The COVID-19 Vaccine and Pregnancy: What You Need to Know

As an OB/GYN physician, my patients ask me many questions about how to protect the health of their pregnancy.  It is common to have discussions in the office about what medications are safe, what environmental exposures they should avoid, and what is required for a safe delivery.  Over the last year, patients have had to ask another list of questions about the effects of COVID-19 on their pregnancy.  And although the answers are still evolving, we are gaining more information each day about the virus’ effect on mom and baby. 

When it comes to COVID-19, we know that pregnancy is classified as a high-risk condition by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  This means that pregnant women are more likely to get severely ill (hospitalized, admitted to ICU, and intubated) from diseases or other viruses, including COVID-19 compared to non-pregnant women. Due to this risk, it is important that we protect pregnant women from getting the virus.  Protective measures include masking, physical distancing, and vaccination. 

Is Vaccination Safe in Pregnancy? 

Currently, there are vaccine studies underway enrolling pregnant patients. Research has shown that pregnant and lactating women that receive the vaccination produce a comparable immune response to nonpregnant people.  Also, COVID-19 antibodies have been detected in the umbilical cord blood and breastmilk after maternal vaccination.      

We are gathering data from a “V-Safe Pregnancy Registry” about outcomes from women vaccinated during pregnancy.  As of May 17, 2021, over 4,900 pregnant people have enrolled.  To date, there have been no safety concerns and side effects were similar in the pregnant and nonpregnant populations.  Vaccinated pregnant people did not have an increased risk of miscarriage, preterm labor, stillbirth or congenital anomalies.  This data is very reassuring, and we encourage all patients vaccinated in pregnancy to join the registry.  (vsafe.cdc.gov)

Making an Informed Decision

The American Congress of OB/GYN (ACOG) and the Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine (SMFM) both recommend giving pregnant women access to the COVID-19 vaccine.  Also, The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine states that the vaccine does not affect the safety of breastmilk and thus supports vaccination for lactating people.  

Pregnant people should make a shared decision with their OB/GYN provider after discussing the risks and benefits of COVID-19 vaccines in pregnancy.  They should also be supported if they choose not to get vaccinated and special emphasis should then be placed on interventions that are safe and proven to work – handwashing, masking and physical distancing.

Improved vaccination rates are key to us returning to life as normal.  If you are pregnant, considering pregnancy or breastfeeding, talk to your doctor about getting the COVID-19 vaccine. 

Delicious, Nutritious Kitchen Gardens are a Growing Trend

Flavors and aromas from fresh herbs and veggies make meals treasured experiences that inspire the senses. The good news is that everyone can enjoy this simple, restorative pleasure by setting up a kitchen/small container garden that takes little space, but significantly enhances the quality of life. “People know more than they think about growing food – instincts kick in very quickly,” said Laura Meisler, St. Joe’s Farm Education Coordinator and a lifelong gardener. “In gardening there are no failures, only experiments that teach lessons. Plus you may discover a new favorite flavor.”

While many people avoid gardening after accidently killing a few innocent house plants, it’s important to remember that herbs and veggies are often more hardy and forgiving than ferns. Also they’re far more tasty. But first things first…

The set up

If your space is limited, smaller decorative containers can be used as indoor herb gardens providing classic, but diverse cooking herbs such as Basil (Genovese is popular); Oregano; Rosemary, Thyme and Cilantro. When harvesting indoor or outdoor herbs, clip from the side and your plants will keep producing. If you love Oregano and brussels sprouts, try this easy, yet delicious recipe below.

If you have a deck or porch, larger containers such as 3-5 gallon planters can be used to grow some veggies. Or if you’re frugal, make friends with your local restaurant owner and grab five-gallon pickle buckets for free. These large buckets are perfect for a range of plants.

Once you have the containers, drill about 10 3/8″ holes in the bottom of each, then deposit some gravel.  Now comes the dirt.  For a few, larger outdoor containers, you’ll want to get three or four 40lb bags of organic potting soil and one bag of peat.  (The peat will help the soil retain moisture, in case you want to go away for the weekend or you just forget to water the plants.) Mix about three-parts potting soil to one-part peat. 

Now you’re ready, what should you plant?

Fortunately, there’s a lot of options for container gardens that produce plenty of wonderful food throughout the season. Here’s a few recommendations:

  • Greens – Lettuces aren’t just ice-berg any more. Plus the names are way more cool. Today’s greens provide a range of nutritious, incredible flavors that if you selectively harvest (like your herbs) will provide meals through the season. Laura recommends heirloom greens – grow varieties not found in stores: Flashy troutback lettuce is a beautiful red and green variety and seeds are easily found.  Mizuna is fantastic green that you can also boil/blanch like spinach.  Speaking of spinach, there’s nothing better either in a salad, or tossed into a pasta dish. Purple kale is another tried and true green along with Swiss chard, that produces stalks that can be eaten like celery.  Plus kale and chard can be used for delicious juices with apples and fresh ginger root. Lastly, butter-crunch-bib lettuce is container friendly and has a very mild, sweet flavor.  Sun Needs – many greens do better in indirect sunlight, so if you have a shady part of the deck, that’s perfect for your greens.  
  • Herbs, again – In addition to the classics we already covered, Sage and Rosemary can be grown outdoors and then brought in for the winter. In addition to gracing your home with an incredible aroma, these woody herbs are essential for a wide range of recipes. Sun Needs – Most herbs, like greens do better with indirect sun.
  • Tomatoes – Of course we couldn’t do a container gardening story without talking about tomatoes. You’ll want a larger container (Those five-gallon pickle buckets are perfect) and consider cherry tomatoes. These do great in containers and many of the newer “monster” cherry tomatoes are very flavorful. Sun gold cherry tomatoes are one variety that produces a beautiful orange veggie that will add a splash of summer color to your patio or deck. Tomatoes’ root systems are dense and aggressive, so stick to one plant per bucket.  Invest in round, metal trellises that will let the plants climb and stay healthy, plus the trellises can be reused for the next growing season. Other larger tomato varieties such as Beefsteak, Best Boy or Goliath (as the name implies, they’re massive) are best left free range – they will quickly become root-bound in containers and not produce. Sun Needs – Tomatoes love full sun.
  • Veggies – Green or yellow garden beans can be grown in containers, but the trick is to not over plant.  Three, maybe four plants per five-gallon bucket should do it. Put in a few stakes to let beans grow up strong toward the sun.  Bell peppers (green, gold or red) are not only delicious, but the plants are pretty. Two plants per bucket is the maximum.   Sun Needs – Full sun

Watering and fertilizer – less is much more

The most common mistake new and experienced gardeners make is over watering. Check with your finger-tip, about ½ inch into the soil…if it’s still damp, don’t water yet.  If it’s going to rain, hold off because that fresh water will invigorate your plants. While there are a lot of products on the market to improve yield, rather than using chemical fertilizer, it’s better to go organic using a good compost and natural fertilizer such as fish emulsion but, most importantly, find joy on the growing journey.

“Gardening is not a chore or a task to get done. It’s a way to put down the phone and unplug, slow down and reconnect with life… even it’s just taking a few minutes to check the plants,” said Laura. “Caring for something that also provides us with wonderful food recharges people and restores balance.”  

Not ready to start your own garden?  No problem. The Farm at St. Joe’s, our hospital-based farm located on the St. Joe’s Ann Arbor – and now St. Joe’s Oakland campus – has an option where people can enjoy the freshest produce through the St. Joe’s Farm Share in Oakland and Ann Arbor. Think of it as an affordable subscription for seasonal produce that also supports sustainable, local growers. As part of our commitment to fighting food insecurity, The Farm in Ann Arbor offers Farm Share assistance  and The Farm in Oakland also provides help for vulnerable community members to obtain fresh produce.  

If you are interested in donating or volunteering at The Farm, please see these opportunities: The Farm at St. Joe’s Ann Arbor and The Farm at St. Joe’s Oakland.

Browned Brussels Sprouts with Oregano Dressing 

Serves 4 as a side dish 

Prep time: 10 minutes Cook time: 8 minutes 

Many of us are familiar with oregano as an ingredient in Italian and Mexican cuisine; this simple recipe brings oregano’s warm, aromatic flavor to protein-rich Brussels Sprouts. The Oregano Dressing also goes well with grilled vegetables and cold pasta dishes. 

Ingredients: 

1 ½ -2 pounds fresh Brussels sprouts 

2 Tablespoons olive oil 

Salt 

For the dressing: 

¾ cup olive oil 

¼ cup fresh oregano, leaves removed from stems 

¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped 

1 large or 2 small cloves garlic 

¼ cup salt 

¼ cup sliced almonds, toasted   

Directions: 

Place olive oil, oregano, parsley, garlic and salt in a food processor or blender; pulse until herbs are finely chopped. Add more salt to taste as desired. 

Wash Brussels sprouts, trim stem ends, and cut in half lengthwise. Toss in a bowl with 1 Tablespoon olive oil to coat. 

Heat an additional Tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Place sprouts in the skillet cut side down, sprinkle with a couple of pinches of salt, cover and cook until sprouts begin to brown (about five minutes). Test sprouts for tenderness; keep covered and cook until desired tenderness is reached. Turn up heat and cook uncovered until sprouts are brown and caramelized; toss a couple of times with a spatula to cook round sides. 

Remove from heat and toss with Oregano Dressing to taste; add nuts and serve immediately. 

Stay Safe in the Water

Warmer days are on the way, and many families will be headed to the lake to enjoy fresh air, sun and fun. Sadly, it’s also the time when many people die in open water.

Last year, 109 people drowned in the Great Lakes, with 56 of those drownings occurring in Lake Michigan. While pool safety is more frequently discussed, most drownings occur in lakes, rivers, ponds and other open water. Young children are three times more likely to drown in open water, and teens are eight times more likely to die in open water drownings.

The following tips will help you stay safe in and around water this summer.  

Keep Kids Safe in and Around Water

  1. Constant Supervision. Watch kids when they are in or around water. Ensure that you are not distracted. Keep young children and inexperienced swimmers within arm’s reach of an adult. Make sure older children swim with a partner every time
  1. Make sure children learn how to swim. Every child is different, so enroll children in swim lessons when they are ready. Consider their age, development, and how often they are around water when deciding if they are ready.
  1. Make sure kids learn these five water survival skills and can independently:
  1. Step or jump into water over their head and return to the surface;
  2. Turn around and orient to safety;
  3. Float or tread water;
  4. Combine breathing with forward movement in the water, and
  5. Exit the water.
  1. Teach children that swimming in open water is different from swimming in a pool. Be aware of unique situations in open water, such as limited visibility, depth, uneven surfaces and currents. These potential hazards can make swimming in open water more challenging than swimming in a pool.
  1. Wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket when boating or participating in other recreational activities in or around water. Be sure to select a life jacket appropriate for age, weight and the water activity. Some communities, including Muskegon, offer life jacket loaner programs at public beaches and marinas. 
  1. Use designated swimming areas whenever possible. Professionals have assessed the area, and there are usually signs posted regarding hazards and lifeguard schedules. 

Know the Hidden Hazards

Swimming in lakes, rivers, ponds and other open water poses hazards you won’t find in a swimming pool. Staying aware of such risks as uneven surfaces, dangerous currents, cold temperatures and more will keep you and your family enjoying beach days safely.

You can learn more about water safety at the Great Lakes Water Safety Consortium

Regular Health Screenings Can Help Keep Men Well

Balancing a busy career, family and personal life can leave men with little time to even think about their health, let alone schedule (and keep) an appointment for their annual health screenings.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), regular exams and screenings can help save lives. They can help find problems early, when the chances for treatment, and perhaps even a cure, are better.

That’s why, during Men’s Health Month, St. Joe’s would like to encourage you to care for yourself — and the men in your life — by reminding you of the importance of regular health screenings.

Erectile dysfunction (ED) and prostate problems are unique to men. According to the National Institutes of Health, as many as 30 million American men have ED, and benign prostatic hyperplasia is the most common prostate problem for men older than age 50.

Some health issues occur more commonly in men than in women, such as coronary heart disease, lung cancer, HIV infection, and Parkinson’s disease.

The National Institutes of Health lists the tests and screenings that experts recommend for men at various stages of their lives:

Common Health Screenings and Physical Exams for Men Ages 18-39

  • Blood pressure
  • Cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Dental Exam
  • Eye Exam
  • Vaccines
  • Infectious Disease Screenings
  • Testicular
  • Skin self-exam

Common Health Screenings and Physical Exams for Men Ages 40-64

In addition to those above, this age group should have the following:

  • Colorectal Cancer
  • Lung Cancer
  • Prostate Cancer
  • Osteoporosis
  • Skin

Common Health Screenings and Physical Exams for Men Ages 65 and Older

In addition to those above, this age group should have the following:

  • Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (especially for patients who have been smokers)
  • Hearing

Federal law requires that all health insurance plans cover specific preventive care services, including vaccinations, some disease screenings and certain types of counseling. In addition to participating in annual screenings, having a primary care physician (PCP) who can coordinate your care is vital to your good health.

A PCP typically specializes in family medicine, internal medicine or general practice. If you don’t have a PCP, it’s easy to find one. Just visit your insurance carrier’s website, look for the “find a doctor” area and follow the instructions.

St. Joe’s is committed to providing resources that promote well-being though body, mind and spirit and is dedicated to helping you live a healthy life.

Find a St. Joe’s Doctor

As summer heats up, St. Joe’s trauma expert weighs in on the importance of bicycle safety

Alicia Kieninger, MD

Did you know that May is National Trauma Awareness Month?  Alicia Kieninger, MD, Medical Director of Trauma Services at St. Joseph Mercy Oakland, used the occasion to help inform and educate the public by answering a few common questions children and their parents have regarding bicycle safety, a common cause of traumatic injury amongst pediatric patients.

Q: What are common injuries you see among children in bicycle accidents?

A: While bicycles are a common part of outdoor fun during the summer months, it is important to be aware of common bicycle related injuries in order to protect children.  In addition to head injuries and broken bones, bicycles can also be associated with more subtle intra-abdominal injuries in children.  Handle bar injures can occur when a child rapidly decelerates and is thrown forward over the bicycle handle bars.  This situation can lead to subtle injuries to organs such as the small intestine or pancreas, which do not demonstrate significant signs of injury right away.  If your child suffers this type of bicycle injury, it is important to have them evaluated right away to rule out more serious injuries.

Q: What protections do helmets provide children?

A: Helmets go a long way to protect your child’s skull and brain from potential life threatening injuries.  However, in addition to protecting your child from the impact of a collision, bike helmets actually make the rider more visible to vehicles, which may help prevent accidents form occurring.

Q: Other than a helmet, what other precautions should parents or a child consider to ensure a fun, safe ride?

A: Make sure your child is properly supervised when riding their bike.  In particular, be aware that newer bike riders may be more prone to accidents.  It is important that their bicycle be appropriately sized for the child, and the seat be adjusted to the proper height.  Wear sturdy closed toed shoes with backs on them that are not likely to fall off or become encumbered, and avoid long or loose fitting clothing.  Make sure their helmet fits correctly and that they know how to put it on properly.  Encourage them to ride on the sidewalk if possible.  Wear bright, visible clothing that will make them more visible to motorists, and make sure to have lights available when riding at dusk.

Q: Is there anything else about bike helmets or bike safety that is important for parents and their children to know?

A: Your children learn from your actions.  If you model the safety behaviors you want your child to use, they will be more likely to follow them.  Most of all have fun!

For additional information, please visit: Bike | Safe Kids Worldwide

SJMAA’s Sarah Huber’s Grace Under Pressure Helps Young Shooting Victim

On Wednesday, May 12, officers from the Ann Arbor Police Department presented Sarah Huber, RN, with the Civilian Medal of Valor Award for a recent act of selfless courage and service to a person in need of help.

During a Friday trip to Briarwood Mall, Sarah Huber, RN, with the SJMAA ED, was simply looking forward to having her nails done to get ready for her twin sons’ one-year photos – just some fun mom activities. All that changed in a few seconds…  While walking by a group of young people, she overheard one of the men say “I’ve been shot.” Instantly Sarah jumped into action, instructing one of the by-standers to call 911.  She then asked other people to run into the mall to get towels while she instructed the youth to lay down and remain still while she worked to stop the bleeding.

Within a few moments, Sarah assessed the wound, coordinated an action plan and when the EMS and Ann Arbor Police arrived, she continued looking after the young man who was fortunate to receive remarkable care in his time of need. Without Sarah’s calm, quick thinking and professionalism, the situation could have turned out much differently.

“I guess I happened to be in the right place at the right time,” said Sarah. “Just because it’s your day off doesn’t mean you stop being a nurse or caring about people. We all worked together to help ensure this person came through this fine.” 

Sarah later followed up with the young man’s father, who reported that his son was doing well, thanks to St. Joe’s quick thinking nurse. What makes this action even more notable is the fact that rather than worry about where the shooter was or think about her own safety, Sarah’s instinct as a compassionate healer kicked in and she helped preserve a life.

“I’m tired of being tired.”

This is what my friends and I have been discussing recently – so many of us have felt the emotional and physical toll from this past year. From what seems to be the unrelenting news cycle, increased demands at work and at home with virtual technology required to support many of our needs these days, the stress can really add up. For many Americans, this year is only the tip of the iceberg. Paired with more time in front of the computer, altered sleep patterns, and the constant availability of food that we know might not be the healthiest choice, we might all be feeling off-kilter.

These very real parts of this last year have enhanced what Lifestyle Medicine experts have known for years: our environment is making us sick.  According to the World Health Organization, roughly 80 percent of chronic diseases are related to lifestyle choices. The food we eat, substances we use, how well we sleep, the way we move or don’t move, and the stress and connections we have in our lives all shape our health. Luckily, making a lifestyle change is something you don’t have to do alone.

At St. Joe’s, we will support you on your journey to better health. Our Board-Certified Lifestyle Medicine Practitioners work collaboratively with you to help you realize your fullest potential through lifestyle change. Lifestyle Medicine uses evidence-based, therapeutic interventions to improve whole-health through the use of six pillars:

  • Developing effective strategies to manage stress
  • Enjoying a plant predominant diet
  • Attaining restorative sleep
  • Forming and maintaining positive relationships
  • Increasing physical activity
  • Avoiding risky substances

Our team is proud to offer a new program, the Lifestyle Medicine program, which is a complete package for whole-health education. We provide services for people with all types of chronic illnesses. Involvement of family and support persons is strongly encouraged to help promote healthy self-care practices.

Lifestyle Medicine can help you:

  • Use evidence-based approaches to prevent, treat, and even reverse chronic disease
  • Establish healthy habits related to nutrition, physical activity, stress management, sleep, positive relationships, and avoidance of risky substances
  • Use evidence-based actionable steps to improve your whole health
  • Reduce medication usage
  • Improve weight and waist circumference
  • Enhance your overall quality of life
  • Provide pre-surgery support

If you are interested in learning more about Lifestyle Medicine or signing yourself for an initial consultation, check us out at stjoeshealth.org/LifestyleMedicine or contact us directly at 734-712-7451 or LifestyleMedicine@stjoeshealth.org.

First Mother’s Day Without My Mom

“Your Mom tested positive today.”

Nine months into the pandemic, I got the phone call.  Residents at the private senior facility where my Mom lived for the past two years were getting COVID-19 at an alarming rate.  The resident nurse called and blurted out, “Your Mom tested positive today.”  Her voice sounded so ho hum.   Like a waitress asking if I want toast with my eggs.  After months of waving through the window with signs that read, “I love you,” or “Happy Birthday,” or “Miss you,” suddenly the curtains were closed.  The dreaded virus reached through her window.

At first, I didn’t panic.  My Mom wasn’t on any medication and she’d always been a fighter.   Her dementia was progressing, and certainly the social isolation of COVID-19 had made things much worse.  But she was otherwise healthy.  Later I would learn that others at the facility were succumbing quickly to the disease.  Multiple residents were rushed by ambulance to nearby hospitals, including my Mom.  When she wasn’t able to respond to simple questions from the inundated emergency staff, (they weren’t aware of her dementia or her dwindling ability to form words) they assumed the worst and gave her morphine.  She went to sleep.  And never woke up.

I haven’t been able to take a full breath since.  It’s been five months.  I still struggle to say, “I lost my Mom.”  The word lost suggests she’ll eventually be found.  Like a lost wallet, the remote control or car keys.  (Writing “car keys” reminds me that I spent much of my childhood searching for my Mom’s car keys.  Everything reminds me of my Mom.)

As much as I complained last year about standing outside the senior facility in snow, sleet, wind and rain waving to my Mom through the glass, I’d give anything today to see her face appear at the window.

When you lose a parent, it’s actually you who’s suddenly lost.  The easiest tasks, like getting dressed or going grocery shopping (my Mom always called it “marketing”) become challenging.

I stop in the soup aisle and cry because I’m having trouble remembering all the ingredients for her chicken soup recipe… and it’s too late to ask. 

And now, the day of all days is upon us:  Mother’s Day.   I’ve never been through one without her.  The thought of it is unbearable.   What’s a motherless daughter to do?

My Mom loved me so much.  Who in the universe will ever love me like that?  No one.  No one will ever love you like your Mom.  And when she’s no longer there to take your call, dry your tears, or cheer you on… life changes.  At times that change is unbearable no matter how old you are. 

At moments I’m fine.  Truly.  At peace with the universe.   And then seconds later I’m in a ball on the floor.  The tears endless.  I want her back.  I want to hug her.  I want her to hug me.  I didn’t want to say goodbye.  

Everyone grieves in their own way in their own time.  But I was thinking: statistically, most people die in early winter as she did; and I’m guessing for most the hardest blows of grief don’t hit until late winter or early spring… just in time for Mother’s Day.  Maybe I’m not alone with these feelings of fog, confusion and dread?

When the grief hits, I tell myself to cry every tear.  I know it has to come out.  I tell myself grief is a good thing.  It’s an indicator of just how much I loved my Mom.  It’s why I spent so much time with her prior to COVID-19 and why I kept going to the window through the pandemic.

It isn’t easy taking care of a Mom with dementia but, believe it or not, I always felt so blessed.   At least I could still feel her skin— until COVID-19 kept us apart.  And then I could still hear her voice— until dementia robbed her of her words.  And I could still make her smile through the window.   I was so grateful every time I could hear her laugh.  I was always aware that time was fleeting.

This isn’t my first loss.  There have been grandparents and my Dad.  But this is absolutely the hardest.   And five months after her death, here’s what I’ve learned:

When you think grief is over, it’s just starting. 

You can never predict when grief will hit. You’ll be laughing with a friend and talking about something you’re grateful for and BOOM.  Memories come pouring in.  I remind myself that my Mom taught me gratitude.  She taught me to appreciate beauty and art, the stars and sunsets.   And suddenly the tears won’t stop.

Or a friend says she can’t meet me today because she’s having lunch with her Mom.  More tears. I’m not in the lunch-with-Mom club anymore.  It’s now the Dead Mom’s Club.  And I can’t bear to hear anyone complain about their Mom.  Cherish every last second.

Get a lifejacket.  Grief comes in waves.  At first they’re tsunamis smashing into you over and over.  Then weeks go by and out of nowhere you’re slammed by another wave of tears and emptiness. You’ll need the lifejacket again on birthdays and holidays.  I’m bracing myself for Mother’s Day.

Nothing matters.  Nothing.  Not waking up or getting dressed or going “marketing.”  And even when something really good happens, she’s not there to share it anymore.  Everything seems less meaningful, slower, harder.   And though people have always called me the energizer bunny, my fuel is gone.  My body doesn’t feel right.  I don’t care.

Mornings brings Mourning.  It’s definitely the hardest when I first wake up. I open my eyes thinking all is good and then grief slaps me in the face.  She’s gone forever, grief says.  I get up and force myself to write five things I’m grateful for.

I forgot my next point.  I didn’t just lose my Mom, I lost brain cells.  I keep joking with people that I have “COVID brain” but I know it’s the mental fog that goes with grief.  I can’t focus.  I can’t remember words.  I can’t remember what day it is or what I was supposed to do today.  It took everything I have to sit at the computer and write these words.  But I know that expressing my grief is one way to get through it.

No sleep for the weary.  Sleep was one thing I was good at until now.  Even if I fall asleep, I never get through the night.  And if I do, I still wake up exhausted.

I’m not ok.  People think you’ll recover after the funeral.  In our case, there wasn’t a funeral because of COVID-19.  Just a lonely graveside moment with my two sisters and my husband.  The Rabbi spoke to us on an iPad.  The world assumes you’ve gone back to normal.  What’s normal?

I’m out of touch.  People yell at me because my voicemail is full.  Truth is, I refuse to get rid of my Mom’s messages.  It’s a tiny piece of her that I can’t let go of.  And I’m not sure I want to talk to you, anyway.   Will you even understand?

People don’t get it.  Unless you’ve been through this, you don’t get it.  And you’re likely going to avoid talking about it.  And if you do say something, it may be awkward.  Most people don’t know what to say.  I understand.  I was like that until just a few months ago.

All of this to say, I loved my Mom.  If I hadn’t, Mother’s Day wouldn’t be so hard.    When they knew the end was near, they finally allowed me to climb in the window and be with her.  COVID-19 had kept us apart for nine months.  She was so frail.  Dressed in full PPE, I would just listen to her breath and hold her hand day and night.  I didn’t know if she could hear me, but I sang her all the lullabies she sang to me.  I told her over and over again how much I loved her.   I thanked her for all she gave to me and all she taught me.  I told her I’m just not ready.  I never will be.

This Mother’s Day, while many of you are going to Sunday brunch or planning a barbeque or posting on social media, I’ll likely be hiding under the covers…. in a sea of tears.  I don’t know what else to do. I know many of you can relate.

Sure, I could donate to one of my Mom’s favorite charities in her memory, I could do one of my Mom’s favorite activities:  a long walk or a good game of Scrabble.  I could try my hand at her famous chicken soup recipe.  But instead, I’ll probably listen to her voicemails.  “Call me back baby,” she’d say.  I’ll always be “baby.”

This week I created a memory box.  I keep a spare set of her car keys in it.

Message from St. Joe’s

Losing a loved one brings a wave of emotions as Lila has so graciously shared through her story. Know that you are not alone. Whether you have lost a loved one to COVID-19, another injury or illness or natural causes, it is normal to feel grief and loss. It doesn’t matter if the loss was sudden or a long time coming. Grief and loss affects everyone differently, and yet, holidays, birthdays and major milestones all often impact those who are grieving.

If you are struggling with grief and loss or depression, help is available. St. Joe’s offers comprehensive Behavioral Health Services and there are many community resources. You do not need to suffer in silence or alone.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) nearly half of all Americans will be diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder at some point in their lifetime. And mental illnesses, like depression, are the third most common cause of hospitalization in the United States for those aged 18-44 years old.

At St. Joe’s, we care about your entire well-being – including your emotional and mental health. Furthermore, please know that mental illnesses are treatable, and we can help.

If you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of depression, anxiety or other mental health conditions, we encourage you to reach out to us.

Call your doctor today to request an appointment to discuss your concerns. If you don’t have a doctor, we have numerous providers who can help with behavioral and mental health concerns.

St. Joe’s remains committed to being a compassionate and transforming healing presence within our communities – it is the core of our mission, and our mission is centered on your health and well-being.

Find a St. Joe’s doctor now.