Courageous TMC nurse takes on suicide stigma

Jason CuttingSeptember 10 – 16 is National Suicide Prevention Week – reduce the stigma, start a conversation and #StopSuicide.

Jason Cutting wanted to be in the middle of it all. He loved the arts and entertaining. RENT was his favorite musical, and he knew every word to every song. He put his heart into everything he did, whether crushing a performance in My Fair Lady or advocating for equal rights, regardless of sexual orientation.

Through it all, he struggled long and hard with mental illness. Even though Jason was lost to the disease when he died by suicide, he will always be a brave big brother to his sister, Sarah. She decided not to allow stigma to steal the focus from Jason’s beautiful memory.

Sarah, an Emergency Department nurse, is leading the effort to eradicate the stigma that surrounds suicide as the TMC champion for Tucson’s  Out of the Darkness Community Walk, an annual event hosted by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Suicide StigmaHard to say, hard to hear

The heart-wrenching loss of suicide – and the stigma around it – make conversations about it difficult.

“I didn’t even know how I was going to talk about it, because I was afraid people would judge, or react with shock or pity,” she said.

Sarah, though, was determined to make a difference and put aside her fears, directly challenging stigma. The open dialogue had an unexpected and positive result. “I found healing in talking about my brother, and I was surprised how many people approached me who have also lost someone to suicide.”

Better understanding, better prevention

Sarah also explained that more discussion brought about a better understanding of suicide.

Sarah Cutting“When survivors share their experiences, people will hear that suicide is not a selfish act,” she said. “Rather, people hear just how intensely someone was suffering, how they truly felt hopeless and believed they were a burden to all around them.”

Sarah believes that better understanding will lead to action. “With this knowledge, people will be motivated to learn the warning signs and feel more comfortable talking to someone they think may be having suicidal thoughts.”



You can have an impact

Out of the DarknessThe Tucson Out of the Darkness Community Walk is open to all, and free to attend. “This is a way to honor the memories of those we have lost to suicide, and the best way to start discussions and spread awareness,” said Sarah. “Join us!”


Walk Date: 10/14/2017                                                                 

Walk Location: Reid Park 

Check-in/Registration Time:  8:00 am

Walk Begins: 10:00 am

Walk Ends: 11:00 am

Donations can be made via Sarah’s donor page. Please note that all proceeds go to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.


Suicide warning signs and risk factors

Pima County assistance resources

AZ Department of Veterans Services resources

National suicide hotline

The Trevor Project

Pima County Crisis Response Center: (520) 622-6000 or 1-866-495-6738


Children’s Miracle Network Radiothon raises more than $250,000!

Thank you  Southern Arizona!

Thank you
Southern Arizona!

The 10th annual Children’s Miracle Network Radiothon for TMC for Children has wrapped up! 

We couldn’t have done it without you, Southern Arizona!  Thank you to the folks at 949 MIXfm, including Bobby Rich, Mrs. Grant and Greg Curtis.  They powered on for two solid days, broadcasting live from the lobby of our Pediatric Emergency Department to help us raise $250,360 for local children. 
Every penny stays here in our community, providing life-saving equipment and therapy to children who depend on it.  Also, big thanks to MIXfm listeners who called in pledges and Children’s Miracle Network sponsors who made this year’s Radiothon such a success. 
We appreciate all the families who came in and shared their stories on the air, as well as the countless volunteers who answered phones, and the incredible amount of people who worked behind the scenes to make this possible.
If you didn’t get a chance to donate, there’s still time to help the children of Southern Arizona by clicking here
Remember – 100% of the proceeds stay right here in Southern Arizona at TMC for Children.

Thoughtful Vail girl foregoes birthday gifts for Peppi’s House

maddie 1

Maddie Schockmel

The top toys this year for an 8-year-old girl:  The 2013 Barbie Collector Holiday Doll, LeapFrog Ultra Kids’ Learning Tablet, and any Lego Friends set.

But Maddie Schockmel doesn’t want the Barbie.

Or the tablet.

Or even the Legos.

All she wants is for people to make a monetary donation to Peppi’s House, TMC’s inpatient hospice.

You see, Maddie’s 8th birthday is Dec.12.  She’s having a bowling party this weekend to celebrate, but rather than ask friends and family for toys, she knows the money will be better spent supporting families who are going through the pain she and her family experienced earlier this year.

Maddie’s grandmother, Karen Hood, suffered from squamous cell carcinoma.  It’s typically thought of as a skin cancer, but squamous cells exist throughout the body.  Despite never smoking, Hood developed squamous cell carcinoma of the lungs, Leigh Schockmel, Karen’s daughter and Maddie’s mother explained.  “Unfortunately she just had really bad luck.”

The Schockmel family with Grandma Karen Hood

The Schockmel family with
Grandma Karen Hood

Hood battled the disease for a year.  She endured numerous  surgeries, chemotherapy, and more than two dozen rounds of radiation in hopes that she could beat the disease and continue loving life with her grandkids.  She was in and out of the hospital, and when she needed palliative care, the family turned to Peppi’s House.  “Her body was so worn out.  We knew she wasn’t going to be able to handle much more, but we wanted that to be her decision,” said Schockmel.

This past Valentine’s Day, the family settled in to Peppi’s house.  

Exactly one week later, Hood passed away at the age of 72.

Maddie snuggles with Grandma Karen

Maddie snuggles with Grandma Karen

The Schockmel family only spent one week there, but that week left a profound impact despite the heartbreaking situation they were experiencing.  “Peppi’s was so amazing.  The staff was so welcoming and supportive of my children.  It was so peaceful, and since my mom’s pain was controlled, she was able to have conversations with her grandkids.  They could spend precious time with her and snuggle – something they could have never done in the hospital since she had so many tubes coming in and out of her.  We cherish the pictures we have from these final moments.  It was good for them, and it was good for her.  The staff at Peppi’s House made it a comfortable place to be,” said Schockmel.

With the family continuing to heal, Maddie came to her Mom and Dad a few months ago and told them how she wanted to collect money for Peppi’s House rather than ask for toys for her birthday.  “She’s just that kind of kid.  She’s always been very thoughtful, and if she sees a need, she responds to it,” said Schockmel.  Mom, along with Dad, Shanon, asked Maddie many times if she was sure this is what she wanted to do.  The answer was always ‘yes.’ 

Schockmel said Maddie understands how difficult it is to lose a loved one, and wants to help other families who are going through a similar situation.  The experience, she said, has given her children a lot of empathy, and helped them realize that they can make a difference.

On Dec. 23, Maddie, along with her parents and two older brothers, 13-year-old Zander, and 10-year-old Ethan, will bring a check to Peppi’s House in memory of Grandma Karen.

Certainly one thoughtful act by a little girl who will make an impact on many.

Thank you for your thoughtfulness, Maddie!  The TMC family hopes you know how much we appreciate it, and we wish you a very happy birthday!

Maddie brought an envelope containing $800.60 to Peppi's House in honor of her Grandma Karen

Maddie brought an envelope containing $800.60 to Peppi’s House in honor of her Grandma Karen

UPDATE:  On Dec. 23, Maddie and her family brought a beautifully decorated envelope containing $800.60 to Peppi’s House, in honor of her Grandma Karen.  Maddie spent some time chatting with TMC Hospice Director Mary Steele before posing for a few pictures. 

Please click here to see KGUN 9 On Your Side’s coverage of the story.

Maddie chats with TMC Hospice Director Mary Steele

Maddie chats with TMC Hospice
Director Mary Steele

The Schockmel Family outside Peppi's House on Dec. 23

The Schockmel Family outside
Peppi’s House on Dec. 23

“Paying it forward” at Peppi’s House

hospice 001

Naomi Johnson and Kelsey Ingerson

Sometimes a simple act of paying it forward makes all the difference in the world.  There’s an ongoing act of kindness at Peppi’s House, thanks to a pair of teenagers with big hearts, a project to do, and the support of their church behind them.  Their inspiration is the phenomenal work done at TMC Hospice.

Naomi Johnson and Kelsey Ingerson are freshmen at Tanque Verde High School.  The 14 year olds also attend Tanque Verde Lutheran Church.  They had to come up with a community service project as part of their youth group confirmation class, and knew right away they wanted to help Peppi’s House.  Naomi’s grandmother spent time there last August.  Many prayers were answered as she left the inpatient unit and began hospice home care through TMC but was then transferred out of hospice to pursue a more aggressive treatment.   These days, she is doing okay. 

But Naomi was so impressed by the care her beloved grandma received that she felt compelled to give back.  “Everybody was so caring, and made sure we were all very comfortable.  The nurses would take the time to ask us how we were doing.  They would ask us how our day was, and if they could do anything to help us.  It was nice connecting with them.  They helped give us peace of mind.  My grandmother loved a lot of the people there,” she says. 

Kelsey’s grandmother also received hospice care before passing away.

For their project, the girls decided to ask congregants of their church to donate items that would comfort hospice patients.  They set up a basket, put a paragraph in the newsletter, and were amazed by what happened over the next few weeks.  The basket was overflowing with things like pajamas, soaps, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, tissues, even candy.  “It was a lot more than we expected,” says Kelsey.

The teens are working with hospice social workers to create customized baskets out of the donations they collect.  “They’re going to call us and tell us what a patient needs, and then we’ll make a basket specifically for that person,” Naomi explains.

“I think these baskets will really brighten the spirits of these patients and their families.  It makes me feel really good to know that we’re helping people who are going through such a difficult time,” says Kelsey.

The project was welcomed with open arms by TMC Hospice.  “We are so touched by what these young women have done for our patients at Peppi’s House.  Often people come to us after days or weeks in the hospital and are without anything nice to call their own,” says Nancy Franklin-Hicks, TMC Hospice in-patient unit social worker.  “Last week, we gave a set of fuzzy warm pajamas to a woman on the unit who was using a hospital gown.  She was so touched, and started crying.  When I told her about Naomi and Kelsey’s project to provide comfort items to people at Peppi’s, she said, ‘They are the type of granddaughters one would hope for.’”

The girls plan on collecting and distributing donations long after their project is officially over.  They hope to continue their work for the rest of their time in high school.

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