All You Need is Love

LilaLazarus_ColumnArtThe Beatles were on to something.  When it comes to protecting your heart, love may be your most potent protective covering.

If you want to reduce stress and anxiety, decrease your blood pressure and total cholesterol, you know the importance of good nutrition, exercise and not smoking.  But did you know the simple act of loving  along with some specific behaviors that go with it, can also empower your heart?  So if you really want to improve your next stress test… turn up your love meter.  Here’s how:

I Want to Hold Your Hand
Grab a hand.  If it’s peace and serenity you’re seeking, people think of yoga or meditation or maybe a hot bath.  Turns out, just holding hands can also have that calming effect.  A study published in the journal Psychological Science showed that a little pressure when holding hands, specifically  a squeeze between the thumb and forefinger, could calm pain and anxiety and promote a feeling of well-being.  The less stress you have, the less likely you are to have an increased heart rate and other factors that can lead to heart disease.

She Loves You
Fall in love!  Oh the wonders of a new relationship!  You know that magical feeling when your heart goes pitter patter.  Your brain is busy releasing a drug cocktail of hormones: Adrenaline, dopamine and norepinephrine. They all help to strengthen your heart beat and get your blood circulating more efficiently.   It’s a workout.  It’s similar to what happens when you jog around the block.   You even feel healthier.  But don’t get me wrong… you still need to exercise.

Love Me Do
Surround yourself with people you love and who love you. It’s a great way to keep your blood pressure down.  A study reported in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine suggested a loving relationships and healthy friendships may be the key to a healthy heart.

Hold Me Tight
Go give someone a squeeze!  I’m a real believer in hug therapy.    I don’t need a study to show it makes a person feel better though there are plenty of studies.  The act of hugging releases the “cuddle hormone” oxytocin.   We also immediately reduce the amount of cortisol, the stress hormone produced in our bodies.   In an experiment at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, people who didn’t have any contact with their partners developed a quickened heart rate of 10 beats per minute  compared to the five beats per minute among participants who were allowed to hug their partners

Bottom line: Love is all you need.  I’m off to hug and kiss and hold hands with my hubby.  It’s good for the heart.

A Matter of the Heart

Dorothea Ross 098

Dorothea was grateful to be celebrating another Thanksgiving with her family, but the day before the holiday she felt chest pain and pressure, which led her straight to the emergency room at St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor. She was relieved to hear that her diagnosis was angina, but it revealed an underlying issue.

This wasn’t the first time Dorothea experienced heart problems. She has survived four heart attacks and two open heart bypass surgeries in her lifetime. 

The heart team at St. Joe knew that Dorothea needed an aortic valve replacement but another open heart surgery was too risky for a woman her age who had previous heart surgeries. “I just figured that I didn’t have much time left,” said Dorothea, “but Dr. Arthur Szyniszewski and Dr. Andrew Pruitt gave me another chance at life when they told me about a new procedure they were doing called TAVR.”

Traditional treatment for severe aortic stenosis – a narrowing of the valve that delivers blood to the heart—has been to open the chest, remove the faulty valve and replace it with a new one. For many years there was little that could be done to treat severe aortic stenosis if the patient was unable to undergo open heart surgery due to age and/or the severity of their condition.

But, in 2012, the heart team at St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor began performing a new procedure – the transcatheter aortic valve replacement – or TAVR. Watch Video on how TAVR works.

Dorothea carefully weighed the risks and benefits and decided to go for it. “I’ve been blessed with a good life and if the doctors feel it will be successful, then I have no worries,” said Dorothea. “I come to St. Joe for all of my health care needs because of their good reputation and excellent care.”

Originally from Winnipeg, Canada, Dorothea has always been very active. She spends quality time with her good friends, is an avid euchre player and loves parties. She also enjoys spending time with her family and seeing her 14 grandchildren, 12 great grandchildren and five great-great grandchildren.

“Before TAVR I thought my days were numbered. Now, with each day that passes I’m not having any more angina attacks and I feel great. I enjoy my life and I’m happy for the opportunity to lengthen it.”


Your Body is a Furnace. Turn it On!

IMG_1836Happy New Year, friends! Here we are in the dead of winter. This time of year can be a real downer for a lot of people. A good way to boost your mood is to get outside and fight the elements!

It’s not easy to tear myself away from a cozy spot next to the fire for an outdoor workout.  I usually have to talk myself into it.  But the benefits are worth it.  And the more I do it, the easier it gets. So can you!

With the right clothing, you don’t have to get cold! Put on breathable, moisture-wicking layers of clothing. Just be sure to protect your most vulnerable body parts: Fingers, toes, ears and nose. Those are the areas most susceptible to frostbite. And no need to shock the body. Warm up before you ever leave. Do some jumping jacks or lunges.    

I always think it’s going to be colder than it really is. And the truth is, you want to feel a slight chill when you get outside. If you don’t, you’re likely overdressed. But after 10-15 minutes of jogging or cross-country skiing, the body starts warming up and you can feel the winter blues disappearing.LilaLazarus_ColumnArt

Here are the top 5 reasons to bundle up and head outdoors.

  1. You Need the Vitamin D
    Unless you’re headed to the islands for vacation, chances are you could use a boost of the sunshine vitamin.  This time of year, feeling a little sunshine on your cheeks, even at below-freezing temperatures, can really lift your spirits and your energy levels.
  2. You’ll Feel Happy!
    If you don’t believe me, just try it yourself. Working out in Michigan in the winter doesn’t come with that heavy humidity we find in the summer. You actually feel lighter outside this time of year. Since your body is working harder in the cold, it’s easier to get that runner’s high as the endorphins start soaring.
  3. It’s a Calorie Cruncher.
    Don’t get me wrong. I know it’s harder to workout outside in the winter. But that’s the beauty of it. Working harder means your burning more calories. It’s the same workout you might do in the summer, but you get more bang for your buck because your body is using more energy just to stay warm. Your body is one powerful furnace. Turn it on!
  4. It’s Heart Healthy
    If you already exercise on a regular basis, taking it into the elements is going to strengthen your heart muscle even more. With added heart strength, you’ll be better prepared for the big workouts come spring and summer.  
  5. You’ll Get Rosy Cheeks
    One of my favorite childhood memories is sledding on the big hill near our house. It was tough dragging that sled to the top. By the time we came back home my cheeks were bright red. Exercising in the frosty air still gives me that same exhilaration – and rosy cheeks, to boot.


By keeping your body strong and in shape, you can reduce the likelihood of illness, says family doctor Paul Schulz, MD, with St. Joseph Mercy Brighton. “Someone who is in shape tends not to get sick as much,” he says.

But winter workouts aren’t for everyone. If you already have a heart condition or asthma, make sure you talk to your doctor. The cold can tighten your airways. That could limit your oxygen and put extra stress on your heart.

And if you do get sick, the best medicine is to “go by what your mother told you,” says Dr. Schultz. That means getting lots of rest and drinking fluids.

 One last note:  When you’re done exercising outdoors, make sure to hydrate.  The air is so dry during these winter months and you don’t want to get dehydrated. Happy Winter!

Read more Lila’s Health Report posts


Exercising while sick: Listen to your body and rest!

There’s a common misconception that exercise can “run” a cold out of the body. While exercise can reduce the likelihood of illness, “germs are germs… they get to everyone,” Dr. Paul Schultz, family and medicine physician at St. Joseph Mercy Brighton, told Livingston Press & Argus writer Abby Welsh.   The best advice is to get lots of rest and drink fluids. He shares more advice in this article, “Exercising while sick may do more harm than good.”



Join Me on a Journey to Better Health

By Rob CasalouRob Casalou
Regional President and CEO, Saint Joseph Mercy Health System

The start of 2015 marks my first days on the job as regional president and CEO of Saint Joseph Mercy Health System. From my family to yours, I hope the New Year brings you much joy, good health and personal growth. As I begin this journey, my mind is filled with goals and resolutions!

I want to take this opportunity to introduce myself to those who may not know me, and share my vision for a healthier and more vibrant community.

Having worked with SJMHS colleagues and physicians across southeast Michigan over the past six years, I can honestly say the industry’s brightest and most dedicated people work here. Our hospitals are exceptional at treating complex medical conditions, ranking among the best in the country for clinical outcomes and patient safety. We also want to be the best in the country at reducing risk and improving health. Therein lies a great opportunity for us to change lives for the better.

As health care professionals, we know the statistics – obesity and diabetes rates on the rise, life expectancy lowering*. The best way to improve the health of our communities is from the inside out. I have a vision for a healthy and active workforce.

To further our message, Saint Joseph Mercy Health System is embarking on a “Journey to Better Health.” Please think about the goals you can make to improve your own health and become more involved in the communities we serve. With your support and engagement, this journey is going to be remarkable for us all.  I invite you to visit to learn more.


Watch Video

We have a strong foundation with which to accelerate our efforts. Across SJMHS, there are farmers’ markets, 5Ks, bike rides, classes, wellness events, sports teams, walking groups, Weight Watchers at Work, HMR weight management programs and more. Our hospitals have been tobacco-free longer than any other hospital in the state.

We are leading the way in the communities we serve. Our partnership with Eastern Market in Detroit puts nutritional education and farm-grown produce on the tables of those who need it most. We’ve partnered with the Detroit Red Wings to identify healthier menu options for fans. We’re helping people improve their health through weight loss programs, smoking cessation, wellness events and health screenings. We help athletes rehabilitate from injuries and encourage families to get moving together.

I am honored to have this opportunity to work with all of you. We have much to do to build on our collective strengths of connected hospitals, outpatient centers, physician offices and programs for the poor and underserved. By our example, we will be a transforming healing presence in the lives of those we serve.

It starts with our own health. Take the journey in 2015. Join me.

In good health,

Thank you, riders!

We at Saint Joseph Mercy Health System are proud of the cyclists of Team Joe’s who completed the Wish-a-Mile challenge.  This year’s riders were –

Rosalie Tocco-Bradley, MD
Alex Bradley
Lee Benjamin, MD
Rob Casalou
Ralph Dillier
Nick Graham
Bill Holmes
Ed Jones
Dave McNeil
Sheila Marcus, MD
Tim Mervak, MD
Tom Mihalski
Russ Olmsted
Mike Prisby
Jenny Cotton Pruitt (WAM 50)
Jon Ricard
Scott Sapita
David Steinberg, MD
Jodi Talbott
Rob Urbanowicz
Jenny Mary Wehrly (WAM 50)


Team Joe’s all smiles at close of 2014 Wish-a-Mile

Team Joe's hung together all day as we headed into MIS.  Sure made taking pictures easier!  More importantly, we could soak up the beauty of our last day.
Team Joe’s hung together all day as we headed into MIS. Sure made taking pictures easier! More importantly, we could soak up the beauty of our last day.

Getting out of bed for the last day of WAM is a feeling that words just don’t do justice.  The body is tired (and likely sore in certain areas), it is dark outside (we typically get up around 4:30am) and the thought of putting your rear end back on the bike seat is the farthest thing from your mind.  But you also have a feeling of excitement about what the day will bring – the finish and the Heroes Hurrah that celebrates our wish kids that completes our journey that began last Thursday morning.  So, with all those feelings, Team Joe’s was ready to roll with some of our group hitting the road at 6am and some following at 6:30am.  We were missing Rosalie, Ralph and Alex which was sad but they had a family wedding and family always comes first.

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The Day 3 route is 93 miles mostly into the wind from Dewitt to Brooklyn (home of MIS) as we head south and zig zag through many narrow but flat back roads.  We all managed to come together after our 9:30am lunch stop and ride the rest of way in together.  We did hit a few hills around Brooklyn just to remind us and our legs that this wasn’t a totally easy day.  We made good time through the day and ended up at MIS around 2pm ready to enter the track and ride our last mile on the MIS Speedway before crossing the finish line.  We were joined by our two WAM50 riders, Jenny Cotton Pruitt and Mary Wherly.   We paused at the Silent Mile which is a section of lawn outside MIS that was full of stars containing the faces and names of loved ones lost.  I had the honor to pick two stars for members of our St. Joe’s family.  One star was for Ryan Clark, son of Rory Clark and the other was for Maria Tocco Miller, sister of Rosalie Tocco-Bradley.  To see their smiling faces greeting us was so up-lifting.  After giving honor to loved ones lost, we entered the track and crossed to the applause and cheering of over two thousand people who were family members of riders, wish kids and staff.  It brought a tear to many of our eyes and the hugs and high fives were abundant as it dawned on us what we had accomplished.  The best was yet to come……

It was time to meet our adopted wish hero – Jessica H.  All of us wore a bracelet with Jessica’s name for the entire ride.  She was a delightful young lady who had just had her face painted like a Tiger.  Jessica’s wish was to “swim with dolphins” and she got her wish last May.  She is resilient and “one tough cookie” as her Mom described her.  She suffers from SMA (spinal muscular atrophy) but she refuses to be defeated.  Seeing her courage and determination made all us realize that 3 days and 300 miles on a bike was nothing.  Jessica took photos with us and also gave each of us our own medal of accomplishment.  The emotions were running high as this was truly the highlight of our WAM.

As I wrap up, let me thank all the members of Team Joe’s for agreeing to be part of this great event and this great cause.   We rode for kids who have had their childhood stolen away by life threatening illnesses and families who have to watch their children go through some very difficult challenges.  We rode and raised money to grant wishes to these amazing kids and I am proud that St. Joe’s and Team Joe’s supports these kids.  We had many new members of Team Joe’s along for their first ride.  I know each came on with much apprehension and each wondering if they could actually ride the 300 or the 50 miles and now they know they can!  In fact, my money is on them all coming back.

That is a wrap for WAM2014.  Thanks to all of you who supported Team Joe’s with donations, prayers and support.

In good health,

Rob Casalou
President & CEO
St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor & Livingston
Team Joe’s Captain


A special wish

By Rob Casalou
Team Joe’s Captain and President/CEO of St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor & Livingston

Although each day of the WAM is unique and special, Day 2 is both the longest riding day and the longest day in total from start to finish. We start the day with riding and we end it with the annual WAM awards event called the WAMMIES that we hold in the Dewitt High School auditorium.

By the end of the day, we were all physically and emotionally drained but left each of us with a feeling of being part of something bigger than any one person or team. It was a day that grounds us in why we are out here riding – for the kids. And although the last thing we want to think about is getting back on the bike for another 93 miles tomorrow, today’s experience will make that riding that much easier.

For most of the team, riding started at 6:30am. Rosalie, Alex and Ralph left at 6am because they needed to finish as early as possible because they have to leave WAM to go to a family wedding on Saturday night. Personally, I can’t imagine doing that but that just tells you how dedicated Rosalie and her family are because many would have just canceled out on WAM. We will miss them tomorrow for sure but know they will be in our thoughts.

As we cut through the Michigan countryside taking in the beauty of our state (along with several whiffs of road kill), we rolled through towns we had not heard of before but realized how lucky we are to live in Michigan. We learned more about wheat and corn from Bill Holmes than we needed to know but it did help the time pass by…. 🙂


Given today was 109 miles, we needed to pick up our pace and we lucked out in joining a group of riders and formed a large group (like a peleton if you are into the Tour de France) and we moved at a quick pace for the first three hours.

In fact, we arrived at our lunch stop at 9:30am. I’m not sure how you call that lunch but we were hungry so we ignored the time. I joked with my teammates that our WAM experience is good preparation for when we are in our 90s. When you think about it, on WAM we get up at 4:30am, we eat lunch at 10am and go to bed by 9pm. Sound familiar? 🙂

As we started our ride today, we were staring at a beautiful double rainbow with a large storm cell sending lightning bolts in the background. After admiring the rainbows, the cell moved in and we rode in a downpour for at least 2-3 miles. But, after the rain stopped, the wind helped dry us off and we had nothing but perfect weather the entire day. In fact, it got humid and hot and fluids were going fast. When we finished around 2:30pm, we realized that we did 109 miles in the same time it took us to do the 99 miles the day before – that would be because today was long but fewer hills (thank you God).

After we finished, it was time to get changed and back to the high school for dinner and the WAMMIES. This is a sprited awards show that always spotlights our wish kids. Tonight was no exception and we were treated with two wish kids acting as hosts of the show, 30 wish kids on stage with the stories of their Disney wishes. Then, at the end of the show, the Make-A-Wish staff arranged for a young man, Quinton, to received his Disney wish at the awards show. How cool.

Here is a cute shot of Quinton peeking out the window.

Team Joe’s was one of the top fundraising teams on the WAM. This year we beat our $50,000 team goal and now stand over $53,000 . Many of these dollars are from our St. Joe’s family and, for this, please accept a heartfelt thanks.


So, tomorrow is our last day. Our route is 93 miles and we intend to get out early so we can finish at the MIS Speedway by 2pm. We hear weather is coming into MIS so we wanted to beat the rain if possible. We will be on the road at 6:30am. Now to sleep….zzzzzzzz

Jodi snapped this one as our day ended reciting “Red sky at night, sailors delight.” Let’s hope that holds true for our last day.

Memories along the way

Rob Casalou’s daughter, Julie, who is volunteering for the WAM, had a chance to meet one of our Wish Kids. This is Olivia. Olivia’s wish was to publish her own book! And she did! Her book contains pictures and poems created by this wonderful little girl. She gave Julie a signed book for her to keep. 🙂

At lunch on Friday’s ride. Can you tell that Rosalie is the life of the party?? 🙂

Here is a nice pic of Jodi Talbott and Nick Graham. Jodi is an RN in the Ann Arbor ED.

Awesome pic by David Steinberg at the start of Day 2 with Rob Casalou in the foreground and a double rainbow as we headed into a storm. Good news is that it rained hard for only a couple miles with beautiful weather the rest of the day.

20140726-200741-72461197.jpgRob and Tom Mihalski holding each other up at a breakstop.

20140726-200831-72511935.jpgSunscreen is a must on the WAM as shown by Tom Mihalski.

20140726-200913-72553640.jpgNick and Jodi still smiling after two days on their first WAM.

20140726-200955-72595368.jpgRalph, Rosalie and Alex deep into Day 2. We are sad that the three of them will not be able to finish with us on Day 3 because of a family wedding tonight. So we told them to wear their Team Joe’s jerseys. The rest of us will wear the team colors tomorrow.

20140726-201030-72630259.jpgRo and Alex. It was great seeing Mom and son riding for wishes together.