The Impact of Your Giving…Through the experience and courage of a patient

Sandy Lymburner

“Recently I came across the definition of the word Courage.  It is the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty or pain.  You have to have courage just to walk through these doors and hear your diagnosis,” said Sandra Lymburner, 58-year-old Ann Arbor resident, of her experience facing breast cancer. “Cancer can make you feel overwhelmed and alone. But together with your cancer team here at St. Joe’s you find the courage.  There is strength in knowing you will receive the best cancer care possible.”

Sandy Lymburner with Philip J. Stella, MD, Medical Director of Oncology, SJMHS at the 2018 Blessing and Dedication of the renewed St. Joe’s Robert H. and Judy Dow Alexander Cancer Center.

While Sandy celebrates five years cancer-free this past September, her journey of braving a new treatment path will have an ongoing impact on others.  She’s quick to credit the cancer care and research team at St. Joe’s Robert H. and Judy Dow Alexander Cancer Center.

Weeks after being diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma in the right breast and lobular cancer in the left, Sandy underwent a double mastectomy in September 2014. Her chemotherapy port was placed the next month, fully expecting it was the next course of treatment.

But on the day of Sandy’s first scheduled chemotherapy session, Dr. Philip Stella, medical director of oncology at Saint Joseph Mercy Health System, suggested she might be able to bypass chemotherapy altogether.

“He came into the room with a big smile on his face,” Sandy described. Dr. Stella had sent in her breast tumor samples for molecular testing.  Sandy had some of the lowest cancer recurrence risk scores he had seen, making her a good candidate for the groundbreaking Trial Assigning Individualized Options for Treatment (Rx), or TAILORx trial.  Sandy received a score of 10 and 7 (on a scale of 100), and was randomly selected to receive hormone therapy alone.

Rather than receiving infusion chemo treatments, Sandy chose to participate in the clinical trial, which includes a treatment regimen of medications to block the production of hormones and reduce her risks of the breast cancer recurring.

She also followed her cancer team’s recommendations for radiation therapy – to tackle the microscopic cells.  But avoiding chemotherapy and its drastic side effects was a huge morale booster for Sandy, who began journaling and running every day.

In 2016, Sandy completed a half-marathon, and, in 2018, to mark four years of being cancer-free, she ran her third half-marathon in Chicago on Sept. 23.

At the Robert H. and Judy Dow Alexander Cancer Center Dedication and Blessing in December 2018, Sandy shared her experience with our community and donors as a speaker at the event, “The clinical trial allowed me to walk out of the cancer center that day without requiring chemo.  Every time I tell the story, I recall the moment I looked back at the chairs in the infusion clinic.  I was on the other side. I got to go home.  My good fortune was due to the outstanding staff in the Oncology and Research Departments at St. Joe’s and Dr. Stella. 

At that time I didn’t realize St. Joe’s is recognized as one of the nation’s best National Cancer Institute funded community research programs. They have 100 trials open to enrollment at any given time.  These studies offer investigational treatments for a wide variety of cancers, symptom management, and cancer prevention.” 

Sandy went on to explain, “The exceptional care I received at St. Joe’s has been incredible and is the main reason I decided to become an Experience Advisor.”  As such, Sandy was closely involved in the Cancer Center redesign and renovation project and found it enlightening and gratifying to have another unique opportunity to shape the care of those following a similar path.

Closing her remarks at the Dedication, Sandy shared these powerful words, “Society has labeled me a cancer survivor.  That term doesn’t really resonate with me.  I like to think of myself as a resilient fighter… Someone that didn’t know how strong she was until being strong was the only choice she had.  Thanks to my family and the staff at St. Joe’s we embraced the unknown together and I have celebrated almost five years of being cancer free.”

TAILORx trial shows no need for chemotherapy for most women with early breast cancer

The TAILORx trial, launched in 2006 and supported by the National Cancer Institute, analyzed breast tumors using the Oncotype DX Breast Recurrence Score and assigned a cancer recurrence risk score to each individual.  Based on those scores, the trial randomly assigned participants to hormone therapy alone, or a combination of hormone therapy and chemotherapy.

Forty St. Joe’s patients participated in the trial.

In June, the National Cancer Institute said new findings from the TAILORx trial show no benefit from chemotherapy for most women with early breast cancer. Researchers hope the new data will help inform treatment decisions for many women with early-stage breast cancer, especially for those deemed to have an intermediate risk of recurrence.

To learn more about St. Joe’s Cancer Care and National Cancer Institute Community Oncology Research Program, visit: stjoesannarbor.org/cancer

To make a gift to St. Joe’s Ann Arbor “Life is Remarkable” Campaign
Cancer Care Innovation Endowment Fund today, visit: giving.stjoeshealth.org/ann-arbor

Or to learn more about how you can support this important effort, contact:
 Katie Elliott at
Katie.Elliott@stjoeshealth.org or 734-712-3919
Karen Campbell at
Karen.Campbell@stjoeshealth.org or 734-712-2890
Melissa Sheppard at
Melissa.Sheppard@stjoeshealth.org or 734-712-4079

(Source: “Gift of Health” Fall 2019)

Defining Mercy: Jim and Robin Henderson

Robin and Jim Henderson chose St. Joseph Mercy Oakland as their hospital to deliver their four children in the 1970s, and have given generously to support vital expansions and innovative programs throughout the hospital for more than three decades. 

“Our four kids were born at St. Joe’s.  And, since then, we’ve been able to watch the hospital grow and progress over the years and have seen the way it helps people and saves peoples’ lives,” explained Jim as he and Robin accepted the hospital’s Mercy Legacy Award this year, presented by Shannon Striebich, President, St. Joseph Mercy Oakland. 

Throughout the years, the Hendersons have maintained a close relationship with the hospital and made gifts to support areas of great need.  

As part of the 2002 West Wing Campaign, they made a generous gift that allowed St. Joe’s to establish the “Robin L. & James E. Henderson Medical Clinic,” a teaching clinic for residents and fellows at St. Joe’s.  The Clinic provides primary care and specialty services such as cardiology and pre- and post-surgical care to more than 1,000 patients each year. 

When St. Joe’s Oakland launched the Future is Now capital campaign, the Hendersons were among its biggest supporters.  The Campaign helped fund the new Patient Tower, Surgical Pavilion and leading-edge technology that has garnered six consecutive annual awards as the “Most Wired” Hospital by the American Hospital Association.   

The Hendersons’ insightful giving toward the Campaign allowed St. Joe’s to implement an incredible technological feature, the Surgical Pavilion’s Patient Tracking System to transform the waiting experience for family members who are given regular updates via a screen in the waiting room.  Each patient is assigned a number to protect privacy and when the surgery is complete, the surgeon provides a personal update. 

“It’s just a short period of time in the hospital, but it’s a very emotional and intense time,” said Jim regarding the wait family members have during a loved one’s surgery.

The Hendersons have been true partners in St. Joe’s mission providing support for advanced medical services as well as compassionate and spiritual healing.  Following their gift for the Surgical Pavilion, they made a gift to name the “Robin L. and James E. Henderson Reflection Garden.” 

“This is one of my favorite spots on campus… it’s just so beautiful.  If you haven’t visited the reflection garden, I invite you to discover the peace and tranquility that patients, colleagues and guests have come to know,” said Shannon.  “The Henderson Reflection Garden is an outdoor sanctuary.”

Most recently, the Hendersons made a transformational gift to name the “Robin L. and James E. Henderson Dental Center,” celebrating an ongoing partnership with the hospital, and meeting one of our community’s greatest needs.

The Hendersons’ inspirational giving has allowed St. Joe’s to expand and enhance our patient-focused dental center – one of only a few hospital-based dental centers in the state, providing specialized care to those with disabilities as well as serving families who are uninsured or financially insecure.

Their gift was the capstone of a two-year campaign to raise funds to expand the dental center. The expanded clinic has five treatment rooms, a laboratory workspace for the dental residents, a complete instrument sterilization area, and a private consultation/classroom area.  One of the treatment rooms has a floor-mounted hoist that can lock into a wheelchair so it can be tilted back like a dental chair to enhance comfort and safety for patients while they are receiving dental treatment. 

“Regular dental care and good oral health are essential to overall health, self-esteem and quality of life,” said Craig C. Spangler, DDS, Program Director Emeritus for the General Dental Residency.  “The Hendersons, and all those who have supported the clinic, have made it possible for those patients with barriers to dental care to receive comprehensive dental treatment while training the dentists of tomorrow.” 

The Henderson’s generous gift is making a difference for the 600 patients who visit the Dental Center each year.  Some of these patients have not had dental treatment in many years, and present with treatment challenges that may be treated in the clinic, or require treatment in the operating room under general anesthesia.    

Jim has shared, “Robin and I view our contributions to St. Joe’s over the years as something we just wanted to do because we thought we could help a few people be a little better off than they otherwise would have been.  We’re delighted St. Joe’s has been able to provide that help to so many people in need.”

“Having philanthropic partners like the Hendersons allows St. Joe’s Oakland to be an innovative leader in health care and to sustain our commitment to serve all those in need,” said Shannon. “We are grateful and inspired by Jim and Robin’s vision and ongoing investment in St. Joe’s, our healing mission, and the patients we serve.”

To make a gift today, visit: giving.stjoeshealth.org/oakland

To learn more about St. Joseph Mercy Oakland and ways you can support our healing mission, please contact The Office of Development at:

Jana McNair, Regional Director of Major Gifts
248-858-3556 or
Jana.McNair@stjoeshealth.org

Craig Peiser, Director of Major Gifts
248-858-6142 or
Craig.Peiser@stjoeshealth.org

 Jill Schubiner, Gift Officer
248-858-6146 or
Jill.Schubiner@stjoeshealth.org

Be Passionate About Your Community

Renee and Ed Chodkowski are avid supporters of St. Joseph Mercy Livingston and Local Care.

Message from Renee:

Ed and I always feel excited to support St. Joseph Mercy Livingston and Brighton. Community support of local businesses – in this case, local WORLD CLASS health care – is one of my passions as a citizen and as “The Great Foodini*.” I have a story, and this is why I am so committed to St. Joe’s and their remarkable Transformation project right here in Livingston County.

My story….my dad died at 45 from heart disease. His dad died at 42 from heart disease. His brother and sister barely made it to 60. Heart disease. My mom died of lung cancer at 52. My goal is to live 25 out of my 24 hours every day.

When we were working as a family to get care for my dad, we found ourselves traveling two and three states away for meetings, surgeries, consultations and treatments. It was a logistical nightmare and financially impossible to get what was considered the best care. It was never spoken aloud, but I know that weighed heavily on my dad and I believe he would have been with us longer had great health care been local.

My mom’s story is similar – her best treatment was a thousand miles away, next best was 50 miles away, but between Michigan winters, serious commuter traffic, parking nightmares and waiting, a half hour treatment was a full day’s work. It exhausted her and she ultimately declined treatment. I believe she would have been with us longer had great health care been local.

There are two takeaways from my story.  One is how important local care is, and St. Joe’s has demonstrated unwavering commitment to Livingston County. Second, education is key to prevention with so many illnesses. St. Joe’s has so many health education, screening, diagnostic, prevention and health management programs available – right here in Livingston County. You should see their new healthy education kitchen! (See article below). Foodini was excited! This is part of the ongoing Transformation project.

“St. Joe’s and the patients we serve benefit greatly from passionate support like the Chodkowskis give.  We are so grateful to have them as partners,” said John O’Malley, president, St. Joseph Mercy Livingston.  “As donors and volunteer leaders, Ed and Renee help ensure our community has high quality, high value, compassionate and local care.”  

Renee (*aka The Great Foodini) believes anyone can learn to prepare healthy, delicious meals.  She teaches and presents both home cooking and worksite wellness programs for all ages and groups sizes but her favorite is her home base demonstration kitchen at Cleary University in Howell.  She is regular on Livingston County’s 93.5 WHMI FM; has achieved national acclaim on FOX’s reality series “MasterChef,” was recognized in the “Pie of Emeril’s Eye” Contest on ABC’s “Good Morning America;” and was selected by Red Gold Tomatoes as one of the top seven food writers/bloggers in the U.S.  Renee is a tireless volunteer leader in support of farm-to-table cooking, good nutrition for all ages, fighting hunger and making nutrition a part of healthy living. 

Outside the kitchen, Renee and Ed have been married for over 38 years, and have lived in Livingston County for 40 years.  They raised their children here, who are both graduates from Howell High School, and were born at St. Joe’s (when it was still named McPherson Hospital).   As part of a healthy-lifestyle, Renee and Ed enjoy playing tennis, traveling, scuba diving, and golfing, and of course eating the healthy meals Renee prepares.

Ed and Renee are champions for St. Joe’s, including serving as co-chairs for the 2019 Livingston Ball last April.  The couple is most passionate about partnering with St. Joe’s on local care, prevention and treatment through healthy eating, and making a lasting impact on the community.

First Intensive Heart Health Rehab Program in Livingston County

Your investment in St. Joseph Mercy Livingston is an investment in innovative, evidence-based, local health care.  In November 2018, we opened the county’s first intensive heart health rehab program, Pritikin ICR™ (Intensive Cardiac Rehabilitation). 

“The Pritikin program has proven to be very successful for patients at high risk for a cardiovascular event, and we are thrilled to offer this program to Livingston County to improve the health and wellness of our local community,” said John O’ Malley, president of St. Joseph Mercy Livingston. “This is one example of our commitment to transforming care.”

Numerous studies have documented the Pritikin program’s ability to lower blood cholesterol levels, improve blood pressure and blood sugar control and reduce other lifestyle-related risk factors.

Patients benefit from Pritiken’s three-pronged approach that focuses on: healthy eating, healthy mindset and exercise. 

At St. Joe’s Livingston, exercise physiologists facilitate individual and group workshops, yoga therapists lead our mind body workshops and yoga classes, the program includes personalized counseling and coaching, and nutritionists lead classes in meal planning, supermarket shopping and cooking – all in a renovated space including a gym, classrooms and demonstration kitchen.  Patients learn skills they can use in every-day life to improve their health.  Cardiac rehab can reduce the risk of dying or having another heart attack by as much as 30 to 50 percent, according to the American College of Cardiology. 

For more information, please call St. Joe’s Cardiac Rehab at 517-545-6385. 

To make a gift in support of innovative, quality, local care today, visit:
giving.stjoeshealth.org/livingston

Or, contact the Office of Development:

Tina Casoli, Director of Major Gifts
517-545-5156 or
tina.casoli@stjoeshealth.org

Lindsay Debolski, Gift Officer
517) 545-5151 or
Lindsay.Debolski@stjoeshealth.org

(Source: Gift of Health Fall 2019)

How Brady Got His Groove Back with the Help of Probility’s Pediatric Program

Probility Patient Testimonial - Brady_SJM_3987.jpg

ANN ARBOR – Brady, a happy, energetic five-year-old boy, does not fit the image of a stereotypical physical therapy patient. However, physical therapy is helping Brady attain a life with less pain, less obstacles, and more mobility.

Brady has Legg-Calve-Perthes disease, a condition that leads to avascular necrosis of the proximal femoral head. In layman’s terms, the top of Brady’s femur is not receiving an adequate blood supply, causing that portion of his bone to slowly die. While most people affected only have the disease in one hip, both of Brady’s femurs are deteriorating.

Many of Brady’s family members have this condition, including his father, Josh, a colleague at Saint Joseph Mercy Health System.

While Legg-Calve-Perthes disease is not life-threatening, it does cause severe pain and mobility issues. For Brady, he was in so much pain that it became a struggle for him to walk. His left foot was tilting in, and he couldn’t bear pressure on that leg.

He was referred for physical therapy, with a choice of going to the University of Michigan or to Probility’s pediatric clinic in Ypsilanti. His parents chose Probility because they had heard such positive things about pediatric physical therapist Dan Santioni, and because the clinic was closer to home.

Probility Physical Therapy has 15 locations throughout Washtenaw, Livingston, and Lenawee Counties. The pediatric clinic opened in June 2018, and added occupational therapy and speech therapy services in February 2019.

Brady was extremely anxious about physical therapy, which was scheduled for three times a week to start. This was heightened by Brady’s fear of new people, common for a child of his age. Thankfully though, Dan was able to form a deep connection with him. Brady’s mother Nicole shared, “Dan made physical therapy fun and interactive for him. He incorporated games, and Brady started to actually look forward to his sessions.”

Through the use of massage, stretches, and drills, Brady has made incredible strides forward. He is able to walk with ease again, and is learning how to manage his condition outside of physical therapy. When he is in pain, he’s able to use the stretches from physical therapy to help ease it.

Brady has grown attached to Dan, so his parents were worried when a new physical therapist assistant, Kathryn Perry, joined Brady’s care team. Fortunately, she too was able to bond with Brady. According to Nicole, “That office is filled with people who are there for the right reasons, and they all provide wonderful care.”

As Brady ages and the disease progresses, the pain will lessen. He will still require “Mr. Dan tune-ups” occasionally, to help him maintain his flexibility. It is also possible that he will need surgery in the future, but his parents hope that through physical therapy and the lifestyle changes Dan and Kathryn have taught Brady, he may be able to avoid it.

Nicole expressed her gratitude for Probility’s pediatric program, stating, “I really feel Probility was brought to St. Joe’s for a reason. It’s been a great help to our family.”

Looking for a Physical Therapist?
Visit Probility Physical Therapy or call 734-712-1589 and we will guide you through the process.

Spoken from the Heart: St. Mary Mercy Livonia Angileri Colleague Education and Professional Development Fund

For a young man, moving to the United States in the 1950s was a big opportunity, but Frank Angileri admits he felt lost at first.  He had taken some English courses while working toward his degree at Palermo University in Italy and while he excelled in grammar, he struggled with the spoken language. 

Frank came from a working class family and moved to Detroit with his wife, Bessie, for employment, “I came over penniless,” he says.  But, he brought his work ethic with him, willing to take on many jobs including his first at Sanders, cleaning the mixers used to make decadent swirls of frosting.  From there he stocked bags on each of the 27 floors at Hudson’s, the once-towering hub of style and prestige on Woodward and Gratiot in downtown Detroit, where he made many friends.  Finally, Frank’s native language became an asset when he began translating articles from English to Italian for a Detroit area newspaper.

Then in 1953, Frank “discovered America.”  He was offered a position in the auto industry.  Following a year at Chrysler, Frank took a role as a quality engineer for Ford Motor Company.  A position he held for 34 years, retired from, and, when he missed working, used to launch a 16-year career in quality consulting. 

Writing presentations for Henry Ford II and traveling to visit partners throughout the nation were two of Frank’s favorite roles at Ford.  All of his hard work (sometimes 7 days a week), his analytical mind, his eye for perfection and his charming ways were appreciated and respected greatly by his employer and co-workers. 

Frank was living his dream, working in a prestigious, well-paid position, owning a nice home, traveling and enjoying the love of his life.  He and Bessie traveled to Italy nine times, they took cruises, and enjoyed gourmet meals at restaurants and those that Bessie prepared herself.  He gleams with pride when talking about the time she took first place for her baked lasagna in a Redford Township cooking contest.

When Bessie became ill with dementia and needed care at St. Mary Mercy Livonia, Frank recognized that having the best trained nurses, clinicians and doctors made the experience, even such a hard one, better.  He was extremely grateful for their expertise and their care.  “Everyone needs to be treated like a human being, like they matter. The nurses and doctors were knowledgeable, thorough and kind.”

Years later, Frank also needed care at St. Mary Mercy and he says that he would never want to go to another hospital, “the people at St. Mary treat you like family.  I enjoy spending time talking with people and getting to know them.  Some of the staff even came in to spend time with me on Christmas Eve.”

Frank has chosen to make a substantial planned gift to support St. Mary Mercy Livonia, and while he has not restricted his gift, he sees ongoing training for physicians, nurses, clinicians and staff as very important – quality training is something he feels passionate about and would be proud to support.

Bessie lost her battle with dementia in 2014.  Frank shared the touching story of her last moments.  Frank held Bessie’s hand and asked her to remember him.  He asked, “who am I?” Bessie responded, “I don’t know.” “Who am I?” Frank repeated. “I don’t know,” she said.  “It’s me, Frank,” he encouraged.  Bessie looked at him and responded, “Frank,” and closed her eyes and died peacefully.

The power of words and language has been so meaningful in Frank’s life. His conviction learning English, a language he describes as “beautiful.”  Crafting words for Ford presentations and often editing for his co-workers, “me, the imported guy, editing English,” he says.  Even the time he presented to Fiat and Ford executives, translating between Italian and English.   And, the most meaningful, the last word Bessie spoke, his name.  Frank’s planned gift to St. Mary Mercy was made in gratitude for the care he and Bessie received.  “I have been so fortunate in my lifetime and I want to give back,” explains Frank – proving the language of kindness, of generosity, of love…is universal.

Sustaining excellence requires attracting and retaining the best staff who continually strengthen their knowledge and expertise to provide patients with the latest, most advanced and compassionate care.

Since this story was published, Frank Angileri has confirmed the beneficiary of his estate plans, allowing us to name the St. Mary Mercy Livonia Angileri Colleague Education and Professional Development Fund, in recognition of his vision and generosity.

To make a gift in support of St. Mary Mercy Livonia, visit: giving.stjoeshealth.org/livonia

Or, contact Colin Berens, Director of Major Gifts, at 734-655-2876 or Colin.Berens@stjoeshealth.org.

To learn how you can support Saint Joseph Mercy Health System through a legacy gift from your estate, contact Katie Elliott, Director of Planned Giving, at 734-712-3919 or Katie.Elliott@stjoeshealth.org.

(Source: “Gift of Health” Spring 2017)

Team Trinity Rides 300 Miles of Michigan Roads for One of their Own

Members of Team Trinity endured 300 miles of Michigan roads and raised $144,000 for wish heroes.

After three grueling days of riding into the wind, more than 40 Team Trinity cyclists crossed the finish line of the 2019 Wish-A-Mile® where they were greeted by the young wish heroes.

Colleagues from St. Joe’s, IHA, Probility, Mercy Health and Trinity Health rode 300 miles over three days for children battling life-threatening illnesses. They dedicated their ride to the 7-year-old daughter of Mercy Health colleague Ashlee Senn.

Brynlee Senn has a disease known as “Mito,” when the mitochondria of cells fail to produce energy for organ function. Her younger brother, who passed away at four years old, also had the disease.

“I can’t speak enough about how proud I am to work for this organization,” Ashlee said. “They truly care about us as colleagues and especially for the communities we serve.”

Rob Casalou, president and CEO of Trinity Health Michigan Region, led Team Trinity to raise more than $144,000 – the highest total among large teams. The event raised $2.3 million overall.

An avid cyclist, Casalou first rode the course solo in 2011 when he was the president of St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor.  Over the years, more colleagues joined him on “Team Joe’s” to raise support and awareness for children with serious illnesses.

As CEO of the Michigan Region, Casalou changed the group’s name in hopes more colleagues join Team Trinity for future WAMs.

“Team Trinity is more representative of the health ministries that together comprise Trinity Health Michigan,” he said. “We are all proud to display our Trinity colors in an event that embraces our mission to serve the most vulnerable people of our communities.”

Brynlee greeted the cyclists at the finish line and presented them with medals for completing the ride. The Make a Wish Foundation made Brynlee’s wish come true a few years ago, when they sent her and the family to Disney World to meet Jesse from Toy Story, enjoy the water park and go to McDonald’s.

Brynlee awaits Team Trinity at the finish line of the WAM 300.

Ashlee knows firsthand the positive impact Make a Wish has on children. She treasures the memories of her son’s wish trip just a few months before he passed.

“Those memories will never go away,” she said. “It’s one of the few times he got to be a kid without doctors and nurses surrounding him. The pictures, videos… We will treasure everything that encompassed that trip.”

Brynlee is “the spunkiest little girl” looking forward to starting second grade this fall as a mainstreamed student in elementary school.  Ashlee said she’s excited to be part of the next Wish a Mile ride benefitting wish heroes. “To know these riders are willing to take on this long-distance ride to ensure other kids like Brynlee have opportunities… is huge for us.”

Family Blessings? Tips for a Healthy Reunion

By Lila Lazarus

If you’re reading this, it means I survived. For the last two weeks, 17 family members have been staying at my house. Yes, sisters, brothers, spouses, nieces, nephews and a few dogs. It was a family reunion.

Like so many families in the modern world, my siblings are spread out all over the world. I’m the only one who stayed in Michigan. So if we want to see each other, we have to plan an extended visit. No one wants to travel this far for just a weekend. And in theory, we all really wanted to spend time together. But making the plans, dealing with the air travel, the cost of the flights, packing, figuring out sleeping arrangements and two weeks of meals… it’s stressful.

And when they finally arrived, they were exhausted. Two arrived sick with what we called “The Plague”— a bad virus with fever and cough that quickly spread through the family ranks.  Tempers shortened and our eagerly anticipated joyous family visit morphed into family drama, hurt feelings, lack of communication and a messy house.

In families, it is not unusual to be irked by the same frustrations with your siblings that were there 50 years ago. These unresolved hot buttons get pushed without any warning. And just like when we were young, we were all staying in the same house and I had nowhere to run. So I made a list of   survival tips for getting through an extended family visit:

Remember they’re never going to change. Every time something got under my skin, I reminded myself that there’s no fixing these people. They are who they are— for better or for worse.  Find the better.  They will never change and they don’t have to.

Focus on their talents. If you look at my family tree, there’s a dancer, a gourmet chef, a lawyer, an artist, singers and acrobats. They all have wide ranging talents. They’re smart and funny and always game for adventures.   Rather than think about what they don’t bring to the table, try thinking about the incredible gifts and laughter that they do bring.

Limit the trip. This was my biggest mistake. If you know you have strong personalities and age-old sibling rivalry,  don’t stretch it out for two weeks.  (Just because you love your family doesn’t mean you like them in your home for 14 days.) If a few days is your tipping point,  set your limits. Why didn’t I think of that earlier?

Lay down the ground rules and stick to them. Someone will always try to push your boundaries. Don’t let them. When my brother tried to change the dinner location or my brother-in-law tried to invite more people to the party, I had to stand firm. “I’m so happy the family is here, let’s keep it to the family and the plans we’ve made.” Do whatever you can to minimize the chaos.

Plan your escape. When every sofa, stool and chair in your home is taken and you just can’t seem to get away from family or their barking dogs, it’s time for operation time-out.  Go for a walk. Go do some yoga or meditate. It’s important to regroup. Alone time isn’t selfish. When family’s around, it’s self-preservation. I would disappear sometimes for two hours just to breath.

In short, happiness is a close, tight-knit family in another city. But if they do come to visit for an extended period of time, try to keep in mind that it’s just temporary. I kept asking myself, “What if this is the last time we’re all together? Can’t you just hold it together for a few more days?”

Now that they’re gone, I do realize what a blessing it was to have them all under the same roof. But families are definitely like fudge. Mostly sweet with a lot of nuts.

African Story Telling Time at St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor

Inspired by a love of his native land’s culture, 1 East Nurse George Otieno, RN will be sharing folk tales and legends during African Storytelling Time at St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor from 3-5 p.m. in the Auditorium on Saturday, August 10 and again on Aug. 24.  

George organized the free community event as a fun way to bring colleagues and families together. Through stories, mimes and dramas, attendees will learn why the giraffe’s neck is so tall, and how the tiger got his stripes, among other tales. Born and raised in Kenya, George moved to Michigan in 2000 and has been with St. Joe’s for 15 years. He is a member of the Wakenya in Michigan Assoication (WIMA) dedicated to promote African cultural awareness and educate our children and communities.  

St. Joe’s Mourns the Loss of Garry C. Faja

Garry Faja

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Garry Faja, the longtime president and CEO of St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor who served as the first regional CEO of Saint Joseph Mercy Health System. Garry passed away unexpectedly on Sunday, July 21, in his home in Traverse City.

His extraordinary leadership and vision united the southeast Michigan Trinity Health hospitals into one large regional health delivery system, Saint Joseph Mercy Health System.

In addition to this major achievement, Garry made many significant contributions over his 32-year career with St. Joe’s.  Some of the major revitalization and expansion projects he led include the creation of a 15-bed Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in 2001 and the new patient towers and surgery pavilion at St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor; a two-story addition with 54 private rooms and new Emergency Department at St. Joseph Mercy Chelsea; a new eight-story tower with 136 acute care private beds at St. Joseph Mercy Oakland and a 154,000 square foot addition at St. Mary Mercy Livonia.

With a background in engineering, Garry’s indelible handprint is evident in details throughout the patient tower at St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor, from the position of the patient bed to the automatic night light that illuminates the floor for patients.

Gary TmDUQKLc_jpeg

His touch can be seen throughout St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor in other ways, such as the Century of Caring exhibit in the hospital lobby which features a large image of the hospital made up entirely of photos of individuals who have served in the ministry of St. Joe’s.   This display reflects Garry’s deep commitment to patients as well his dedication to both employees and medical staff.

“Regardless of how health care has changed over the past 30 years, Garry has always said it’s about people caring for people,” said Sister Yvonne Gellise, Senior Advisor for Governance at Saint Joseph Mercy Health System, who added that Faja has valued the legacy of this hospital started by the Sisters of Mercy.

“Garry has always appreciated the presence of the Sisters, and he felt fortunate that we were still serving in the hospital. He would periodically stop by the Sisters’ house in the late afternoon to give us an update and ask about our concerns or ideas.”

Garry was very active in the community,  including serving as a key voice in Medicaid expansion, a founding member of the Washtenaw Housing Alliance, and a founder of the Mercy Cancer Network.  He was instrumental in the establishment of The Quality Institute at St. Joe’s as well as Michigan’s first Senior ER program and supported the major expansion of St. Joseph Mercy Chelsea making them the newest member of our health system.

A leader in the health care industry, Garry served as chair of the Michigan Health & Hospital Association Board—receiving its notable Meritorious Service Award in 2014—and was also a delegate for the American Hospital Association Regional Policy Board.

Garry is survived by his wife Barbara, who has dedicated countless hours to fundraising and other philanthropic efforts for the health system, and daughter Christine.

Please see the obituary for more information. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.

Is Noise Destroying Your Hearing?

The modern world is a noisy place: the shriek of ambulance sirens, the blare of the television, the jackhammer of construction—the list goes on. Yet as loud or irritating as they may be, noises like these are often so prevalent they seem to fade into the background.

Joseph Seymour, MD

The problem is that loud sounds can have a serious—and permanent—effect on hearing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 17 percent of Americans aged 20 to 69—or roughly 26 million people—have noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).

“NIHL is the second most common cause of hearing loss, right behind age-related hearing loss,” says Joseph Seymour, MD, an otolaryngologist with Saint Joseph Mercy Health System. “It’s a very frequently encountered problem.”

How does noise-induced hearing loss occur?
NIHL can be the result of long-term exposure to loud sounds, such as a daily ride on a tractor or headphones worn with the volume cranked up for hours on end. Your hearing can also be damaged by what’s known as an “impulse” noise—an extremely loud, one-time sound, such as an explosion or a gunshot.

The good news: Noise-induced hearing loss is preventable, as long as you follow some strategies to safeguard your ears.

Why are loud noises problematic?
Hearing is not only an extremely complicated function, it’s also surprisingly fragile.

Thousands of tiny hair cells inside your ears perform the vital role of translating sound waves into electrical signals and relaying them to your brain, where they are perceived as sound. Very loud noises can harm, or even destroy, those cells.

“Noise-induced hearing loss is a cellular injury within your inner ear from increased volume and pressure,” explains Dr. Seymour. “The cells within the inner ear are different from skin cells. They do not re-grow. Once they’re gone, they’re gone for good.”

And it’s not just those tiny yet essential cells that can be damaged by loud noises. The auditory nerve, responsible for moving electrical signals to the brain, can also be harmed.

What factors contribute to NIHL?
When it comes to understanding your risk levels for NIHL, there are three key factors to keep in mind:

  1. How loud is the sound?
    You may be surprised by what qualifies as “loud.” Noise levels are measured in decibels (dBA). For context, a personal listening device, like a smartphone with earphones, can crank as high as 100 dBA—well past safe listening levels. The higher the decibel level, the less time you can safely listen to a sound at that volume.

If you’re not accustomed to thinking of sounds in terms of decibels (and most of us non-audiologists are not), here are the levels of some everyday sounds, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA):

  • Conversation with friends, a dish washing machine: These noises are around 60 dBA and are safe for your hearing for any amount of time. So, go ahead and gab (or wash dishes) all day.
  • Subways or motorcycles: Measured at 91 dBA, this level of noise presents risk to your hearing. The ASHA advises wearing hearing protection.
  • Headphones at maximum volume, a food processor, a snow blower: At 94 to 112 dBA, these noises are “extremely loud” and dangerous to your hearing.
  • Sirens, a plane taking off, jackhammering: These noises—ranging from 120 to 130 dBA—typically last for more than a few seconds but are considered unsafe for any amount of time.
  • Firearms, firecrackers: These are “impulse” noises, measured in decibel peak pressure (dBP). At levels of 140 to 150 dBP, any period of exposure to these sounds can cause instant, irreparable damage to hearing.
  • 2. What’s your proximity?
  • A siren that’s half a mile away is not as problematic as one blaring on your street corner. How close you are to a loud noise will determine how harmful it is to your hearing.
  • What’s the duration?
  • As the decibels climb, the amount of time you can safely listen to the sound falls dramatically. At 85 dBA, you can listen for eight hours. At 88 dBA, that safe listening span shrinks to four hours, while at 91 dBA, it drops to two hours. (The rule of thumb is that safe exposure time is halved with every 3 dBA increase in volume over 85 dBA.) A single second of an impulse noise, meanwhile, can result in permanent hearing loss.

A simpler rule, according to Seymour: “Less noise equals better hearing.”

Know the signs of NIHL
The two most common symptoms of noise-induced hearing loss are the inability to hear and tinnitus, a ringing or buzzing in the ears, says Seymour. Some other tip-offs include:

Frequently asking people to repeat themselves
Difficulty hearing when there is background noise
Needing to steadily increase the volume on your television or headphones
Sounds being distorted or seeming muffled
NIHL is completely preventable
Avoiding all loud noises is easier said than done, but it’s worth reducing your exposure as much as possible. If you work in a loud environment, such as a manufacturing plant, your employer must follow certain guidelines, says Seymour. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers to provide hearing protection when decibels exceed 85.

You can also follow these general strategies to reduce your exposure to loud noises and protect your hearing:

Measure it: Download the NIOSH Sound Level Meter App to track the decibels of noise around you. It’s available for free from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

Inform yourself: Get a sense of what types and levels of noise can cause damage to your hearing. If you’re in a place where people are conversing in shouts to be heard, the noise level is probably posing a threat to your ears.

Avoid noise when possible: If you can, stay away from situations where loud noises occur. If you can’t avoid them completely, take breaks. Remember, the duration of your exposure is a factor, as well as the noise’s volume. If possible, position yourself at loud events as far from the source as possible.

“Every time you go to a concert and leave with a little ringing in the ears or muffled hearing, you’ve experienced what we call a ‘temporary threshold shift,'” says Seymour. “That means that your hearing levels have actually changed.”

While this change is apparent for only a few hours, there’s evidence suggesting that people who have many temporary threshold shifts experience worsening hearing over time, Seymour explains. In other words, your hearing may seem to go back to normal the day after the concert, but it’s possible that permanent damage has occurred.

Use protection: Stuffing cotton balls in your years won’t get the job done. Instead, use earplugs that fit into your ear canal or snugly-fitting earmuffs that cover your ears completely. For the loudest noises—such as those higher than 105 dBA lasting eight or more hours, or impulse sounds higher than 140 dBP—use earplugs and earmuffs together.

“Even if you’re using the lawnmower for an hour or two, it gets loud enough that you can cause an injury,” says Seymour.

Turn it down: Resist the urge to pump up the volume and go easier on your living room television, headphones and any other controllable audio outputs in your life.

Be smart with headphones: Seymour recommends patients follow what he calls “the rule of 60”: Cap your headphone use at 60 percent of the device’s volume capacity for no more than 60 minutes. When you do listen alone, use over-the-ear headphones instead of earbuds, which can be up to 9 dBA louder. And consider investing in a pair of noise-canceling headphones, which may help you resist the temptation to crank up the juice to compensate for other sounds in your environment.

If you are routinely exposed to loud noise, it’s wise to get your hearing checked regularly, particularly if you suspect hearing loss. Early detection can help you pinpoint a situation that’s causing damage and avoid it in the future. A consultation with a trained professional like an audiologist or otolaryngologist can also determine whether you may need to wear hearing aids.