Time is brain when it comes to stroke

Tim Dorr and his wife, Pat It was an aneurysm in a coiled carotid left artery that brought Tim Dorr to OSF HealthCare Saint Anthony Medical Center. “I feel lucky – because the aneurysm was discovered by accident,” says Dorr. “It could have burst and I would have been a goner.”

When experiencing symptoms before the aneurysm was discovered – headache and a partially paralyzed tongue – Dorr says friends were trying to convince him to seek treatment out of town. “I had three OSF doctors standing here on most days talking about these issue with me,” Dorr says. “I am so pleased with my care and I can say OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center is equivalent, or better, than even the most prestigious hospitals.”

It’s a distinction that OSF HealthCare Saint Anthony Medical Center has earned through investments in expertise, technology and experience as a Level 1 Trauma Center. Now, with the creation of its neurological intervention program, including a $3 million investment in a new surgical intervention procedure room, we have strengthened our capabilities, and have demonstrated our commitment to being the region’s number one hospital for stroke care.

OSF Saint Anthony sees the most number of stroke patients in the northern Illinois region and is the only hospital recognized with a Gold Plus award for Stroke Care by both the American Heart and American Stroke Associations. As a stroke care leader in the region, OSF Saint Anthony committed a significant investment to a surgical intervention program because the benefits to patients were too important to ignore.

“The benefit to the family and the cost savings to our society are tremendous,” said Dr. Harneet Bath, Vice President Chief Medical Officer at OSF Saint Anthony. “

Reducing death risk

Treating stroke or brain aneurysm patients with surgical intervention reduces their chance of dying or being permanently impaired by about 35 percent, as compared to conventional therapy alone.

“The hallmark of treating vascular disease is treating them rapidly, especially ischemic stroke, says OSF neuro-interventionist physician,” Dr. Ayman Gheith. “OSF HealthCare Saint Anthony Medical Center is on par with any major university or any major city medical program.”

Dr. Gheith and Dr. Akram Shhadeh lead the neurological intervention team at the medical center. With a combined 20 years of experience, the physicians use a state-of-the-art machine to perform minimally invasive surgeries to treat brain and neck vascular disorders.

Open 24/7/365, the neuro intervention procedure room can be a game changer for patients like Dorr. “Even 10 years ago most of these conditions were not able to be treated safely,” says Gheith. “We are light years ahead in respect to the technology now available and that has translated into significantly improved outcomes for our patients.”

Dr. Gheith, however, points out quick action by the patient when symptoms appear is a key factor for a more successful outcome. “If the face is droopy on one side, if one of the arms is weak, if their speech is garbled, slurred, or you can’t understand them – it’s time to call 9-1-1.”

It’s advice that’s not lost on Dorr. The 63-year old delayed getting fully checked out by several days. “Listen to your body, don’t give up on it because it’s macho to ignore it,” says Dorr. Especially at my age – you’ve got to get on top of this stuff.”

East Galesburg woman heals closer to home

Mary Knox In June, 62-year-old East Galesburg resident Mary Knox underwent spine surgery to repair damage caused by scoliosis. Her surgery was at OSF HealthCare Saint Francis Medical Center, with Daniel Fassett, MD, of OSF HealthCare Illinois Neurological Institute.

“It included surgery on my whole spine,” she said. “The scoliosis had gotten pretty bad, and it had gotten worse over the years from arthritis.” For years, Mary had pain in her lower back. Her legs were always tingly and numb, and she used a walker to help her along.

Following the surgery, she had no idea where she was going to go for rehabilitation. Last year, Mary’s doctor sent her to a nursing home for some rehab support. Mary had a fine experience at the nursing home, but knew she wanted something more.

Finding a better option

Before leaving OSF Saint Francis, Mary learned about the Closer to Home program at OSF HealthCare Holy Family Medical Center in Monmouth.

Dr. Fassett said some people go directly home following the kind of surgery I had, but thought the Closer to Home program would be a better option for me,” she said.

The Closer to Home program eliminates the inconvenience and worry of rehabilitating away from a patient’s support system, according to Frank Lasala, MD, chief medical officer at OSF Holy Family.

Closer to Home allows patients who aren’t in need of acute care in a hospital to move to another level of care before discharge. Patients can receive 24-hour skilled nursing care and individualized physical, occupational and speech therapy, in addition to other services.

Dr. Lasala said the program began about a year ago, after OSF Illinois Neurological Institute approached the hospitals that already had swing beds — a room that can be converted from acute care to skilled care — about beginning a program to provide postsurgical rehabilitation care for those patients who had complex spinal fusion surgery.

Dr. Lasala said OSF Holy Family has worked to establish a comprehensive team approach.

“We all work hard on this, and we are proud of our facility, our nurses, case manager and therapy department,” added Dr. Lasala. “We do interdepartmental rounding on patients Monday through Friday — that includes a pharmacist, physical therapist, case manager, nurse and physician.”

Building up strength

Shannon McVey, social worker/case manager at OSF Holy Family, said the high nurse-to-patient ratio and physical and occupational therapies — offered six days a week — as well as the amenities of a private room and restaurant-style dining are reasons the Closer to Home program is a better option.

But most important, patients are close to home and their personal support system. For Mary, this meant being able to have her sister, friends and stepchildren visit.

“Going to Monmouth was a good idea,” Mary said. “Having a private bathroom was important to me and being able to be by myself and just rest was important, too.”

During the week Mary was at OSF Holy Family, the caregivers helped build up her strength and confidence. “The nurses, aides, therapists — everyone was just wonderful,” she said. “They kind of catered to me — it was nice.”

Today, Mary’s recovery is going well. The pain is gone, as is the tingling and numbness in her legs. And with the aid of OSF outpatient therapists coming to her home, unassisted walking will be her next achievement.

Mary wishes she was recovering faster, but knows she needs to bide her time, as her type of rehabilitation can take several months. “I tend to be a little impatient,” she said. “I told Dr. Fassett, ‘I just want to dance with my son at his wedding reception’ — and I think I’ll get there.”

Learn to manage the stress of diabetes

man tests blood sugar levelsDiabetes distress is a term used to describe the unique emotional issues directly related to the burdens and concerns of living with a chronic disease such as diabetes. Persons living with diabetes do not get a vacation from diabetes.

Monitoring blood glucose, taking medications, timing medications to food intake, counting carbohydrates, making time for exercise in an already busy schedule and preparing healthy meals can be overwhelming.

It may seem like you are struggling to juggle an ever-increasing number of balls.

Diabetes-related problems can range from minor hassles to major life difficulties.

Measure your distress

The Diabetes Distress Screening Scale lists two problem areas that persons living with diabetes might experience.

Consider the degree to which each of the two items have distressed or bothered you during the past month:

  1. Feeling overwhelmed by the demands of living with diabetes.
  2. Feeling that I am often failing with my diabetes routine.

Rate each of these on a 1 to 6 scale where 1 is no problem, 3 is a moderate problem, and 6 is a very serious problem. Keep in mind that you are to respond not on whether or not this is true for you, but the extent to which it is bothering you in your life.

If you rate either of these as higher than a 3, it’s worthy of further evaluation and may warrant a visit to a diabetes educator or your health care provider.

Find ways to cope

Diabetes doesn’t go away, so finding ways to ease the distress are important.

Find someone who understands your feelings surrounding living with diabetes and talk with them. Talk with another person who has diabetes or join a diabetes support group. OSF HealthCare Holy Family Medical Center has a Diabetes Support Group that meets monthly on the fourth Monday of each month at 5 p.m. in the Wellness Classroom.

Seek out a diabetes educator, family member or mental health professional—someone who knows diabetes. This can help ease the burden and you won’t feel so alone.

Realize that no one gets diabetes right.  Doing diabetes tasks well will not assure you of getting the numbers and results you want. It is never a one size fits all plan of care. Striving for perfection leads to frustration.  Take a break, a little time off.  Plan it, make it safe, do it intentionally, not out of anger or frustration.

Ask someone to help you.  Diabetes is not easy.  When you feel burned out, you may not want any more responsibility, diabetes-related or otherwise, but this is likely the time you most need to ask for help.

Setting realistic and appropriate health improvement goals is another way to reduce stress. Focus on small, concrete, achievable goals. Conquer one thing at a time. Making changes is easier if you work on one at a time rather than tackling everything all at once. Remember any progress toward a goal is success. Success comes one step at a time.

Kaleena Williams, LCSW, behavior health therapist at OSF Holy Family, will speak on Burnout/Coping with Chronic Illness at Diabetes Support Group on January 22, 2018.  Phone (309) 734-1424 or click here for more information.

Focusing on weight-loss plan a success for Bloomington man

Art Spain before his weight-loss journey


Art Spain is a lighter version of himself these days.

A year ago, Art weighed 279 pounds, wore pants with a 50-inch waist and was taking 90 units of insulin a day to control his diabetes.

The 64-year-old Bloomington man visited his doctor, where the conversation came around to Art’s need to buy new clothes because of his weight.

“And we discussed how high my blood sugar was and that I was having to take 90 units of insulin a day,” he said.

About five years ago, Art followed the Health Management Resources (HMR) program, a non-surgical weight loss option offered through the OSF Weight Management Center in Bloomington, and lost 60 pounds. He suggested to his doctor that he should give the meal replacement program another try.

As the leading provider of diet programs to the medical community, HMR has helped more than 1 million people make lifestyle changes to lose weight and stay healthy. It was named a Best Diet for FAST Weight Loss, and a Best Diet for Weight Loss by US News & World Report, 2017.

“I had been thinking about going back on the program, but was worried about losing, gaining, losing … My doctor said, ‘it’s a hard fight, but it’s one worth doing.’ I called and got set back up to begin the program,” he said.

One year later

That was January 17, 2017. Today, Art is down just over 100 pounds and is wearing pants with a 34-inch waist.

“This time I’ve been more focused on the long-term to keep it off,” he said. “I knew I could lose the weight, this time I’m focusing on keeping it off.”

Art Spain after his weight-loss journey


Art participated in HMR’s decision-free program. He met with a doctor every couple weeks and stuck to a meal replacement plan that included HMR shakes and entrees.

“I felt it was very easy to stick with. There are plenty of food options – 16 different entrees, a couple different shakes,” Spain said.

Art stayed on the decision-free plan until October when he began to transition into Phase 2, incorporating vegetables, fruit and lean protein into his diet, in addition to some of the HMR food options. He also walks a couple of miles a day and does some weight lifting. And he attends a weekly support group.

“Phase 2 has been great so far. The transition is very easy. The health educators are very, very helpful. The other people in the group are very helpful,” he said.

In addition to his weight loss, Art has seen other health improvements.

“I don’t take insulin anymore,” he said. “I’m really thrilled with that. And, I’m getting off some of the oral medications I take for diabetes. My doctor uses it as an example of what you can accomplish.”

Alison Tillery Kirk, Weight Loss Program Specialist with the OSF Weight Management Center, said losing weight takes more than willpower, it takes commitment.

“HMR participants achieve meaningful weight loss through lifestyle intervention. Adhering to the structured diet in Phase 1 and increasing physical activity can be intense for some participants to follow. Through practice these behavior changes become more second nature as they have a positive impact on weight loss and quality of life,” Alison said. “Art has strictly followed the structure of the program resulting in his fast effective weight loss. He’s dedicated to maintaining these changes and consistently attends Phase 2 class where he learns the skills to keep the weight off long-term.”

Success possible for anyone

Art also encourages others in the class to “just do it,” and follow the structure of the program for best results, she said. “He’s implementing permanent lifestyle changes that include healthy food choices and physical activity.”

Others can learn from Art’s story, Alison said.

“They can learn that they, too, can achieve weight loss with HMR which offers dieters a sensible, healthy way to lose weight without gimmicks or fads,” she said. “HMR offers a range of programs that enable fast, maximum weight loss. The program and weekly classes provide accountability and personalized advice for things like planning meals, getting physical activity and dealing with challenging food environments. It’s more than just a diet.”

Art agrees, saying being committed to the program is what makes it work.

“It’s worth it,” Art said. “If you’re motivated to do this, it’s a great way to do it.”

Nursing is a passion and a profession

Nursing is a unique field that allows you to enjoy the reward of serving people while growing professionally and personally. It brings obstacles and opportunities that continually challenge you to be the best you can be.

A nurse’s perspective

“My nursing experiences at OSF Saint Anthony’s have been a blessing” said Karen Boyd, a nurse at OSF HealthCare Saint Anthony’s Health Center. “Every department or discipline I have worked in has been a learning experience.”

Karen has firsthand experience helping patients in different disciplines. She has treated both acute and chronic patients and learned how to adopt and serve her patients’ unique needs. Recently, Karen experienced a new aspect of care she had not seen before.

“I now work in the Oncology Department, which has two areas of discipline – radiation oncology and medical oncology,” Karen said. “I see patients when they have concerns about a side effect of their treatment and talk to family members who are concerned about a loved one at home. I listen to patients’ fears, cry with them and even pray with them. I am truly inspired by them. Although I attend to the needs of many, I am the one who is blessed.

“Whether I’m working on insurance processing or scheduling opportunities, seeing a patient in the office for a consult, or talking with a patient after a radiation treatment to see how things are going, every day is different. There is no ‘typical’ day for me.”

According to Karen, working in different departments helps a nurse become a better caregiver, and a better person.

“Even after all these years, working with this caring team of Mission Partners in radiation has taught me new approaches to treatment,” Karen said. “Prior to this assignment, I knew very little about radiation oncology or oncology treatment in general. But my nursing career has been like that – revitalizing me with each new learning experience.”

What lies ahead

If you have a passion for helping others and love to learn like Karen, nursing might be the career for you. According to national data published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for registered nurses is expected to increase 16 percent by 2024, which is faster than the national average for all other occupations.

The OSF HealthCare culture encourages growth and supports educational endeavors. Not only does OSF HealthCare provide financial support in the classroom, it offers superior on-the-job education. On-site training occurs at medical center locations and the state-of-the-art Jump Simulation & Education Center in Peoria, Illinois.

Karen’s advice, “I often tell the nursing students I work with that although they will be graduating soon, the learning will never and should never stop.”

OSF HealthCare values nurses and their passion to serve those in need. When you work at OSF HealthCare, we work with you to achieve your goals.

To learn more about a nursing career at OSF HealthCare, visit osfcareers.org/nursing.