OSF HealthCare invests in peace of mind for its communities

For OSF HealthCare facilities, there is no margin for error when a disaster strikes. A hospital simply cannot fail when its community needs care the most.

That’s why OSF HealthCare invests so much time and so many resources making sure the people it serves will always be able to rely on their local hospital. The disaster preparedness team for OSF HealthCare Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria is a perfect example of the lengths to which OSF HealthCare goes to make sure all of its communities can rest easy.

Back-up plans for back-up plans for back-up plans

Basically, the disaster preparedness office is responsible for making sure the medical center continues to operate as a medical center no matter what happens. “Any disaster that might occur and create more patients for OSF HealthCare Saint Francis – the medical center has to be able to expand and contract,” said Troy Erbentraut, manager of the OSF HealthCare Saint Francis disaster preparedness team.

The disaster preparedness office develops plans, policies, procedures, education and training, and then tests all of them to make sure OSF HealthCare Saint Francis can continue to serve our community when disasters happen. Tornados, blizzards, earthquakes, floods, ice storms, terrorist attacks – OSF HealthCare Saint Francis has plans to handle them all, thanks to the work of Erbentraut and his team.

“We don’t want to change our care model because of a crisis,” Erbentraut said. “We want to provide the same level of care, whether it’s a sunny day or if the community is facing a huge crisis. No matter what, we’re still treating patients with the greatest care and love.”

Erbentraut’s team doesn’t just plan for external crises, either. The disaster preparedness team also plans for potential internal crises at OSF HealthCare Saint Francis. If the medical center were to lose power, or water, for example, his team creates plans to make sure the medical center can continue to function and provide the vital health services on which the community depends.

The team plans out where and how to obtain secondary resources quickly, and if those should fail, there’s a plan to provide tertiary resources, and so on. They create back-up plans for their back-up plans for their back-up plans, test those plans and train Mission Partners on how to execute those plans.

“There is a cost to being a prepared organization but OSF HealthCare sees value in it,” Erbentraut said. “The value to the community is peace of mind, knowing we will be ready if the time comes.”

A never-ending task

The disaster preparedness team doesn’t just create a plan, then stick it on a shelf and forget about it while it collects dust. Erbentraut and his team work constantly to keep disaster preparedness in the conversation at OSF HealthCare Saint Francis.

When it comes to an organization as large and diverse as OSF HealthCare Saint Francis, there are a lot of moving parts that are always changing. For the disaster preparedness team, this means the work is never done.

“Needs change as communities grow and evolve, and OSF HealthCare grows and evolves, so our disaster preparedness plans need to grow and evolve, too,” Erbentraut said. “That means continuously updating plans, and constantly providing new training for Mission Partners to execute those plans.”

Pastor’s Heart Restored With Coordinated Emergency Care

Thankful. That’s what Mike Morell feels when he reflects on his emergency experience with OSF HealthCare.

It was just two days after Mike had retired as a pastor from Mendota First United Methodist Church that he woke up in the middle of the night with what felt like heart burn. After realizing over-the-counter medication wasn’t going to help with the pain, he knew he needed medical assistance.

“I woke my wife, Peggy, up and told her we needed to go to the emergency room. I’m having chest pain,” Mike explained. “Then all of a sudden, I broke out into a cold sweat. That’s when I realized we needed to call 911 because we weren’t going to make it to the emergency room on our own.”

Timely Care

When the paramedics arrived, they were able to get Mike stabilized and transported to the Emergency Department at OSF HealthCare Saint Paul Medical Center.

The medical staff performed a series of tests before determining that the advanced cardiology care Mike required would be best suited for OSF HealthCare Saint Anthony Medical Center, a 50 top heart hospital in the U.S.

Mike recalls the flurry of activity as the staff prepped him for transfer on an OSF LifeFlight helicopter. “I remember everyone getting out of the nurse’s way, so she could examine me. Before I knew it, I felt more comfortable and on a flight to Rockford.”

While in transit, the Rockford cardiology staff was already assessing Mike’s medical records and determining his course of treatment – all before he even set foot in the door. Upon arrival, Mike was put in the Intensive Care Unit at OSF HealthCare Saint Anthony.

After another round of tests, the medical team concluded that Mike needed a stent put into the artery leading to the back of his heart. It was determined that he had some plaque buildup that had ruptured his artery and caused lack of blood flow to his heart.

“When I had the chills at home, it was my heart telling me, ‘I need more blood supply,’” Mike recalled. “It all makes sense now.”

Mike underwent surgery and was able to return home the next day. He recalls his care team explaining that not all patients are as fortunate. Most cases like his result in cardiac arrest.

“The fact that I didn’t actually have a heart attack most likely was the result of the timely care I received from the paramedics, the Emergency Department at OSF HealthCare Saint Paul and OSF LifeFlight,” Mike said.

Giving Thanks

A few days after Mike’s surgery, he went back to the paramedics and the Emergency Department at OSF HealthCare Saint Paul to thank them for helping to save his life.

“I’ve always had a great experience at OSF Saint Paul the few times I’ve been there as a patient and the many times I’ve been there as a pastor ministering to patients there,” Mike said.

Mike explained that saying thank you always makes a big difference. “I appreciate it when others say thanks, so I try and extend that courtesy to others. Nurses, doctors and all the other medical professionals are special people, and they perform many significant services. They put in a lot of hard work, so the least I – and we – can do is say, ‘thank you.’”

Immunizing Infants for Future Generations

Vaccinating your infant isn’t something you look forward to as a parent. It’s a perfect example of bittersweet. Bitter because – well, they’re shots. Sweet because they provide protection to your little one from 14 potentially life-threatening diseases:

  1. Poliomyelitis (Polio)
  2. Tetanus
  3. Influenza (Flu)
  4. Hepatitis B
  5. Hepatitis A
  6. Rubella
  7. Meningitis secondary to Haemophilus Influenzae Type B (Hib)
  8. Measles
  9. Whooping cough
  10. Pneumococcal disease
  11. Rotavirus
  12. Mumps
  13. Chicken pox
  14. Diphtheria

“Vaccines essentially train our bodies to fight off a certain disease without actually exposing ourselves to it,” said Dr. Ban Al-Sayyed, pediatric infectious disease doctor at OSF HealthCare Children’s Hospital of Illinois. “When you receive a vaccine, your body creates antibodies and memory cells. So if you are exposed to a disease down the road, your body will have the means to fight it off with the developed antibodies from the vaccine.”

The vaccination schedule is important

At birth, babies have immature immune systems with the exception of antibodies they receive in the womb from their mother. Those antibodies might only protect a baby from diseases for the first six months. That’s why it’s important to follow the recommended vaccination schedule from your child’s doctor.

OSF HealthCare Medical Group offices follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) vaccination schedule that has been meticulously researched and studied to give your baby the best protection again these potentially deadly diseases.

“When your child doesn’t follow the vaccination schedule, it creates a window of opportunity for him or her to contract a disease that could have been prevented by a vaccine,” Dr. Al-Sayyed said.

Benefits of vaccines far outweigh the side effects

The vaccines available today have been thoroughly tested and studied by medical professionals to make our vaccines safe and effective for our communities. According to the CDC, the United States has the safest, most effective vaccine supply in its history.

As with any medicine, vaccines can cause side effects, but they are generally very mild. The side effects can include redness or swelling at the injection site or a low-grade fever.

However, the side effects are mild compared to the side effects of vaccine-preventable diseases, like whooping cough – a severe cough that can cause breathing issues and hospitalization, especially among babies.

Like the small pox disease that was completely eliminated in 1980 by vaccines, if we continue to immunize, we will continue eliminating deadly diseases that still exist today.

OSF OnCall – See the Difference

OSF OnCall can be utilized by anyone to address medical issues, including eye health

Genie Marshall, of Ottawa, was looking for a quick health care option to bring some relief to her eye symptoms. And she knew she didn’t want to waste a perfectly good Saturday sitting in a waiting room at the local urgent care.

Genie thought it was pink eye. Her eyes were itchy, red and crusty.

“I had pink eye that past April, too,” Genie said. “So I knew when the symptoms started that I just needed to get it treated quickly. I hadn’t had pink eye for 20 years prior to April. Go figure, I would get it twice in one year.”

Genie remembered getting a flyer in the mail about a virtual urgent care service – OSF OnCall. That’s when she decided she would give it a try to save time.

Genie is a current OSF HealthCare patient, but she still could have used OSF OnCall if she wasn’t – the service is available to anyone.

Using OSF OnCall is easy

Genie called the number, provided details about her symptoms and was told a provider would call her back within 15 to 30 minutes. A short time later, the provider called.

“The provider I spoke to was wonderful. It was nice because she wasn’t trying to rush me off the phone. We talked for at least a half hour going over my symptoms and options to provide symptom relief. The provider explained things to me about pink eye that I didn’t know previously. So, it was a thorough examination.”

Following their call, the provider called a prescription in to Genie’s pharmacy for an antibiotic eye drop.

“What I loved most about OSF OnCall was not having to try to fit going to a local urgent care into my schedule on a day off work,” Genie said. “It was so convenient.”

See the difference yourself at OSFOnCall.org today.

From Colonoscopy to Cancer-Free


That’s what Frank Hill says stopped him from getting a colonoscopy after turning 50, as recommended by the American Cancer Society and other advocacy groups.

The El Paso man says there was confusion over whether insurance would cover a colonoscopy “so I didn’t have the early screening. I didn’t have a history of cancer in the family, so I just said I’ll wait.”

“I shouldn’t have,” Frank said.

The now 68-year-old was diagnosed with colorectal cancer three years ago.

Colorectal cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths among men and women combined. In 2017, it is estimated there will be 135,430 new cases and 50,260 deaths from colon and rectal cancers in the U.S., according to Fight Colorectal Cancer, an advocacy group focused on research and finding a cure for the disease.

Frank’s Story

“I started noticing blood in my stools and it stayed pretty consistent, so I thought I better have it checked out,” he said.

Frank visited Dr. Jessica White, his primary care provider at OSF Medical Group – Minonk, in February 2014.

Dr. White said colorectal cancer wasn’t the first thing she thought about when she discussed Frank’s problems during that first visit.

“At that visit it actually sounded more like irritable bowel syndrome,” she said.

Dr. White referred Frank to Dr. David Rzepczynski, a gastroenterologist in Bloomington.

“We got the colonoscopy because we were discussing GI issues and I noted he was overdue for a colonoscopy,” she said.

Frank said Dr. Rzepczynski “told me I had a tumor before I left the office and he began arranging a treatment plan and eventually surgery. It was an early stage. The tumor was about the size of a walnut near the sphincter muscle. If I had had those early screenings, they could have caught it as a polyp.”

From April 16 to May 27, 2014, Frank underwent 26 days of radiation and 42 rounds of chemotherapy. Surgery with OSF HealthCare surgeon Dr. Travis Holt followed on August 20, 2014, leaving Frank with a permanent colostomy due to where the tumor had been located. And then more chemotherapy from October 2014 until April 10, 2015.

Positive Outcomes

Dr. White said despite Frank’s diagnosis and treatment, “He always remained in good spirits and focused on the positive.”

Frank said it was the optimism of his doctors that helped him remain in such good spirits.

“If the doctors told me to do something, I did it to the best that I could. I followed their directions because I wanted the best chance,” he said. “They were very optimistic from the start, saying, ‘This is a very common form of cancer, it’s very treatable, very curable.’ I had a light at the end of the tunnel the whole time. I wouldn’t wish that year on anybody, but I was lucky.”

The support of his wife, Linda, children, grandchildren and his faith encouraged Frank during his journey.

“If the Lord wanted me, he’d have taken me,” he said. “But he must have wanted me to stay around.”

Today, Frank goes for check-ups every six months and is cancer-free. He also advocates for everyone to “get your annual screenings as often as you’re told to do.”