TMC congratulates one of our TV dancers for selection as a Mayo Clinic’s WomenHeart Champion

At some point it was scary, but the first feeling Susan Smith remembers having when she was told she was having a heart attack was anger at the inconvenience of it all.

“I was in the middle of a late life career path – teaching writing, publishing a book, running a writers group, and going to twelve networking meetings a month,” Smith recalled. “My to-do list was a mile long, and I liked my busy lifestyle.”

Her heart attack was a wake-up call – and one she shared as a WomenHeart Champion at the 2018 WomenHeart Science & Leadership Symposium at the Mayo Clinic in early October.

The four-day symposium, which selected 50 women from 18 states, was designed to prepare the participants to be advocates for women’s heart health in their communities – providing support and education about heart disease, the number one killer of women.

Smith said she has now realized her “busyness” was stressing her system.

“I was so intent on taking care of everyone else, I put my own self-care at the bottom of the list.”

After four days in the hospital, she left not just with two stents, but a new attitude, she said. “Now I follow doctor’s orders; eating right, exercising, six medications, and no stress. That means people see a “new me” practicing self-care and moving through the day at a stroll instead of a sprint.”

She also walked away from the symposium with a new perspective. “I was amazed to meet so many young heart sisters at the training. More women in their 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s are experiencing heart disease.  That’s why it’s more important than ever we educate women and raise awareness.”

Good luck on your journey, Susan, and we’re proud of your work in helping others!

For breast cancer patient, the touch of a hand made the difference

YeseniaHelping our community right here in Tucson get and stay healthy and keep on dancing is what Tucson Medical Center is all about. We’re showing off some of our fabulous community members in our latest commercials and you get to find out a little more about them here on our blog. Meet TMC dancer, Yesenia Lopez.

The last time Yesenia Lopez had surgery, she was 15 and having a tonsil removed.

But here she was, about to have surgery to remove cancer that was diagnosed when her doctors found a lump in her breast.

“What helped the most in that moment was the nurse holding my hand when they were putting me under,” Lopez recalled. “She said, ‘Everything is going to be OK. I will follow you all the way into surgery.’ She was still there at recovery and she stayed with me from the time I went under until the time I woke up.”

When Lopez found she had cancer, she knew she would come to TMC. It’s where she brought her two children, now grown, when they were sick. “TMC is a big part of our world as a family,” she said, adding her recovery in the hospital was great, with her husband of 27 years by her side. “We received really good treatment there. And I know people will say what they will about hospital food, but the food was good!”

Lopez has refocused on her health, including losing a few extra pounds and taking up hiking.

What would she tell a woman recently diagnosed with breast cancer?

“A lot of people worry from the time they get diagnosed, but when you get a good staff working with you and guiding you, it makes the worry go away,” she said, noting she has already referred friends with breast cancer to her surgical oncologist, Dr. Michele Boyce Ley.

“I would tell them that it’s a long journey and you have to have patience, but with the right team of doctors, and the right staff at the right hospital, the journey is much easier. I’ve been blessed. This has been a hiccup and I’m looking forward to life even more now.”

Work colleague inspires fellow salon manager to get joint replacement

Charles and ANnieHelping our community right here in Tucson get and stay healthy and keep on dancing is what Tucson Medical Center is all about. We’re showing off some of our fabulous community members in our latest commercials and you get to find out a little more about them here on our blog. Meet TMC dancers Charles Colbath and Annie Collins.

Bavilon Salon owner Charles Colbath would wince a little seeing Salon Coordinator Annie Collins hobble about.

A former marathon runner, Collins had agonizing arthritis in her right hip. “I almost couldn’t walk. I couldn’t lift my leg to get in the car. I would be walking, and my leg would just freeze.”

She had hip replacement with orthopaedic surgeon Russell Cohen. “It was a miracle. I had surgery one morning and was home the next day by noon. I was pain free – literally, pain free.”

Colbath was struck at her recovery. He had been suffering with his own trick hip for four years. “Dr. Cohen did an evaluation and said he could do it. I trusted him. And I had the same experience Annie did. The whole process was amazing. I’ve had worse tooth extractions.”

Collins, who is an avowed pickleball addict, said dancing is her next favorite thing and she’s thrilled to be able to do it.

For Colbath, the minimally invasive procedure was a life changer. “It’s hard to believe you would go in for something that would be seen as major, but it honestly wasn’t,” he said. “The process they use now is so perfected, that I was back to my routine in three days. And I’m getting my life back now, which was key.”

From bariatric surgery to instructor of “Insanity” workout

IMG_0607When Marni Gould topped out at 248 pounds, it became evident she needed to make a change.

Dance and exercise had been her passion since high school – and although she had remained active even through her weight struggles, she was finding more and more she couldn’t do it anymore.

At 35, the middle school math teacher was grappling with sky-high blood pressure and a resting heart rate of more than 100 beats per minute. Her knees hurt from carrying too much weight for her frame, and her ankle rolled far too often. She had tried a number of diets and none of them seemed to work.

“I knew I needed help with food. I never knew how to properly eat,” she said, noting cheeseburgers were a particular weakness.

Gould’s two sisters each had had bariatric surgery and after seeing the results, she decided to learn more. After going through a six-month process of medically-supervised weight loss, she still had not lost enough weight. She had the surgery April 2016 and was back at work in two weeks. She almost immediately went back to the gym, doing serious modifications to ease herself back into being active and avoiding core exercises at first to give herself time to heal.

Gould also was strict that first year in particular with her diet – lots of protein shakes and thoughtful meal choices, with PowerCrunch bars to satisfy sweet-tooth cravings. “This just let me reset. Now I know I can eat the right things in balance with the amount of activity I do,” she said.

While Gould’s one sister took up running, Gould gravitated more toward strength.

IMG_5384Four months after her surgery, she started a high-intensity endurance workout called Insanity Live. She modified everything and kept plugging away. She learned to love it.

In a year, her body fat had dropped from 48 percent to 25 percent. By 18 months, she had lost her 100-pound goal. At 138 pounds, she went from a size 22 to a 6/8.

When her instructor moved, Gould couldn’t imagine a Saturday without Insanity Live. She decided to teach it. “At the training, they said, ‘You don’t have to be the best at the moves. You just have to be the most motivating.’ That stuck with me.”

While some instructors bark orders and push students to work at top capacity, Gould remembers the importance of pacing herself. “I really want to pull in people who are scared of it – it’s called Insanity for a reason. I want them in there so they can see how much they change over time. When you start losing and toning, it helps you stay motivated and keep going.”

Gould is so passionate about sharing her transformation, that she regularly attends the TMC Bariatric Support group and manages a Facebook group for local patients, as well as another accountability group for those who need more regular check-ins. “I love inspiring others. I remember early on when I was frustrated with the pace of my weight loss, someone told me, ‘You’re on a trajectory.’ And that changed everything. It’s not about the Right Now. It’s about progress, not perfection.”

“I just want to help others. I feel like I’ve been given this gift – and what good is this gift to me if I am not spreading it and using it to assist others?”

Triple bypass leads to a new approach on life

Sergio.jpgHelping our community right here in Tucson get and stay healthy and keep on dancing is what Tucson Medical Center is all about. We’re showing off some of our fabulous community members in our latest commercials and you get to find out a little more about them here on our blog. Meet TMC dancer, Sergio Gonzales

Sergio Gonzales was working out with his wife last July when he felt an unmistakable feeling.

“I felt the same symptoms I’d felt the previous year, when I had a heart attack while on vacation in Witchita, Kansas,” he recalled. When the feeling didn’t pass in a few minutes, he called 911 and a helicopter evacuated him for treatment. Only in his mid-40s, he would end up having a triple bypass.

“The care at TMC was outstanding. I will always remember being wheeled in and seeing the worried eyes of my doctor, the nurses and my family, but they immediately helped put me at ease and made me feel better about the situation,” said Sergio, a University of Arizona graduate who works in the defense industry and is a college sports referee on the side.  His wife, Deanna, a Tucson native, agreed. “It was a struggle every day, but the nurses were great and his cardiac team helped get him home quickly.”

Sergio, who participated in cardiac rehabilitation to rebuild his strength, said the heart attack forced him to make some big changes.

Cardiac rehabilitation link

 

“Before my first heart attack, I was invincible,” he said, even though his father had his first heart attack in his 50s. He takes his health more seriously – and shares his concerns with his son, too, to take note of his genetic predispositions to heart disease, even though he is only 21.

“I’ve really been utilizing this time to reconnect with my family and to enjoy life a little more,” he said, adding he enjoys concerts and has taken more vacations of late than he has in the previous five years combined. “I’ve also been trying to learn more about my physical and mental abilities. I push myself harder to learn more and to make a difference in people’s lives.”

After knee replacement, ‘People tell me I look different’

Mary.jpg

Helping our community right here in Tucson get and stay healthy and keep on dancing is what Tucson Medical Center is all about. We’re showing off some of our fabulous community members in our latest commercials and you get to find out a little more about them here on our blog. Meet TMC dancer, Mary Rowley.

For business owner Mary Rowley, pain was a part of everyday life.

“I had bone-on-bone arthritis. I couldn’t use my knee very much,” Rowley recalled. “It was to the point where I forgot what it was like not to have pain.”

Rowley, who had two previous unrelated surgeries at TMC with great outcomes, came back to TMC, with orthopaedic surgeon Russell Cohen.

“It was great. The experience in the hospital was wonderful – I felt like I was with friends,” she said, noting she went home the next day.

“My knee is fantastic. Before, I coudn’t run at all. Now I can run up steps. I’m walking more, I’m exercising. I can bend. People tell me I look different: that I don’t have as much pain on my face.”

Rowley has a recommendation for others considering knee replacement surgery. “Everyone said put it off as long as you can. I would say don’t. If you really need it done, and a professional tells you that you need to get it done, get it done. It’s great on the other side.”

Check out Mary getting to dance again in our latest dance video.

Too busy for a heart attack: a working woman’s epiphany

SusanHelping our community right here in Tucson get and stay healthy and keep on dancing is what Tucson Medical Center is all about. We’re showing off some of our fabulous community members in our latest commercials and you get to find out a little more about them here on our blog. Meet TMC dancer,  Susan Smith.

Susan’s signs

Susan Smith wasn’t feeling her usual energetic self.

She’d been increasingly fatigued in the previous few days, but like many busy women, was juggling so many things – including an upcoming speech – that it was easier to just brush off her symptoms.

As she launched into her speech, she began to have palpitations. Could it be anxiety? She began to run short of breath. Had she been holding her breath? She broke out in a cold sweat. Menopausal symptoms?

“There I was, standing in front of 40 people and feeling like I was going to faint, but refusing to fall down in front of all of them,” said Susan, who moved to Tucson 42 years ago. She completed her presentation, sat down and drank some water. The symptoms subsided.

The next day found her in a cardiologist’s office, hooked up to an EKG. She was in the midst of a heart attack and her doctor informed her she would be going to the Emergency Department.

“I don’t have time to go to the Emergency Department,” she remembered protesting. “I have to teach a class tomorrow at 8 a.m.!”

“I went right to TMC and it was an experience I will never forget,” she recalled. Her cardiologist had called ahead and within seconds she was on a gurney, blood was being drawn, tests were underway. “I didn’t know if I should be terrified or just glad I was in such good hands,” she said.

Dancing to recovery

Five weeks after her stent was placed, she was feeling well enough to dance in a TMC commercial, but still practicing resting. “That’s a tall order. I have to remind myself to do things more slowly and with more patience. Instead of putting 25 things on a to-do list, I might do five.”

Yes, women have heart attacks

“Women in particular have a lot on their plates and a lot of times they’re so busy taking care of their family, they don’t have the time to recognize the symptoms in their own body,” she said, noting women often have different symptoms than men do.

Like men women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain.

“The main thing I learned and am telling my friends: If something doesn’t feel right, don’t wait. Check it out. It’s not worth taking the chance.”

In need of a cardiologist? Find a doctor who specializes in the heart here.

Find a provider button

 

Persistence, weight loss surgery fuels weight loss transformation

LaJeana Hall practices pilates with classmates.jpgLaJeana Hall never looked into her future and saw “fitness instructor” as a skill she would attain.

“I was so heavy before, it wasn’t something that I thought I’d ever try,” said Hall, the owner of a tax and accounting business.

But that was 75 pounds ago.

After years of weight struggles, Hall in July 2014 decided to proceed with bariatric surgery at Tucson Medical Center with surgeon Jeffrey Monash.

Not surgery alone

As part of their care, patients learn all about nutrition, they are introduced to fitness activities and they participate in support groups to help them stay on track with their goals.
LaJeana had never tried Pilates before, but it was offered with the program so she decided to try it.

“I really enjoyed it,” she recalled. “It’s not as hard as people think, you can do it with just a yoga mat and it actually worked. I saw results fairly quickly.”

She could feel her muscles lengthening and tightening and she saw some trouble spots get more streamlined.

She liked it so much, in fact, that she started encouraging others to try it. One thing led to another and she decided to become a certified instructor. She completed the program in July to teach basic and plus-sized Pilates and hopes to start teaching soon at her church.

Persistence

Hall is quick to note that her progress took persistence. “I exercise more, including walking and weight training. I eat better and I try to not eat as much sugar. I don’t sit around eating junk food out of boredom – I try to stay busy.”

Hall said she’s glad she made the change. “I sleep better. I feel better. I’m half the person I used to be and it’s important to me that I can work out and not have to stop because I’m out of breath.”
She hopes her progress will inspire others. “I think it helps show people that they can do it too. If you stick to the program that they set for you, you’ll be able to reach your goals too.”

 

 

Stroke, heart surgery came “out of nowhere” for 31-year-old

Clayton.jpgHelping our community right here in Tucson get and stay healthy and keep on dancing is what Tucson Medical Center is all about. We’re showing off some of our fabulous community members in our latest commercials and you get to find out a little more about them here on our blog. Meet TMC dancer, Clayton Green.

The rheumatic fever Clayton Green contracted as a child had greater significance than anyone realized at the time.

As his body fought off the infection, his heart valves were damaged in the process.

As he grew up, Green was careful to stay fit and eat right – he was a vegetarian for years and committed to an active lifestyle.

But one evening with his friends, the student and part-time bartender started feeling worse and worse, and when it became obvious he was having a stroke related to the heart disease, he was rushed to Tucson Medical Center.

His heart surgeon, Kushagra Katariya, identified other irregularities in his heart and corrected those as well.

“The stress of it was the worst. I had never been sick before and had been using preventive nutritional care and exercise so this wouldn’t happen. But the care was amazing from the nurses to the doctors and technicians, everyone there was courteous and made you feel at home, which helps when you’re in a situation that is very difficult,” he said.

Green was up and walking the day after surgery and four months afterward, was dancing in a TMC commercial.

Anyone can have a stroke, even children although the causes in children tend to be different. The elderly are not the only ones at risk for stroke although age is one factor. Stroke risk also increases with factors like increased blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and atrial fibrillation. Know the symptoms of a stroke. Early recognition and treatment makes all the difference.

 

Couple face lung cancer together

TrasksHelping our community right here in Tucson get and stay healthy and keep on dancing is what Tucson Medical Center is all about. We’re showing off some of our fabulous community members in our latest commercials and you get to find out a little more about them here on our blog. Meet TMC dancers, Jeff and Viki Trask.

The Trasks came together to meet a challenge when Jeff hired Viki as his new director of sales to help him open a hotel in Tucson.

The owners indicated if they achieved a 70 percent occupancy in the first full year – rare in the business – they would give them a trip to Hawaii, all expenses paid. At year end, the hotel’s occupancy was 71.2 percent.

The Hawaii trip turned out to be their honeymoon.

The two are braving a new challenge now.

It started when doctors found cancer in Jeff’s left lung. His physician recommended cardiothoracic surgeon Douglas Lowell. Five days in the hospital passed quickly after the operation and he returned to his life.

Two years later, it would be the right lung, with Dr. Lowell summoned to help again. Another surgery, another five days in the hospital.

Two years later, Viki had the diagnosis: lung cancer. They turned to Dr. Lowell again.

“TMC was great. If you needed something, they were there,” Viki said. “We were even more impressed after we learned TMC is a nonprofit. That’s remarkable!”

Jeff and Viki stated, “We’re extremely grateful to our team of doctors and healthcare providers. They’re all fantastic and we want to thank our nurse navigator, Kim Kastel, who came up with the moniker: Team Trask.”

Jeff has since been diagnosed with his third bout. They both have had rounds of chemotherapy or immunotherapy in addition to their surgeries.

“We’re living with cancer,” Viki said. “Yes, it can be devastating to learn of the diagnosis, but we are determined to stay positive and understand we are living with cancer. We’re on the five-year plan and we just go from there.”

Jeff said one of his doctors recently asked how he’s feeling. “Do you get tired? I do, but only after I work on the oleanders for three hours. I still ride my bicycle during the week. It’s wonderful to be alive.”

Long-time smokers and ex-smokers breathe easier with a lung screening.

Make an appointment today. Call (520) 389-5390

Worries getting in the way of making that call to get a lung screening? You’re not alone. Nurse navigator, Kim Kastel addresses some common barriers people face in this blog post.

Breast cancer survivor spreading a message of body positivity

BethAnne King LobmillerBreastless and beautiful

When breast cancer survivor and advocate BethAnne King-Lobmiller was just 10 or 11 years old, she recalls accidentally barging in on her grandmother as she was changing her blouse. “I must have gasped or looked shocked … but she just smiled and invited me to come in and close the door. Then she explained to me why she didn’t have breasts.”

“She had a bilateral mastectomy in the 1970s, back when cancer surgery was radical and went deep, and as a result, she was completely flat.” King-Lobmiller recalls with a smile. “I had never noticed that she wore fake boobs – she even wore smaller ones in the summer to stay cooler – and none when she was in her pajamas.”

Possibly in part as a result of her grandmother’s unapologetic honesty and generosity in sharing her experience, King-Lobmiller dedicates herself to advocating for body-positivity after breast cancer. Breastless and Beautiful, the advocacy group she started, boasts more than 300 members and exists for women who have chosen not to undergo reconstruction after a mastectomy. Says King-Lobmiller, “I didn’t choose flat, it chose me … as corny as that sounds.”

But the journey to her current state of body-positivity took time, reflecting back on her own diagnosis, she says, “When I first heard that I was going to have a mastectomy, I was beside myself, I couldn’t’ accept it.”

“One of the things I noticed about myself as I attended support groups was that I was really more freaked out about it than anyone I knew. But I was just processing it and grieving the finality of the loss. I wasn’t soothing myself with the idea of the breasts I would have afterward, so it felt very raw and real.”

Choices post mastectomy include going flat

Not willing to go through additional surgery beyond her mastectomy, King-Lobmiller found there was an assumption among everyone from medical professionals to support groups that reconstruction would be the obvious choice. Going flat wasn’t an overt part of the mix.

“I’m not advocating for flatness, I’m asking for there to be a conversation about the option.”

Her philosophy is that, like most things, the more people see healthy, beautiful survivors who have chosen flat and the more the community knows about it, the more comfortable women will become with making the choice that is best for them.

“Honestly, hardly anyone notices. When they do, I think to myself, “Please say something to me” because I always want the opportunity to educate someone and help them to understand,” said King-Lobmiller.

“The idea that I’m not a feminine and beautiful woman because I don’t have breasts is ridiculous,” she said.

TMC’s dedicated Oncology Nurse Navigators are here to help with resources for patients and their families and information about support groups. And don’t forget to schedule your annual mammogram today.

Bariatric support group helps patient stay on track with a healthy weight

MaryannMaryann Webb was once “fired” from a support group for not losing enough weight.

Never mind that she’d shed 100 pounds from her starting weight of 357 pounds after having gastric bypass surgery. It wasn’t fast enough or significant enough to meet the expectations of the other members of her group. So she quit.

She and a friend left another support group so depressed they went out and got a hot fudge sundae.

Then in January 2017 she found the support group at Tucson Medical Center for those who had weight-loss surgery.

The 74-year-old retired personnel trainer never misses one.

“It’s like getting a booster shot every month,” she said. She likes the positivity of the group and the non-judgmental environment.

Webb had a long struggle with weight. Part of it is genetics – a whole passel of her family is just a little shorter and a little heavier than average. And she comes from a long line of family members who comfort and nurture one another with food. If you went to grandma’s for Saturday supper, you knew you were going home with a dozen of her sugar cookies.

When she moved from the family farm and the physical demands associated with it, and took a desk job, she found herself gaining weight pretty quickly.

“I’d tried them all. The cabbage soup diet. The hormone shots. This was a long time ago, but I even tried that approach where they shock you when they show you a photo of food to try to make you repulsed by it. Nothing worked.”

It got worse when she was hit with a triple whammy: A divorce, a change in jobs and a newly empty nest after her daughter went away to college.

By the time she had surgery – this was back in 1999 – she was 55 and having trouble with her kidney function and she had diabetes. She took off 100 pounds pretty quickly and then years later lost more when she went through an unrelated medical condition.

The weight loss support group is offered monthly and provides an opportunity for patients who have had weight-loss surgery to connect with others who are in different stages of their weight-loss journey. Our mission is to provide a safe, supportive environment for patients to build relationships and get education focused on health and well-being for their lifelong journey.

Last year, she underwent surgery to fix a constriction and a hernia on the original bypass. When her surgeon asked her what she wanted from the surgery, she said she just wanted to eat lettuce again.

Unlike the larger incision from the first surgery, technology allowed a laparoscopic procedure this time around, with much less pain and a faster recovery. She stuck to her surgeon’s diet suggestions like gospel, sure it would help her heal faster. And sure enough, she’s eating lettuce again.

She’s also walking three days a week, doing aerobics three days a week and organizing monthly social events with a group of retired friends (including a tour of Tucson’s ethnic restaurants with strict orders to try something they’d never had before.)

“I feel better than I have in years,” Webb said. “It isn’t like the surgeon gets to wave a magic scalpel and suddenly the weight comes off like magic. It’s a tool. But it’s a tool that makes it easier. Plus, now I know myself better. I understand what I have to do to take care of myself. I know I never want to be that sick again. And I’ve learned over the years that it’s OK to be proud of yourself a little bit.”

And that’s also why her self-care toolbox includes the monthly support group held on the TMC campus for those who have had bariatric surgery at TMC.

Webb said she appreciates sharing her tips with others and learning from experiences others share – not to mention it’s often a tasty experience to boot.

A recent class had a series of taste tests for protein bars (she’s rather partial to Power Crunch salted caramel.) In another class, members shared their recipes for protein shakes and made samples. The class learned about vitamins and supplements in another.

“I can actually say that I’ve been to a lot of support groups over the years,” Webb said. “And this is really a support group.”

For more information about weight loss surgery at TMC attend a FREE weight loss surgery seminar.

An Emergency Room Visit: A Patient’s View

Emergency DepartmentNothing is more frustrating that sitting in the emergency room feeling terrible and watching someone who looks perfectly fine walk in and walk straight through to triage and be taken back. Right?

I recently got to be that person skipping the waiting room, moving straight past go to immediate help.

I felt fine, well except for the piercing headache behind my left ear that had been there for three days, but that hadn’t brought me into the emergency room. What brought me in was when one side of my face began to droop.

It was quite odd. At first it was just that my eyes didn’t look the same as usual. One seemed bigger than the other and then my face started to seem flat on one side.

Signs of a stroke

I recognized the drooping face as a possible symptom of a stroke and after I called my husband and dropped off the kids with some friends, I had a friend take me to the emergency room. Not my brightest moment. After all, if this was a stroke I was wasting precious brain time, but at least I didn’t drive myself! I couldn’t possibly be having a stroke – could I? After all my mum was 70 when she had her stroke. I was just 48 years old – a spring chicken. While I am definitely overweight, I didn’t have other risk factors.

I raced up to the front desk in the emergency room and began to explain my concerns. By this point my mouth was beginning to droop, too. The nurse took one look at me and whisked me back.

I’m sure to those left in the waiting room this seemed massively unfair. After all, there I was, able to walk, apparently in not significant distress, no bleeding or obvious trauma (they couldn’t see my face) and I was going to be seen before everyone else waiting.

Within a couple of minutes members of the rapid response stroke team were evaluating me for a stroke, bloodwork was being taken, and my situation was being evaluated. After the initial evaluation they were pretty sure I wasn’t having a stroke, but it wasn’t clear what was going on and something was definitely going on. Most of the possible scenarios and options were pretty awful. Center for Neurosciences nurse practitioner Frances West and neurologist Dr. David Teeple kept me calm and informed and made the decision to keep me at the hospital for observation.

The following day, after ruling out a possible reemergence of an earlier melanoma, the pieces began to fall into place. I had Bell’s palsy.

Bell’s Palsy

Bell’s palsy affects about 30,000 to 40,000 people every year in the United States. It results in the paralysis or weakness of one side of the face as a result of damage to the facial nerve. The cause of Bell’s palsy isn’t known, but generally the weakness or paralysis is thought to be due to swelling of the nerve in the area where it travels through the bones of the skull. For many, symptoms often begin to improve right away, but it may take weeks or even months for the muscles to get stronger. For some people symptoms may never completely disappear.

Six months out, my face is still lopsided. I can’t drink straight from a bottle, and talking at length can be tiring and embarrassing as I drool when my mouth tires. However, I can blink and smile. My facial paralysis isn’t quite as obvious as it was previously.

Bell’s palsy is not pleasant, but as my ability to parent, work, live and be an active member of my community is not impacted by my looks, I’ll take this slightly lopsided smile over the other possibilities like stroke or brain tumor.

I am grateful to know that if it had been a stroke, the TMC Rapid Response Stroke Team was ready to act, and the front desk staff prepared to recognize and move on a possible stroke case. And next time I’m in the waiting room of an emergency room … I’ll be a tad more patient as a new arrival is whisked back before me even if they don’t look sick.

While Tucson boasts a half-dozen stroke centers, TMC is the city’s only primary stroke center that has 24/7 coverage by board certified interventional neuroradiologists along with a neurology and neurosurgery stroke team.

Rachel Miller is a Communications Specialist at TMC.  She has decided since developing Bell’s palsy that everyday should be pirate day. (Individuals affected by Bell’s palsy are often unable to close or blink the eye on the affected side. A patch protects the eye from the everyday dust. Here Rachel takes advantage to play pirate.)

Mission Moments: Missing tennis shoes meet a bulldog of a nurse

After an elderly patient left Tucson Medical Center following a stroke, her sister called in a panic.
The patient had compromised movement with partial paralysis of the left side that required special shoes to help with her mobility. They would be important in physical therapy sessions to help rebuild her strength.

And they were missing.

Will Bascom was the charge nurse that evening in the Emergency Department when the frantic call came in. He promised to track them down.

They weren’t in the Emergency Department and they weren’t in the room she recovered in. It took a bit of sleuthing, but ultimately it turned out they already had been brought back to the patient’s care home and were waiting for pickup.

The patient’s sister called later to say how appreciative she was. “Amidst his busy scheduled, he hunted them down. I can’t say enough about how he treated me when we were going through such a hard time.”

For Bascom, of course, he was going to help.

“More often than not, we see people in some of the worst times of their lives. It’s as simple as that. So if I get a request like this – to help someone out at a time when they’re going through this life-changing event and even a small thing means the world in that moment – I’m like a bulldog,” he said.

Bascom said people typically get into health care because they have compassion and empathy for others. “I treat everyone like my own family. I don’t care why you’re here and where you’re from. I’m not a judge. My job here is to take care of you. I think many people just lead such busy lives that it’s hard to have time for anyone else. I’ve always done what I could to help others.”

Tucson Medical Center earlier this year adopted a new mission statement. To celebrate, we are sharing an ongoing series of “mission moments.”

What are mission moments? They aren’t necessarily dramatic stories of heroism, although our medical staff saves lives every day. These are moments that breathe life into words – moments that are profound or powerful or touching and that remind us why we do the work we do. Hundreds of these reminders happen every day. Thank you for letting us share some with you.

Do you have a TMC mission moment you’d like to share? Send it to Communications@tmcaz.com.

Screening reveals stroke risk – An update on Norman

Norman and Mary Louise Clarke - carotid artery screening

Norman and Mary Louise Clarke

Norman Clarke had no reason to think that there was anything amiss when he stopped by for a preventative screening including a carotid artery screening at TMC two years ago. At 81 years old, the retired automotive engineer exercised three times a week at the gym, saw his doctor twice a year for checkups, took medication to keep his cholesterol in check – and his blood work always came back great.

He and his wife, Mary Louise, were stunned at his results of a preventative screening.

A scan of his carotid artery showed a blockage of more than 70 percent on the left side.

“I was shocked. There had been no symptoms and nothing to indicate this was a problem,” Norman recalled. “It was serendipity that we went that day, because I would never have known otherwise about the great risk I was facing.”

The carotid artery screening, part of the vascular wellness screening, uses an instrument called a transducer to scan the carotid artery in your neck. The transducer scans the carotid artery to check the flow of blood and can identify plaques and blockages that put you at risk for an ischemic stroke.

A stroke on the left side of Norman’s brain would have impacted the right side of his body, possibly impacting his mobility on the right side of the body, as well as speech and language problems, and memory loss.

Following the screening results, Norman’s doctor cleared the calendar to bring him in on a Monday morning, and by Monday afternoon he was having a scan of his arteries. The news was even worse than he had learned initially: the blockage was 90 percent.

Instead of being on a plane to Michigan, where the Clarke’s spend six months of the year, Norman was scheduled for surgery. The 90-minute surgery, known as a carotid endarterectomy, required one night of hospitalization and a week of good behavior at home: no lifting or dragging of heavy objects and listening to every instruction from Mary Louise, a former medical-surgical nurse and retired nursing professor.

Fast forward to 2017, Norman and Mary Louise are planning their return to their Tucson home from Michigan, to the magical pink mountains, the town and the network of Tucson friends, to volunteering at TMC, and to see Norman’s Tucson doctor.

Norman’s doctor monitors both the left and right carotid arteries every six months. The initial screening alerted the Clarke’s to the danger lurking in Norman’s left carotid artery. A subsequent screening has revealed a growing plaque in Norman’s right carotid artery. At this time there is no surgery planned, but monitoring is critical. Norman’s advice: “Be your own health advocate … get screened. Everything looked rosy for me, but just because your blood work is OK, it doesn’t mean everything is.”

 

Lucille Luna: Grateful and giving despite health crises

Lucille Luna 4A stroke. Vision loss. A serious ulcer. Congenital arthritis. Knee and hip replacements. The past few years have not been a bed of roses for Lucille Luna. But, the series of wearing health challenges have only invigorated the exuberant spirit of the 76-year-old, who makes time to show her appreciation for the medical professionals who helped her.

“I’ll always be thankful for the people at TMC,” Luna said. “I wouldn’t trade them for the world.”

Several times throughout the year, you’ll find Luna making her way across the TMC campus to personally thank doctors, nurses and the entire staff.

“When I had my surgeries here there wasn’t a single person without a smile,” she explained. “They helped me with everything I needed – even in the middle of the night.”

Luna has certainly experienced her share of health problems. Among many challenges, BDP39412_Style004_Sunlightshe’s survived a stroke and a very serious lower-abdomen ulcer. “Dr. Kisso said my ulcer was the size of a football.”

Even as she shared her difficulties, a grin never left her face and a hearty laugh was never far off. The arthritis that causes her constant pain has not dimmed her spirit; not in the least.

“I’m alive!” she said. “I want to be involved – I help my family almost every day, no matter what they need.”

A statement confirmed by her 13-year-old granddaughter Karah. “She helps with everything – cooking, cleaning, everything…and she’s really nice to my friends.”

While her hip and knee replacements were successes, the arthritis hinders Luna’s mobility, and she walks with the assistance of a cane. This obstacle, however, doesn’t interfere with her constant movement or cheerful outlook.

Tom Bergeron“If someone does a good deed for me, I want to do a good deed for them, and TMC did so much for me,” Luna said.

When asked what she valued most at TMC, the quality of care, convenience, compassion – Luna replied, “Compassion? They go beyond that! I can’t even think of a word powerful enough to describe how much they care.”

“The medical staff at TMC offer a most sincere thank you to Lucille Luna,” said Julia Strange, vice president or TMC Community Benefit. “We appreciate her grateful and giving attitude that inspires all around her.”

Wound Care Awareness Week – celebrating treatments that are changing lives

Tucson Medical Center is honoring Wound Care Awareness Week by celebrating the treatments and therapies that are improving the quality of life for patients.

WoundCare 1Healing can be taken for granted – and many are unaware that a wound, sore or infection can be a significant challenge for seniors, diabetics and individuals experiencing illnesses that impede healing.

Several years ago, Carolyn Herman began noticing small red bumps that looked like insect bites – but each bump grew into a painful sore that would not heal.

As the sores grew in number and severity, Herman sought help from dermatologists who diagnosed her with Pyoderma Gangrenosum, a rare autoimmune disease whose cause is unknown. It began taking over her life, until she found the TMC Wound Care Center and hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

“It’s so frustrating because treating it is so hard,” Herman said. “Any small cut or skin rupture can turn into a very painful lesion.”

Wound Center Lavor“I just felt like things were always going to get worse,” Herman explained. “I saw specialists and wound centers, but it wasn’t getting better. I had tens of lesions on my body.”

In early 2016, Herman’s dermatologist referred her to the TMC Wound Clinic. “Everyone from the desk clerk to the nurses did a wonderful job of making me feel comfortable and at ease.”

Herman saw Dr. Michael A. Lavor, the medical director at the TMC Wound Clinic. Lavor performed surgery to address infections and prescribed ongoing hyperbaric oxygen (HBO) therapy.

“With HBO, the patient enters a hyperbaric oxygen therapy chamber that looks like a wide hospital gurney with a large, clear acrylic cover – like a tube,” said Heather Jankowski, the director of outpatient services at the TMC Wound Care Center.

Woundcare4“The chamber is filled with 100 percent oxygen, and the air pressure in the chamber is raised– which allows the lungs to safely absorb greater amounts of oxygen,” Jankowski continued. “HBO strengthens oxygen absorption, helping tissue heal more quickly and completely by stimulating growth factors and inhibiting toxins.”

Herman engaged more than 100 treatments, every day for two hours. HBO is not painful and many patients sleep through it. Still, engaging so many treatments can take its toll. “The staff was so good to me, they were always compassionate and thoughtful – it made 117 treatments doable.”

The HBO provided great relief and sped healing. “I’m doing wonderful now – my infections are gone and I’m managing my condition much more easily,” Herman said enthusiastically.

The TMC Wound Care Center has been serving Southern Arizona for five years and treats a wide variety of patients with healing challenges such as diabetic foot ulcers, venous stasis ulcers, failed flaps, and ORN of the jaw.

For further information about the TMC Wound Care Center, please visit the webpage or call (520) 324-4220. Call (520) 324-2075 for scheduling.

 

TMC celebrates 200 TAVR procedures – Tucson visitor thankful for life-saving technique

Furman 2Pennsylvania residents Frank and Jan Furman travel to Tucson every winter. This year, the couple was also visiting to attend an award ceremony for their daughter.

While in Tucson, a cardiac emergency put Frank Furman’s life in jeopardy. Thanks to a minimally invasive heart procedure known as TAVR, Furman has a new lease on life and was able to attend his daughter’s ceremony only a few days after the procedure.

Tucson Medical Center is celebrating the completion of 200 TAVR heart procedures. TAVR stands for transcatheter aortic valve replacement, a technique used to replace the aortic heart valve with less scarring, pain and recovery time than traditional open-chest surgery.

Furman had been experiencing some heart challenges, but received the OK to travel. Still, Jan worried for her husband as they made their way from Erie, Pennsylvania to Tucson. “He’s such a trooper and never complains, but I could tell he was more winded than usual.”

TMC Cardiovascular CenterThe couple enjoys southwest culture, and visited one of their favorite Tucson spots. “I couldn’t miss the Sons of the Pioneers show at Old Tucson Studios,” Furman said with a smile. But it was during the performance that things took a turn. Furman became so faint and winded after walking just 15 feet that he had to stop to catch his breath. The frightening experience motivated him to seek a cardiologist at Tucson Medical Center.

The structural heart team at TMC completed a number of advanced diagnostics and determined Furman’s aortic valve needed to be replaced immediately. While his family was concerned for his health, Furman had something else on his mind. “My daughter’s award ceremony was five days away – she’s worked so hard and I didn’t want to miss it,” Furman said.

waggonerThe close-knit family received some relief when Interventional Cardiologist Dr. Thomas Waggoner explained Furman was a strong candidate for TAVR.

With TAVR, an interventional cardiologist (or surgeon) guides the new heart valve through a catheter inserted in the upper thigh. The cardiologist then maneuvers into the heart and expands the new valve over the damaged valve, effectively replacing it with a tight seal.

The minimally-invasive procedure is an effective option for patients who are an intermediate/high surgery risk. In addition, patients experience minimal discomfort and a three-day average hospital stay – with patients returning to their normal activity after discharge.

“I felt better almost instantly,” Furman said. “The next day I was walking so fast that the physical therapist told me to slow down.”

Two days later, Furman left the hospital feeling great. “He looked so good! His face was full of color again and he had no trouble getting around,” said Furman’s wife, Jan. As for pain, “He didn’t even fill the prescription for pain meds,” she said happily.

Frank Furman’s life has changed; he’s no longer winded, has a strong prognosis and looks forward to rounding up the golf clubs again. “It’s the best thing that happened,” his wife of 57 years said.

TAVR Frank FurmanFurman wasn’t shy about sharing what he thought the greatest advantage of TAVR was. “I recovered fast enough to see my daughter Cheryl receive the Most Inspirational Mentor of the Year award; it was fantastic.”

TAVR is one of many procedures performed through TMC’s structural heart program, featuring advanced technologies, a specially-trained staff and a team of physicians who work with patients to evaluate and determine the best treatment plan.

The Furman family will soon be returning to Pennsylvania, where a new schedule for the patriarch includes walking, golf, cardiac rehabilitation and maybe a little more golf. When asked what he’d say to patients who are candidates for TAVR, Furman didn’t mince any words. “Go do it!”

During National Donate Life Month, organ donation impacted TMC family

National Donate Life 4.jpgThe Spohn family had a special reason to celebrate this year’s National Donate Life Month – a kidney donation that has made a meaningful difference in their lives, providing great relief and renewed freedom.

When it comes to doing things together, the Spohns are a close-knit family who share every triumph and every challenge. Ed Spohn credits the support of his wife, Michelle and son, Phillip for helping him brave the extraordinary challenges of polycystic kidney disease (PKD).

The Spohns are also a part of the Tucson Medical Center family – Michelle has been a member of the TMC nursing-staff for more than 20 years, and Philip will soon be moving from transportation into patient safety.

Now in his late 50s, Ed has been coping with the disease since age 17. “They told me I’d probably have to go on dialysis in my 50s.” Unfortunately the genetic disease took grip far sooner, and dangerously enlarged Ed’s kidneys before he turned 40. In 1997, Ed received a kidney from his wife, Michelle.

Ed’s life changed and he could resume most activities. After the transplant, Ed says he felt “wonderful.” Gone was the chronic pain in his back, the swelling in his feet, the nausea, and the intense headaches and shortness of breath. Ed’s family experienced the challenges with him – and Michelle knows she did the right thing.

National Donate Life“It’s so gratifying to do something like this,” said Michelle. “It is so hard to see a loved one suffer and It made all the difference. I’d do it again if I had another to give.”

Michelle said she has not experienced any medical issues as a result of her donation, and she encourages others to donate. “I tell people to get tested for a tissue-match if they have a family member or loved one with kidney failure – it will change everything for them.”

Receiving a kidney transplant requires constant care and monitoring. While the rewards change lives, there is a risk of rejection and the recipient will need to take anti-rejection medications that have additional risks and side effects.

Unfortunately, transplant kidneys do not last as long as our own organs. Ed’s periodic blood tests revealed the transplant kidney was failing in 2013. He soon began dialysis – a process in which a machine called a hemodialyzer performs the function of the kidneys. The process is life-saving, but strenuous – often causing anemia, fluid overload, constant itching, trouble sleeping, and other taxing symptoms.

Ed received dialysis treatment three times a week, for several hours at a time. The process also involves frequent testing. “You have to adhere to a strict diet, and get fluids and blood checked all the time,” Ed said. “It was never easy, but we did what we had to do.”

Dialysis also requires frequent sessions, restricting any travel. “I missed a lot of things,” Ed stated. “I couldn’t go to so many family gatherings, like my niece’s wedding – I even missed my mother’s special birthday party when she turned 80.”

National Donate Life 3.jpgAfter a year, the Spohns also provided hemodialysis for ED at home – a very difficult task that was understandably stressful and overwhelming for the family. “We experienced a roller coaster of emotions,” Michelle said. “Ed was on the donation list and we answered every phone call with such hope.”

Those hopes came to fruition last week, when the Spohn family received the call they had been waiting for. The transplant was a success – and the Spohns are overjoyed to be sharing a triumph. Michelle attended a ceremonial flag-raising on the TMC campus last week to bring awareness to the need for organ donation.

“I’m so thankful,” Ed said, with a grateful smile. Transplant recipients can write an appreciative letter to the family of the deceased donor through the Donor Network of Arizona. Ed said he wants to take it a step further. “I really hope I get to meet them, so I can tell them how much it helps our family – I’m forever grateful.”

What’s next for the Spohns? The family will spend the next few months ensuring Ed’s body accepts the new kidney – after that, they hope to travel and celebrate Ed’s restored health. “I’m already feeling so much better!”

For further information about organ donation, visit the website for the Donor Network of Arizona.

National Donate Life 5

 

Local fire captain on the mend after catastrophic aneurysm

IMG_0612On March 26, Rural/Metro Fire Captain Eric Cline was celebrating his fourth wedding anniversary with his wife, Risa, when he complained about his head hurting and suddenly collapsed. Cline suffered a brain aneurysm that then caused a stroke. He was rushed to Tucson Medical Center where Kurt Schroeder, M.D., a neurosurgeon from the Center for Neurosciences, helped save his life.

Stephanie Innes from The Arizona Daily Star wrote this story about Cline, the incredible camaraderie displayed by his firefighting family and just how rare this diagnosis is in a young person. Cline, a father of three, is only 40-years-old.

Sam Salzwedel from KVOA News 4 Tucson also aired this story about Captain Cline.

As a Neuroscience Center of Excellence, TMC is nationally recognized for its neurological and stroke care.

From devastating diagnosis to full recovery

Renee Sowards recovers after a tumor was removed from her spine. Her Akita, Keigo, stayed with her during her stay at TMC.

Renee Sowards recovers after a tumor was removed from her spine. Her Akita, Keigo, stayed with her during her stay at TMC.

For Tucson resident Renee Sowards, life took a 180-degree turn in three short months.  Last January, she was diagnosed with a tumor in her spine. It was serious enough that it was causing her to lose mobility in her legs and it required surgery.

Once she was diagnosed, Sowards did some research on which neurosurgeon she would literally trust her life with.  She decided to go with TMC’s Dr. Abhay Sanan from the Center for Neurosciences.  She called his office to get the new patient process started and hadn’t even made an appointment yet when she received a phone call that confirmed she had made the right choice.

“My phone rang at eight o’clock on a Sunday night.  It was Dr. Sanan.  He said he needed to see me right away, and I told him I had jury duty the next day.  He paused and asked, ‘So I take it you’re still ambulatory?’  I knew right then that my situation was very serious,” she said.  “Because of where the tumor was located, I stood a great chance of losing my legs.”

Renee Sowards enjoying the Sonoran desert more than a year after a tumor was removed from her spine.

Sowards enjoys the desert more than a year after a  tumor was removed at TMC.

Two weeks later, Sowards was in the operating room.  After several hours, she emerged from surgery and was told that it was a success.  When she learned she would spend the next five days at TMC recovering, Sowards had a unique request for hospital staff.  “I asked if Keigo, our 140-pound well-behaved Akita could stay with me in my room.”  To her surprise, the answer was yes.  “It was so comfortable to be able to sit in my chair and just rub my toes on him as he lay at my feet.  Having him there really helped me heal,” she said.  “My husband had a hard time leaving my side when I was going through this.  Knowing that I was receiving the best care and had Keigo with me gave him the peace of mind he needed to go home at night.”

Since her surgery and stay, Sowards has made a complete recovery and eventually headed back to work. “I had such excellent care at TMC, and Dr. Sanan was so wonderful,” said Sowers.

 

 

Rosemary Duschene: Bariatric surgery and hard work lead to a new life

RosemaryRosemary Duschene had grown weary of her diabetes – and along with it, her daily regimen of multiple pills, multiple shots and multiple complications.

“I happened to catch a commercial that said bariatric surgery improves the diabetic condition,” she said.  “I had been a diabetic for 25 years, and it was just becoming totally unbearable.”

With support from her physicians and loved ones, she underwent the surgery just over a year ago, and now reports her diabetic regimen is down to just one pill per day – with the hope that even that one last pill could become unnecessary.

“Within one year’s time I lost 65-70 pounds,” Duschene recalled, noting the lifestyle change was “really not so difficult!  TMC made certain everything was perfect before I became a candidate for surgery.”

After the bariatric surgery to assist her weight loss, she was quickly back on her feet and active. “I wasn’t used to sitting around, and now I had all this added energy and less weight to carry around, so it was easy to get up and move.”

She had a dog to walk, so that was a great motivator – but the biggest energy stimulus has to be Duschene’s 2-year-old grandson, always ready for a trip to the park.

“I let him run, and he chases me, and I chase him…I want so much to be a part of his life.  It’s hard to keep up with a 2-year-old, but it isn’t so bad any more!  I don’t get so tired. It’s just really great to feel so good.”


Tucson Medical Center | 5301 E. Grant Road | Tucson, Arizona 85712 | (520) 327-5461