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.”
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.”
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.
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
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.
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.”
Now more than ever, maintaining the highest standards of cleanliness throughout patient-care facilities is crucial.
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.
“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.
LIVONIA – Lori Marie Key, an RN at St. Mary Mercy Livonia, is making headlines for her stunning rendition of “Amazing Grace.” A video of Key singing at shift change to raise her colleagues’ spirits has gone viral, appearing on national networks and in an article in the Free Press.
This morning, Lori was interviewed on ABC’s Good Morning America, speaking with host Robin Roberts. When asked how she and her colleagues were doing, Key replied, “These last few weeks have been challenging, but we just have to remember why we’re here and that is to be here for our patients, especially during this difficult time”
Key also described St. Mary Mercy Livonia’s religious roots, sharing that she often prays with patients. She stated that the hospital “tries to promote spiritual healing,” and that singing “Amazing Grace” was a natural extension of that.
Viewers were then treated to a live rendition of Key singing “Amazing Grace.” After the performance, Roberts informed Key that Good Morning America plans to send a meal from local restaurant Pita Pita to the night shift as a thank you for “feeding our souls.”
More than 50 emergency vehicles including firetrucks, police and more provided an inspiring show of support and solidarity with the hard working colleagues of St. Joe’s Ann Arbor who enjoyed the parade. Many of the emergency crews offered their thanks and words of encouragement as they rolled through our campus. Many thanks to our security crew and all the department members who gave their time to brighten the night for so many.
Watch Video: Click here. For a complete list of participating public safety departments, click here.
The COVID crisis has everyone looking for opportunities to “make a difference” or “take control” or “help someone.” For patients who tested positive for COVID-19 and recovered, one way to make an immediate impact is through Convalescent Plasma Donation.
The American Red Cross is seeking people who are fully recovered from COVID-19 and may be able to donate plasma to help current patients with serious or immediately life-threatening COVID-19 infections, or those judged by a health care provider to be at high risk of progression to severe or life-threatening disease.
People who have fully recovered from COVID-19 have antibodies in their plasma that can attack the virus. This convalescent plasma is being evaluated as treatment for patients seriously ill with COVID-19. Historically, convalescent plasma has been used as a potentially lifesaving treatment when new diseases or infections develop quickly, and no treatments or vaccines were available yet. The Red Cross has been asked by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to help identify prospective donors and manage the distribution of these products to hospitals treating patients in need.
If you’re fully recovered from a verified coronavirus (COVID-19) diagnosis, please go to www.redcrossblood.org and click on “potential donor and fully recovered from COVID” to register.
The Red Cross website describes all of the safety precautions they have in place to assure that plasma donation is safe.
OAKLAND – At St. Joseph Mercy Oakland, the Life in Community team is working tirelessly to reach out to the area’s most vulnerable in their time of need.
The chaplains, mission specialists, Faith Community nurses, and community health workers collaborate with the local health department and other hospital programs to call people who are involuntarily isolated. This call list contains 1,700 people, with some in the hospital and some at home. These include former volunteers who can no longer come to the hospital, Senior Fit class attendees, cardiac rehab participants, patients and families of patients.
Referrals come daily for people in these circumstances. It is a remarkable telephone ministry offering spiritual care, emotional support, prayer, connection to resources and healing conversation.
These phone calls are making a real difference. Last week, a chaplain and mission colleague worked together to get an isolated community member the prescriptions he needed. The elderly person did not have transportation and was not confident taking the bus, given the COVID-19 pandemic. Fortunately, the team members were able to arrange for the prescription to be delivered.
Another weekly volunteer who is now isolated at home was running out of food. This volunteer usually eats at the hospital and relies on that for at least two daily meals. The Life in Community team arranged for food delivery for the volunteer.
The Life in Community team is working behind the scenes to continue to connect people to each other and the resources of daily life they need, including conversation, social connection, prayer, and love.