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.”

TMC Auxiliary presents gifts, welcomes new officers

Auxiliary Logo ProofThe TMC Auxiliary is thrilled to present gifts to TMC and announce a new installation of board of director officers! The TMC Auxiliary formed in 1949 and remains an integral part of the hospital providing volunteer and philanthropic support. TMC Auxiliary volunteers work in more than 40 areas of the hospital. In addition to giving their time, they also provide annual financial support to TMC, funding needed internal programs and projects.

The support the Auxiliary provides to TMC is truly astounding. In 2015, for example, they logged more than 78,000 hours – the equivalent of 40 full-time employees! Auxiliary volunteers made almost 1,500 heart pillows and delivered them to our cardiac patients to help them recover. They made and delivered nearly 400 walker bags and delivered them to patients in need along with almost 200 quilts for our pediatric patients and babies in the newborn intensive care unit. Additionally, they provided more than 16,000 patient-assistance visits.

On behalf of the TMC Auxiliary:

▪ Jon Schwindt presented a $50,000 check for the Joel M. Childers, M.D., Women’s Surgery Center
▪ Janet Grubbs presented a $30,000 check for breast screening services
▪ Sue Burg presented a $10,000 check for TMC’s Memory Care program
▪ Diana Bergen presented a $10,000 check for the Healing Arts program and a $4,000 check for TMC Foundation events
▪ Ginny Robbins presented a $7,500 check to provide medical massages to open heart patients
▪ Al Frizelle presented a $7,500 check to provide scholarships to patients who need Cardiac Rehab
▪ Lewis Jones presented a $6,000 check for TMC Hospice family assistance
▪ Shirley Alfano presented a $5,000 check for pediatric staff to purchase Tomas the Turtle stuffed animals for children to hold as they undergo anesthesia

IMG_4123Congratulations to the new TMC Auxiliary Officers:

▪ Dan Bailey, President
▪ Jim Kelaher, Vice President
▪ Gary Hembree, Treasurer
▪ Ginny Robbins, Parliamentarian
▪ Janet Grubbs, Volunteer Advocate
▪ Diana Bergen, Member at Large
▪ Marge Zismann, Member at Large
▪ Barbara Hammond, Member at Large
▪ Shirley Alfano, Member at Large
▪ Carole Fee, Service Coordinator
▪ Lewis Jones, Past President

TMC sincerely appreciates all of our volunteers for their time, talent and treasure!
If you are interested in joining this incredible volunteer force at TMC, please click here.

TMC Cardiac Rehab fundraiser is the most successful yet

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After having some stents put in his heart, Derek Rowsell was enrolled in TMC’s Cardiac Rehab – an environment in which clinical staff monitored his heart rhythm and physiological responses while making sure he was properly executing his exercise plan under the umbrella of safety and close supervision. Lucky for him, after his procedure, the great medical insurance he had through his employer picked up a good chunk of the tab. For many others, the bills that come in are added stress at the absolute worst time.

Each visit costs upwards of $250 for cash-paying patients. Typically, insurance picks up about 80 percent of the tab, but oftentimes patients are still required to fork over a hefty co-payment. Many patients still have to come up with $45 for each visit. Multiply that by the 36 visits most patients need, and that’s more than $1,600 each patient has to come up with in order to complete the program. For many folks who are retired and on a fixed income, oftentimes it’s just not feasible.

“You’re already worried about how you’re going to recover. Then to have to figure out how to pay for cardiac rehab – some people really struggle,” Rowsell said. Now considered a phase III patient, he attends cardiac rehab two to three days a week to maintain the cardiovascular progress he’s achieved. He’s also part of Friends of Cardiac Rehab, a group of patients who use TMC Cardiac Rehab as well as families, friends and health professionals interested in cardiac rehabilitation services. Many are long-time survivors of cardiac disease and provide living examples of the benefits of maintaining healthy hearts through exercise, lifestyle changes and reduction of risk factors.

“Everybody in the FOCR group is a patient or a former patient. We’ve all gone through TMC Cardiac Rehab. We’re all aware of how important it is and how much it lifts you up emotionally. We’ve all chosen to stay here. When we come, we are among friends and have developed a culture of safely exercising with people we know,” explained Rowsell.

Three years ago, a group within FOCR formed a fundraising committee to specifically create a scholarship fund to help patients in need. Their idea for a family-friendly event: a bowling tournament.

Each year, it’s held at Lucky Strike Bowl on a Saturday in September.

This year, FOCR raised more than $5,000 from this annual event! In the three years since the bowling fundraiser started, FOCR has raised almost $11,500 dollars for the scholarship fund.

“Without their contribution, we absolutely would not have a scholarship fund,” said Mark Gaxiola, supervisor, Cardiac Rehabilitation. “The group is entirely made up of volunteers. Through their efforts and their compassion, they are able to help patients who have a real financial need. This year alone, 35 patients were able to receive a cardiac rehab scholarship.”

Patients who demonstrate a financial need can receive up to $500.

Rowsell added, “It’s all about more people and more involvement each year. Helping anyone is satisfying. But when you know you’re helping patients who really need it, you get a little extra gratification.”

Gary Brauchla’s great race

Gary & Kathie Brauchla

Gary & Kathie Brauchla

Before he died, Gary Brauchla always had it in the back of his mind that he wanted to run a 5k.

It took his death to make it happen.

His remarkable journey from death to the completion of his first 3.1-mile run began sometime around 3 a.m in the early morning of Sept. 29, 2012, when the home builder went into cardiac arrest as he slept in his rural home about 90 miles from Tucson.

Earlier that evening, he had complained of pain in his right shoulder, but shrugged it off since he had had chili for dinner and thought he might be experiencing indigestion.

Later, his wife, Kathie, was awoken by a loud snort, which she assumed then was snoring. In retrospect, it was probably her husband’s last gasp. She nudged him. Nothing. Nudged him again. Nothing. Pushed harder a third time. No response. “Then it all clicked together what was going on,” she recalled. “I flipped the light on and he was not breathing.”

A former surgical technician for 15 years, Kathie immediately started CPR, called 911 and sustained the chest compressions until help arrived. The wait was excruciating. The sound of the diesel engines of emergency vehicles never sounded so good. A defibrillator restored his heart rhythm.

Brauchla was flown by helicopter to Tucson Medical Center, where doctors induced a coma, put in some coronary stents to reopen blocked arteries and cooled his body temperature through therapeutic hypothermia in order to reduce the brain’s oxygen requirements and reduce the chance of brain injury.

He would remain in a coma for 2.5 weeks, while loved ones wondered about the degree of brain damage he may have sustained.

He was already unspeakably fortunate. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 300,000 people in the U.S. experience a cardiac arrest outside of a hospital setting. More than 92 percent of them die. But he would be more fortunate still. He fully recovered.AP2A0615

“By doing everything TMC did, I am still here physically and mentally,” Brauchla said.

Once he was strong enough, his cardiologist wrote a prescription for him to attend the cardiac rehabilitation program at Tucson Medical Center to rebuild his strength and heart. Even though it is a 90-mile drive from his home in Pearce, Arizona, he attends three days a week.

He’s taking advantage of the program’s nutritional training, watching his diet and making conscious choices about the fuel he gives his body. And he appreciates that experienced staff is monitoring his heartbeat, making sure he is exercising safely but also challenging his heart, under proper supervision.

And on June 1, at 68 years old, he ran his 5k, at the TMC-sponsored Meet Me Downtown 5k Night Run/Walk.

He finished middle of the pack. But he figures that’s pretty good for a guy who faced down death.

“I was given a gift of life,” Brauchla said, adding he has become an advocate of making sure rural areas have access to automatic electronic defibrillators and promoting CPR. “My wife, God bless her, saved my life.”

Brauchla also volunteers at TMC’s cardiac ward four times a month, calming the fears of new patients about what the future holds. “I have a pretty good story I can tell,” he says. “Heart attacks are not necessarily a death knell. You can heal yourself, but you have to take steps to do it.”

Rick Randels- In good company

cardiacrehabLast week, readers learned about Rick Randel’s incredible path to cardiac health. Despite multiple bypasses, surgeries and close calls, through hard work, and help from the folks at TMC’s Cardiac Rehab, he has been able to get and stay healthy.

These days, you can often find Randels over at El Dorado hospital or visiting cardiac patients at TMC.

And he’s in good company.

Randels is joined by a group of other volunteers participating in the cardiac rehabilitation program at Tucson Medical Center can often be found visiting new heart patients, sharing their stories, showing off old scars and letting them know that a full and active life awaits.

“I love going to the ward and talking to the people there,” said Gary Brauchla, a colleague of Randel’s who survived a cardiac arrest in late 2012, only to go on to run in his first 5k race in spring 2013. “It’s amazing to see their faces brighten up when they realize it’s not all gloom and doom,” he said.

Volunteers like Randels and Brauchla are just one piece of the quilt that is the TMC volunteer force.

In fact, on any given day, an average of 87 volunteers are playing important roles throughout the hospital.

In addition to 360 adult volunteers, some of whom are “empty nesters” looking for fulfilling ways to spend their time, the volunteer program also includes as many as 175 student volunteers. Those students are able to bring energy and new insight to their college careers, while building their resumes and professional skills.

Some of the volunteers even have fur and four legs, and can be found comforting patients in the hospital’s pet therapy program.Pet%20Therapy

Among some of the roles volunteers may serve:

  • Greeting guests at the entrances, to help steer them in the right direction and begin the check-in process;
  • Visiting overnight patients to ensure their immediate needs have been met;
  • Sewing pillows and blankets for patients to provide additional comfort;
  • Staffing TMC’s resale boutique (Teal Saguaro), infant/breastfeeding support store (Desert Cradle) or the main hospital Gift Shop, with 100 percent of the proceeds supporting hospital programs;
  • Assisting nursing staff in the newborn intensive care unit with the smallest, most vulnerable babies, as well as serving new moms and babies in the Mom/Baby unit;
  • Ensuring that even though the hospital is a big place, patients can easily get from one area to the next by hopping on volunteer-driven courtesy cars.

Hope Thomas, the director of volunteer services and community programs at Tucson Medical Center, credits the volunteers with making TMC the high-quality hospital that it is. Their efforts translate into more than 86,000 hours annually – or the equivalent of 42 staff positions every year.

IPU%20VolunteersAnd volunteers gain a great deal from the experience as well. Aside from knowing they’re helping others, since they frequently work in pairs, they also develop lasting friendships. That camaraderie is a social outlet that prevents isolation and encourages community engagement.

“If TMC staff is the heart of our hospital, then the volunteers are the soul,” Thomas said. “They’ve earned our trust. We value their efforts because they bring their experiences and their compassion to the patients who need it most.”

Tucson Medical Center tries to find placements for all qualified applicants, asking for a six-month commitment. One word of caution: It can be addicting. Volunteer Norma Fletcher has spent more than 44 years at TMC.

“I think if anyone is interested in volunteering, I’d encourage them to do it, because it helps the community,” she said. “And what they’ll find is they get more out of it than they put into it.”

Those interested in learning more about the volunteer program are encouraged to call 324-5355.

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