Sean’s Recovery Journey: Fighting COVID-19 and a Stroke with Help from St. Joe’s

After 64 days in the hospital recovering from a stroke and COVID-19, Sean received an enthusiastic clap-out from staff, and a warm welcome home from his family.

OAKLAND – Sean McCusker, a 51-year-old husband and father of three from Livonia, has faced immense challenges in the last six months. Diagnosed with both COVID-19 and a stroke at the same time, he lost his ability to walk and speak fluently, and has battled hard to recover. His determination, along with caring staff members and loved ones, have made his recovery possible.

Sean’s journey began in late March, when he first experienced symptoms of COVID-19. After a telemedicine visit with his primary care provider, he was instructed to quarantine at home, as his symptoms were generally mild. He had a low-grade fever, which dissipated after roughly ten days of quarantine. On the thirteenth day of Sean’s quarantine, he was home with his children when he suddenly began to have difficulties speaking and moving his right arm. He was taken by ambulance to St. Mary Mercy Livonia, where staff determined he had suffered a stroke.

Sean was transferred to St. Joseph Mercy Oakland for stroke treatment. While there, he also tested positive for COVID-19. It remains unclear if his stroke and COVID-19 diagnosis were related, though there is some evidence that COVID-19 may increase stroke risk. Sean required ventilation support for a few days, and then moved to the ICU. His wife Marla shared how difficult this time was, as COVID-19 restrictions meant visitors were not allowed: “It was so hard to not be able to see him. The staff was amazing though; they’d put on PPE and hold a phone up to him so we could FaceTime.”

Continue reading “Sean’s Recovery Journey: Fighting COVID-19 and a Stroke with Help from St. Joe’s”

With Help from Family and St. Joe’s – COVID Plasma Patient Goes Home

St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor patient Richard Beckerson was discharged home this week after a long, but successful healing journey.  Back in April, Mr. Beckerson became one of the first COVID-19 patients in Michigan to receive an experimental treatment using plasma from a person who had recovered from COVID-19 in an effort to treat the virus.

With his family’s support, Mr. Beckerson was enrolled into an innovative convalescent plasma program started by The Mayo Clinic with participation from St. Joe’s and hospitals throughout the country.

After four months in the hospital, Mr. Beckerson was met with a celebration from the staff while being discharged home.  Hospital colleagues applauded as he walked out of the hospital with the aid of a walker. Watch Mr. Beckerson’s triumphant discharge from the hospital.

Mr. Beckerson first arrived to the St. Joe’s Emergency Department on March 29 while experiencing respiratory distress.  During his hospitalization, St. Joe’s physicians, nurses, therapists and other support staff worked tirelessly on his behalf as he fought to survive and then rehabilitate himself.

If you have recovered from COVID and would like find out how to donate plasma to help others, click here.

Curried Quinoa Patties

By Alexandra Babcock, MPH, RDN

Enjoy these light, healthy and tasty recipes brought to you by the Lifestyle Medicine Team!

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

1 cup quinoa, cooked

½ cup carrots, shredded

½ cup mushrooms, minced

2 Tbsp ground flax

6 Tbsp water

1 Tbsp curry powder

1 tsp cumin

Directions:

  1. Lay out cutting board, knife, cheese grater, sauce pan, small mixing bowl, measuring spoons, and mixing spoon. You will also need a greased cookie sheet. Preheat Oven to 350F. Wash all vegetables.
  2. Rinse ½ cup of quinoa under water until water runs clear. Add the quinoa, 1 cup of water, and a pinch of salt to a sauce pan. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer until the water is cooked off. This will take approximately 10 minutes. Stir with a fork and set aside to cool. 
  3. While quinoa cooks, peel your carrot. Grate carrot over the cheese grater and place ½ cup into a mixing bowl.
  4. Cut your mushrooms until they are in ½ cm sized, minced pieces. Add ½ cup to the mixing bowl.
  5. Place flax and water into a small bowl. Stir and set aside for 3 minutes until the flax meal gels into a flax egg. Then add the “egg” to the mixing bowl.
  6. Add remaining spices and cooked 1 cup of quinoa to the mixing bowl and stir until combined.
  7. Form 4 patties about a ½ cup each using your hands. Place on the cookie tray.
  8. Bake at 350F for 20-25min or until golden brown.
  9. Serve immediately or freeze in bags for up to 2 months.

Chef Notes:

  • Make more quinoa than the recipe calls for and store it in the fridge for use in meal preparation for up to 5 days. Cook quinoa using 1 part dried grain and 2 parts water.
  • Feel free to use more spices in this recipe. Garlic, turmeric, parsley, and ginger all go well with this dish!

Cooling Summer Bean Salad

By Alexandra Babcock, MPH, RDN

Enjoy these light, healthy and tasty recipes brought to you by the Lifestyle Medicine Team!

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

1-16oz can Cannellini or Navy Beans

2 medium stalks celery

1 red bell pepper

½ fennel root

¼ cup fennel fronds

Dressing:

½ cup olive oil

1/3 cup white wine vinegar or lemon juice

1 tsp Dijon mustard

Pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Lay out cutting board, knife, can opener, strainer, large serving bowl, small mixing bowl or jar, and spoon Wash all vegetables.
  2. Open can of beans and rinse with water in the strainer until the water runs clear. Set aside.
  3. Trim ends of celery. Slice celery length wise and dice into ½ inch pieces. Remove center of bell pepper and dice into the same sized pieces.
  4. Remove end of frond of fennel root. Cut length-wise and save half. Lay cut side down and slice thin horizontally.
  5. Chop fronds coarsely.
  6. Add all ingredients to serving bowl and toss.
  7. Make dressing by adding dressing ingredients into small mixing bowl. Stir or shake to combine.
  8. Toss over salad and mix. Serve immediately or place into smaller containers and refrigerate for up to 5 days. 

Rescheduled and Now Relieved

In March, Kassie Sheffer was anxiously awaiting the day of her scheduled thyroidectomy. Experiencing difficulty swallowing, Kassie was ready for the relief the removal of her thyroid would bring. Unfortunately, in late March, Kassie received a call that her surgery would be postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I was frustrated but understood,” Kassie said. Her surgeon, Beth Kimball, MD, kept in touch and assured Kassie that if swallowing became even more difficult, she could go to the Emergency Department and the surgery could take place. Kassie waited, and had a successful thyroidectomy in mid-May when surgeries resumed at St. Joe’s.

“I’m typically a very cautious person,” Kassie said. “Going into a hospital with COVID-19 patients should have been nerve-wracking. But it was the opposite. I was ready to reschedule my surgery.”

Kassie received clear instructions from Dr. Kimball and St. Joe’s on what to expect and how to prepare for surgery. She went two days before surgery for a COVID-19 test, which was negative, and knew that visitor restrictions would mean she’d be alone during surgery and her overnight stay.

“Although I was alone, I never felt alone,” Kassie said. “Everyone went out of their way to make sure I was comfortable and were very helpful. Dr. Kimball called my husband immediately after surgery to let him know everything went well and, later, I was able to speak to him myself.”

Kassie also witnessed St. Joe’s safety processes first hand.

“It’s very clear patient safety is a top priority,” Kassie said. “Everyone is screened before entering; you can tell all of the staff are screened too because they have a sticker with a date on their badge. The clinicians are also always explaining what they are doing and how the surgery area is separate from areas where they care for COVID-19 patients. I would tell everyone 1,000 times over that they don’t have to be nervous to receive care at St. Joe’s – it’s safe.”

Kassie is now home, recovering well and conducting follow-up visits with her physicians virtually. Kassie, her husband and the four children she had at St. Joe’s are healthy and glad Kassie’s difficulties are gone for good.

Determined COVID-19 Patient Battles His Way Home

Recovering from COVID-19 can be a long and difficult journey, but a patient’s determination, combined with caring support can make all the difference.  When David Lemble developed a severe cough back in March, he had no idea that he would eventually spend nearly two months on a ventilator, often fighting for every breath.

David and his wife, Tina, knew about COVID and took all the right precautions. When he first developed symptoms, David self-isolated and the family hoped for the best, but after several days, he was having trouble breathing. By March 30, they decided to come to St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor and within 12 hours David was placed on a ventilator.

His wife, Tina, a certified nursing assistant (CNA), clearly understood the seriousness.

“I was scared, but I have faith in God, I also have faith in David and our kids,” said Tina. “Never give up, is the one thing I would tell anyone going through this. We always knew that David was going to get off that ventilator and come home, but it was definitely a roller coaster.”

During the many weeks on the ventilator, David fought and recovered from five separate bouts of pneumonia. He was weaned off the vent for four days, but his lungs weren’t strong enough to breathe on their own.

In addition to the resolute support of his family, David received compassionate care from St. Joe’s medical staff every step of the way.

“I can’t express my gratitude enough for the nurses and all the people who took care of David,” Tina said. “There were so many people who selflessly cared for him. Dr. Eugene Liu was so amazing, he went beyond medical support and was there for all of us emotionally.”

David received leading therapies proven to be effective against coronavirus during his hospital stay. He was among the first to have convalescent plasma infusion, which leverages the antibodies from patients who have successfully beat COVID-19, along with Remdesivir, a drug that’s currently in clinical trials that may help shorten recovery time.

After he was stabilized, the long recovery process included extensive breathing treatments along with cardiac and physical therapy to build up heart, lung and muscle strength after months of severe illness.

“I’m encouraged by how well he’s doing and impressed with how hard David has worked to overcome every challenge,” said Stephen Bloom, DO Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. “His intense determination to get well and the family’s unwavering support are inspiring.”

Over the next several months, Dr. Bloom and the rest of St. Joe’s rehabilitation team will continue working with David to help him return to work at Discount Tire, where he has been employed for over 23 years. During the past two months, the company’s nursing support program has also been assisting the Lemble family, with skilled nurses regularly checking in with Tina to answer questions and provide guidance.

When David finally walked out of St. Joe’s doors on May 27, he was able to see his family face-to-face for the first time in over two months. While happy to return to his loved-ones and home cooked meals, he was overcome with one strong emotion –Gratitude. Before being driven home, he stopped to say: “I appreciate everything that has been done for me. Everyone here has been so kind and helpful to our family. Thank you all, from the bottom of my heart.”

Open Mic: Call for Songs to Inspire Health Care Workers

Music is good for the soul. Last week we shared a music video of various artists singing St. Joe’s/Mercy Health’s theme song in tribute to the colleagues battling COVID-19 in our communities.

Now it’s your turn! If you have talent to share with fellow colleagues, we invite you to record your own rendition of our theme song. We provide the sheet music and lyrics below. Click on our playlist for examples from local artists.

Email your video or audio file to News@stjoeshealth.org. We will premiere the songs during National Nurses Week and Health Care Week, from May 4-8

We hope it lifts the spirits of frontline workers and everyone doing their part to keep services running while flattening the curve.

You and I Together – Sheet Music

You and I Together – FULL LYRICS

Mercy Primary Care Center Cares for Detroit’s Most Vulnerable During Pandemic

nurses
Nurses at Mercy Primary Care Center wear PPE when caring for potential COVID-19 patients.

DETROIT – Much of the focus in the battle against COVID-19 has been on hospitals, with news programs broadcasting images of ventilators and hospital buildings around the clock. However, other health care institutions are playing a role in this fight. Mercy Primary Care Center (MPCC), a Trinity Health safety net ministry, is located in eastern Detroit. MPCC provides care for the city’s poor and most vulnerable, and remains one of the only free clinics still open in the area during the COVID-19 pandemic.

MPCC’s Services and Patient Population

MPCC first opened its doors in 2000, when Trinity Health and the Sisters of Mercy decided to convert a closed hospital into a ministry for vulnerable patients in Detroit. According to MPCC’s Director of Medical Services of the Detroit Market, Tawana Nettles-Robinson, the center provides health care services, labs, prescription assistance, educational and exercise classes, behavioral health services, care coordination, and transportation. In addition, MPCC sponsors the “Special Personal Assistants” program, which provides resources to individuals experiencing homelessness to help get them back on track.

For its first fifteen years, the center operated solely as a free clinic, providing qualifying patients with comprehensive care at no cost. After the Affordable Care Act was passed, MPCC also began accepting Medicaid plans and some commercial plans. However, 25 to 30 percent of patients are still uninsured, and MPCC treats them at no charge. To care for these patients, the center relies on a number of funding sources, including a grant from Trinity Health, Medicaid reimbursements, and outside donations.

MPCC’s Efforts Against COVID-19

susan
Susan, a Mercy Primary Care Center colleague, strikes a pose in PPE.

Since the advent of COVID-19, operations at MPCC have changed significantly. The center offers COVID-19 screening and testing for patients, who are now coming in more ill than usual. MPCC’s patient population tends to have comorbidities, which raises their risk of COVID-19 complications. Many new patients have also enrolled with the center so that they can be screened.

To protect patients and colleagues, MPCC has changed its workflows by cordoning off certain areas and providing cloth masks to all patients, with surgical masks given to those with known symptoms. In addition, potential COVID-19 patients are asked to call the front desk to register, or to register in the exam room. MPCC is now also offering telehealth visits to help limit flow into the office.

martin
Martin, another MPCC colleague, wears a face shield donated by Operation Face Shield – Downriver.

MPCC faces many of the same challenges as our hospitals in the fight against COVID-19. According to Nettles-Robinson, the center is working hard to ensure there is enough personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing kits, but these can be hard to obtain. Like our hospital colleagues, the staff has also faced challenges, with some facing illness and all handling the realities of life in a pandemic. Despite these issues, the team continues to work hard to care for their patients.

MPCC’s work is vital to the community, especially now, when many other free clinics in the area have closed due to COVID-19. Nettles-Robinson shared, “The staff remains dedicated to serving individuals in under-resourced communities… [and] is doing everything we can to continue our health ministry. I believe we will come out of this stronger and more connected to the community as a whole. It’s only because of the commitment of Trinity to maintain its service to the poor that we can stay operational when other free clinics have temporarily closed their doors.”

Remarkable Colleagues: Environmental Services on Front Lines with Clinicians

Now more than ever, maintaining the highest standards of cleanliness throughout patient-care facilities is crucial.

Environmental Services worker Linda Mimms is
dressed in full PPE in the Emergency Department
of Mercy Health Muskegon.

The colleagues responsible for this enormous task are members of Environmental Services (EVS). These days, environmentalists approach their jobs as if every patient has tested positive for COVID-19, regardless of where the EVS team is cleaning. This vital service helps to create safe surroundings for patients and medical staff.

Environmentalists continue to clean rooms of non-COVID patients but do not clean patient rooms daily on COVID-19 floors. At this time, nurses are taking on that responsibility.

However, when COVID patients are discharged from the hospital, environmentalists thoroughly clean those rooms to prepare them for future patients and the clinical staff that serves them.

Environmentalists, too, are health care heroes.                                                                                

Dedicated and Hardworking

Environmental Services teams work 24/7 across Saint Joseph Mercy Health System facilities in  in Southeast Michigan – one of the nation’s hotspots for COVID-19.

They have stepped up to do what is needed for patients, regardless of this being a scary time for many health care workers.

Oakland EVS workers at a shift change (l-r)
Susan Romaya, Jared Barnett, Michael Keyes,
Tamyka Trumbo, Arianna Conley, Eugene Bradford,
Egda Morales and Bailey Janka

“These folks didn’t hesitate,” said John Miller, Environmental Services director at St. Joseph Mercy Oakland. “The team asked good questions, and once we trained everyone on the new PPE requirements and additional cleaning protocols we were providing, they jumped right in. Day in and day out, they show up to do their jobs. They know that patients are very sick and need our assistance.”

EVS colleagues “truly live our organization’s values,” he said.

We thank all of the EVS workers who are working tirelessly to keep patient-care facilities safe by destroying this deadly virus. You are not forgotten.

Calm, Cool and Collected

Soon after the first COVID-19 patients were diagnosed in Michigan, Linda Mimms stepped up by volunteering to work all of her shifts in Pod E in the Emergency Department at Mercy Health Muskegon. Pod E is where all patients with respiratory symptoms are initially cared for, including those with COVID-19.

“In the beginning, a lot of our staff were pretty anxious about working there,” shared Jody Woods, Environmental Services manager, Mercy Health Muskegon.

“When I went to thank Linda for volunteering, she said to me, ‘We’re going to do what we have to do, and it’s all about making sure our patients are taken care of.’ Linda is a direct example of an owner’s mind and a servant’s heart,” added Jody.

On the job for about a year, Linda is both a team leader and colleague trainer. When the ED needs additional help, other team members are willing to join her. She sets a great example and is a natural-born leader, said Jody.

“I thank Linda every day for the work she does,” said Sharon Stiff, Linda’s supervisor. “Linda is positive and compassionate — a role model for others. She is a Christian who brings her faith to work with her.”

The entire EVS staff serving our Mercy Health and SJMHS hospitals are true heroes working 24/7 to keep our patients and colleagues safe.

Musicians Serenade Health Care Heroes with Theme Song

Erin Accomando of Centerline, Mich., is one of more than 20 musicians worldwide who recorded the theme song for Mercy Health and Saint Joseph Mercy Health System colleagues. “You and I, Together.”

Here for You
We’re gonna make it through together
You and I
We’ll find our way

The COVID-19 pandemic could not stop the music for artists who sang our health system’s theme song in tribute to our front line health care workers.

WATCH Music Video: You and I, Together

More than 20 different artists worldwide recorded their performances from home studios. The music video was released on social media as a “a huge shout out to all the first responders and front line,” said Robin Horlock, a Detroit-based singer and songwriter.

“I’m sitting here in a studio playing music while you all are out there saving everyone’s life, literally. Thank you all so much,” said L.A. musician Andy Grush before belting out the opening lyrics – Here for you… we’re gonna make it through together.

Jeff Dittenber dedicated his rendition of the song to his wife, Val Dittenber, an RN at St. Joseph Mercy Oakland, and “all of the health care workers out there who are fighting for everybody.”

The Dittenber family dedicated our theme song, “You and I, Together” to wife and mom, Val Dittenber, RN, a nurse at St. Joseph Mercy Oakland, and all health care workers.

The remix started when Chief Marketing and Communications Officer Michele Szczypka reached out to the original song’s writers, Dan Yessian along with his son, Brian, and Chris Plansker (arrangement), with an idea to raise the spirits of St. Joe’s and Mercy Health colleagues serving on the front line of the response.

They sent the track to numerous friends in the music business. It wasn’t long before music started to pour in from cities and towns throughout Michigan, and even from New York City, Los Angeles, Sydney, Australia and Hamburg, Germany.

“As we deal with COVID the words ring true, now more than ever,” Szczypka said. “We are so grateful for our friends in the music community whose live performances were halted by the pandemic, but who are selflessly doing what they do best to bring comfort and joy to others.”

Watch full renditions of select artists from the video (link to YouTube playlist)

About the song

“You and I, Together” was originally produced in 2006 as an instrumental score for St. Joseph Mercy commercials. Dan Yessian composed the melody and Chris Plansker arranged the music. In 2011, lyrics were added for a television show, “At the Heart of Medicine.” The song won a Michigan Emmy Award in 2012 for lyrics co-written by Yessian, Szczypka, Don Montgomery and Mary Letters.

Over the years numerous versions were created for commercials, radio, television and on-hold music. In 2018 Mercy Health adopted the theme song for its marketing campaigns.

We thank the following artists for sharing their immense talent for this song, and we’re proud to share their full renditions on our St. Joe’s YouTube Playlist:

  • Erin Accomando / Voice / Centerline, MI
  • Steve Acho / Voice / West Bloomfield, MI
  • Matt Callaway / Guitar / Monroe, MI
  • Mark Chu / Guitar & Voice / Los Angeles
  • Patrick Curry / Voice / White Lake, MI
  • Jeff Dittenber / Guitar & Voice / Berkley, MI
  • Jarrett Farkas / Guitar / New York
  • Ardis Grace / Voice/ Harrison Township, MI
  • Andy Grush / Guitar & Voice / Los Angeles
  • Robin Horlock / Guitar & Voice / Detroit, MI
  • Adam James / Drums / Royal Oak, MI
  • Cindee Lish / Voice / Northville, MI
  • Cassia Montgomery / Voice / Truckee, CA
  • Jason Phelps / Bass / Ann Arbor, MI
  • Christopher Plansker / Film Editor & Harmonica / Grosse Pointe Park, MI
  • Bobby Streng / Saxophone / Ann Arbor, MI
  • Steve Talaga / Piano / Grand Rapids, MI
  • Colton Weatherston / Guitar / Philadelphia, PA
  • Hugh Wilson / Voice / Australia
  • Helena Schmitz & Lukas Lehmann / Voice & Piano / Germany

YOU AND I TOGETHER –FULL SING LYRICS

We bring hope
We bring love
We bring our strength
And all we’re made of

Here for you
We’re gonna make it through together
You and I
We’ll find our way

By your side
We’ll be with you now and ever
You and I, together

We’ll care for you with all we know
And all that we can do
To give you strength,
We’re here to get you through

And with every step you make
And every dream you dream
You have so much more to give
And so much life to live

And we’ll be –
By you side
Together we will make it better
You and I
Together

We will care for you
We will comfort you
We’re here for you
In everything we do…

We bring hope
We bring love
We bring our strength
And all we’re made of –

You and I, together
Together (you and I)
Together (you and I)
Together (you and I)

Together.