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November 30, 2012

Vol. 31, No. 16

Inside Flight nurse’s memory Town Hall MeeTing


The medical center shares survey results and a vision for the future.

supporTing CanCer paTienTs


Mount Pleasant firefighters donated knit hats and hope to inspire other cancer patients. 2



Meet Joy

11 Classifieds

T H e C aTa ly s T online http://www. catalyst

lives on in scholarship By Ashley BArker Public Relations


he MUSC family was shocked on Jan. 19, 2002 when Anthony “Tony” Pirraglia, 47, a liver transplant coordinator and Meducare flight nurse, was shot and killed while trying to help a car wreck victim on Cannon Street. Pirraglia left behind a wife, Cindy, two sons, and 11-year-old daughter Maria. More than 10 years later, the memory of Tony is alive and well within Maria Pirraglia, R.N., who joined the MUSC Meduflex nursing team in August. “These are the same halls that he walked. These are the same people he interacted with,” Maria said. “When they see me, they see him too. This is the last thing that I can really hold

on to and be able to say, ‘This was my dad. This was his life.’” Maria found out quickly that her father was loved by his co-workers. She learned that his nickname was “spicy” because he brought hot Italian sausages to eat at work, and they both shared the same smirk. “When I’m concentrating or when someone says something really funny, I get this look on my face,” she said. “It’s kind of hard to describe, but people are like ‘Oh my God, you look just like your father.’” Although it is hard for Maria to remember everything about her dad, she remembers clearly that he carried himself well and was creative, often coming up with nicknames for everyone in his life. “He was my dad. He was a very tall,

See scholArship on page 10

Tony Pirraglia, a liver transplant coordinator and Meducare flight nurse, was killed on Jan. 19, 2002. The Tony Pirraglia Nursing Scholarship was awarded in October, more than 10 years after Pirraglia was killed. Pictured from left: Maria Pirraglia, R.N., daughter of Tony; Dr. Marilyn Schaffner, R.N., chief nursing officer; Jennifer McCrudden, R.N., scholarship recipient; and Cindy Pirraglia, wife of Tony. McCrudden presented flowers to Cindy upon meeting her for the first time.

2 The cATAlysT, November 30, 2012

eTHiCs Class graduaTes

Applause Program The following employees received recognition through the Applause Program for going the extra mile:

Members of the first graduating class of the Fellowship in Clinical Research Ethics were given their certificates at a Nov. 19 reception in the Colcock Hall lobby. Pictured from left are: Dr. Daniel T. Lackland, professor in the Department of Neurosciences; Dr. Etta Pisano, dean of the College of Medicine; Alisha Joyner, graduate; Thomas Hulsey, assistant dean for Global Education Programs; Angela Malek, graduate; Ellen Debenham, graduate; Eliza Barnwell, graduate; Andrea Boan, graduate; Jason Wheeler, graduate; Dr. Mark S. Sothmann, vice president for academic affairs and provost; and Dr. Robert Sade, director of the Institute of Human Values in Health Care. Kristen French and Amrutha Baskaran graduated, as well, but were not in attendance.

Nursing unit celebrates renovation with open house The women’s care service line will hold an open house Nov. 30 to celebrate its renovated postpartum nursing unit. The open house will be held from noon until 2 p.m. on 5 East in the university hospital, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony around 12:15 p.m. Guests can expect to see new furniture, flooring and televisions throughout the unit. Each room is outfitted with breast pumps to facilitate and encourage breast-feeding. The service line was selected to participate in the National Initiative for Children’s Healthcare Quality Best Fed Beginnings collaborative program and will be working to achieve the baby-friendly status, according to Vicki

Editorial of fice MUSC Office of Public Relations 135 Cannon Street, Suite 403C, Charleston, SC 29425. 843-792-4107 Fax: 843-792-6723 Editor: Kim Draughn Catalyst staff: Cindy Abole, Ashley Barker,

Marsi, administrator for the women’s care service line. MUSC is one of 90 hospitals that will take part in the twoyear program that targets increasing breast-feeding rates. To be given the baby-friendly designation, a hospital must implement the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding, which were established by the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund. Marsi said the program’s goal is to improve patient outcomes by educating mothers about the benefits of breast-feeding. Staff policies are being redesigned and formal patient education materials are being put together to be distributed. The Catalyst is published once a week. Paid adver tisements, which do not represent an endorsement by MUSC or the State of South Carolina, are handled by Island Publications Inc., Moultrie News, 134 Columbus St., Charleston, S.C., 843-849-1778 or 843-958-7490. E-mail:

Medical Center Lisa Cordes, HCC Retail Pharmacy; Michelle Washington, Pharmacy Services; LaTasha Mitchell, Pharmacy Services; Tricia Crocker, Pharmacy Services; Holly Follin, Mail Order Pharmacy; Sheldon Mims, Radiation Oncology; Michelle Vareltzis, Radiology; Darryl Lee, Revenue Cycle; Michelle Anderson, PAS; Brandon Matthews, HCC Clinics; Allison Brown, RT Neurosurgery & Spine; Jacqueline Arthur, RT Pulmonary Clinic; Juliet Deseo, HCC Clinics; Vanessa Diaz, Department of Family Medicine; Tammy Burleson, Family Medicine; Markus White, Support Services; Rhonda Goldberg, Clinical Services; Belinda Green, Pediatrics Procedure Area; English Springs, Surgical Services; Mylinh Mai, Oncology & Medical/Surgical Services; Ashley King, Oncology & Medical/Surgical Services; Carline Waiters, Environmental Services; Robin Walker, 7W; Ashley Curnell, Dietetic Services; Annette Lott, Women’s Services; Shnek Gaillard, ART Inpatient Phlebotomy Services; Rickey Greene, Revenue Cycle; Diane Graves, Revenue Cycle; Kristin Webb, MedSurg Registration; Faye Parker, Volunteer & Guest Services; Evelyn Polite, ART OR; Dawn Heyward, Transplant Center; Lisa Guido, STNICU; Sharon Dupree-Capers, Revenue Cycle; Charlie Strange, Pulmonary, Critical Care, Allergy & Sleep Medicine; Adrienne Gregory, Revenue Cycle; Cathy Quashie, Revenue Cycle; Rebecca Peters, Outpatient Pharmacy; Kate Miccichi, Revenue Cycle; Ian Guthrie, CTICU; Jessica Hardy, Women’s Services; Romane Satterfield, Environmental Services; Sandra Milling, Dietetic Services; Linda Mayrand, Storm Eye Institute; Thelma Pringle, Oncology & Medical/Surgical Services; Leo Aranas, Oncology & Medical/Surgical Services; Sadie Hatcher, Oncology & Medical/Surgical Services; Shannon Gray, 9E; Valerie Jamison, PACU; Amanda Jager, Safety & Security; George Waring, Storm Eye Institute; Shane Cox, Radiology; Lee Russ, Patient Transport; Cherise Pelzer, Medical Records; Sharon Gala, Pediatrics Subspecialty (7B); Melvena Nelson, Environmental Services; Krystal Clark, 10W; Robert Campbell, Rheumatology

& Immunology; Amanda Behrouzjou, Meduflex Team; Kelly Lewis, Radiology; Talat Raja, General Internal Medicine; Jenny Riley, Department of Medicine; Delphine Walker, Women’s Care Services/Antepartum; Shurene Simmons, PAS; Kenneth Andrews, OCIO; Carolyn Carlisle, ART OR; Molly French, Radiology; Liz Boyle, PCICU; Pam Scarborough, Total Joint Replacement; Gwen Franklin, Total Joint Replacement; Natasha Sheppard, Total Joint Replacement; Amy Vance Johnson, ART OR; Kristie Decou, ART OR; Penny Mitchum, ART OR; Barbara Bradham, OCIO; Jeff Uyak, OCIO; Janice Hazy, Quality Improvement; Saundra Griffin, Central Supply; Debi Myers, Medical Records; Wendy Gordon, Children’s Hematology/Oncology; Ted Bouthiller, Meducare; Cindy Ferguson, DDC Clinical; Amy Duttera, Pediatric Procedure Area; Joanne Fagan, Main OR; Hope McFadden, Meduflex Team; Cameron Carone, Surgery Trauma ICU; Joanne Marcell, Pediatric Procedure Area; Michelle Cooper, RT Children’s Hematology/Oncology; Tiombe Plair, Social Work Program; Andrew Roche, Nursing IT; Martha Gregory, Adult ED; Jessica Karas, Peds Cardiology Clinic; Donna Gallahorn, Children’s Day Clinic; Jenny McDonald, Children’s Hematology/Oncology; Heather Dolan, Children’s Specialty Clinics; Jaime Nettles, Children’s Specialty Clinics; Kimberly Mitchell, Medicine Scheduling; Noreen Williams, Transplant; and Frank Tinley, OCIO. University Mark Barry, Dental Faculty Practice; Philip Blacklocke, Dental Faculty Practice; Chris Collins, Public Safety; Peggy Cunningham, Controller’s Office/Accounts Payable; Lisa Fowler, Dental Faculty Practice; Alison Llewelyn, College of Dental Medicine; Coretta Magwood, Hollings Cancer Center; Kedron Mullen, Hollings Cancer Center; David Watts, Engineering & Facilities Maintenance; Annette “Denise” White, Psychiatry/ Center for Drug and Alcohol Programs; Alvinia Wilson, Dental Faculty Practice. For additional information on recognizing an employee for the Applause program, visit http://academicdepartments. html or call 792-0888.

The cATAlysT, November 30, 2012 3

Some days there is no rush to medical school finish line Editor’s note: Chelsey Baldwin of Little River is a third-year medical student. This column follows the journey of her class in becoming doctors.


or the past two years of medical school, I was always focused on the end. I always had the feeling that if I could just get through this test, finish that paper, or just be done with the boards everything would be OK. I would be able to reclaim my life. All students eventually find themselves surrounded by residents, fellows and attending physicians that continuously push them to stay up on new guidelines and practices. The realization finally settles in, though, that there is no clear-cut end point. I remember the snicker of a fifth-year resident who overheard a patient asking how much longer I Chelsey Baldwin had before I was done. This is not to belittle the highlights along the way. I want that long white coat and two bold initials after my name as much as any other student. Yet, there have been experiences since my debut in the wards that have humbled this student into begging for more training before graduation day. Those experiences make the lengthy process of producing a physician, worthy of the title an

Medical musings

enjoyable one. My third rotation of the year was split into two threeweek rotations. The first three weeks, I was placed at an outpatient internal medicine clinic in Mount Pleasant with Richard Mills, M.D., who was adored by his patients and students for being an incredibly intelligent and kind-hearted man. His office was affiliated with Roper Hospital, which was my first experience away from MUSC. The differences were many, from my perspective, especially when I visited their affiliated hospitals. They weren’t accustomed to a constant stream of medical students rotating through. They weren’t accustomed to anyone streaming through. The halls were mostly empty — no attending physicians with their flock of residents and medical students in sight. There was no swarm of nurses buzzing down the wards and no patients walking the halls as staff cheered them along. People were scarce as I made my way through the hospital. This could be demonstrated no better than when I went to visit Ms. Wright (*The specifics of patient conversation have been modified to protect the anonymity of patients) during my morning rounds. I usually rounded by myself on two to three patients in the morning, knowing that Dr. Mills and I would cross paths after he had finished with his patients at the downtown hospital. This particular morning as I wrote out my note, Ms.

Wright’s nurse sought me out. “She’s having chest pain. You need to go look at her,” she said. I turned to her, hopefully without my face conveying my inner thoughts of panic. Why would she ask me? A medical student would never be asked to respond to chest pain in the wards at MedU. I turned to see if, by some miracle, I could see a glimmer of the jolly Dr. Mills coming down the hall. I could not. “OK,” was all I could muster as she ushered me toward Ms. Wright’s door. I ran through the list of people I would scramble to contact should something serious be going on as we walked. Then I thought back to the tests I had just reviewed on Ms. Wright. Her ECG was fine, as of this morning. Someone had also ordered troponins, indicators of acute cardiac injury, and they were normal as well. I walked into the room to find Ms. Wright, a frail woman in her 80s, sitting in her bed with her daughter-in-law, just as I had left them 20 minutes before. “Ms. Wright, I understand you’re having chest discomfort. Can you tell me what's going on?” I said. “Who said, I don't understand what’s going on?” she said defensively. Mrs. Wright had misplaced her hearing aids two days previously, so communication had been a struggle. I sat on her bed and placed her hands in mine to orient her, as I had seen my mentors do before.

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4 The cATAlysT, November 30, 2012

Town hall meetings review survey results, vision B rian Sloan, digestive disease service line administrator, and June Darby, R.N., neurosciences service line administrator, shared information at the medical center’s quarterly town hall event.

connecT To purpose Sloan read a letter from a North Carolina family who received services in 8E. The family praised staff for their teamwork in providing excellent patient care for their daughter who is diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. “Sometimes in this data-driven, high-tech world of hospital care, it’s easy to forget the impact of meaningful human interactions and how central they are to a patient’s recovery. Our family is grateful to your hospital and to 8E for providing such high quality patient care to our daughter.”

JoinT commission VisiT October’s visit by the Joint Commission resulted in a positive survey with 20 total findings (nine findings requiring action plans in 45 days and 11 findings requiring action plans in 60 days). The Joint Commission team was very complimentary of staff professionalism, knowledge and attitudes. These findings represent about half of what’s expected for a hospital of this size and a third of what the Joint Commission found from their last visit in 2009. Multiple medical center awards for performance from various national organizations since last quarter were acknowledged. Most notable is MUSC’s 2012 Rising Star Award from the University Health System Consortium (UHC). The award is based on several metrics including mortality, effectiveness, safety and efficiency of care. MUSC achieved a 20-place increase among 101 member institutions landing in the top 20. MUSC was previously recognized with this award by the UHC in 2008. MUSC leads the state ranking as the No. 1 hospital in South Carolina by U.S. News & World Report with six nationally-ranked specialties and nine high performers. MUSC surpasses Greenville (No. 2) and Spartanburg (No. 3) in these rankings.

muhA execuTiVe DirecTor seArch Progress continues in the search to find a replacement for Medical University Hospital Authority Executive Director Stuart Smith. Smith has agreed to stay on in his role until his replacement starts in early 2013.

hipAA priVAcy AnD securiTy q Regular audits are conducted on samples of electronic medical records. The audits include all employees who are patients and high-profile patients. Unauthorized access of these records is a violation of HIPAA privacy and will result in termination.

q There have also been issues related to proper use of social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.). Employees should never discuss patient information in these formats, and violation to this policy will result in terminations or suspensions.

q Caution should also be applied with phishing emails. Employees were reminded to safeguard their email passwords. OCIO will never send an email asking for employees to disclose password information. Never open an email suspected of phishing.

2012 employee surVey This year’s survey yielded an 80 percent participation rate. The medical center’s overall commitment score was 4.06 on a 5-point scale (36th percentile). The national average (Morehead Associates’ database) is 4.16. The 2013 goal is to reach a commitment score of 4.11. This score will still be below the national average but was recommended by Morehead Associates, the survey vendor, as a realistic, statistically significant increase to work toward in a single year. Currently there are 422 work group action plans that have been developed and implemented to help reach this goal.

exTernAl enVironmenT Employees have experienced challenges this year ranging from no performance increases in October, reductions in overtime, floating work assignments to reduced hours. There have been multiple outside influences impacting activities in the medical center. The nation’s economy is struggling with about 8 percent unemployment since 2008. There are currently more than 40 million people who are uninsured. At the same time the cost of health care is growing faster than any other segment and will soon be 20 percent of the gross domestic product. But we continue to have health outcomes lower than other countries. These external pressures are having multiple impacts at MUSC. Inpatient, outpatient and operating room (OR) case combined volume remained flat throughout 2012. OR cases are down due to the departure of several surgeons. SC Medicaid reimbursement was cut by 7 percent ($20 million) this past year. In the next seven years, Medicare will cut $190 million from payments and disproportionate share funds will be reduced by $66 million. With Medicare and Medicaid cuts MUSC can expect a cut of $56 million per year or $256 million total in seven years (2014 to 2020). In addition, Blue Cross and Blue Shield affirms that there will be no rate increases. Remaining Medicare reimbursements will also be linked to value-based purchasing (CMS) metrics based on the hospital’s compliance with quality treatment processes and H-CAPHS (Hospital-Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems)

scores. If score levels are low, payment levels will decrease, but if scores are high by national comparison, reimbursement may be higher. To prepare for these changes, the medical center, MUSC Physicians and the College of Medicine have established the MUSC Health Strategic Plan to direct activities. Faculty recruitment is focused on specific specialties including neurosurgery, ophthalmology and hand surgery to help impact new growth. The revenue cycle will combine hospital and physician patient accounting functions in preparation for the medical center’s conversion to the Epic electronic medical record system (July 2014). Updates are being done to streamline supply costs for further efficiency. The hospital’s 5-and-5 accountability plans will continue to be implemented throughout the organization. Matching staffing to workload and defining initiatives for quality improvements are additional ongoing efforts. It was noted that these challenges are not just occurring at MUSC but are front burning issues for hospitals and medical centers across the country.

The cATAlysT, November 30, 2012 5

Meet Joy

Joy Lutz Department Pediatric Radiology How long at MUSC 10 years Family Husband David and children Jacob, 3, and Makenna, 23 months. We also have Geronimo, a boxer. How are you changing what’s possible at MUSC Treating patients and families like they’re family A must-have in the pantry or fridge Oreo cookies and milk Favorite radio station 100.9 Way FM Last book read “Sweethaven Homecoming” Dream vacation Take a tour of Italy and France with my husband and children Best thing about living in Charleston The weather, minus the flooding Favorite quote “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

6 The cATAlysT, November 30, 2012

Beloved oncologist, surgeon remembered


arolyn Elaine Reed, M.D., renowned cardiothoracic surgeon, educator, mentor and beloved oncologist, died Nov. 16 after a short illness. She was 62. A native of Farmington, Maine, Reed was the Alice Ruth Reeves Folk Endowed Chair of Clinical Oncology and a professor in the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, Department of Surgery. Reed joined MUSC in 1985 as an assistant professor in the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery. She was the first woman clinical surgical faculty member to join MUSC’s ranks and succeeded Edward F. Parker, M.D., known as the father of thoracic surgery in South Carolina. She advanced quickly in her career at MUSC and was promoted to associate professor in 1989 and professor in 1997. She played many significant roles in the development of the Hollings Cancer Center, serving as associate director for clinical affairs (19982000), director of the cancer center (2000-2004) and associate director of medical affairs (2004-2012). She achieved a national and international reputation as a thoracic surgeon and oncologist with specific expertise in lung and esophageal cancer. A respected surgical educator, she was committed to medical student, resident, and physician teaching and mentorship. In 1987, she received the Student Teaching Award and was continually nominated for Golden Apple awards. An active clinical researcher and principal investigator for numerous research grants and clinical trials, Reed was a strong advocate for finding successful treatments to cancer. She was the author of more than 100 peerreviewed publications and journals including 20 book chapters. She was editor of the textbook, General Thoracic Surgery (7th edition), which is recognized as the bible for general thoracic surgery. She worked with multiple editing boards and presented at more than 120 national and international thoracic surgery meetings.

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“Tell me about your chest,” I prompted her. “It started burning,” she told me. I remembered her daughter-in-law had requested she get protonix, an acid reflux medication. I asked the nurse if this had ever been added. She shook her head no. “Ms. Wright, did it start burning after you ate?” I asked. “Yes,” she hissed. “It has been that way since I got admitted here.” I nearly went limp with relief. “It hurts my chest,” she went on, likely the same comment that provoked the ECG and troponins that morning. After reassuring her daughter-in-law that I thought this was due to heartburn, I scurried to the hallway to phone Dr. Mills. He chuckled saying that he had

memoriAl serVice A memorial service honoring Carolyn E. Reed, M.D. will take place at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 9, at St. Luke’s Chapel. Due to the expected overflow of attendants at this event, a video feed will be coordinated at several on-campus auditorium locations. Additional details about this event will be shared at a later date.

Dr. Carolyn Reed discusses the results of a scan with a pulmonary resident. Donations may be made to the Carolyn E. Reed M.D. Chair in Thoracic Oncology by going to http://hcc.musc. edu/giving and clicking Online Giving. Throughout her career, Reed held memberships with many surgical associations and organizations including the American College of Chest Physicians, Society of Thoracic Surgeons, American Association for Thoracic Surgery, American Surgical Association and the Halsted Society. She also served in leadership roles with the Society of Thoracic Surgeons, Council of the American Association for Thoracic Surgery and the Southern

dealt with the same complaint earlier and had come to the same conclusion. As I hung up the phone, I was astonished at my undeniable relief that Ms. Wright’s heart was not the culprit. The sweat underneath my work attire was evidence that I needed the training between a novice third-year and graduation day. However, not every experience that makes a medical student grateful for training involves a moment of terror. Some experiences are pure fun. I love thinking back to the days on evening rounds of head and neck surgery service. A team of three medical students, a research fellow and an intern, lead by

Thoracic Surgical Association, where she was president in 2006. Reed was the first woman appointed to the American Board of Thoracic Surgery and served twoyear terms as vice chair and the board’s chairman. Reed was born March 4, 1950, the daughter of Margaret E. Reed and the late Clayton E. Reed, of Farmington, Maine. She completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Maine in 1972 and received her medical degree from the University of Rochester. She completed her general and cardiothoracic surgery training at the New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center. Reed spent an additional year training as a fellow in surgical oncology at the Memorial Sloane Kettering Cancer Center before moving to South Carolina. Of the numerous honors that she received, perhaps the one that meant the most to her was being selected as the commencement speaker in 2005 at her alma mater, the University of Maine, at which time she was awarded an honorary degree. Reed was recognized as a superb clinical surgeon and as a leader in the field of thoracic surgery throughout the world. It was truly ironic that she succumbed to cancer — a disease that she spent her life trying to cure. She is survived by her mother, twin sister Joyce Greenacre, and other family.

a second-year otolaryngology resident dropped in on Mr. Heinz. We pulled a drain from his surgical wound and remained to hold pressure for a few minutes because of his blood-thinning medications. We decided that rather than stare at Mr. Heinz in his bed, we should entertain ourselves with a game. The intern proposed a memory game. The rules were simple: one must say all the words, in the same order stated before their turn, plus add a word. We started out simple, aware that our company had been through a rather traumatic surgery. Orange. Orange. Flower.

Orange. Flower. Banana. Orange. Flower. Banana. Chrysanthemum. “What?” we barked back at the cheeky second-year resident, who obviously ignored the pattern of words we put forth. Our patient only made it to the second round before tripping over the newly added tongue-twisting words. Words that our competitive spirits wouldn’t let us omit and his pain medications wouldn't allow him to remember. By the end we were all laughing. We checked to make sure the bleeding had stop and thanked Mr. Heinz for putting up with us. On days like those, there is no rush to the finish.

The Catalyst, November 30, 2012 7

Woman’s cancer ordeal led firefighters to shave heads By Bo peTersen Of The Post and Courier Peach fuzz on the shaved heads of Troy Thomas’ firefighting crew. Finally. That’s when it hit home for him. Today, he and Renee Thomas, his wife, are home, celebrating what she calls “a true Thanksgiving.” After many ups and down during the last several months, Renee Thomas and her husband are thankful that her cancer is in remission. She is in remission after a brutal battle against cervical cancer that put her through three surgeries, 12 rounds of chemotherapy and 32 radiation treatments in less than a year, while doctors used words like “uncommon” and “aggressive.” It was pure hell. In April, her hair fell out. She texted Troy, a Mount Pleasant fire lieutenant. He felt helpless, a little lost. He turned to his crew and asked if anyone had shears, so they could shave his head bald too. One by one, the crew shaved their own heads. Then another shift did. Then another. Within a few weeks, 125 firefighters and others — men and women — had shaved bald in a Lowcountry show of support. In July, Thomas came to the fire station with the news: Renee was cleared. The next shift, the crew was sporting peach fuzz. That’s when it hit home. Troy, who had been Renee’s rock throughout the ordeal, simply broke down. One day in April, Renee lay in a Hollings Cancer Center bed in pain and too sick from treatment to even lift her head. It was maybe their bleakest moment. All she could say to Troy was, “Please, pray.” Troy looked up and a turtle dove settled on the window sill outside. He squeezed her hand and showed her. “God answered us,” he said. “We’re going to get through this.” Today, Renee has the peach fuzz, a close crop of hair that gives her a pixie look. “I’m cuter,” she said with a pixie’s smile. The couple’s life has changed. They are more spiritual. They are ready to give back. They plan to work with cancer patients as mentors, to give them the kind of boost they could have used the day they heard the diagnosis. “There are so many possibilities out there as far as opportunities to give back to those who have done so much for me. That’s where my heart is right now,” Renee said. Among other gestures, they are presenting to the Hollings Cancer Center a large, framed photograph of the bald firefighters taken with Renee. It’s to inspire other patients, sure. But more, it’s to

Renee Thomas, second from left, and husband Troy Thomas, third from left, present MUSC’s Dr. Whitney Graybill with a framed photograph of bald Mount Pleasant firefighters Nov. 26. The firefighters shaved their heads to show support for Renee and her fight against cervical cancer. The firefighters also donated knit hats. Helping present the gifts to Hollings Cancer Center are firefighters Ed Gramling, Jay Upham, Daniel Casey, Gregory McDougal and Steve Szymanski.

“There are so many possibilities out there as far as opportunities to give back to those who have done so much for me. That’s where my heart is right now.” Renee Thomas give a lift to the staff who treated Renee, who “wrapped their hearts around us,” Troy said. “The first time Renee told me the firefighters had shaved their heads, it brought tears to my eyes,” said Whitney Graybill, Renee’s doctor at MUSC.

“She loves life. She lives with gusto. She’s a fighter. The solidarity of the firefighters, it’s such a blessing, it’s such an inspiration, and it is really for me what Thanksgiving is all about. It just makes you grateful for each day you have.” Renee, 35, has always wanted children, but it didn’t happen. Now she and Troy are going to adopt. “It takes something like this to realize, oh my goodness, I don’t have tomorrow. I only have today,” she said. Troy is refocused, far more patient than he used to be. He makes a point of making time to spend with her. They are celebrating a traditional holiday with family. Renee’s big plans are to eat lots of turkey. That’s the best part, the part she yearned for only a few months ago. Her Thanksgiving will be normal. Editor’s note: This article ran in the Nov. 23 issue of The Post and Courier and is reprinted with permission.

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Healthy foods for under $1 For many, life is busy, stressful and money is tight. Deciding what is eaten is often based on convenience, taste, cost and can be summed up in two words – dollar menu. What one may think is a bargain may actually be costing more in terms of one’s health. Is there a way to create our own “$1 menu” that can provide the same benefits but without the cost? The American Heart Association has provided a list of healthy foods that are under $1: Apples, bananas, baby carrots (in bags), canned beans, canned tomatoes, oranges (extra large navel oranges), pears, lentils (dry), pearl barley (dry), yogurt (plain, lowfat, or fat-free), eggs, broccoli, sweet potato, brown rice, snap peas, green tea, oats and spinach. At first glance this list may not win out over a fast food $1 menu, but with a little creativity it could become a healthier alternative. Let’s take breakfast. A typical $1 menu or value menu meal usually includes some type of sandwich, hash browns and coffee and averages around 3,600 calories and a ton of fat. Yogurt sprinkled with oats and mixed with a sliced banana and green tea for approximately 300 calories and about $1. On the go? This meal can be purchased at most convenience stores – just grab a granola bar and crumble into the yogurt in place of oats. Employee Wellness events q Wellness Wednesday — Stress Management: Tips for dealing with holiday pressure from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Dec. 5 in the Children’s Hospital lobby. q Final flu shot satellite clinic: the final

clinic for flu shots will be from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Dec. 5 in the Children’s Hospital lobby. For faster service bring completed influenza consent form, found in My Records. q Mobile mammograms: The Hollings Cancer Center mobile van will be conducting mammograms from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Dec. 12 behind the Clyburn Research Building. Call 792-0878. q Worksite screening: The last worksite screening for 2012 will be held from 7 to 11 a.m., Dec. 13 in the Wellness Center auditorium. This screening, valued at about $350, is available to employees with the State Health Plan for $15 (covered spouses also can participate for $15). Employees and spouses without this insurance can participate for $42. The screening includes height, weight, blood pressure and a blood draw for a blood chemistry profile, hemogram, and a blood lipid profile. To register, go to and click Worksite Screening. MUSC Urban Farm q Work and Learn with child-friendly activities from 9 to 11 a.m., Dec. 1. Bring a plastic bag and take home some fresh produce in return for work efforts on the farm. Wear closed-toe shoes. q Early bird maintenance will be held from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m., Dec. 4 and 5. Contact Susan Johnson, Ph.D., at for information on the Office of Health Promotion and Suzan Benenson Whelan at whela@ for specific information about Employee Wellness. Events, speakers, classes, or any other ideas are welcome.

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10 The cATAlysT, November 30, 2012

scholArship Continued from Page One confident person,” she said. “As an Italian, he had the trademark thick hair and prominent eyebrows. He was a family man first, nurse second.”

soul seArching For DAD Becoming a nurse was not an easy conclusion for the 22-year-old. “I had envisioned for myself to be the starving artist of the family, writing and playing the piano,” Maria said. When he died, she said she felt like someone should follow in his footsteps. So after some soul searching that’s exactly what she did. She graduated from the University of South Carolina Upstate with a bachelor’s degree in nursing and focused her job search on MUSC. “I live, eat, sleep, breathe nursing. I just love it,” she said. “I feel like I walk among geniuses at this hospital.” With her father always in mind, Maria still plans on setting her own path. She dreams of going to graduate school and is hoping to become a midwife.

WAlking DoWn The Aisle As an adult now, Maria often wishes that she could pick her father’s brain for advice on types of medications and symptoms for a particular diagnosis, but especially for tips on her upcoming wedding. :Now that I’m planning my own wedding, I’ve asked my mom a lot of questions about their wedding,” she said. “They got married in 1974. The generational differences are pretty neat to see. ” Maria said she’s “terrified” of walking down the aisle, something that typically happens with the father by the bride’s side. But she said her older brothers will be there in his place. “I haven’t asked them yet, but they’ll be carrying me,” she said with a laugh. Someone else who will play a pivotal role in the wedding will be her mother. When Tony died, Cindy took on all of the family’s responsibilities. “She had to become the only parent, in a split second,” Maria said. “It wasn’t easy. She’s a very strong woman.”

moVing pAsT The Anger Her family and job have helped Maria realize something that may be difficult for most people in her situation. She’s moved past any hatred for the “kid” who was convicted for murdering her father. “As much as I hate his actions, I’ve got compassion for people,” she said. “That’s just ingrained in me. Nurses don’t hate people. You can say you hate what they say or hate what they do, but they’re still human.” Marko Drayton, who was 19 at the time of the shootings, was sentenced to life in prison without parole for the murder of Tony and Charleston police officer Dennis LaPage, and 20 years in jail for wounding intensive care nurse Mandy Larson, according to The

Post and Courier. “To throw a little religion in it… God created him; God created me,” Maria said.

A prouD scholArship Shortly after Tony’s death, the transplant staff came up with the idea for a scholarship to honor their friend. The Tony Pirraglia Nursing Scholarship was finally awarded in October. Jennifer McCrudden, R.N., a certified diabetic educator, was presented a $5,484 check. The scholarship, which came directly from donations made by folks around campus, was awarded by Chief Nursing Officer Marilyn Schaffner, Ph.D., R.N. “I was really looking to honor Tony and his family,” Schaffner said. “Everything lined up perfectly. We had a nurse who works at MUSC, who is a student in the graduate program at the College of Nursing, and we’re recommitting our memory to Tony.” Maria couldn’t be happier with the winner, especially after the way she interacted with her mother while accepting the scholarship. “When I met [McCrudden], I knew she deserved it,” Maria said. “She threw her arms around my mom and hugged me and gave my mom flowers.” McCrudden described meeting the Pirraglia family as “very bittersweet.” “We all became teary eyed upon introduction,” McCrudden said. “I thought Mrs. Pirraglia was very warm and inviting. Maria was as well. But she was almost beaming talking about how she loves it at MUSC and that she was happy to be working where her father used to. She said it was like family.” While working full time as a nurse, McCrudden, who spent 10 years at the Medical University Hospital Authority, is pursuing a master’s degree in nursing. She has maintained a 3.96 grade point average while doing both and said receiving the scholarship is an honor. “Mr. Pirraglia died by being a good Samaritan and doing what he loved,” she said. “He was selfless. This scholarship is helping me with my continued education as nurse. I hope I can make him and his family proud.”

The cATAlysT, November 30, 2012 11

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12 The cATAlysT, November 30, 2012

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