Natural pregnancy made possible by fertility care

mom and dad swinging child on walkJosh and Tiffany Noel, of Morton, were married in 2005. After six years of marriage, the couple realized starting a family wasn’t happening naturally and began having concerns about their fertility.

What they thought would be a joyful journey to parenthood, turned out to be a roller coaster ride of uncertainty that would ultimately bring them their greatest gift.

In 2012, Tiffany and Josh were referred to a fertility specialist.

Tiffany underwent several rounds of fertility treatments. To the couple’s disappointment, the treatments were unsuccessful.

“The treatments were very taxing and invasive,” Tiffany said.

A staggering diagnosis

Tiffany’s gynecologist performed a laparoscopic surgery to determine if there were underlying causes in Tiffany’s reproductive system. The doctor discovered she had stage four endometriosis and adenomyosis.

Endometriosis is a condition where the tissue that normally lines the inside of the uterus grows elsewhere, like the ovaries. Adenomyosis is a condition where the endometrial cells grow into the uterine walls.

“The doctor told me my endometriosis was the worst she had ever seen,” Tiffany said. “She was able to laser off some of it, but the majority was too close to my major organs to remove.”

Surrendering to life without kids

Tiffany’s doctor told her their only option to conceive was through a fertility treatment that would cost $20,000 out of pocket.

“We surrendered to the fact that we wouldn’t be biological parents,” Tiffany said.

That was until Tiffany’s co-worker gave her a life-changing recommendation to see Dr. Jillian Stalling, an obstetrician/gynecologist at OSF Women’s Health & Advanced Fertility in Peoria. The practice focuses on monitoring and treating gynecological and reproductive health naturally through the Creighton Model FertilityCare System and Natural Procreative Technology.

On July 29, 2014, Tiffany underwent a nine-hour surgery performed by Dr. Stalling, who was able to laparoscopically remove most of the endometriosis and adenomysis.

“A few months after surgery, I didn’t have heavy menstrual cycles or severe cramping anymore,” Tiffany said.

Tiffany also started charting her cycles to help uncover abnormalities related to her gynecological health. Her chart showed she was low in progesterone – a hormone that plays a role in maintaining pregnancy.

God’s perfect timing

In March 2015, Tiffany realized the unthinkable – she was a week late for her cycle.

She called Dr. Stalling’s office immediately, and they had her come in for blood work.

On March 27, God’s plan for Tiffany was finally revealed. “The nurse called and said, ‘Tiffany, you’re pregnant!’” Tiffany said. “I literally slid down the wall and sobbed.”

“I believe Dr. Stalling is an instrument of God. Being told by three fertility specialists that you will be never be pregnant without an expensive fertility treatment, and then getting pregnant naturally – that’s pretty incredible.”

On November 23, 2015, the couple welcomed their baby girl, Lily.

Today, Lily is a healthy toddler, who will be promoted to big sister this fall.

Army veteran finds passion in health care administration

As a young man in Montana, Shawn Wagner followed in his father’s footsteps and joined the U.S. Army. Now, 35 years later, Shawn is a colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves and serves as the director for the Army National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) and vice president of OSF HealthCare Cardiovascular Institute.

Shawn has come a long way from his early assignment as a helicopter medevac pilot, and he is now a leader in health care administration.

His responsibilities with the U.S. Army Medical Command are to coordinate patient movement support during disasters and possible military contingencies. Shawn coordinates with several federal agencies to sync patient movement efforts during a disaster response, and is also responsible for contracting with 140 NDMS partner hospitals to support patient movement and definitive care efforts.

“I’m humbled and blessed to be able to serve with the young men and women of our armed forces,” Shawn said. “These guys and gals are real heroes.”

Translating skills to a new career

At the request of a respected friend, Shawn joined OSF HealthCare in 2012. He attributes his military training with providing him with the tools he has needed to succeed as leader.

“The military prepares you to be a leader by providing a formal, professional development path. You learn to critically think, plan and execute initiatives. These are skills I use every day,” Shawn said. “OSF HealthCare has also been a great organization for leadership development and has had a positive impact on my growth as a senior leader.”

He encourages all veterans to take advantage of their training and continue adapting to find their niche.

“Find your passion and pursue it. You have a lot to offer and your task is to translate your military skillset to match the civilian employment market,” Shawn said. “I encourage you to look at OSF HealthCare. I work with some incredibly talented people and love our Mission and culture. OSF is an ethical organization that adheres to its Values.”

As an affirmative action employer, OSF HealthCare invites all veterans to search for available positions.

Bloomington man grateful for the care his wife received

Female doctor comforts maleIt was unusual for Ray Petroski to call his wife, Kathy, from work.

But on June 15, 2017, Ray, 75, who works part-time in the seafood department at Schnucks in Bloomington, called home.

Kathy, 71, had just woken up and didn’t feel very well. “I had indigestion, and it just got worse and worse. When Ray called, I told him I wasn’t feeling too well and he said he was going to come home. It’s a good thing he did.”

Ray said Kathy “told me she was having chest pains. I said, ‘I’m coming home. We’re going to the ER.’”

The couple lives about 1 ½ miles from OSF HealthCare St. Joseph Medical Center in Bloomington.

“When I got home, she didn’t really look all that good, so I said, we’re going. I got her in the car and drove over,” Ray said. “As soon as I got to the hospital the St. Joseph people took over. They did everything. In hindsight – I didn’t really know the seriousness of it. Looking back I should have just called 911 and not have taken her myself.”

Kathy had a heart attack in 2004 and had a stent put in to clear an artery. She’s been on various medications since.

But that morning in June, Kathy knew what she thought was indigestion or acid reflux was likely another heart attack.

Ray said from the moment they arrived at the ER everybody concentrated on Kathy.

“Upon arrival at the Emergency Room, I went to the desk and told the girl there that my wife was sitting in the car and she was having chest pains. From that moment on there was nothing but action involving the staff at St. Joseph,” Ray wrote in a letter to OSF St. Joseph administration thanking them for the excellent care by hospital staff. “She immediately got a wheelchair and hurried to the car with me. She helped my wife into the wheelchair and pushed her back inside as I moved my car. After I returned to the Emergency Room, I was told my wife was having an EKG done and I was taken to the room.”

‘She just went’

Jan Crawford, manager of the OSF St. Joseph Emergency DepartmentKathy was then taken to another room. Ray was standing in the back as Kathy was being asked questions about her health history.

“She was attempting to answer them, and then completely unexpected by me, one of the people in the room said clearly and distinctly, ‘She just went!’ In the next few seconds I tried to process in my mind just exactly what those words meant … I looked at the monitor. It was a straight line. She had straight lined. Immediately, a staff person standing next to me, gently took me by the arm and said we can’t stay in here,” Ray recalled. “She led me from the room to a chair in the hallway. As I left the room I could see so much activity taking place. This lady did not leave my side the entire time people were in the room working to save my wife. It didn’t take all that much to figure out her heart had stopped.”

Jan Crawford, the manager of the OSF St. Joseph Emergency Department, was the woman who didn’t leave Ray’s side.

On that day, Jan remembers the ER was packed. “Every room was full. This gentleman brought his wife in by car and staff recognized how sick she was.”

Jan said the call went out on the overhead intercom that there was a myocardial infarction, commonly known as a heart attack.

“I just kind of walked down to the room. They were getting the patient ready to go to the cardiac cath lab and the husband could see us working really fast,” Jan said. “(Ray) just kept saying, ‘I didn’t get to say goodbye.’”

And then Kathy was revived.

Priorities change

“In my head,” Jan said, “I wanted to make sure Ray saw his wife before they took her to the cath lab. She was alert and a little more stabilized by now. I asked the staff to wait a second to let the husband see her. He gave her a kiss and she told him, ‘I’ll be OK.’ I just remember he was so distraught just a few minutes earlier.

“I had to make sure he got to see her … just in case,” she said. “I’ve been a nurse for 29 years … your priorities change. If she didn’t make it, it would have been his closure. I needed to make sure he had his time. Seeing her, to me, it just had to happen.”

Kathy said the last thing she remembers was answering questions. “They did CPR, I know that, because when I came to I could feel it,” she said.

The heart attack this time, Kathy said, was almost in the same spot as the one in 2004. “They thought maybe a clot had gone off the old stent,” she said. “They just kind of replaced the old stent with a new one.”

Two days later, Kathy was on her way home.

Ray was so impressed with the care, he wrote his letter of thanks and hand-delivered it to the administrative offices.

“From the moment we got to that ER and went up to the desk … everybody concentrated on Kathy. Those people were all so nice about everything. They provided outstanding care for Kathy, and I wanted somebody to know it,” he said.

And while the staff that day was doing what they are trained to do, Jan said sometimes you don’t realize it’s the little things that make a difference.

“A couple days later I saw Ray going up to see her, and I was thankful she made it,” Jan said.

How to build an advanced analytics team

Defining a health care data science strategy can be daunting. Do you build a team or buy services as needed? Where do you find and validate talent? Can an internal team really produce enough value to make it worth the effort and cost? What do you need in place to get started? At OSF HealthCare, we built our Advanced Analytics team, comprised of data scientists and statisticians, more than three years ago and have learned a lot along the way.

Advanced AnalyticsThe Advanced Analytics team was established October 2013 to specialize in utilizing data science techniques and robust statistical analysis to serve high-performing care delivery teams and their patients. We do this by closely collaborating with business and clinical leaders within OSF to understand the problems the health care system is facing.

From there, we explore and collect data around the issues in question, prepare the data needed to find solutions, build effective models that we believe will best fit a particular problem, validate solutions with business and clinical leaders and implement solutions to enable business and clinical actions guided by model results.

We recently received the opportunity to present how we developed our group and the successes we’ve accomplished since establishing the Advanced Analytics team at the Predictive Analytics World Healthcare Conference in New York.

Why and How We Developed an Advanced Analytics Team

OSF chose to create an Advanced Analytics team for a variety of reasons:

  • The dilemma is not about understanding the population’s risk but identifying WHO is at high risk
  • Reduce internal costs through appropriate intervention targeting
  • Reduce clinical variation to improve clinical care
  • Evaluate effectiveness of process changes or interventions
  • Reduce non-value added work by appropriately leveraging normally collected clinical data
  • Drive additional value from our electronic medical record system investment

The Advanced Analytics team is relatively new, so the Healthcare Analytics division at OSF researched comparable jobs in the country, developed new job descriptions and engaged the members of the division to discuss what we wanted to see in a data science group.

We have found a variety of benefits since this team’s development. These include better alignment with the strategic initiatives set forth by OSF leadership, full intellectual property of the models we develop, the development of expert knowledge and the ability to make improvements quickly.

What Advanced Analytics Has Achieved

Since the Advanced Analytics team’s inception, it has built a variety of models to help OSF innovatively solve a number of issues. The most highly touted is a predictive model that helps clinicians identify patients most at risk for hospital readmissions within a 30-day period. Over the course of a year, this resulted in more than 400 fewer readmissions than expected in our medium-high and high-risk patients. Compared to a prior approach of reducing readmissions, the team also found it was able to reduce about 67 percent of nursing assessment activities and decrease the flow into case management by about 44 percent. These staff time reductions translate to a little more than $2 million per year that we can put back into direct patient care.

Another model helps clinicians recognize the risk of sepsis in patients quickly. The product resulted in care teams being alerted of possible septic patients 68 minutes faster than a solution previously used. The model also resulted in the development of strong collaborative relationships across multiple teams.

The Advanced Analytics team has created multiple different models to solve various health care problems. While these models have realized successes, there are plenty of challenges along the way. We expect to continually update and enhance our predictive models as this program grows. We look forward to working with the rest of OSF Innovation to generate even more solutions that will help us tackle our focus areas of aging in place, more for those with less and radical access to care.

Winter is coming: Be prepared to drive in ice and snow

When severe weather hits, the difference between being safe or being stranded in your vehicle can often come down to how well prepared you are.

Car stranded in the winter snowWinter storms can make roads extremely dangerous or impassable. Always pay attention to the winter forecast before heading out in your vehicle so you don’t become stranded, according to Troy Erbentraut, manager of OSF HealthCare Saint Francis Medical Center disaster preparedness team.

There are some things to do to your vehicle – either by yourself or by a mechanic – before the winter season is upon us. Here are some tips from

  • Check the antifreeze levels
  • Make sure the battery is in good condition and charged
  • Inspect the brake system
  • Make sure to have clean fuel and air filters
  • Check the oil
  • Inspect the heater and defroster to make sure they are in working order
  • Replace windshield wiper blades and check the washer fluid level

Other winter weather preparedness tips recommended by Erbentraut include:

  • Carry a warm blanket (or two) in your vehicle large enough to accommodate the number of passengers you have in your vehicle.
  • Pack extra gloves, boots, coats, hats and a first aid kit.
  • Have a shovel, sand, or kitty litter (the non-clumping kind) or ice melt in your trunk. These products can help you get out of an icy spot.
  • Carry snacks and water to keep hunger at bay in case you become stranded in your vehicle.
  • Keep an LED flashlight or battery-powered lantern in the vehicle to provide light in the event you become stranded at night.
  • Make a habit of keeping your fuel tank over half full to help eliminate the risk of running out of gas in the winter.
  • Pack flares, light sticks, flagging tape, or other reflective items to put around your vehicle or on your coat so you will be visible to other drivers if you’re stranded at night.
  • Put paper and pen for making a sign in your glove box. Should you become stranded and choose to leave your vehicle, make a sign with your name, contact number and destination in the event emergency responders are called to your vehicle.
  • Keep your cell phone fully charged. Turn it off when not in use to preserve battery power. Also turn off Bluetooth and wi-fi settings to help preserve power. Although these do not pull much power in newer phones, all battery power is precious in an emergency. Also, remember to have with you a battery-powered car charger and regular charger for your cell phone.
  • Keep a set of jumper cables, basic tools and an ice scraper in the trunk.

“All you need to do is plan ahead and you’ll be ready for whatever the winter driving season has in store,” Erbentraut said.

Know winter weather watches and warnings

With the winter season right around the corner, you should familiarize yourself with terms that are used to identify extreme weather alerts. The following descriptions are courtesy of

Freezing rain – Rain that freezes when it hits the ground, creating a coating of ice on roads, walkways, trees and power lines.

Sleet – Rain that turns to ice pellets before reaching the ground. Sleet also causes any moisture on the road to freeze and become slippery.

Wind chill – Wind chill is the “real feel” temperature outside and is different than the air temperature.

Winter weather advisory – This is when winter weather conditions are expected to cause significant inconveniences and may be hazardous. When caution is used, these situations should not be life threatening.

Winter storm watch – When a winter storm watch is possible in your area, pay close attention to an NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio or local TV news for more information. The National Weather Service issues a watch when severe winter conditions, such as heavy snow and/or ice, may affect your area but the location and timing remain uncertain. These watches are issued 12 to 36 hours in advance of a potential storm. You can search for your local National Weather Service office on Facebook or Twitter to follow them for updates.

Winter storm warning – This is issued when a winter storm is occurring or will soon occur in your area.

Blizzard warning – A blizzard warning is issued when there are sustained gusts to 35 miles per hour or greater and there is a considerable amount of falling or blowing snow reducing visibility to less than a quarter mile. During this time, the conditions are expected to prevail for a period of three hours or longer.

Frost/freeze warning – This is issued when temperatures are expected to drop below freezing.

In the event of severe winter weather, make sure to check for any winter weather-related closings or cancellations at any of the OSF HealthCare locations.