had broken bones, knee scopes, many different opportunities to be under doctors’ care and receive rehabilitation. Never in all those visits have I ever had or met anyone like Dr. Hape.” She particularly appreciated the time Dr. Hape took to involve her family in her care. “My family is the heartbeat of what I do,” she said. “I’ve been fortunate that they’ve been able to come here and support me since my surgery. It’s been phenomenal.” “CMSgt Smallsbryant is one tough lady,” said Dr. Hape. “It’s a great pleasure to care for someone like her who has dedicated her entire adult life to ensure the safety of all of us.”
Grand Forks Family For the Chief, one of the biggest challenges of serving in the military is the time spent away from home.
“We cling to and adopt the community in which we’re serving,” she said. “There is huge support that comes from the greater Grand Forks community. This is the thirteenth Air Force base I’ve been at and it’s by far the best all around.”
BAR HIGH FOR ALL THE FOLKS AT
“The word that comes to mind when I think about Altru is impressive,” she continued. “The follow-up, the follow-through, every step of the way someone was right there with me. People said that my biggest battle going through surgery and recovery was going to be my mental and emotional state. The folks here made it too easy.”
WENT ABOVE AND BEYOND
HIS CALL OF DUTY.
REALLY SET THE
- CHIEF MASTER SERGEANT VANESSA SMALLSBRYANT
convenient comfort for the whole family
F Amy and Caden
riendly. Welcoming. Relatable. Comforting. Warm. These are words you want to hear when someone describes a health care organization. Amy Enget used all of those to describe her relationship with Altru Family Medicine Residency.
The entire Enget family receives care at Altru Family Medicine Residency. Husband Torrie sees Dr. Gregory Greek. Throughout her pregnancy, Amy doctored with Dr. Heidi Philpot, whom she still sees with her 15-month-old son, Caden. “It’s wonderful having the same person see me and my son,” said Amy. “She understands our family history.” It’s the same with Dr. Philpot’s nurse, Anita Farrell. “I love that we’re on a first-name basis,” said Amy. “It’s easy and relaxed.” Anita has been a family practice nurse since 1984. “I love it, because you really get to know your families,” she said. “As time goes on, generations appear. It’s fun knowing the kids, parents and usually grandparents of the same family.”
Caring for Caden In June 2012, Caden wasn’t feeling the greatest. “He woke up one morning and it seemed like his ear infection had come back,” said Amy. Realizing this, the first-time mom called and requested an appointment. Dr. Philpot wasn’t available, so Amy made an appointment with another family physician, Dr. Aisha Bashir Chaudhry.
Caden and Torrie
Promptly at 3 p.m. that same day, Caden and Amy were greeted by Dr. Chaudhry’s nurse. Like most toddlers, Caden was scared of the baby scale, especially when he already wasn’t feeling well. Right away, the nurse suggested
setting him on the adult scale. Caden was a happier little guy, and so was his mom. Amy thought, “Oh, that’s really good of her to know that; she must be a mom.” Expert MD, Expert Mom Soon, Dr. Chaudhry entered. “She was also very warm, caring and comforting,” said Amy. “It was our first time seeing her, and she treated my son as if he were her own.” “When she asked me questions, it wasn’t just factgathering,” said Amy. “She was interested in learning about Caden.” After learning his symptoms, Dr. Chaudhry shared that she, too, was a mom. In fact, her two kids also had frequent ear infections. “Dr. Chaudhry knew what I was going through,” said Amy. “Moms love to hear that they’re not alone.” Dr. Chaudhry gave Amy her card and said call anytime. Amy left feeling calm and confident. Five Minutes Away Growing up in the Twin Cities, Amy appreciates Altru being five minutes from her home in south Grand Forks. Now that Choice Health & Fitness is open and with Altru continuing to grow its presence on the South Washington Medical Park, Altru is truly in her backyard. “I couldn’t be more pleased about Altru moving to the south end,” she said. “It’ll be so handy.” When it comes to care, comfort matters. “I would recommend Altru to anyone looking for an easy, accessible, comfortable feeling with their medical care,” said Amy.
there’s W no place like home
hen Sharon White was in Altru Hospital in February 2011, she would click her heels together and say, “There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home.” Channeling Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz,” she wanted to go home.
Suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, Sharon had been in and out of the hospital as her care team worked to keep her healthy. “When they told me there wasn’t any more they could do for me in the hospital that they couldn’t do for me at home, I told them that’s where I wanted to be,” she said. Sharon’s COPD had turned terminal. Sharon and her husband of 48 years, Johnny, decided home was the best place to spend the rest of her days. Under the care of Altru’s Hospice, Sharon receives comfort care and is able to live each day as it comes. “There’s not a strict regimen of when I can take medication,” she said. “There’s no one to push me to do things, but they’re always there if I need them.”
Sentimental Journey As the holidays approached that year, Sharon and Johnny started thinking about their family. They’d spend Christmas at home in St. Thomas, N.D., with their two grandchildren, Jayme and Ashley. Their son, Robert, lived in North Carolina. Deon, Sharon and Johnny’s other son, had passed away from cancer almost 10 years ago. During a home visit, a nurse mentioned Sentimental Journey, a program developed by Hospice to provide patients with one last special wish for themselves or an experience with their family. The goal is to take the focus off the illness and dying process while giving the family a final happy memory with their loved one. “I mentioned it would be terrific if Robert could come home for Christmas, but I didn’t see how it was possible,” said Sharon.
In early December 2011, Johnny was working hard to get their house tidied up. He made sure Sharon had her hair done and there was someone to stay with her while he ran out. “I asked where he was going, and he told me he was going to pick up Robert from the airport,” said Sharon. “I couldn’t believe it. I’ve never been so taken back in all my life. No one has ever done something like this for me.” With Robert home for a four-day visit, Sharon said her heart was filled with joy.
One Day at a Time Sharon continued to take each day as it came. “Each day and night that goes by is one more that I have,” she said. “Some nights I don’t want to go to sleep because I’m afraid I won’t wake up. It’s not that I don’t want to live; I want to live very badly. I just don’t want people to see me suffer.”
Sharon filled her days doing small things around the house with Johnny. She enjoyed visits from friends. She’s forever grateful to her Hospice caregivers from Altru and what they’ve allowed her to do during the end stage of her life. DAY AND NIGHT THAT
GOES BY IS ONE MORE DAY THAT
I HAVE.” - SHARON WHITE
“How do I thank so many people – my Hospice workers, the Sentimental Journey people – for all they’ve done for me and our family?” said Sharon. “They’re in my prayers every night.” Sharon passed away February 3, 2013. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family.
surrounded by angels
hen Angela O’Leary received the call from her primary care physician, Dr. Joanne Gaul, she was brought to her knees. “Angela, this isn’t good,” said Dr. Gaul. “Based on x-rays and the ultrasound, there’s a 95 percent chance it’s breast cancer.” The urgency in Dr. Gaul’s voice told Angela it was serious. “When people tell you you’re strong, you don’t really know what that means,” said Angela. “Having battled breast cancer and won, I know that I am strong.”
Get It Out Following her diagnosis, countless scans were performed to see if cancer was anywhere else in Angela’s body. “We kept getting good news that it wasn’t anywhere else,” said Angela. Dr. Edward Sauter performed a mastectomy of Angela’s right breast. “I kept thinking, ‘Get it out of my body,’” she recalled. The tumor was six centimeters and was classified as Stage 3 RZ+, an aggressive, fastgrowing cancer. Dr. Sauter later performed an elective mastectomy of Angela’s left breast during reconstruction surgery with Dr. Kevin Muiderman. “They worked so well together,” said Angela. “Dr. Muiderman is top notch in his talents and charisma. I’ve referred others to him, and they’ve been just as pleased.”
Taken Under Their Wings On her first day of chemotherapy at Altru Cancer Center, Angela had to force herself to walk through the front door. “I couldn’t do it,” she said. “I looked at Sean (now her husband) and he said, ‘We’re going to do this. I’m right here with you.’ And we made it through that first appointment.”
Angela and her dog, Gracie
Walking in was a little easier each time, thanks to the doctors, nurses and support staff who worked with Angela. “They’re my angels,” she said. “They took me under their wings. We laughed and cried together.”
Angela worked with medical oncologist Dr. Daniel Walsh and radiation oncologist Dr. Marshall Winchester. “Both doctors were so comforting in their care,” she said. “My life was literally in their hands.” One angel whose halo shone extra bright on Angela was May Thompson, a support associate. “She made sure I was fully taken care of,” said Angela. “May was always right there when I needed her. She’s one of a kind.” May played a special part in Angela and Sean’s wedding. As a licensed cosmetologist, May offered to style Angela’s hair for her wedding. “Altru Cancer Center had become such a big part of my life, why not go there on my wedding day?” said Angela.
Angela and Sean
Nancy Klatt, cancer services manager, also wore her angel wings for Angela. During treatment, Angela continued working for the North Dakota University System. One morning after radiation treatment, she had to attend a meeting which required putting on a business suit. Her skin was especially tender and raw from treatment. “It hurt like a third-degree burn, it was so painful,” she said. “Nancy recognized this, took me into her office and helped me get dressed. She went beyond her job to make sure I was comfortable.”
Be There “I feel comfortable saying, ‘I am strong. I am a survivor. I am going to live,’” said Angela. “It’s been four years. I want to be saying the same thing in four more years, and four years after that. I have hope and faith to continue living.”
Angela with May on her wedding day Living for Angela includes getting back to running. In 2012, Angela participated in the Wild Hog Half Marathon and was able to raise over $1,000 for Altru’s Filling the Gap program. The program supports lodging, transportation and nutritional needs of financially eligible patients receiving cancer treatment at Altru. “When I was in the waiting room before treatment one day, I met a couple from Bemidji, Minn.,” said Angela. “They drove here every single day for treatment. I can’t imagine going through cancer and having to travel for treatment. It made me realize how lucky I am to have a facility like this.” While her treatment has ended, the support from family and friends has not. “Going through cancer has taught me the importance of just being there for people,” said Angela. “I surrounded myself with positive people. It took a whole network of people, but here I am today, standing strong.”
“I AM STRONG. I AM A SURVIVOR. I AM GOING TO LIVE.” - ANGELA O’LEARY
I ALTRU Tina Forte with sons, Gavin and Griffin
ew York. Our nation’s center of finance and culture. Everything at your fingertips. Broadway. A proper deli sandwich. There’s only one thing Joe Forte, a native of Long Island, N.Y., would do to make the area better: he’d have an Altru Health System there. Joe moved to Grand Forks in 2006. Since then, he’s had nothing but positive experiences with Altru. He and Tina, his wife of six years, are not afraid to tell people. “Everything has always been fantastic,” said Joe. “They’re thorough, give you good medical advice and make sure you’re well taken care of. We appreciate that. They understand each of us as an individual, unique person. Never have we felt we’re just a number or a statistic on a chart.”
A Good Night’s Sleep One of Joe’s first encounters with Altru was for a sleep study. “I kept telling my wife, ‘It’s just snoring,’” he said. “I come from a long line of snorers. I never felt like I could get enough sleep. Go to work, come home, sleep. Wake up for dinner, go back to sleep. I was sluggish all the time.” Joe was convinced he wouldn’t be diagnosed with sleep apnea. “When I got there, they turned on Monday Night Football. I thought, ‘Hey, this can’t be too bad,’” he explained. “I put on the mask, fell asleep and woke up refreshed. I hadn’t felt that refreshed after one night’s sleep in years. Apparently, I’m a poster boy for sleep apnea.” After the sleep study, he was fitted with a mask that creates positive pressure in his airway. The positive pressure prevents his airway from collapsing, providing him with night after night of sound sleep.
Parental Reassurance Two of the most positive experiences Joe and Tina have had with Altru were the births of their sons – Gavin and Griffin. “From the very start, with Tina receiving prenatal care, it was so reassuring to know we could call at any time of the day and have our questions answered and worries calmed,” said Joe. In October 2011, the Fortes considered moving back to New York for an employment opportunity. They spent more time worrying about finding good quality health care than finding housing. They moved temporarily, and at one point Gavin came down with a fever. Since they hadn’t established a care provider in New York, they called back to Altru. “The on-call pediatrician took our call, put us at ease and gave us suggestions to help calm Gavin’s fever,” said Joe. “When Tina hung up the phone, we looked at each other and said, ‘We’re going to miss Altru.’” Because they were unable to sell their home, the Fortes are still enjoying their life in Grand Forks. “We’re very happy to still be in Grand Forks,” said Joe. “It’s a great town to raise a family. Not to take anything away from New York; I love it there. I’m a big fan and they have some of the finest doctors and hospitals available. But, at Altru, they just get it. We’re not settling for care here.” Before Gavin was born, the Fortes took advantage of many of the programs the labor and delivery department offers expectant parents. “I think we took every one we could,” Joe chuckled. “How to properly install a car seat, what to do when labor starts, what to do when baby comes home. As new parents, this information was invaluable.” One program near and dear to Joe’s heart is Boot Camp for New Dads, which enables expectant fathers to “hit the ground crawling” by providing information about the new family unit, child safety, managing long hours at work and home and being a good role model for the child. “When I signed up, I’d never heard of such a class,” he said. “I
enjoyed it so much that I returned as a veteran dad. I’m now in my second year as an instructor.”
No Comparison Experiences at other health care facilities give Joe the opportunity to compare services. One thing he’s found incomparable is the time spent scheduling and traveling to appointments. “It’s 10 to 15 minutes to everything in Grand Forks,” he said. “In New York, you’re driving all over to receive care, if you can even get a timely appointment. At Altru, you see your physician, they order lab work and you walk down the hall.” Joe is also taken aback at how much the health system offers the community. “They don’t have the, ‘We’re the only game in town,’ mentality,” he said. “I really feel they look at it as, ‘How can we become more of a partner with families and individuals in the community?’” “As far as health care goes, they’re the number one place in Grand Forks,” Joe continued. “The facility is so clean and well-kept. The physicians and staff give you a level of comfort that makes seeking care a simple decision. They’re expanding to provide even more services. Grand Forks is continuing to grow, and our family is glad Altru is a strong pillar in that growth.”
THEY JUST GET IT.
NOT SETTLING FOR CARE HERE.”
- JOE FORTE
taking the next step in life
erry Satek leads an active life. At 68, he enjoys golf and goes dancing. He’s lost almost 60 pounds over the past year and half. “I have my life back,” he says, “because of the people I worked with at Altru.”
Seeking Treatment In 2007, Terry came to Altru’s Chronic Wound Clinic. He had developed a diabetic wound on his left foot and saw Dan Rustvang, a certified family nurse practitioner and certified wound specialist. Fast-forward to August 2009. Terry was spending time in the Minneapolis area and developed another wound on his foot. He sought treatment, but wasn’t happy with the care he received. “I knew the type of care Dan provided, and I didn’t receive that level of care in the Cities,” Terry said. On a Monday morning, he called Dan, explained his situation and by Wednesday morning, Terry was in Grand Forks for an appointment.
THOSE GUYS AND KNEW
THEY WERE SELLING ME A BETTER
Following the amputation, Terry developed an edema, with the excessive accumulation of fluid causing swelling to his stump. Once Terry healed, Paul Edman, certified prosthetist, and Wyatt Halvorson, prosthetic and orthotic technician, worked to fit him with a prosthetic. In November 2010, Terry was fitted with his first prostheses. It was rigid in style and to Terry, didn’t give him a natural feeling when he walked. “It wasn’t real comfortable,” he said. “I knew I’d have to work at it and that it wasn’t going to come easily.”
Life-Changing Decision In June 2010, Terry was hospitalized at Altru with a deep bone infection. While there, he started to realize his foot and lower leg may not get better. His physical activity and mobility were severely limited.
“It made a world of difference,” Terry said. “It was like I had seen the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s a godsend.”
On June 22, 2010, Terry sat down with Dan, Dr. Rolf Paulson, director of Internal Medicine/Vascular Diseases and Wound Care, Dr. Randy Szlabick, general surgeon, and members of Terry’s family. They discussed the possibility of amputation.
QUALITY OF LIFE.”
- TERRY SATEK
While Terry was in for an adjustment in early June 2011, a ProPrio prosthetic representative was in demonstrating the product to Paul and Wyatt. The ProPrio foot is a top-of-the-line prosthetic, complete with a microprocessor ankle and its own power pack. Sensors in the foot discern the speed and direction the wearer is going and adjusts the foot accordingly. The ProPrio rep measured Terry and three days later, Terry had his new prosthetic.
For the next few months, Terry and Dan worked to control Terry’s wound. They made progress, but then an infection would set them back. They tried artificial skin patches, a specialized vacuum and as many different things as they could to get it to heal, but to no avail.
and knew they were selling me a better quality of life.” On July 1, 2010, Terry had his left foot and lower third of that leg amputated.
“Dr. Paulson looked at me and said, ‘Terry, I want you to get rid of that leg, get a prosthetic and get on with life,’” said Terry. “It was a tough decision, but I trusted them
“Anyone can fit easy patients. The success we have in working with patients who require a few prostheses to find the proper fit is what separates Altru from others,” said Paul. “We will find a way to make it work.” “I feel like because of Altru, I’ve been blessed,” said Terry. “I always commented when I was up in prosthetics, ‘You may roll in here in a wheelchair, but you’re going to walk out of here.’”
when co-workers become caregivers
hen Deb Olson rolled over one morning before getting ready for work at Altru, she felt a lump on the side of her breast. “They say if you feel a lump, it shouldn’t hurt,” she said. “This one did.” She continued to the shower, where she did a breast exam. She still felt the lump. Once at work in cardiac short stay, she told coworker and friend Rhonda Tibert about the lump. “She suggested I get it looked at soon,” said Deb. “I was lucky that Dr. [Heidi] Philpot could see me right away.” Dr. Philpot, a family medicine physician, ordered a mammogram, and then a biopsy. “It’s a family here,” explained Deb. “You get to know everyone and see each other on a regular basis. You trust them.”
Diagnosis Trust is key for Deb now, as her Altru co-workers have become her caregivers. Deb was diagnosed with a rare, aggressive breast cancer in November 2010 at the age of 45. Dr. Brad Belluk, general surgery, performed a double mastectomy to rid her of the breast cancer. She received chemotherapy and was then enrolled in a clinical trial and received several more months of chemotherapy, with Dr. Daniel Walsh overseeing her care. Plastic surgeon Dr. Kevin Muiderman completed TRAM flap reconstruction, using abdominal skin and tissues to reconstruct breasts. “Dr. Walsh watches me like a hawk,” said Deb. “And that’s a good thing. We have a great relationship and comfort level with each other. It’s the same way with the nurses.”
She especially appreciates the involvement of Altru Cancer Center staff. “They are so supportive of everyone who comes in the door,” she said. “I can’t say enough about the care I receive there. It’s remarkable.”
Dr. Walsh has consulted with Dr. Charles Loprinzi, a leading breast cancer specialist at Mayo Clinic, via eConsults to make sure the care Deb receives in Grand Forks is what she would receive if she traveled to Rochester.
“With helpful information provided by the local physician, we may find there are questions we can answer that do not require the patient to come to Mayo Clinic,” said Dr. Loprinzi.
In November 2011, almost a year to the date of her original diagnosis, blood tests still showed cancer in her body, now in her liver. When oral chemotherapy medication didn’t control the cancer, Wanda DeKrey, an oncology research nurse, helped enroll Deb in another clinical trial. “She got in at the very last minute,” recalled Wanda. “We knew Deb needed to be a part of the trial.” Unfortunately, after a few months of treatment, the cancer quit responding and started to grow again. Deb is currently receiving chemotherapy to hopefully slow the spread of cancer. Blood tests help monitor any new growth.
Fighting Spirit Deb’s oldest daughter, Kayla, believes her mom’s spirit keeps her going. “Even though she’s struggling, I know she’s strong,” said Kayla, a nurse at Altru. “It helps that I can put on my nursing hat and understand her care a little better. I can help explain things to my sister and dad.” Deb and her husband, Randy, have been married 26 years. Their younger daughter, Leah, is a freshman in college.
Deb with Kayla on her wedding day (photo by Brian's Photography)
“I feel even more confident about my care knowing that Mayo is involved,” she said. “If I had to travel for care, my kids and husband couldn’t be with me as much. We don’t have travel expenses, and yet I’m receiving Mayo-level care.” “I have stage four cancer,” said Deb. “I’ve gone through a lot, but I have to keep fighting and doing whatever I can to keep living.”
better than bobby pins “I FELT BETTER THAN ELIZABETH WAS DONE.”
- BETTY MOCK
etty Mock didn’t have time to deal with a collapsed lung. Her husband of 28 years, George, was returning from a six-month deployment in Iraq, her daughter was graduating high school the following weekend, and she was preparing to leave for a family reunion in Kansas. But, she listened to her body when it told her something was wrong. After an ambulance ride to the emergency room in Langdon and then a transfer to Altru in Grand Forks, Betty was shaken. “It was hard to deal with,” she said. “All I kept thinking of was my husband coming home, and here I was in the hospital. I didn’t want him to see me this way. It would be the first time I wouldn’t meet him at the airport.” Wanting to freshen her appearance for George, she asked a nurse on 3 West if she could find some bobby pins. “The nurse came in and said, ‘I found something better than bobby pins. I found Elizabeth,’” recalled Betty. Elizabeth Washington, a patient care technician, delivers spa services to patients needing a pickme-up. Free of charge, services range from makeup applications and nail painting to washing and drying hair. “Working with patients like Betty really makes me feel like I am making a difference in their care,” said Elizabeth. “Before Elizabeth came in, I was shaky and crying,” said Betty. “When she was done, I felt relaxed and calm. I felt like George was going to see his wife, not just a patient in the hospital.” Betty had her hair washed and dried, makeup applied, nails painted and legs shaved. When her husband, George, walked in the doors, he told Betty she looked beautiful. “I felt better than myself when Elizabeth was done,” said Betty. “She made me feel like I was somebody again, and you deserve to feel good about yourself even when you’re in the hospital. She changed my attitude and how I was feeling. It made a huge difference in the rest of my stay.” “Elizabeth brought the feeling of being pampered at a spa right into my hospital room,” Betty continued. “If this service can make people feel this good, it’s a good service to keep around. The nurses and doctors were all helpful and nice, but Elizabeth and her spa services were wonderful.”
ave you heard the phrase, “Time is of the essence?” This notion applies to health care. The quicker you receive treatment, the quicker you recover. In Bev Hopman’s case, quick care was key to keeping and maintaining use of her right foot.
It was then that Altru’s Debra Camperud, a certified nursing assistant, came into Bev’s room. She saw Bev’s distress, and asked what was wrong. Bev explained the call and Debra’s reaction was, “Well, we have to take care of that.”
After a bunionectomy at a regional hospital, Bev developed a MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) infection, a severe staph infection that can be resistant to antibiotics. The infection began to eat away tissue on the top of her right foot. She was referred to Dr. Judson Crow of Red River Plastic Surgery. He saw her at 11 a.m. on April 5, 2012, and by 2:30 p.m. that afternoon, Bev was having debridement surgery at Altru. The surgery removed dead, damaged and infected tissue to improve the healing potential of the remaining healthy tissue on her foot. Her first visit with Dr. James Hargreaves, infectious disease, was the next morning.
Through therapeutic spa treatments, Debra reduced Bev’s anxiety. She gave her a massage, manicure, and healing touch therapy. She turned on soft music and ever so lightly, ran her hands in patterns above Bev’s body to promote relaxation.
“The infection was caught in the nick of time,” said Bev. “Had it progressed, I may have risked damage to the tendons in my foot, loss of mobility of my toes and possibly even my entire foot.”
Sixth Floor Healing Following surgery, Bev was admitted to Altru’s sixth floor. “The nurses and staff were absolutely fabulous,” she said. “They treated me like family. They made me very comfortable.”
“The spa treatments gave me an emotional lift,” said Bev. “It can be lonely and depressing in the hospital. It’s nice Altru realizes that besides physical healing, people need emotional healing. Those two things need to happen for the patient to have the best outcome.” Bev continued, “Some may call it a ‘fluff treatment,’ but they haven’t experienced what a positive impact it makes.” Later that afternoon, Bev’s family physician, Dr. Karin Lokensgard called Bev, this time with good news. The antibiotics worked, and the MRSA had not spread. The shadows on x-rays were “stranding,” likely caused by having two surgeries within a short time period and being confined to bed. X-rays taken later were normal.
Because of the MRSA infection, Bev was under semiisolation. All hospital staff had to be gowned and gloved to reduce the risk of spreading the infection to other patients. Still, Bev never felt her level of care suffered.
Several weeks later, Bev came back to Altru for a skin graft on her foot. “I was ‘fortunate’ to be back on the sixth floor,” she said. “Many people stopped in to say hello. It almost felt like coming home.”
The weekend Bev was in the hospital happened to be Easter. “It was somewhat depressing, being away from my family and friends for the holiday,” she said. Then, Dr. Crow called Bev with some potentially bad news: an x-ray had detected suspicious shadows on her lungs.
The skin graft is taking well, and Bev is on her way to a solid recovery. “I would highly recommend the doctors I worked with and the treatment I received,” she said. “I’m very pleased with everything that happened with my care.”
“I was shaky and scared,” said Bev. “I did not want the infection spreading through my body. I don’t cry often, but I was close to tears.”
BESIDE PHYSICAL HEALING, PEOPLE NEED
- BEV HOPMAN
a second chan
ruce Lundeby, 68, has always liked motorcycles. A few days before Father’s Day in 2009, Bruce received “the most beautiful Harley ever made” – the Harley Davidson Heritage Softail Springer. “It’s just a beauty,” said Bruce, “such a fun bike to ride.” On October 21, 2011, Bruce was riding home from clean-up duty at Bible Baptist Church in Grand Forks. He was in the 40 miles per hour zone at Gateway Drive and 55th Street North when he noticed a young man going through a stop sign. “He was distracted by other people in the car,” recalled Bruce. “If he was paying a little more attention, he’d have seen me.” The driver proceeded to change lanes, the back left side of his vehicle hitting Bruce’s bike and slamming it into the curb. Bruce flew over the motorcycle and landed on his back in the grass, still conscious. Bruce heard brakes screech to a halt and car doors slam. The driver ran over to him and immediately began repeating, “Sir, sir, I didn’t see you. I’m so sorry. Please don’t move.”
Bruce and his motorcycle, prior to the accident
“I’m thankful the driver stopped,” said Bruce. “He didn’t have to. He called 911 for me. I felt bad for him because I didn’t feel any pain,” said Bruce. His body had gone into shock.
ce at life Altru’s paramedics arrived and loaded Bruce for transport to the emergency room. En route, Bruce called Marge, his wife of 44 years, to let her know what had happened. “She said she had wondered why I was late getting home, but she didn’t call to check up on me,” said Bruce. “She knew I was at church and would be home when I was finished.” As swiftly as the ambulance drove, Marge beat them to Altru. Once at the hospital, emergency staff evaluated Bruce. He sustained a broken left ankle, sprained right foot, a broken back, a medial fracture to his left clavicle, two sprained hands and a torn upper lip.
Committed to Recovery After three days in the hospital, Bruce was transferred to the second floor of Altru Rehabilitation Center. “I was so thankful to be there,” he said. Bruce was often too weak to make it out of his room for therapy, so Randi Schmaltz, occupational therapist, and Pat Carter, physical therapist, brought therapy to him. “They were so kind and considerate,” he said. “What they do every day is truly wonderful.” Bruce was discharged after three weeks of inpatient therapy. Marge was by his side through it all. “She gave me bed baths for three weeks,” he said. “That’s a pretty good way of telling someone you love them.” Bruce continues therapy and is encouraged with the daily progress he makes. He’s thankful for the members of his care team and visits them often to say thanks and give them a hug. “I have to thank them each and every time I see them,” he said. “Every one of them has been a hand up to me when I was down. They got me to where I am today.”
Back on the Bike Riding a motorcycle is a hobby Bruce hopes to continue. He has a lead on an almost identical Harley to replace the one that was totaled. His original bike sustained over $16,000 in damage and was sold for salvage. Marge, however, doesn’t want him to get on another motorcycle. “I asked her if she’d ever gotten in a fender bender and if that stopped her from driving again,” said Bruce. “She just looks at me and sternly responds, ‘Bruce...’” “What happened to me couldn’t have been prevented, except for another look in my direction from the driver,” he said. “I’ve gone back to where the accident happened. I still can’t believe I’m here today.”
Bruce and Brittney Long, a certified nursing assistant at Altru Rehabilitation Center
irthdays and anniversaries. Everyone has them. They can be marked with cake and balloons. Or, they can pass quietly year after year. Yvonne Woodbeck’s birthday now marks the anniversary of the beginning of her cancer diagnosis.
Not the Present She Was Hoping For On November 17, 2009, Yvonne had her annual mammogram. That year it happened to fall on her birthday. “It was so routine, I didn’t think anything of it falling on my birthday,” she said.
After the results were read, Yvonne was asked to come back for a second mammogram. “I didn’t think much of it,” she said, “because it usually took two of them to get a clear reading.” When those results came back, she was then scheduled for an ultrasound biopsy. That’s when she knew something was up. The biopsy was rushed to the lab. At 3 p.m. on Friday, December 4, 2009, Yvonne received a phone call that put her into shock. “It’s breast cancer,” was all Yvonne heard. “I made it back to my office and then my knees gave out,” she said. “My staff were very supportive, and cried with me.” Yvonne has been an employee with Altru Health System for 35 years. After more tears with Rick, her husband of 23 years, Yvonne started to digest the news. Her thoughts then turned to her daughter Molly, a student at the University of North Dakota. “She was in the middle of finals week and I didn’t want to distract her,” Yvonne said. “I figured I’d wait until she was done with tests and then share the news.” On Monday, Yvonne met with general surgeon Robin Hape. “He gave me all the options: lumpectomy, mastectomy, bilateral, reconstruction, implants,” she said. “At the time, I wasn’t thinking of implants and reconstruction. I didn’t need to go through another procedure right then.”
The next thing she had to decide was when to tell her daughter. “I told Dr. Hape I wanted to let her finish finals,” Yvonne said. “He looked at me and said, ‘There’s no good time to tell someone you have cancer. I have an opening yet this week. Let’s just get this done.’” Her mastectomy was performed on Thursday, December 10, 2009. “I had a great surgical experience,” she continues. “I had very little pain and no complications. Everything went very well.” “Yvonne was a great patient,” said Dr. Hape. “She knew what she wanted and surgery went well. Although appropriately scared, she always maintained a positive attitude.”
Finding the Perfect Fit In the days following surgery, Yvonne took advantage of post mastectomy services available through Altru’s Prosthetics and Orthotics Department. She met with Penny Cieklinski, a certified mastectomy fitter, to discuss prosthesis options to give her symmetry and balance. “Penny was great,” said Yvonne. “I never felt uncomfortable working with her. To have someone who knows how to do the fittings and how the products work is wonderful.” Yvonne continues to meet with an oncologist every six months and still has her yearly mammogram. “I really think I should get it done for half price now,” she jokes. Her 2011 mammogram fell on her birthday, November 17. “That was something I had to get over,” she lingered, “because the last time it fell on my birthday...” December 10, 2011, marked the two-year anniversary of Yvonne’s mastectomy. “I’ve been very happy with the choice I made to have the mastectomy,” she said. “My life has returned to normal and I couldn’t be happier with my experience at Altru.”
the importance of care at home y the time Bill Buck made it to Altru’s emergency room, he was in so much pain it was difficult to get out of bed. He and his wife, Karen, thought it was a bad case of constipation. After seeing x-rays and CT scans, Dr. Joel Johnson suspected something else. Colon cancer.
“Dr. Walsh is an excellent cancer doctor and they do a great job in Grand Forks,” said Karen. “The fact that Mayo is involved is an added bonus. We’ve had previous experiences with Mayo, and it’s a wonderful institution. But, the cost is outlandish to get there.”
“When I found out I had cancer, I was angry,” said Bill. “‘Why me?’ was my initial reaction.”
“They keep us informed of everything going on with Bill’s care,” continued Karen. “Every time they talk with Mayo, they tell us. Anytime Dr. Walsh does something for Bill, it becomes part of his medical record so Dr. DeBeltz and Dr. [William] Mann, his primary physician, can stay updated as well.”
“It caught us completely off-guard,” said Karen. “Here we thought it was something minor, when really, it was cancer.” Within two hours, Bill was admitted and prepped for surgery with Dr. Donald DeBeltz. “He’s a wonderful surgeon,” said Bill. “He has an incredible bedside manner.” After surgery, Bill began working with oncologist Dr. Daniel Walsh at Altru Cancer Center, a part of Altru he and Karen knew existed, but didn’t know much about. “We didn’t hesitate to come here,” said Bill. “The gals at the front are so welcoming. They always call us by name, ask how I’m feeling and if I’m in any pain. It’s almost as if they’re related to you; they care so much.”
Reassurance from Experts Bill completed 12 chemotherapy treatments from April through October 2011. In January 2012, a screening colonoscopy revealed cancer was still present, and Bill had surgery again with Dr. DeBeltz. After a PET scan in March still showed cancer, more chemotherapy was ordered. One thing continually comforting Bill and Karen is frequent communication with experts at Mayo Clinic. Dr. Walsh utilizes eConsults to consult with a Mayo Clinic specialist about Bill’s care plan.
“It’s really a blessing in disguise,” said Bill, of staying in Grand Forks for care. “I’m tired and wouldn’t be able to help with the driving, so the whole load would be on her. It’s comforting to stay here.”
The Long Haul He’s not always the best patient,” said Karen of her husband of 30 years. “We’re in this together for the long haul. You just do what you have to do.” With Karen by his side, Bill continues to receive chemotherapy to keep the cancer from growing and spreading to other parts of his body. They’re continually impressed with the care they receive, both as patient and spouse. “Every single person – from Dr. Johnson in the emergency room and Dr. DeBeltz in surgery, to Dr. [Jamie] Roed and Dr. Mann in family medicine and Dr. Walsh at Altru Cancer Center – has been so pleasant and accommodating,” said Karen. “The people truly make a difference in the care he receives. I’m just in love with Dr. DeBeltz and all of Bill’s care team because he’s still here and still alive.”
IN THIS FOR THE
WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO.”
- KAREN BUCK
hen Leslie Rodriguez and her husband, Corey, found out in July 2011 they were expecting twin girls, they were excited to add to their family. The natural pregnancy, however, came with special care needs for Leslie.
High-Risk Pregnancy Leslie has lupus, a chronic, autoimmune disease that is now in remission. Because of this, there was an increased risk of miscarriage and preeclampsia. The babies could also be born with a congenital heart block if a certain antibody crossed over the placenta. Ultrasounds were scheduled every other week at the beginning of her pregnancy, with their frequency increasing to twice a week as she progressed. Weekly fetal echocardiograms helped watch the babies’ hearts. “Dr. [Earl] Brewster was wonderful to work with,” said Leslie. “He balanced my health with that of the babies. I knew he always had all of our best interests in mind.” At 28 weeks, Leslie’s blood pressure began to rise and she was briefly hospitalized in Altru’s obstetrics unit. Three weeks later, her blood pressure rose again and she was diagnosed with preeclampsia. Taking everyone’s wellbeing into consideration, Dr. Brewster decided the babies needed to be delivered via cesarean section. On December 7, 2011, Rya was born, weighing 2 pounds, 14.4 ounces. Her twin sister, Nataya, weighed 2 pounds, 13 ounces. They spent the next five weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
two bundles of joy
“The nurses were like mothers to the girls when I couldn’t be there,” said Leslie. “They captured all their first moments on camera. At one point, Nataya tried to wiggle her way out of the isolette. Those pictures are priceless.” Leslie was very familiar with a lot of the team caring for the girls since she works with them on a regular basis. She has worked for Altru as a certified nursing assistant for over five years, spending the majority of her time with pediatrics, obstetrics and in the NICU. She returned to work in April 2012 as a licensed practical nurse.
Rya and Nataya, 1 year old
“They explained everything,” she said. “It was hard seeing the babies for the first time in the NICU, with all the monitors, lines and breathing masks.” While in the NICU, both girls had routine lab work, x-rays and catheters. Nataya had an echocardiogram because of a slight murmur to rule out the possibility of the heart block Leslie could have passed onto her. Rya had a lumbar puncture, three blood transfusions and a PICC line to assist with intravenous fluids.
Rya, 3 days old
Leslie worked with lactation consultants Dee Grabranski and Jodie Storhaug to establish good breastfeeding habits while the girls were still in the NICU. “When I needed help, they were there,” she said. “Babies this little get really sleepy during feedings and they were able to help me with that.” After four and a half weeks in the NICU, Rya and Nataya were transferred to pediatrics. Leslie said the care there was just as great. “Dr. [Durga] Panda continued to monitor them until we went home. He took time every day to touch base with us and explain what was going on,” she said. Dr. Panda and fellow neonatologists Kiran Dwarakanath and Pramod Mallipaddi oversaw Rya and Nataya’s care. “The pediatric nurses helped when I needed help, but also let me transition into being a mom on my own,” said Leslie. “They were also great with Talia, our four-year-old. She still asks to go back and visit the nurses.”
Patients First Looking back, Leslie said the most memorable moment was hearing the girls’ first cries during the cesarean section. “The doctors and nurses said they were doing well. That was the best news we could have heard,” she said. “Working with the nurses and doctors on that floor for so many years, I forgot how much they bond with each and every one of their patients,” she continued. “They put their patients first. Nobody wants their baby in the NICU or in the hospital. You don’t want to deliver nine weeks early because your body isn’t cooperating anymore. The staff at Altru was really supportive and helpful. Their care is top of the line.”
Rya and Nataya, nine months
ys old Rya, 10 da
renewed faith in health care ut yourself in Patricia Pung’s shoes. You’re scheduled for an aortic valve replacement at Trinity Health in your hometown of Minot, N.D. You feel comfortable with your physician, Dr. Christopher Phillips, a heart and lung surgeon who previously worked at Cleveland Clinic, consistently ranked number one for their heart care. You feel good about the procedure.
Little Things Matter
Then, best laid plans start to crumble. Your surgeon is injured and can’t perform surgery. He recommends that you travel to Grand Forks to see Dr. Barry Bjorgaard at Altru Health System. That’s over 200 miles from the comforts of home.
Throughout his mom’s stay, Michael was amazed at the time the care staff took with their family. Updates were given on a regular basis. If he had a question, it was immediately answered.
“Mom was scared because she didn’t know the surgeon, the staff or the facility,” said Michael Winkleman, Patricia’s son.
Patricia made a friend in nurse Emilee Froiland. When Patricia was out of surgery, they joked about going for a quick run together. Instead, Patricia later returned to Altru with cookies for Emilee.
“Dr. Phillips recommended Dr. Bjorgaard with the highest regard,” said Patricia, 53. “I’m so grateful he did.”
Comfort from the Start Even before Patricia was admitted at Altru, she could tell she was headed to the right place. “They made phone calls and got all my files and paperwork there,” she said. “When we arrived, it was all taken care of. The extra steps Altru took made it easy for us.” “When we arrived, my dad and I looked at each other and said, ‘This is meant to be,’” said Michael. “We were greeted right when we walked in the door. It was like we were at Disneyland; everyone had a smile on their face.” “They went out of their way to help us,” said Patricia. “The hospital was cleaner than any one I had ever been in. The staff always washed their hands and made sure everyone else did as well.” “The doctors and nurses took her care to heart; no pun intended,” said Michael. “It was more than just a procedure. They gave her the encouragement she needed. They made it a comfortable, healing environment. We’d lost a little hope in medical facilities, until then. It’s a totally new experience here.”
Michael recalled the first meeting with Dr. Bjorgaard. “The first thing he did was hold my mom’s hand and ask her how she was doing,” he said. “That good bedside manner means a lot, not only to my mom, but to our family.”
Upon discharge, Patricia went back home to Minot. She saw Dr. Phillips at Trinity for her post-operative care. “I was pleased with how Patricia’s care was handled,” he said. “They were very professional.” “The follow-up I received from Altru was exceptional,” she said. “I would never go anywhere else for any type of major surgery,” said Patricia. “Everything was perfect. I cannot say enough good things about my experience.”
reclaiming the true Sheri
heri Anderson has lived in Roseau, Minn., her entire life. She’s full of energy, owns the local movie theater and works at Polaris Industries.
You’d never know she had breast cancer recently. Sheri was diagnosed in May 2011. She met with Dr. Robin Hape to discuss her options. Sheri knew she wanted to undergo breast reconstruction. Per Dr. Hape’s recommendation, she met with Dr. Brad Meland at Truyu Aesthetic Center to discuss reconstruction options.
She also met with Dr. Meland at Truyu about once every two weeks to have her expanders filled with saline solution. “That process took about four to five months to get them to the right size,” said Sheri.
One Surgery, Two Procedures
Once the size was correct, Sheri had to wait a few months for her skin to stretch. In December 2011, Dr. Meland placed the implants.
“I elected to go with a double mastectomy and complete reconstruction,” explained Sheri. “Since my cancer was in the early stage, I was able to do reconstruction at the same time as the mastectomy.”
Sheri praised the Truyu nurses for their help throughout the healing process. “They actually help you with the situation,” she said. “Some days I was so depressed, but they were so upbeat and friendly.”
The double mastectomy and reconstruction was a team effort. Dr. Hape did the removal, and Dr. Meland did the reconstruction.
Reconstruction isn’t the only service Sheri has had at Truyu. After surgery and recovery, she treated herself to a HydraFacial with aesthetician Georgia Holmen. “I’ve had two so far,” said Sheri. “A coworker, who didn’t know I had the treatments, said my skin looked awesome. The HydraFacial leaves my skin bright and cheery and just wonderful.”
“Through a coordinated effort of the breast center, general surgeons, radiologists, plastic surgeons and oncologists, we were able to quickly grant Sheri’s wish of having bilateral mastectomies with immediate reconstruction,” said Dr. Hape. “It’s rewarding when patients have such great medical and cosmetic outcomes as Sheri.”
Sheri and her husband, Richard
Happy, Helpful, Honest Nurses While she was able to do some of her chemotherapy treatments in Roseau, Sheri traveled to and from Grand Forks about 30 times in six months. She raved about her oncology nurses at both locations. “They are great resources for anyone going through any type of cancer,” she said. “They have so much information and are so caring. One of the nurses had personally been through breast cancer and helped me better understand what was coming ®
next.” For example, the nurse told Sheri ahead of time that her eyelashes and eyebrows would fall out at the next treatment. That way, Sheri could buy makeup in advance and be prepared for what was about to happen.
Journey Back to Normal Reflecting on her cancer journey, Sheri remembers the, “Oh my gosh, I’m going to die,” feeling she experienced immediately after diagnosis. “I was getting ready to make a will and do the bucket list,” she said. But with the hope and encouragement she received from providers and staff at Altru and Truyu, Sheri realized help was available and she could make it through. Today, Sheri still lives in Roseau. She and her husband still own the local movie theater. She’s still working hard and full of spunk. Life is back to normal. Except now, she’s a cancer survivor.
lex Azenkeng has seen it play out numerous times on television. There, in the waiting room, family members stare at the clock, waiting for an update. Never did he think he would experience it firsthand.
Healthy Pregnancy Alex and his wife of 11 years, Florence, immigrated to the United State from the Republic of Cameroon in 2001. They settled in Grand Forks and started a family, delivering their first three children at Altru. When they found out they were expecting a fourth, Florence again saw Dr. Gregory Greek at Altru Family Medicine Residency. A week overdue, Florence was induced on January 4, 2012, in Altru’s Family Birthing Center. Since Dr. Greek was out of town, he asked Dr. Douglas Grissom, a fellow family medicine physician, to oversee Dr. Johanes Prawira, third year resident, during the delivery. “Everything went smoothly,” said Florence. “I dilated to ten centimeters. Once Drs. Prawira and Grissom were in place, I pushed twice and the baby came out.” At 7:26 p.m., Alexis, a healthy baby girl, was born.
donating blood, donating life
Alex was about to take a picture of Alexis when he realized something wasn’t right with Florence. “The nurses said her uterus wasn’t contracting properly and there was a lot of bleeding,” he recalled. At that point, Dr. Earl Brewster, OB/GYN, was called. “He came over to me and said, ‘Don’t worry. You’re going to be okay,’” said Florence. “I breathed a sigh of relief.” It wasn’t until almost a week later that Florence learned the extent of what happened.
Rapid Response As Alex rushed to Florence’s bedside, Dr. Prawira cautioned him of her condition. “Once I got to her, she didn’t have the strength to respond,” said Alex. “Her blood pressure had nose-dived.”
Back: Florence, Reggie (8), Alex Front: Alexis (3 months), Lyonell (5), Jaden (3)
The rapid response team was called and critical care physicians converged to try to stop Florence’s bleeding. Nothing was working. She was losing blood so quickly
that transfusions didn’t have time to drip through her IV; nurses were literally squeezing blood in as fast as it would go. Dr. Brewster decided to move Florence to the operating room within the Family Birthing Center. That way, once the bleeding source was discovered, they would be equipped to stop it.
In the days following, a pathological study was performed on Florence’s uterus to determine why it had ruptured. They discovered a fibroid, a non-cancerous growth. Because it was growing behind the baby, it wasn’t observable on ultrasounds. As the baby grew, she started to overwhelm the fibroid, and caused it to shrink. The fibroid had developed scar tissue and it’s suspected that the scar tissue tore, causing the uterus to rupture and bleed.
“Everything was happening so fast,” said Alex. “I followed them toward the operating room and felt I could handle being in there with Florence, but they held me back. At that moment, I knew this was very serious.”
“If God hadn’t intervened and if the baby hadn’t come out right away,” said Alex, “there’s a very strong possibility the baby could have drowned.”
One bright spot, however, was baby Alexis. She was healthy and beautiful in her nursery bassinet, but Alex was too shaken to even hold her. “I sat and cried,” he said. “The nurses were so kind. They offered to call family or friends to come be with me. We don’t have family here, and for the longest time I couldn’t think of any friends to call.”
After five days in the ICU, Florence moved to Altru Hospital’s Third Floor West. It was then that she was finally able to hold Alexis. “It was so emotional holding her for the first time,” said Florence. “Even though she was little, she gave me strength to heal.”
As time passed, Dr. Tana Setness Hoefs, OB/GYN, gave Alex updates every 30 minutes. “She kept telling me, ‘No news is good news.’ I broke down every time she came out,” said Alex.
“I think about it as though the person I’m delivering information to is one of my family members,” said Dr. Setness Hoefs. “I try to be as frank and straightforward as possible while still giving hope. At the same time, tears frequently flow from my eyes as I share in these very difficult moments.” After almost four hours, Dr. Setness Hoefs told Alex they were still struggling to control the bleeding. Florence’s uterus had ruptured and no one could find the source of the bleeding. By that time, Florence had already received 10 units of blood, essentially replacing her entire blood supply. Dr. Brewster consulted with Alex and asked for permission to perform a complete hysterectomy in hopes of controlling the bleeding. “I told him to do anything necessary to save my wife’s life,” said Alex. Because Florence’s body temperature had dropped, any more blood transfused would put her organs at risk of hypothermia. The focus then turned to warming Florence back up and transferring her to the intensive care unit to allow her body to stabilize before operating further. Her abdomen was left open and pressure packed to prevent infection and hopefully minimize further bleeding. By noon the next day, Dr. Wayne Breitwieser, critical care specialist, determined Florence was stable enough to continue with surgery. The surgical team was able to locate a bleeding vessel. After it was repaired, they retraced their steps from the initial surgery to make sure they hadn’t missed anything or hurt any other organs.
Florence spent a total of 17 days in the hospital. More than 80 different physicians and nurses cared for her. She underwent the initial surgery without anesthesia, “because there wasn’t time to administer it,” said Alex. “And yet, she didn’t hear or feel anything. That tells me she was basically gone.” She received 23 units of red blood cells and 33 units of other blood products, including plasma, clotting factors and platelets. To put those numbers into perspective, that’s just over two gallons of red blood cells. Altru Health System is the only hospital in North Dakota that operates its own donor center. “Patients are fortunate that Dak Minn is here for Altru,” said Terri Hintz, transfusion and tissue service supervisor. “Most facilities would have needed to request additional units. In Florence’s case, there wasn’t time to wait.” It’s safe to say that 56 different people donated life-saving blood and blood products to Florence. “When people are donating blood, they are donating life,” said Alex. “If resources hadn’t been in place and doctors available to respond so quickly, there’s no question our story would have turned out differently,” continued Alex. “Alexis was able to stay in the nursery for an extended time while Florence was fighting for her life, and we’re grateful for the love and care she received. We have a healthy new baby, and I still have my wife. I am forever grateful.”
shlyn Nelson was excited about her senior year of basketball at Lakota High School in Lakota, N.D. Because of a broken hand, she was forced to sit out her junior year. “It was hard watching the team from the bench,” she said. “I didn’t think I’d have to do it again my senior year.”
”As she approached the one-year anniversary of her hand injury, the basketball season was progressing well. “Then it happened,” said Ashlyn, 18. Ashlyn stepped with her right leg and tried to stop an opponent from driving to the hoop. The other player jerked one way, but Ashlyn moved the other way. Her knee gave out, and both players ended in a heap on the gym floor. “I couldn’t move, let alone get off the court,” said Ashlyn. Her parents took her to Altru’s emergency room in Grand Forks to have her knee examined. A follow-up appointment the next day with sports medicine physician William Haug, Jr., the same physician who fixed her hand, led to an MRI. Once the suspicion of a torn ACL was confirmed, Dr. Haug referred Ashlyn to orthopedic surgeon Jeremy Gardner. During their initial appointment, Dr. Gardner asked Ashlyn to explain what happened during the game. “I gave him the play-by-play,” she said. “He listened to my whole story. Then he pulled up his own pant leg and showed me a scar on his knee. He said, ‘I know exactly how you feel. I tore my ACL when I was a senior, too.’ To have my surgeon know exactly what I was going through made me really comfortable and put me at ease.”
Surrounded by Positivity
attitude above injury
Bright and early February 14, 2012, Ashlyn arrived at Altru’s Same Day Surgery. “It was a good experience, if surgery can be a good experience,” said Ashlyn. After some time in recovery, she was discharged and went home later that day. “It’s not the easiest thing to understand,” said Ashlyn, as to why injuries plagued her for two consecutive seasons. “My team was unbelievably supportive. I couldn’t have asked for better teammates and coaches.” Because of her high activity level, Ashlyn knew recovery and rehabilitation needed to be taken seriously. “Recovery was harder than I thought it would be,” she said. “I had to understand that initially, there were things I couldn’t do. I had to force myself to take a step back and slow down.” Ashlyn worked with Altru physical therapist Steve Rood twice a week to strengthen her leg. “She has this ‘can do’ attitude and works hard,” said Steve. “I don’t think I have ever had a patient who has a smile on her face through every part of treatment.”
Looking to the Future
“MY GOAL AS A PHYSICIAN WOULD BE TO MAKE EVERY PATIENT FEEL THE SAME WAY
DR. GARDNER MADE ME FEEL. IF YOU GO IN WITH A POSITIVE ATTITUDE, EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE FINE.” - ASHLYN NELSON
In the fall of 2012, Ashlyn began her freshman year at North Dakota State University, with plans to double major in athletic training and zoology. She hopes to one day attend medical school at the University of North Dakota. Her interest in medicine peaked when she attended Altru’s Mission Physician camp, a five-day session where high school junior and senior students are introduced to basic clinical procedures. They also shadow all major hospital departments. Students experience office practice and physician-patient relationships, to learn how health care is delivered and diagnoses are concluded. “I always thought I’d become a doctor,” said Ashlyn. “If I could end up working at Altru, that’d be pretty cool. My goal as a physician would be to make every patient feel the same way Dr. Gardner made me feel. If you go in with a positive attitude, everything’s going to be fine.”
both feet on the ground
magine not being able to wear both of your shoes for 13 months. For Gary Zick, it looked as if that might be his new reality. That is, until he started working with Dr. Joshua Britten, a podiatrist with Altru Health System.
“I’d been working with the Wound Clinic for a while,” said Gary. “They’d get my foot to heal and I’d go back to wearing shoes. Then the wound would come back. It just wouldn’t heal right.” Gary was dealing with a diabetic ulcer on his left foot. Then he saw Dr. Britten. X-rays revealed bone poking through the bottom of Gary’s foot, which was hindering proper healing of the wound. They also confirmed that he had developed Charcot foot. After a wound exists for so long, the nerves around the wound begin to suffer damage. When nerve damage is present, pain can go unnoticed, with the patient continuing to walk on the foot. This can lead to severe deformities of the foot. In Gary’s situation, this caused the bones in his foot to weaken and shift, requiring the placement of a screw to stabilize his foot and allow him to continue walking. Surgery was scheduled shortly after their first appointment. “That’s what really did it for me and got things taken care of,” he said. “I wanted to get the surgery done so I could wear two shoes and get back to my normal, everyday life.” “Dr. Britten did a very nice job for me,” Gary continued. “He shaved the bone down so it wouldn’t protrude and put a screw in my foot to hold things in place. He had to lengthen my heel a bit and do some snipping on my Achilles tendon. My left leg feels a little longer than my right, but it works out just fine.” Gary wore a protective boot for six weeks following the surgery. Instead of crutches, Gary was outfitted with a knee walker to help him get around. “It was wonderful and let me go wherever I wanted,” he said. “It made getting around much easier and kept me from putting any pressure on my foot.” “Gary has done really well,” said Dr. Britten. “He’s a nice guy with a positive attitude. He followed the care plan we developed and because of that, he’s back on both feet.” He credits Roberta, his wife of 42 years, with helping him recover. “She was wonderful,” said Gary. “She helped me put the boot on and take it off every day. It was difficult to do, but she was so supportive.” After six weeks in the boot, Gary was allowed to put on both shoes. He now walks without restrictions. “I’ve been very satisfied with the care I’ve received at Altru,” said Gary. “Everyone was very helpful. I think Dr. Britten is a very good doctor and easy to work with. I had a very good experience.”
benefiting from the Altru approach
here’s a proverb that states, “It takes a village to raise a child.” For Eric and Sadie Ripley, that village is the community of Grand Forks, N.D.
“We are so fortunate to have Altru as the main health care provider,” said Eric. “It’s more than just an occupation for these people. They really care about what’s best for Toby.”
Delayed Milestones At 14 months of age, the Ripley’s pediatrician, Dr. Susan Zelewski, noticed Toby hadn’t met certain developmental milestones. He began speech and physical therapy with Altru’s Pediatric Therapy Services. Four months later, Toby was diagnosed with Global Developmental Delay, a diagnosis that can encompasses speech, motor, social, emotional and cognitive skills. In April 2008, at 20 months of age, an MRI showed portions of his brain were missing, causing the delays. The Ripleys added more therapy services. Two days a week, Toby met with three different Altru therapists. Dr. Zelewski saw Toby every three months to check his progress, and as he got older, it became apparent that Toby would need a few more services. Dr. William Klava, a consulting physician in physical medicine, built Toby his first set of ankle braces. “His braces are now up to his knees, he’s gotten so big,” said Sadie. “We liken it to the movie Forrest Gump. Maybe someday he’ll start running and the braces will just fall off.” “When he was first diagnosed, we didn’t know what would happen later in his life,” continued Eric. “Therapies on the front end can help close the developmental gap. There might always be a gap; the goal is to not let the gap widen.” In addition to therapy sessions received at home and
Steve Sattler, certified orthotist, fitsToby for new braces.
school, Toby, now five, continues to attend physical, speech and occupational therapy sessions once a week at Altru. “When we first heard the word ‘therapy,’ our initial reaction was, ‘Our child has to go to therapy?’” said Sadie. “But, Altru does such a great job making it fun for children. Toby has attended K.I.D.S Camp (Kids Interacting and Developing Skills) where he and his peers get to do their therapy sessions in a camp-like setting.”
Spin for Kids Another means of therapy for Toby is hippotherapy, through which Toby receives physical, occupational and speech/language therapy while utilizing movements of a horse. “Toby loves animals, especially horses,” said Sadie. “Julie Gemmel with Free Rein Therapy has helped him with balance issues and other things that come so naturally to other children. It doesn’t seem like he’s doing therapy because he’s having so much fun on the horse.” Toby wouldn’t be able to attend Free Rein Therapy without scholarships provided by Altru’s Spin for Kids fund raiser. Spin for Kids is an indoor race on stationary bikes. Teams consist of eight cyclists who each ride for 20 minutes. Awards are given to individuals and teams with the most pledges, highest number of miles and the most team spirit. Toby was selected as a co-captain for 2012’s event. “He was very excited,” said Sadie, “and so were we. We want to pass along to other children the opportunities Toby’s been afforded, thanks to Spin for Kids.”
Team Approach No matter the therapy, Eric and Sadie have been impressed with how different Altru departments work together. “They collaborate and cooperate, share information and consistently do what’s best for Toby,” said Eric. “It’s difficult to receive a diagnosis telling you your child is anything other than what is perceived as normal. Families need to know they’re not in this alone. There is an unbelievable network of services that can provide you with support and education.” “Toby’s story isn’t over,” Eric continued. “There is a lot yet to be written. We know Altru will play a big part in the next chapters of his life.”
living with ability
or Wyatt Halvorson, no part of his job is more rewarding than watching an amputee take his or her first steps. “Amputation affects everyone differently,” he said. “There are good days and bad days. You have to trust that the good days will outweigh the bad days. For me, they do.” As a technician in Altru’s Prosthetics and Orthotics department, Wyatt works with many amputees two or three times before sharing with them that he, too, is an amputee. “I know what it’s like to walk around day-to-day with a prosthesis,” he said. “I know what it’s like to be a patient in this department, and how much it means to have someone support you and give you your life back. I tell patients, ‘The only thing that’s going to hold you back is what you think you can’t do.’” In Wyatt’s case, that isn’t much.
Holden (2.5), Wyatt, Cherron and Corbyn (3 months)
Before his last year of college at Mayville State University, Wyatt spent the summer working at a seed plant in Mayville, N.D. He was helping a friend by loading a semi-trailer. It was 3:30 p.m. on June 15, 2000, when the ramp buckled on one side. As the forklift tipped, Wyatt fell out of the seat and into the mud from the prior day’s rain. He tried to crawl away, but his legs became pinned under the forklift’s roll cage. “If I wouldn’t have landed on my knees and if it hadn’t been muddy, I would have been hit in the forehead,” he said. “The mud gave the ground some give. Otherwise, both legs would have been cut off.” As it was, his right leg was completely smashed. His left leg was compressed so much under the forklift that it ultimately sustained permanent indentations in the calf muscles and both leg bones. Amazingly though, the left leg didn’t break. By the time he was transported to Fargo by ambulance, his left leg had swollen to the size of his thigh from his toes to his hip. “I lay there, watching the clock tick, while the surgeons tried to decide what to do with my leg,”
Wyatt recalled. The lead surgeon told him they estimated he would have a five percent chance of using his leg if he kept it, and that was with surgeries for the next two years. He had a four percent chance of having feeling in the limb. “I looked the surgeon square in the eye and said, ‘You can cut it off. I don’t have that kind of time to lie around in the hospital. I have too many other things to do,’” Wyatt said. “The surgeon asked if I was sure, and I told him, ‘I guess I’m done with it. Donate it to science.’ That’s what they did.” After the amputation, Wyatt came to Grand Forks and worked with Altru’s Prosthetics and Orthotics department to be fitted with a prosthesis. He estimates during the year following the accident, he saw prosthetists Paul Edman and Ken Gaulke once a week for fittings and adjustments. “I refused to let this new obstacle slow me down any more than it had to,” said Wyatt. “I had a new socket every two or three months for the first few years as my residual limb changed or I broke part of the prosthesis. They’re made of carbon fiber, but I still managed to break them.” “Those guys gave me my life back,” Wyatt continued. “They got me back doing everything Ilove. There’s more to life than feeling sorry for yourself.”
One Shot at Life By December 2000, Wyatt was riding snowmobiles with his prosthesis. In January 2001, he traveled to Big Sky, Mont., for winter recreation. His roommate and college friend, Cory Christensen, wanted to give snowboarding a try. Wyatt thought it sounded like a great challenge. “We spent half a day on the lower mountain, and then moved our way up to the tougher stuff,” said Wyatt. “It was a gorgeous day so I spent the afternoon snowboarding in shorts. You should have seen the looks I got.”
Cory stopped midway down a run and a gentleman struck up a conversation with him, sharing with Cory how much his knees were bothering him. Wyatt slid down on his board to where the two men were. The gentleman took a look at Wyatt and his prosthesis and said, “Well, I guess I don’t have anything to complain about if you can be out here doing this.” “Comments like that don’t really bother me,” said Wyatt. “I know how much I enjoy living life and being outdoors. I’ve made the decision to continue with the things I love. It aggravates me when I see amputees or someone who had a tragic accident sitting around feeling sorry for themselves. I get that the first six months, because I did it, too. You have to take that time to mourn. But after that, if you’re still feeling sorry for yourself, you’re just wasting your life. You only get one shot, and I’m trying to live every day I have.”
Refocusing His Career Path Following his amputation, Wyatt returned to the Larimore area and worked in a steel fabrication shop, building armor kits for military trucks and Humvees. “It was very rewarding work, knowing what I was doing was protecting our soldiers,” he said. “I liked doing things with my hands, but I wanted to do something more.” Paul recognized this, and as he continued to fit Wyatt with his prostheses, encouraged Wyatt to explore the field of prosthetics and orthotics. “I’d never heard of it before I became an amputee,” said Wyatt. “Pursuing school to become a technician was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life.” Wyatt moved to the Minneapolis/St. Paul area for schooling and in November 2005, during his clinical studies, was offered a position at Tillges Certified Orthotics and Prosthetics in Maplewood, Minn. He spent the next five years working there. During that time, he and Cherron, his now-wife of over four years, were married. “She’s an amazing woman, very talented and patient,” said Wyatt. “She never knew me without my prosthesis, which didn’t even surprise her when I told her. She took me as I am.”
Back on the Ranch In February 2010, Wyatt and Cherron moved back to North Dakota. “It felt good to get back home,” said Wyatt. “I’m in my element out here on our ranch, tending my cattle, riding horses, and riding my four-wheeler. It puts me at ease. That’s my therapy.” Moving back to North Dakota also brought Wyatt back to Altru, this time as a place of employment. “I’ve known the guys in Prosthetics and Orthotics for almost 12 years now,” he said. “We had a great relationship when I was a
patient, and it was further solidified when I started working here. I couldn’t ask to be part of a better department. We enjoy what we do and we feed off each other’s energy. We’re a small family within the larger Altru family.” At the end of the day, there’s a smile ready to greet him at home from his twoyear-old son, Holden. “He’s just phenomenal,” said Wyatt, beaming with pride. “He’s a great kid. We’ll be sitting on the couch, with my prosthesis on the floor. He’ll grab it, bring it to me and say, ‘Daddy, put your leg on. Let’s go play.’ He’ll grow up being a lot more accepting of people.” Wyatt and Cherron welcomed their second son, Corbyn, in August 2012. Their children have the opportunity to interact with people of different abilities – Wyatt refuses to call them disabilities – when Wyatt plays on wheelchair basketball and softball teams. This past year, he was a member of the Division I National Championship Wheelchair Softball team, going undefeated against 14 teams in the tournament. “It’s an addictive sport,” said Wyatt, “much more competitive and fun than able-body softball.”
Getting the Most Out of Every Day Looking back on the 12 years since the accident, Wyatt is grateful for where he is in life. “I’ve done things a lot of people won’t do on two good legs, because I push myself,” he said. “I pay for it when my joints hurt at the end of the day, but that’s just life.” He attributes a lot of those aches and pains back to playing free safety for Mayville State’s football team. “I don’t let anything slow me down,” he continued. “If there’s something I want to do, I’m going to try to find a way to do it. When Paul said he’d get me back to 100 percent, and he did, it blew me out of the park. I live my life at a crazy, ridiculous high speed, and I don’t want it any other way.”
group support key to recovery
sk Robert Burgener about his experience with Altru’s Joint Replacement Center (JRC), and he’s likely to give you any number of positive responses: “They’ve got a good thing going there” or “You’re not going to find it any better anywhere else.”
Overhaul Twelve years ago, Robert weighed upwards of 600 pounds and underwent successful gastric bypass surgery. However, carrying that weight damaged his bones and joints. He was diagnosed with osteoarthritis. “I knew I’d need a good overhaul,” said Robert. He was referred to Dr. Jeremy Gardner, an orthopedic surgeon at Altru. Dr. Gardner performed arthroscopy on Robert’s left shoulder to address bursitis and tendonitis, which both cause swollen, painful joints and tendons. Dr. Gardner determined Robert’s hips were the next priority and scheduled a total joint replacement of his left hip. “Because of my initial experience with Dr. Gardner, I knew he was who I wanted,” he said. Robert then met Mark Erickson, coordinator of the JRC. “I conduct a required preoperative education class for all JRC patients,” said Mark. “It is designed to walk patients through the process, from pre-surgery to aftercare. They need to be willing and able to participate in group physical and occupational therapy, and embrace this concept so all participants benefit.” “I knew exactly what was expected of me,” said Robert. “The details were clearly explained. I was ready to see what I could do with my new hip.”
MEANING OF PATIENCE. KNOWING GRASS,
I CAN APPRECIATE PERSISTANCE. - HAL BORLAND
Forty-five minutes after Robert awoke from anesthesia, he was on his feet, walking from one side of his bed to the other. “Instantly, the pain I’d dealt with was gone,” he said. “The incision was sore, but I could tell my hip felt really good.”
Physical therapy started almost immediately. Therapists Kathleen Hanson and Suzanne Roemmich, therapy assistants Kaila Kowalski and Jennifer Simonson, nurses Desiree Bartholomew, Roger Dovre, Rachel Poling and Samantha Schake, and nurse assistant Jennifer Perry helped along the way. “You couldn’t ask for a better bunch,” said Robert. “They treated me like family.” Robert appreciated the team therapy approach. “It’s a huge support system, ” he said. “Patients are motivated by each other’s progress, almost as friendly competition,” explained Mark. “JRC was created with emphasis on patient involvement, so they each take ownership of their healing.” Families often get involved. “We invite a patient’s family member or friend to a therapy session so they know what is to be followed up with at home,” said Mark. For Robert, it was how one of his littlest family members was treated that stood out most. “My grandson came to visit after surgery and kept asking, ‘Why is Papa hurt?’” Robert recalled. “Roger, my nurse, knelt down to my grandson’s level and explained in kid-friendly terms that Papa wasn’t hurt, but that he was getting better. He was so kind. I’ll never forget that.”
Celebration Lunch and Beyond Following discharge, Robert worked with physical therapist Jeff Haney to continue improving. “He’s a good guy,” Robert said. “He knows his stuff.” Back at Altru for a meeting, Robert bumped into Dr. Gardner in the hallway. “He spent time talking with me, asking how I was getting along,” said Robert. “He’s a very sharp man. Altru should count its blessings to have him.” Completely satisfied with his care, Robert has scheduled a total joint replacement of his right hip at Altru. “I wouldn’t go anywhere else,” he said.
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